Resistance to Privatization: Why Protest Movements Succeed and Fail in Latin America



Why do some protest movements in Latin America succeed in rolling back privatizations while others fail? This article argues that protests against privatizations have tended to succeed under two conditions. First, privatization's opponents form linkages (or “brokerage”) across multiple sectors of society. Broad coalitions are more likely to achieve their goals, while groups acting alone, such as labor unions, are more easily defeated or ignored by governments. Second, civil rights are protected but political representation is weak. In that case, opponents have the legal right to protest, but are unlikely to have opportunities for communicating their concerns through formal institutions, which prompts them to channel their demands outside of existing political institutions. Using case examples and logistic regression, this study confirms these arguments and discusses the implications for democracy in the region.