Inca Sí, Indio También: Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Conflict in Latin America


This paper investigates the relationship between the granting of indigenous rights and indigenous conflict in Latin America. I hypothesize that the granting of constitutional rights for the indigenous population increases the likelihood of indigenous groups engaging in protest or violence. I argue that this occurs because, while some indigenous rights (cultural and educational) do not represent a major issue to states, other rights (such as territory, autonomy, and legislative rights) do represent a challenge to the interest of states (legislative and economic). These relationships are tested using data from 354 indigenous groups across 15 Latin American countries from 1991 to 2005. I employ an ordinal time series logistic regression model that evaluates the effect of granting indigenous rights, controlling for indigenous group concentration, political discrimination experienced by indigenous peoples, and neoliberal economic policies. The findings suggest that the granting of indigenous rights is not correlated to indigenous conflict. However, the presence of political discrimination, the concentration of indigenous groups in a geographical area, and the existence of neoliberal policies increase the likelihood of indigenous conflict.

Table of Contents: 


    In 2010, Ecuador witnessed renewed indigenous uprisings which led to mobilization against the government even after the government had given indigenous people many of the constitutional rights that they requested in 1990 (Becker, 2010). Increased calls for rights that contradicted the ideas of acculturation and successful assimilation have become common in Latin America since the 1970s (Van Cott, 2000). Although demands for rights vary from country to country, demands for political, economic and social equality, bilingual education, the use of indigenous customary justice, management of the land and its resources, security, and health programs are the most common appeals made by indigenous groups in Latin America. Those petitions are found in Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization which has been ratified by many Latin Americans countries. Since ratifying Convention 169, most of these countries, including Ecuador, have amended their constitutions to include indigenous petitions into national legislation. Still, the situation in Ecuador puzzled many, raising the question: Did legislation that protected indigenous rights lead to more or less political mobilization and conflict?

    Latin America was populated by indigenous groups for centuries before its discovery and settlement by European countries. By indigenous peoples, I mean “conquered descendants of earlier inhabitants of a region who live mainly in conformity with traditional social, economic, and cultural customs that are sharply distinct from those of dominant groups” (Minorities at Risk, 2009). Indigenous people in most Latin American countries are quite poor with little access to resources such as education, health care, and infrastructure. These groups have also been historically discriminated against and oppressed. Recently, however, some indigenous groups have engaged in protest or other forms of mobilization while other indigenous groups have not, which has sparked interest among scholars.

    In this paper, I examine the impact of institutional choices, such as legislation that guarantees indigenous rights and research on political activism and mobilization of indigenous groups by indigenous groups. While some scholars have explored the indigenous movements and indigenous parties (Albro, 2010; Assies, 2006; Castillo, 2009; Cleary, 2007; De la Peña, 2006; Greene, 2006; Hale, 2002; Sieder, 2011; Yashar, 2005), few scholars in the field of political science have looked at the consequences of granting rights to indigenous peoples. This paper explores the relationship between constitutional provisions granting indigenous rights and political activism of indigenous groups. This relationship is important for Latin America due to the presence of more than 450 indigenous groups that have survived and (in some cases) thrive regardless of past legislation trying to assimilate them into the main group in the state (Cleary, 2007).

    First, I examine the previous literature pertaining to indigenous rights and indigenous mobilization. In the second section, I develop a theory of consequences that follow from granting constitutional rights to indigenous groups while considering other factors that might influence indigenous groups’ mobilization. Third, the research and methodology section is presented. The fourth section includes the analysis of my results. Finally, the last section offers my conclusions, discussing the results while exploring new venues for further research.

    Literature Review

    Studies of indigenous mobilization, ethnic parties, multiculturalism, and their effect on a country’s society and politics have received attention in a wide range of disciplines, such as anthropology, political science, sociology, and geography (De la Peña, 2005; Radcliffe, 2007; Vann Cott, 2000; Yashar, 1998). The indigenous movement, often called “indigenismo,” refers to a movement that confronts past laws for the assimilation of the indigenous groups and looks for a new ideology of social integration (De la Peña, 2005). Indigenismo and its consequences are the main subject of study in most literature.

    Indigenous mobilization and its effects on the definition of “citizenship” have been widely explored in the literature (Albro, 2010; Fischer, 2007; Greene, 2006; Holder & Corntassel, 2002; vom Hau & Wilde, 2010; Yashar, 1998). Yashar (1998) contends that issues of citizenship and identity are at the core of democracy and indigenous movements in Latin America. This is due to the fact that many Latin American countries are composed of several disparate cultures, and governmental institutions have struggled to bring parity to their multicultural societies.

    The implementation of multiculturalist policies in Latin America is a contemporary phenomenon that has also been researched by many scholars (Albro, 2010; Assies, 2006; Castillo, 2009; De la Peña, 2006; Greene, 2006; Hale, 2002; Sieder, 2011; Yashar, 2005). According to Greene (2006), multicultural legislation is an attempt to revoke some of the historically institutionalized racism that was present in many Latin American countries. Neoliberal Multiculturalism is defined as the granting of rights to indigenous groups as long as those rights are not a threat to the state (Hale, 2004). Regulatory Multiculturalism is the state’s recognition of minimal cultural rights while using ethnic division to avoid granting political rights (De la Peña, 2006). Both theories have been extensively researched in the discipline of anthropology and have been used in other disciplines (Assies, 2006; Castillo, 2009; De la Peña, 2006; Greene, 2006; Hale, 2002 & 2004; Sieder, 2011; Yashar, 2005). According to Yashar (2005), the constitutional recognition of a state as “multicultural” has opened the door for the reform of government institutions. However, other scholars are more skeptical of its benefits (Castillo, 2009; Hale, 2002, Sieder, 2011). Hale (2002, see also 2006) questions whether greater protections actually help indigenous peoples. He suggests that these measures may in fact help exclude them from participating via the implementation of neoliberal policies that further injure indigenous peoples. Moreover, Hale claims that governments and corporations have actually benefited from multicultural policies because such practices have brought greater profits for them.

    Other works have examined the role of organizations in the political mobilization of indigenous groups and the part that representation has played in tempering indigenous group political violence (Becker, 2008, 2010; Inguanzo, 2011; Madrid, 2002; Rice & Vann Cott, 2006, 2011; Van Cott, 2000). Van Cott (2000) presented a case study of Bolivia and its party system which explicates how indigenous parties were finally able to enter politics in the 1990s due to many changes in the indigenous population and the society. The author concludes that part of the reason why indigenous parties entered the political arena during that period was due to several reforms of political systems in the 1980s, which opened the space for other parties. Other changes include increased literacy in indigenous populations in the 1970s, indigenous migration to urban areas in the 1980s, and discrimination becoming unacceptable in Bolivian society during the 1990s. The impact of indigenous parties on legislation and institutions still needs to be further researched, particularly at the local level of different countries.

    Although indigenous political demands have been a result of the cultural “awakening” of indigenous peoples in Latin America, other scholars have examined how external factors have affected these demands. For example, several scholars have examined globalization and its effects on indigenous peoples (Rojas, 2010; Sieder, 2011). Rojas (2010) explores how globalization impacts the likelihood that indigenous groups will engage in protests or political violence. Rojas found that contrary to much of the literature which suggests that globalization exacerbates protest, globalization has actually lowered the amount of political unrest. Moreover, the author’s findings show that both political inclusion and representation reduced indigenous violence. Sieder (2011) explores international treaties, the globalized legal system, and the granting of indigenous rights in Latin America. Sieder concludes that one of the main problems with political inclusion, indigenous rights, and international entities is the lack of a regulatory framework in place to mediate between private capital, the state, the individual, and communal interests of indigenous groups. Without such regulation, the likelihood of conflict will increase (Sieder, 2011).

    Other scholars have researched the impact of political discrimination on conflict (Birnir, 2007; Chandra, 2003; Cleary, 2000). Cleary (2000) notes that political inclusion and political representation help discourage minority groups from mobilization. Hence, low levels of political discrimination should impact the likelihood of indigenous groups engaging in protest or violence.

    Another factor affecting the mobilization of indigenous groups is their level of geographic concentration or dispersion within the state. Tilly (1975) explains that groups that can organize are more willing to engage in mobilization such as protests or political violence. Yashar (1998) suggests that networks (such as churches and NGOs) combined with the ability of indigenous groups to mobilize have had an impact on helping indigenous groups fight for their rights. Therefore, in countries with a higher concentration of indigenous groups in one area, the likelihood of indigenous protest or violence would be greater than in countries where the population is dispersed.

    Indigenous Rights and Indigenous Groups’ Mobilization:

    The issue of granting indigenous rights and its consequences has also been explored by several scholars (Albro, 2010, Assies, 2006; Castillo, 2009; De la Peña, 2005 & 2006; Sieder, 2011; Sierra, 1995; Van Cott, 2000; Yashar, 1998). Van Cott (2000) offers a compelling exploration of the indigenous demands and what has been granted in Latin American countries with indigenous groups. She suggests that this has had a positive effect on the region, especially because it has promoted diversity and inclusion.

    However, Castillo (2009) highlights that there are problems with indigenous understandings of responsibility, delinquency, and crime which can be different from western understanding. Hence, there is a problem in granting both customary laws and state laws. Castillo states that a limit of what rights states can give to certain groups (indigenous peoples) should be established without forgetting to accommodate other groups that are also discriminated against (for example, the urban poor and gay couples). Sierra (1995) discovered through a study conducted in Sierra de Puebla, Mexico, that customary law is already part of the state law to a certain degree, especially inside indigenous communities. She found that both systems (customary and federal) already exist, even though the implementation of both systems is not perfect. The author uses legal cases discussed in front of local authorities to demonstrate the instances where customary and state laws are being put into practice. However, Sierra does raise concerns about coding customary laws because customs are always changing. Furthermore, coding the laws can exclude groups within the community (for example, people that do not believe or practice such customs).

    The dilemma of granting those laws is in part because of the state’s inability to practice them when they do not correlate with other policies that affect the rest of the state’s population. For example, some scholars (Cleary, 2000; Radcliffe, 2007) have argued that neo-liberal economic policies have a significant negative impact on indigenous groups. Moreover, many governments that granted indigenous rights (especially territorial rights) stand opposite from these policies. As stated above, Sieder (2011) explored the consequences of granting indigenous rights without creating a regulatory framework to mediate the interests of collective indigenous peoples, the state, and private capital. She concludes that an increase in confrontations between the government, indigenous groups, and corporations will occur without the proper regulation. Furthermore, the author found that certain laws (such as autonomy, jurisdiction, and territorial rights) are in constant competition with other laws affecting the state’s economic system (most states in this study practice capitalism). Hence, the economic policies have an influence over indigenous mobilization, particularly if such policies are competing with indigenous rights already granted.

    Although many scholars have explored the phenomenon of indigenous movements in Latin America, there has been little research in political science. Furthermore, most work focuses on single case studies as opposed to systematic quantitative studies (Albro, 2010; Becker, 2010, 2008; De la Peña, 2006; Hale, 2002; Mora, 2008; Perreault, 2003; Sieder, 2011; Sierra, 1995; Van Cott, 2000), which raises the issue of whether the conclusions found in these studies are generalizable. The lack of generalizable empirical studies raises the question: Does legislation that protects indigenous rights lead to more or less political mobilization and conflict?  Although previous scholarship provided significant insight into indigenous movements, the puzzle of the consequences of granting rights needs to be further explored.


    One can assume that the degree to which a country gives indigenous people constitutional rights is correlated to conflict. For the purpose of this text, conflict will be defined as protest or political violence by indigenous groups. One can also assume that if indigenous rights are granted, then indigenous groups do not need to protest or engage in conflict because their demands are satisfied. This assumption derives from the impression that part of the reason why indigenous groups engage in protest or political violence might be because it is the only channel that they have to let government know their needs. Some scholars (Van Cott, 2000; De la Peña, 2005) argue that granting indigenous groups some rights has improved the process of democratization in Latin America. Hence, the granting of indigenous rights will lead to less conflict.

    However, other scholars (Hale, 2002; Castillo, 2009; Sieder 2011; Albro, 2010) conclude that after granting the indigenous groups some rights (particularly customary law, autonomy, and land rights), the level of conflict actually increased, due to the state’s willingness to grant those rights but the inability to put them into practice. Sieder (2011) uses Guatemala as an example of granting rights to indigenous groups and the increase of conflict within a country. In Sikapaka, Guatemala, there has been a debate between indigenous groups and the mining company Montana Exploradora, SA. In 1996, Guatemala recognized the autonomy, territorial rights, and right of consultation before implementing plans that affect indigenous groups. Still, the mining company (with the support of the World Bank and Guatemalan government) decided to start mining without consulting the indigenous groups in the area and consequently affected the water tables and the indigenous territory. The indigenous groups in Sikapaka, Guatemala started to protest (sometimes using violence) against the mining company’s presence and actions. Sieder shows that the competition between laws that grant indigenous rights and international or national laws for trade and investment can bring a rise in confrontation between the state, the indigenous groups, and private investment. If indigenous rights are granted but never put into practice (due to other laws or inability to enforce certain laws), groups impacted by such laws might engage in violence against the state.

    Likewise, if a country decides to grant only certain limited rights, then indigenous groups are more likely to engage in conflict. De la Peña (2006) calls “regulatory multiculturalism” the process of granting only minimal cultural rights while ignoring the rest of the rights that indigenous peoples are requesting. If countries grant only cultural (folklore, dress code) and educational (bilingual programs, recognition of special needs for the population) laws without addressing laws that would allow the indigenous to protect their lands and way of life (customary law and property rights), indigenous groups would probably continue to demand those laws. It is true that indigenous groups want to preserve their language, culture, and folklore, but in order to do so they need capital, resources, and the rights necessary for management of their territories according to their customs. The second of these two elements is often not a part of regulatory multiculturalism.

    The case of Mexico exemplifies this concept. In Mexico, De la Peña (2006) discovered that the government is willing to grant only minimal cultural and language rights while using “ethnic divisions” within the country to avoid granting other rights (2006). This type of regulation might explain why the Zapatista movement persisted in their demands for autonomy from the Mexican government even though some other rights have been granted and Convention 169 was already adopted by the government.

    For all the reasons above, granting indigenous rights (particularly rights for autonomy, territory, and jurisdiction) increases the likelihood of indigenous groups engaging in protests or political violence due to the state’s inability to meet the expectations of the indigenous. There may be a correlation between the granting of indigenous rights and indigenous groups engaging in conflict.

    This theory holds that granting indigenous rights will increase the likelihood of indigenous mobilization, which suggests the following hypothesis:

    H1: If indigenous rights are constitutionally granted, indigenous groups are more likely to engage in conflict.

    Additionally, there are other factors that affect the likelihood of indigenous groups to engage in conflict. The level of ethnic group concentration in a state can have an impact on conflict and the consequences of granting rights to a discriminated group (Tilly, 1975). In countries with relatively low indigenous group concentration, it is less likely that those indigenous groups would be able to organize, hence mobilize. On the contrary, if a greater part of the country’s population is indigenous, organized, and geographically concentrated, the likelihood of indigenous mobilization might be higher.

    The level of political discrimination against indigenous groups within a country plays an important role in conflict. E. Cleary (2007) explains how the “Indian problem” has been present throughout the history of Latin America (2007). For example, the scholar highlights how political elites in most Latin American countries used schools as instruments to teach indigenous children only Spanish and punish the use of indigenous languages. Policies that tried to fix the state’s “Indian problem” might have deliberately excluded the representation and rights of indigenous groups. M. Cleary (2000) also notes that political inclusion and political representation help discourage minorities groups from mobilization. Therefore, the lower the levels of political discrimination, the lesser the likelihood of indigenous groups engaging in protest or violence.

    Economic policies can also influence conflict. Many Latin American countries have adopted neoliberal economic policies. According to Hale (2002), neoliberalism can be defined as:

    a cluster of policies driven by the logic of transnational capitalism: unfettered world markets for goods and capital; pared down state responsibilities for social welfare of its citizens; opposition to conflictive and inefficient collective entitlements, epitomized by labor rights; resolution of social problems through the application of quasi- market principles revolving around the primacy of the individual, such as assessment based on individual merit, emphasis on individual responsibility and the exercise of individual choice. (486)

    If a government implements neoliberal policies and is trying to compete within the global capitalist system, it is more likely to prioritize those policies over the policies that offer rights for indigenous populations, which are often antithetical to neoliberal policies. For example, indigenous groups requesting protection of their ancestral lands that are also rich in copper, natural gas, or other valuable resources will be subverted by the government trying to mine those natural resources. In those cases, neoliberal economic policies might supersede indigenous autonomy and territorial control. Thus, neoliberal policies might increase indigenous mobilization.

    Research Design and Methodology

    For the reasons mentioned above, I test the relationship between the granting of indigenous rights: educational, cultural, autonomy, jurisdiction, territories, and indigenous groups engaging in conflict. The unit of analysis is indigenous groups in Latin America as identified by the Minorities at Risk (MAR) database from 1991 to 2005. This database does not include all the indigenous groups in Latin America but it is an extensive list of most of indigenous groups present in those countries. The information provided by the Inter-American Development Bank was used in order to measure the type and level of indigenous rights granted in Latin American constitutions. This dataset provides all the legislation pertaining to indigenous rights in many countries. For the purpose of this paper, only the countries in Latin America that were listed by MAR as having indigenous peoples were included. The list of indigenous peoples and countries is provided in Table 1.

    Dependent Variable

    The dependent variable for this study is the indigenous groups’ engagement in either non-violent protests or violent acts from 1991-2005. The measure was derived from two sources: Minorities at Risk database and Lexis-Nexis. The dependent variable “movement” was measured by using the analytic summary, the risk assessment, and the chronology of indigenous groups from the MAR dataset for each country. These sections included, “whether the group is at risk of rebellion, protest, or repression, based on levels of a number of other variables” and a “brief history of the group and its relations with the state” (Minorities at Risk, 2009). To supplement the MAR data, Lexis-Nexis was used to search for any article that mentioned Latin American indigenous groups engaging in either non-violent protest or violence. The variable “Movement” is an ordinal variable and is scored from 0 to 2 where:

    0=No Movement Reported
    1=Non-violent Movements (protests and acts of symbolic resistance. Examples: starvation, blockage of traffic, and sit-ins in public spaces)
    2= Violent Movements (violent actions in rallies, protests, riots or forceful entrance to public spaces, taking and/or hurting hostages)

    Primary Independent Variable

    The primary independent variable “Total Constitutions Protection Score” is defined by Van Cott (2000) as the presence of five elements that are part of the multicultural model: (1) formal recognition of the multi-cultural nature of their societies and of the existence of indigenous peoples as distinct, sub-state social collectivities; (2) recognition of indigenous peoples’ customary law as official, public law; (3) collective property rights with restrictions on the alienation or division of communal lands; (4) official status for indigenous languages in territorial units where they are settled; and (5) a guarantee of bilingual education. Although an index of multicultural constitutions would be ideal and appropriate for this study, such a measure does not currently exist. However, the Inter-American Development Bank database has all the laws that affect indigenous groups in Latin America. Using Van Cott’s (2000) model and the Convention 169 document, I coded the constitution of every country included in the MAR dataset as Latin American countries with indigenous population. I had five categories which concepts can be generalized as:

    Cultural rights: recognition of indigenous presence in country, power to maintain some customary laws, and laws that protect and educate the indigenous heritage in the country
    Indigenous jurisdiction: interpreters during trials, calling experts on indigenous customary rights and their consideration in trial, customary rights, laws against discrimination and genocide toward indigenous population, consultation of indigenous groups prior to changing laws that will have an effect on such groups.
    Territorial rights: rights for communal or individual lands, protection of land given to indigenous groups, consultation of indigenous groups prior to implementing projects that will affect their lands and ways of life, ownership of land.
    Educational rights: rights for bilingual education, teaching of history that reflects a fair image of indigenous groups, respect, and acknowledgement of indigenous customary ways.
    Autonomy: local governments, respect for indigenous customary laws, tax exemptions, power over resources, land, and jurisdiction in indigenous territories.
    Because constitutions can be vague in describing who is not included in certain rights, each category was ranked from 0-5 where:
    0= No laws
    1= 1 or 2 general laws (no mention of indigenous groups)
    2= 3-5 general laws (no mention of indigenous groups)
    3= ratification of Convention 169 or 2-3 laws specifically created for indigenous rights
    4= 3 or more laws benefiting indigenous groups
    5= excellent detail of changes in the constitutions and a detailed explanation or more laws to help put in practice such changes

    Control Variables:

    In addition to indigenous rights, other variables have been added as controls for this study, such as indigenous group concentration, political discrimination, open economic policies toward foreign investment, and the percentage of the population made of indigenous people in each country.

    Indigenous group concentration is important because the ability of indigenous groups to organize and mobilize is affected by the concentration or dispersion of those groups in a specific area. If indigenous groups are living in close proximity to another, those groups would be able to coordinate and implement mobilization. At the same time, the proximity of the groups might also facilitate the finding of common goals because those groups share the same interests and needs. The ordinal variable “group concentration” (Indigenous Group Concentration) is included for each country in the dataset. The variable was taken from the Minorities at Risk (MAR) database and it is scored from 0-3 where:

    0= Widely dispersed
    1= Primarily urban or minority in one region
    2= Majority in one region, others dispersed
    3= Concentrated in one region

    “Political Discrimination” is another variable included in this work. As noted above, the level of political discrimination has an impact on indigenous mobilization. A low level of political discrimination decreases the likelihood of indigenous groups’ mobilization due to their inclusion and representation in the political system. The “political discrimination” measurement index was taken also from Minorities at Risk (MAR) database and is measured from 0-4 where:

    0= No discrimination
    1= Neglect/Remedial policies: substantial underrepresentation in political office and/or participation due to historical neglect or restrictions. Explicit public policies are designed to protect or improve the group’s political status.
    2= Neglect/No remedial policies: substantial underrepresentation due to historical neglect or restrictions. No social practice of deliberate exclusion. No formal exclusion. No evidence of protective or remedial public policies.
    3= Social exclusion/Neutral policy: substantial underrepresentation due to prevailing social practice by dominant groups. Formal public policies toward the group are neutral or, if positive, inadequate to offset discriminatory policies.
    4= Exclusion/Repressive policy: public policies substantially restrict the group’s political participation by comparison with other groups.

    In addition, the index for the openness of economic policies from the Penn World Table was included. This index takes into consideration the purchasing power parity and the national income accounts converted to international prices covering 189 countries from 1950-2009. The variable “open economic policies” is used as a proxy to neoliberal economic policies and it measures the percentage of openness a country has to international investment at current prices. In many of the cases researched in this work, the need of attract foreign investment while protecting indigenous rights had an impact on increasing indigenous mobilization. If the state is trying to maintain certain openness toward foreign investment, the likelihood of violating indigenous rights might increase.

    Finally, I include a lagged version of my dependent variable, mobilization, as a control variable. This is conducted in order to control for the non-independence of my observations within a time-series model or autocorrelation as suggested by Beck and Katz (1995). In other words, I expect that my dependent variable, mobilization, is not independent and a measure of mobilization in one year will likely influence mobilization in the next year.


    In order to test my hypothesis, I used an ordinal logistic regression. This method was chosen due to the fact that the dependent variable “mobilization” is ordinal and ranks from 0-2.


    Table 2 shows the results of the ordinal logit regression, where the dependent variable is the indigenous group’s engagement in non-violent protest or violent acts. It also includes the independent variables: total constitution protection score, political discrimination, indigenous group concentration, open economic policies, and a lagged version of my dependent variable, mobilization. There were 5,279 cases used in the analysis. Results are shown in Table 2.

    Most of the variables were statistically significant – with the exception of the main explanatory variable (total constitution protection score). This is counter to what I hypothesized. The results show that there is little correlation between indigenous mobilization and the granting of constitutional rights for indigenous groups. A possible explanation for the unexpected results is that the granting of such rights is as important as the practice of the new legislations. Assies (2006) recognizes that the analysis of constitutional recognition is not an easy task and it is also limited since indigenous rights are only an indicator of willingness but not of the practice. He observes in Latin American countries a big difference between “lo dicho y lo hecho (what is said and what is done)” (96).

    One also needs to consider that even though constitutional rights may not have a significant impact on the indigenous movement, the granting of such rights might positively impact the state democracy. Van Cott (2000) explains that conflict actually precedes indigenous rights and the creating of institutional mechanisms through which indigenous groups can find protection should eventually help reduce the political instability of the whole state.

    The variables that measured other factors such as political discrimination, concentration of indigenous population, and openness to foreign investment, are statistically significant. According to the results, the concentration of population might increase the opportunity for indigenous groups to mobilize. This follows Tilly’s (1975) argument that groups that are able to organize are more likely to engage in mobilization such as protests or violent acts. From the findings in this paper, one could conclude that in countries with a higher concentration of indigenous groups, the likelihood of indigenous protest or violence would be greater than in countries where the population is dispersed.

    As indicated in Table 2, political discrimination can also have an impact on the mobilization of indigenous groups. The results show that the greater the political discrimination in a country, the more one can expect that indigenous groups will mobilize toward protests or violent acts.

    Finally, the variable of openness in a country which is used as a proxy for neoliberal economic policies is also significant. This indicates that greater openness of a state toward foreign investment has a positive effect in indigenous groups’ engagement in protests or violent acts. This might be due to weak environmental laws that might have a direct effect on indigenous territory. It could also be that states forego indigenous rights in order to receive greater foreign investment.


    The fundamental question addressed in this work is whether the granting of constitutional indigenous rights affected the likelihood of indigenous groups’ engagement in protests or political violence. Due to the presence of more than 450 indigenous groups in Latin America, this issue has significant implications for the process of democratization in the region. In order to answer this question, I tested the relationship between the granting of indigenous rights and indigenous groups engaging in conflict. Results in Table 2 show that, contrary to the initial hypothesis and previous findings, the granting of indigenous rights may have little influence on indigenous groups engaging in protests or violent acts. This may be due to the fact that the granting of indigenous rights is only one of many components (practice of law, changing the political constitutions to put laws into practice, etc.) that are necessary to affect the likelihood of indigenous group mobilization. The difference between granting and implementing rights might explain the low correlation between indigenous conflict and changes in the constitution implemented to protect indigenous groups. It would be prudent to increase the time period covered in the dependent variable (for this study, the period was from 1991-2005). Due to the lack of time, I was not able to cover a longer time period for the mobilization of indigenous groups. As stated above, the granting of certain rights (autonomy, territories, for example) may have a different impact on indigenous mobilization. A closer look at the granting of those rights, especially in countries with certain natural resources, might be a new avenue for further research.

    Political discrimination, concentration of indigenous groups in one area, and economic policies open to foreign investment do have a positive correlation on indigenous groups engaging in violence or protest. The concentration of indigenous groups in one area allows groups to organize and mobilize. Even more, as in the case of Mexico, it allows the connection of one group’s goals with those of other indigenous groups in the area. Political discrimination increases the likelihood of indigenous mobilization. The lack of representation and the continuation of discriminatory policies push indigenous groups to find a path through protest and political violence in order to defend their way of life. Economic policies also impact the mobilization of indigenous groups. The results show that a country’s openness to foreign economic investment increases the mobilization of indigenous peoples. It is likely that many of the projects funded by foreign investment might directly affect indigenous interests. Further research needs to be conducted in the relationship between the openness of a country and the mobilization of indigenous groups.

    In conclusion, the results suggested that the granting of indigenous rights had no correlation with the mobilization of indigenous groups. Political discrimination, economic policies, and concentration of indigenous groups, however, increased the likelihood of indigenous mobilization. The results in this paper are, however, based on preliminary work. Further research should be conducted to discern why indigenous rights do not affect the mobilization of indigenous groups, and the relation between economic policies and the increase of indigenous engagement in protest or violent acts.


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    Table 1: List of Indigenous Groups and Countries

    Group Country
    Chiriguanos Argentina
    Collas Argentina
    Guaranies Argentina
    Mapuches Argentina
    Mapudungun Argentina
    Mataco Argentina
    Mbya Argentina
    Mocovi Argentina
    Tehuelche Argentina
    Tincu Nacu Argentina
    Tobas Argentina
    Selk’namgon Argentina
    Wichi Argentina
    Aymara Speaking Indians Highland Bolivia
    Calchas Highland Bolivia
    Callahuaya Highland Bolivia
    Chayantas Highland Bolivia
    Chaquies Highland Bolivia
    Chipaya Highland Bolivia
    Laimes Highland Bolivia
    Quechua Speaking Indians Highland Bolivia
    Tarabucos Highland Bolivia
    Tirinas Highland Bolivia
    Ucumaris Highland Bolivia
    Uru Highland Bolivia
    Yuras Lipes Highland Bolivia
    Arawaks Lowland Bolivia
    Chiquitanos Lowland Bolivia
    Chiriguanos Lowland Bolivia
    Guarani Lowland Bolivia
    Moxoan Lowland Bolivia
    Moxos Indians Lowland Bolivia
    Panoan Lowland Bolivia
    Tacanan Lowland Bolivia
    Ache Brazil
    Amanyé Brazil
    Awá Brazil
    Baniwa Brazil
    Botocudo Brazil
    Caingang Brazil
    Dowlut Brazil
    Enawene Nawe Brazil
    Guajajara Brazil
    Guaraní Brazil
    Kaiwa Brazil
    Kaimbla Brazil
    Kaingang Brazil
    Kalias Brazil
    Kamayurá Brazil
    Karajá Brazil
    Kayapo Brazil
    Korubo Brazil
    Kubeo Brazil
    Marinahas Brazil
    Matsés Brazil
    Mayoruna Brazil
    Munduruku Brazil
    Nambikwara Brazil
    Ofayé Brazil
    Panará Brazil
    Pirahã Brazil
    Quilombolo Brazil
    Suruí Brazil
    Tapirape Brazil
    Terena Brazil
    Ticuna Brazil
    Tremembé Brazil
    Tupi Brazil
    Tupiniquim Brazil
    Waorani Brazil
    Xavante Brazil
    Xokó Brazil
    Xucuru Brazil
    Yanomami Brazil
    Yawanana Brazil
    Zemborya Brazil
    Zuruaha Brazil
    Huilliche Chile
    Mapuche Chile
    Pehuenche Chile
    Arhuaco Highland Colombia
    Awa Highland Colombia
    Coconuco Highland Colombia
    Guambiano/Misak Highland Colombia
    Guanes Highland Colombia
    Inga Highland Colombia
    Kamsa (Sibundoy) Highland Colombia
    Kankuamo Highland Colombia
    Kogui/Kaggaba Highland Colombia
    Mokana Highland Colombia
    Muisca Highland Colombia
    Paez/Nasa Highland Colombia
    Pacabuy Highland Colombia
    Pastos Highland Colombia
    Pijao Highland Colombia
    Sutagaos Highland Colombia
    Tama Highland Colombia
    Totoro Highland Colombia
    Umbra Highland Colombia
    U’wa/Tunebo Highland Colombia
    Wiwa/Sanha Highland Colombia
    Yanacona Highland Colombia
    Achagua Lowland Colombia
    Amorua Lowland Colombia
    Andaqui Lowland Colombia
    Andoque Lowland Colombia
    Bara Lowland Colombia
    Barasana Lowland Colombia
    Bari/Motilon Lowland Colombia
    Betoye Lowland Colombia
    Bora Lowland Colombia
    Cabiyari Lowland Colombia
    Carapana Lowland Colombia
    Carijona Lowland Colombia
    Cocama/Kokama Lowland Colombia
    Cofan/Kofan Lowland Colombia
    Coreguaje Lowland Colombia
    Cubeo Lowland Colombia
    Cuiba Lowland Colombia
    Curripaco Lowland Colombia
    Chimila Lowland Colombia
    Chiricoa Lowland Colombia
    Desano Lowland Colombia
    Embera Lowland Colombia
    Guahibo People (Sikuani) Lowland Colombia
    Guayabero Lowland Colombia
    Kuna/Tule Lowland Colombia
    Kokama Lowland Colombia
    Hupda Lowland Colombia
    Letuama Lowland Colombia
    Makaguaje Lowland Colombia
    Makuna Lowland Colombia
    Masiguare Lowland Colombia
    Matapi Lowland Colombia
    Mirana Lowland Colombia
    Muinane Lowland Colombia
    Nonuya Lowland Colombia
    Nukak Lowland Colombia
    Ocaina Lowland Colombia
    Piratapuyo Lowland Colombia
    Pitsanira Lowland Colombia
    Puinave Lowland Colombia
    Saliba Lowland Colombia
    Siona Lowland Colombia
    Siriano Lowland Colombia
    Taiwano Lowland Colombia
    Tanimuka Lowland Colombia
    Tariano Lowland Colombia
    Tatuyo Lowland Colombia
    Tukano Lowland Colombia
    Wanano Lowland Colombia
    Wayuu Lowland Colombia
    Witoto/Uitoto Lowland Colombia
    Wounaan Lowland Colombia
    Yagua Lowland Colombia
    Yukana Lowland Colombia
    Yupka/Yuko Lowland Colombia
    Yuri (People) Lowland Colombia
    Yuruti Lowland Colombia
    Zenu Lowland Colombia
    Achuar Ecuador
    Aushiris Ecuador
    Canari Ecuador
    Caranqui Ecuador
    Cayambi Ecuador
    Cayapas Ecuador
    Chachi Ecuador
    Chibuleo Ecuador
    Chimborazo Ecuador
    Cofanes Ecuador
    Colorados Ecuador
    Epera Ecuador
    Huaorani Ecuador
    Otavalos Ecuador
    Puruha Ecuador
    Quichuas Ecuador
    Salasaca Ecuador
    Secoyas Ecuador
    Sioa Ecuador
    Sionas Ecuador
    Shuaras Ecuador
    Tagaeri Ecuador
    Tetetes Ecuador
    Tsachila Ecuador
    Woaroni Ecuador
    Zaparos Ecuador
    Cacaoperas El Salvador
    Nahua-Pipiles El Salvador
    Lencas El Salvador
    Achi’ Guatemala
    Akateka Guatemala
    Alta Verapaz Guatemala
    Awakateka Guatemala
    Ch’orti’ Guatemala
    Chalchiteka Guatemala
    Chuj Guatemala
    Garifuna Guatemala
    Huehuetenango Guatemala
    Itza’ Guatemala
    Ixil El Guatemala
    Jakalteka Guatemala
    K’iche’ Guatemala
    Kaqchikel Guatemala
    Mam Guatemala
    Maya Guatemala
    Mopan Guatemala
    Poqoman Guatemala
    Poqomchi’ Guatemala
    Q’anjob’al Guatemala
    Q’eqchi Guatemala
    Quetzaltenango Guatemala
    Quiché Guatemala
    Sakapulteka Guatemala
    Sipakapense Guatemala
    Solola Guatemala
    Tektiteka Guatemala
    Totonicapán Guatemala
    Tz’utujil Guatemala
    Uspanteka Guatemala
    Xinka Santa Rosa Guatemala
    Chorotega Honduras
    Chorti Honduras
    Garifuna Honduras
    Lenca Honduras
    Maya Honduras
    Miskito Honduras
    Paya Honduras
    Pipil Honduras
    Sumu Honduras
    Tawanka Honduras
    The Tol (jicaque) Honduras
    Xicaques Honduras
    Amuzgos Mexico
    Chantinos Mexico
    Chichimeca Jonaz Mexico
    Chinantecos Mexico
    Chochimi Mexico
    Chocho Mexico
    Chol Mexico
    Chontal Maya Mexico
    Cocopa Mexico
    Coras Mexico
    Cuicatecos Mexico
    Guarijio Mexico
    Huastecos Mexico
    Huaves Mexico
    Huicholes Mexico
    Ixcatec Mexico
    Juchitecos Mexico
    Kikapu Mexico
    Kiliwa Mexico
    Kumeyaay Mexico
    Lancandon Mexico
    Matlatzinca Mexico
    Maya Mexico
    Mayo Mexico
    Mazahua Mexico
    Mazatecos Mexico
    Mexicanero Mexico
    Mixe Mexico
    Mixtecos Mexico
    Nahua Mexico
    Otomis Mexico
    Otonacos Mexico
    P’urhépecha Mexico
    Paipai Mexico
    Pame Mexico
    Papagos Mexico
    Pima Bajo Mexico
    Popolucas Mexico
    Seris Mexico
    Tarahuamaras Mexico
    Tarascos Mexico
    Tepehuanes Mexico
    Tephuán Mexico
    Tlapanec Mexico
    Tojolabal Mexico
    Totonacos Mexico
    Triquies Mexico
    Tzelzal Mexico
    Tzolzil Mexico
    Yaquis Mexico
    Yucatec Maya Mexico
    Zapotecs Mexico
    Zoque Mexico
    Chorotega Nicaragua
    Miskito Nicaragua
    Rama Nicaragua
    Sumu Nicaragua
    Guaymi Panama
    Kuna Panama
    Choco Panama
    Aché Paraguay
    Ayoreo Paraguay
    Chané People Paraguay
    Enxet Paraguay
    Guarani Paraguay
    Guaykuru Paraguay
    Mascoi Paraguay
    Mataco Paraguay
    Mbaya people Paraguay
    Sanapana Paraguay
    Toba people Paraguay
    Tupi Paraguay
    Zamuco Paraguay
    Aguaruna Peru
    Amahuaca Peru
    Amuesha Peru
    Ashaninka Peru
    Aymara Peru
    Bora Peru
    Cocama Peru
    Chayanuita Peru
    Cofán/Kofan Peru
    Inca Peru
    Jivaroan Peru
    Korubo Peru
    Machiguenga Peru
    Matis Peru
    Matsés Peru
    Mayoruna Peru
    Muinane Peru
    Ocaina Peru
    Piro Peru
    Quechua Peru
    Secoya Peru
    Shipibo Peru
    Ticuna Peru
    Tukano Peru
    Tupi Peru
    Urarina Peru
    Witoto/Huitoto Peru
    Yagua Peru
    Yora Peru
    Yukuna Peru
    Akawaio Venezuela
    Anu Venezuela
    Arawako Venezuela
    Auaké Venezuela
    Baniwa People Venezuela
    Bari Venezuela
    Guahibo People Venezuela
    Huya Venezuela
    Ingarikó Venezuela
    Mariche Venezuela
    Motilone Bari Venezuela
    Pemon Venezuela
    Piaroa Venezuela
    Sanuma Venezuela
    Saladoid Venezuela
    Warao Venezuela
    Wayuu Venezuela
    Yanomano Venezuela
    Ye’kuana Venezuela

    Table 2: Coefficient Estimates: What Explains Indigenous Protest and Violence in Latin America Ordinal Time Series Logit Model


    (Standard Errors)

    Movement (Lagged)


    Total Constitutions Protection Score


    Political Discrimination


    Indigenous Group Concentration


    Open Economic Policies