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A Year of Protests Sparked Change Around the Globe

Alan Crawford
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A Year of Protests Sparked Change Around the Globe

(Bloomberg Markets) -- Economies on the verge of collapse, a yearning for greater democracy, revulsion against corruption and inequality–the grievances that drove people into the streets in 2019 were consistent across continents. Some marched peacefully, others clashed violently with security forces, and in at least five places the unrest helped topple government leaders.

Below is a breakdown of protests around the world, by region, and the main reasons behind them.


A defining movement of 2019 was the worldwide push for more urgent government action against what scientists and activists call a climate emergency. Demonstrations took place around the globe, many inspired by the 2018 school strikes started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.


① Puerto RicoAfter a hurricane, bankruptcy, and probes into corruption, Puerto Ricans ousted Governor Ricardo Rosselló in July.

② VenezuelaHyperinflation and hunger have driven opposition to the repressive regime of Nicolás Maduro. So far, he’s dug in.

③ Colombia President Ivan Duque promised to lower taxes for the poorest quintile of the country after unrest led to the deaths of at least four, including a teenager.

④ EcuadorWhen fuel subsidies ended, chaos ensued. The government rescinded the price hikes days later.

⑤ BoliviaPresident Evo Morales presided over economic growth but ignored term limits. He was forced out on Nov. 10.

⑥ ChileAnger at increases in public transport costs grew into a broad-based movement protesting inequality.



① ScotlandMore than 200,000 marched through Edinburgh in support of independence from the United Kingdom.

② U.K.Britain has seen mass demonstrations both for and against Brexit, which is destined to define the country’s future.

③ France A year into the yellow vest protests, the demonstrations have waned in size, but the grievances remain.

④ CataloniaThe impasse between Catalonia and Spain’s government in Madrid flared anew, with no resolution in sight.

⑤ Czech RepublicPrime Minister Andrej Babis, one of the country’s richest men, was a target of the biggest protests since 1989.

⑥ SlovakiaSlovaks took to the streets in October to demand investigations into crimes and the rooting out of government corruption.

⑦ RussiaMoscow has been the center of the largest antigovernment rallies in seven years.


Africa and the Middle East

① AlgeriaAlgeria’s president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sought a fifth term, prompting unrest. He resigned in April.

② LebanonA levy on WhatsApp calls sparked pent-up anger, forcing Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign in October.

③ Iraq Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi quit after hundreds died in protests against government corruption and influence from Iran.

④ IranFuel-price hikes resulting from U.S. sanctions sparked protests that led to more than 200 deaths, Amnesty International said.

⑤ SudanOmar al-Bashir crushed dissent during his 30-year presidency, but discontent over prices led to unrest that forced him out in April.

⑥ MalawiAllegations of election rigging prompted tens of thousands to take to the streets of Malawi’s cities in August.

⑦ South AfricaPoor government services and a lack of housing were the primary reasons for violent demonstrations that broke out in April.


East Asia and Oceania 

① South KoreaTens of thousands protested the appointment of Cho Kuk as minister of justice. He left after five weeks on the job.

② Hong KongA June rally against a proposed law allowing extradition to China morphed into a broad anti-China movement.

③ Indonesia October protests raged against the government’s program, including controversial changes to the criminal code.

④ PapuaIn Indonesia’s easternmost region, clashes between separatists and government forces in August and September resulted in many deaths.



To contact the author of this story: Alan Crawford in Berlin at acrawford6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Glassman at mglassman7@bloomberg.net, Christine Harper

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