Last week I wrote a brief to help our readers understand what is unfolding in Sri Lanka. An important fact to remember is that even though most mainstream media is not covering these events, Sri Lanka is not an isolated event. Across the globe, the pandemic lockdowns and rising fuel prices are exposing weak and fractured governing systems incapable of providing and caring for the basic needs of their citizens. As a result, we are witnessing a surge in national protest movements and major civil unrest globally.
In the west, when observed, different political following interpret these events through the framework of their own ideologies. The MAGA crowd sees “the great resetting.” The left sees a cry for democracy and human rights. I don’t see either as the true root of the unrest. People can tolerate a lot from their government, but when parents cannot afford to feed their children, and young people feel a coordinated and systemic betrayal and deception from their leaders – what we are currently experiencing around the globe is inevitable.
Watching the Protests in Panama
The events in Sri Lanka were dramatic and caught the mainstream media’s attention once the president fled the country. How many have seen stories about what is unfolding in Panama? For the last three weeks, nationwide protests have shaken that Latin American country and threatened the stability of its fragile government. The causes are almost identical to what drove protesters on the other side of the world in Sri Lanka since April.
In May, Panama recorded an inflation rate of more than 4% and unemployment above 10%, while fuel prices jumped 50% since the beginning of the year. As the whole world is learning, when fuel prices rise, like a rising tide, the cost of daily life increases dramatically. Meanwhile, government and business expenses are not immune from the rising prices. While people feel the pain in their homes, the system realities of business and government usually mean a lessening of assistance and relief. There are no raises for workers when companies struggle with their bottom line amid an inflationary environment. There is no government relief for the same reason. Many governments have cut back on subsidies and relief, thereby worsening the conditions among their citizens.
- Read More: What’s Behind the Largest Protests in Panama in Years (Al Jazeera)
Initially, the protesters in Panama called for a freeze on price increases and an increase in state employee wages. However, as time went on, the government’s ineptness and corruption became more apparent. Such issues did not suddenly occur! Corruption in Panama has been present for a while, just as it was in Sri Lanka, and many nations around the world now experiencing an explosion of national protests. The crisis exposed the dysfunction and illegitimacy of the system the people once relied upon.
Now, protesters in Panama are calling for accountability for corruption and widespread political reform. But the government does not have the tools or resources to address the fundamental grievances in Panama, much less the integrity for accountability and reform. In that statemate, the protests are now worsening the national situation. Last week protesters shut down the primary transportation route through which producers transport 80% of the country’s fruit and vegetables. Economists warn the protests are costing the country millions of dollars and accelerating food and fuel shortages.
The echoes of Sri Lanka continue to sound throughout this story.
What Comes Next
Predicting the future is not difficult in this context. When the leaders cannot solve the problems and the protesters’ acts of frustration accelerate the crisis, the severity of the civil unrest is likely to compound. This context gives birth to extremism, civil war, and revolution!
The stories of Panama, Sri Lanka, and the many other nations around the world where nearly identical narratives are playing out are a prelude to the next round of global chaos. Today’s anger and frustration could be the seeds for tomorrow’s revolutions and civil wars.