Global Resistance
of Structural Adjustment Programs

Sonoma County Peace Press, June / July 2000

Global Resistance of Structural Adjustment Programs
Sonoma County Peace Press, June / July 2000

In the dozens of countries where the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have imposed structural adjustment programs (SAPs), the people who have seen deterioration in their standards of living, reduced access to public services, devastated environments, and plummeting employment prospects have not been passive. The pages of newspapers, magazines, and academic journals (those that can survive in depressed economies) have been filled with damning analysis of structural adjustment. More important, people have been organizing to combat the pillaging of their lands and livelihoods. This organizing has resulted in mass movements and protests on every continent, but they are not often reported on in the mainstream press.


March 1985
General strike called by labor unions, with the support of many agricultural workers, against government's sharp increase in food and gasoline prices as part of its IMF-designed SAP. Troops and riot police called out. Unions accept government's offer to increase basic minimum wage by more than four-fold along with other wage increases.

April 2000
Six dead, 175 injured including two children blinded after the military fired tear gas, then bullets, at demonstrators opposing the 35% hike in water prices imposed on the city of Cochabamba by the new owners of the water system, International Waters Limited (IWL), a British subsidiary of San Francisco based Bechtel. The IMF, World Bank and Interamerican Bank have written sell-offs into what they term, national "master plans," (another term for SAPs). Consortia such as IWF were formed to capture these cast-off public assets. Cochabamba's protest organizers knew that just across the border in Buenos Aires, the region's first privatization consortium eliminated 7,500 workers, the system bled from lack of maintenance and prices jumped, repeating the story of virtually every water privatization around the world.


May 1986
About twenty students and bystanders at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) in Zaria were massacred by security forces after staging peaceful protests over impending introduction of SAPs.

April 1988
Students demonstrate at 33 universities against fuel price increase demanded by IMF-inspired SAP. May-June 1989

May-June 1989
Dozens of people killed and hundreds arrested in riots and strikes against SAPs in Lagos, Benin City and Port Harcourt. Government forced to offer a welfare program called "SAP Relief Package," the establishment of a mass transit scheme, a "People's Bank" and a review of the minimum wage.

March-May 1990
Students and faculty on campuses nationwide protest government's decision to accept a $150 million University restructuring loan from the World Bank, especially conditions requiring closure of many departments and programs. Military government stages armed assaults and hundreds of arrests, with hundreds more expelled from university system. May 1992

May 1992
Students at Universities of Ibadan and Lagos protest against implementation of Structural Adjustment Program, which they accused of being responsible for the deterioration of campus facilities and education programs as well as doubling of transport prices. Police respond by shooting at the demonstrators, wounding at least five students. Battles between young anti-government demonstrators and riot police in Lagos leave at least three dead and hundreds injured. The IMF and World Bank made the removal of subsidies and probable increase of the price of gasoline the main imperative in its negotiations with the Nigerian government.


January-February 1987
Food price riots in the northern copper mining district in response to a SAP announced in December 1986 eventually led to program's suspension.

April 2000
Scores of anti-IMF protesters dispersed by armed riot police in Zambia's capital Lusaka after they attempted to picket outside a hotel where IMF and Zambian officials were meeting. "IMF policies are killing us, especially women and children," said a representative of one of the many women's groups that organized the protest.


October-November 1987
Steep currency devaluation and price hikes resulting from arrangements with both the IMF and World Bank lead to demonstrations by about 15,000 in Khartoum to denounce IMF. Students at University of Khartoum occupy buildings, leading to eventual closure of the institution.


January-June 1989
University of Cotonou students strike, paralyzing the institution for six months, in protest of non-payment of grants for several months and the government's intention to stop paying them altogether in 1989 as part of SAP reforms. Teachers' strike begins in April, with demands for payment of four months' salary arrears, the withdrawal of the 50% reduction in their salaries (part of IMF mandates), the unconditional liberation of all teachers, pupils, and students held during the strike and the reintegration of 401 teachers dismissed in March for striking.


February-March 1989
About 600 people killed and more than 1000 wounded in rioting over economic measures, including sharp increases in fuel and public transport prices, imposed to satisfy the IMF and World Bank. President Perez, as one of his first acts in office, signed a letter of intent with the IMF putting into place a SAP.

February 1992
Coup attempt by middle-level military officers, widely supported by the population, fails. The economic goal of the coup's protagonists was the end of Venezuela's SAP.


April 1989
Riots over increased food prices erupt throughout southern Jordan shortly after announcement of SAP agreed to with IMF. At least five protesters killed by police.

August 1996
Riots break out in Karak and other southern cities after IMF demands removal of subsidies, resulting in tripling of price of bread. King suspends Parliament when it refuses to support price hikes. Protesters also target Ministry of Education because of hike in school fees connected with IMF program.


December 1990
Students at Makerere University protest cutting of stationery and travel allowances arising from a World Bank-imposed SAP. Police fire into a crowd of protesting students, killing two.


June-August 1999
A broad coalition of civil society organizations, led by indigenous peasants, rise up to demand the curtailment of austerity measures imposed after the IMF's emergency interventions in the wake of weather catastrophes (La Ninia/El Ninio), further de-stabilizing the government

January 2000
Indigenous people march on Quito to demand an end to austerity programs and more responsive government. After taking over the parliament building and allying with key members of the military, the indigenous organizations succeed in forcing the resignation of President Jamil Mahuad. Betrayal by the head of the armed forces leads to the vice-president taking over leadership rather than a government of national reconciliation.


[This article was excerpted from the 50 Years is Enough website and is based on the work of George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici of the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa (CAFA).]

For more information see 50 Years Is Enough: U.S. Network for Global Economic Justice website

Structural Adjustment page