Late in 2019, Chile, Colombia and Peru saw an uptick in political turmoil that was unusual, given that they’re perceived as politically stable countries with “market-friendly” policies. With several key elections on tap in 2020, we’re watching closely for potential risk flare-ups.

The countries’ unrest shares common triggers: lower secular economic growth, high inequality, more demand for better provision of public goods and higher scrutiny of corruption. This shift in political tone is unusual because these countries adopted policies three decades ago that liberalized their economies and markets, while policies were focused on maintaining stability and improving productivity. However, the recent wave of populist backlash happened despite the countries’ recent relative success.

Could the recent return of protests and challenges lead to major changes in the institutional framework? Let’s take a closer look at each nation: how they got here, the risks and how authorities are responding.

Chile: Could a New Constitution Disrupt Chile’s Model?

Reforms by the Pinochet government some three decades ago are regarded as key to Chile’s economic growth, low inflation and modest public-debt increases. Pinochet’s rule ended without violence, and the return of democracy has delivered a stable political landscape.

The recent unrest ignited on October 18, 2019, after an erratic government response to student protests over a scheduled fare increase in Santiago’s light rail transit system. The discontent spread broadly—in many cases violently—and encompassed demands for increased government spending on health, pensions and education, as well as a process to replace the current political constitution.