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V Translocalities in Latin America

Bordering the crisis Race, migration, and political strategies in anti-populist Ecuador

Jorge Daniel Vdsquez

The recent Venezuelan migration (2016-2019) to different Latin American countries has not only brought to surface the limitations of the region to find conciliatory solutions to Venezuela’s conflict at the national and global levels but has also made evident the collapse of multiculturalism in response to the issue of difference and racism. On the other hand, the juncture opened by the corrupted process of impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and the subsequent election of the militarist Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil in 2019 (Casara 103-125), as well as the 2019 coup d'etat orchestrated by Bolivian right-wing political actors against Evo Morales, implied racial hatred and xenophobia manifested as a shameless practice placing immigrants as well as indigenous and black populations under intolerable conditions.

In this chapter, I address not only the problem of coexisting among different people or with “the difference” in contemporary societies but the production of difference itself. I place this production within the framework of political strategies and violence against popular subjects. My analysis focuses on political conflict scenarios that, at least discursively, are framed in crisis contexts. Referring to cultural studies and historical sociology in Latin America, I focus on how the so-called “migration crisis” and the economic crisis, as expressed in Ecuador (2018— 2019), have been led by the government through the activation of mechanisms of differentiation and political violence to promote a neoliberal project accentuating inequality.

In Ecuador, the case of Venezuelan migration in 2018 and 2019 is crucial because it established a cultural configuration2 that broke with the State, media, and daily discourses that had taken place in the country during the last ten years. In this sense, I propose that the discourse on the "Venezuelan migration crisis” contributed to the Ecuadorian government’s (in office since 2017) efficacy in the creation of an imaginary of “economic crisis” that justifies neoliberal reform. With explicit references to "the crisis in Venezuela” and "the economic crisis in Ecuador,” the government of President Lenin Moreno created conditions for a confluence between anti-migrant hostility and the rejection of “progressive populism” within the consolidation of a “neoliberal pact.”

I analyze how the neoliberal pact connects immigration and populism as causal elements of the crisis within the framework of a political strategy that I call

“inequality by difference.” This strategy reactivated colonial patterns of allocation of racial difference and “foreign status.” However, I also indicate that “inequality by difference” is confronted by political actors who articulate around equality from social and popular coalitions. Such a political strategy is inscribed in an accumulation of historical struggles for “equality by the popular.” Therefore, “inequality by difference” and “equality for the popular” work together as an analytical matrix that allows us to read political strategies in a historical and cultural sense. Using this matrix, I analyze the political crisis and the conflict framed in the national strike of October 2019 in Ecuador, convened by the indigenous movement and other social groups.

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