Determinants of Latin American Activism: Domestic and Transnational Political Opportunities and Threats



For decades Latin America has been and continues to be a vibrant source of activism as democracies emerge, civil societies strengthen, and movements turn an outward eye towards international forces. Social movements, organizations, and activists in Latin America mobilize around a diverse set of issues from neoliberalism to women’s rights and more. Yet, all groups must successfully navigate ever-shifting domestic and transnational political opportunities and threats. This review first defines the political opportunity approach and discusses debates surrounding its utility and applicability at different phases of social movement activity, as well as growing debates about the importance of domestic versus transnational opportunities and threats for predicting movement mobilization, protests, and outcomes. Next the article discusses changing domestic and transnational political opportunities and threats throughout Latin America. It then turns to empirical application of the political opportunity model to various social movements, organizations, and activist groups working in Central and South America. This paper concludes with a brief revisit of the debate and points to future lines of inquiry. Additionally, it provides an interactive Google Map, which locates the prominent actors involved in Latin American activism, the international institutions that influence them, and Internet links for more information.