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Last month the progressive government of Cristina Fernandez in Argentina was dealt a blow when the conservative neo-liberal, Mauricio Macri, was elected as her replacement. Since then Macri has bypassed government on dozens of occasions and ruled by decree. The peso has been drastically devalued, thousands of public sector workers have been laid off, the police have fired on demonstrators with rubber bullets and the government has taken on billions of dollars of overseas debt. Mariano Quiroga, our editor in Buenos Aires, reflects on the drastic changes in the last month.
Over the last 5 or 6 years, I have written many articles talking about the achievement of rights on the Latin American continent and how they have been rolled back in Europe and the United States. The reasons were disguised as policies of austerity, anti-terrorism or “administrative efficiency”, but the reality is that labour, social and individual rights have been curtailed.
The Corporation monsters have come back to rule Argentina, there is no longer a government that can fight them to avoid some of the abuses, what’s more, a government has been installed that is composed of directors and consultants from the biggest corporations: agroindustry, the service sector, private health, the big distributors and even money launderers.
How did they gain political power?
This time they didn’t need the complicity of the military to carry out this power-grab. Their main ally was the media, in the new government’s hands, through which they orchestrated social conflicts and discontent in crescendo made more acute through the persistent operations of the capitalist system of speculation, the security forces that lost ground in their spurious business dealings and their disputes on the international geopolitical chessboard, being fundamentally dependent on the energy and weapons business but finding in Argentina a stumbling block for the propagation of their ends.
What is true is that the media colluded with a string of puppet candidates of this shadowy economic power and through a demagogic and binary discourse managed to bring down a candidate lacking charisma and popular support. But the problem, beyond the errors of the outgoing government, lies in the subjugation of the masses played with by the media that doesn’t need them to even be direct consumers, because they set the subject of the conversation in the population, the common sense from which conflicts are analysed and from which are generated complaints and desires of a large portion of the electorate.
The desire for satisfaction
We have all been consumed by dissatisfaction, for very diverse reasons, in many cases unknown to us, but we have for decades been bombarded by this tune. We even believed that it was a good thing to live with dissatisfaction because it generated rebellion, the effort to do better and more. Yes, it was ok, but it also created monsters.
Here are some details of the Argentinean context that can help to understand how, in less than one month of Mauricio Macri’s government, we can hear the justification for the increase of prices because of the heavy legacy of the previous government, the savage devaluation due to a need to make the value of the peso realistic, an unprecedented wave of sackings in the public sector because they were political militants who weren’t doing their jobs… I make a brief pause in this list to say to the unwary who could think this is true, that if the more than 12000 sackings this month really were Peronist or Kirchnerist political militants, Macri would have had no chance of winning the election.
But these sackings are justified by a promise for excellence and professionalism which is unsustainable when you look at the CVs of this new generation of serial justifiers of absurdity.
Imports have been opened up and this has unleashed another wave of sackings, in this case in the private sector. Companies that manufactured within the country, because it was the only way of getting things in Argentina, announced the closure of their factories and replacement by products sourced from abroad. The benefits for these companies are astronomical, while there are thousands of families that lose their bread-winner.
Carrefour, Procter & Gamble and many others are part of this policy of contempt for national production and for the Argentinean worker, preferring the production from factories of exploitation and ecological damage in other latitudes.
The most absurd absurdity of this way of looking at reality has to do with the general view that repression is acceptable. There isn’t even a morsel of empathy for repressed people in the media. They are presented as criminals; as if the criminals were those who block the road demanding that promises are kept or that basic rights of people or groups are not trampled on.
This bizarreness has led the media to describe the police as selfless workers who, for 12 years, suffered in silence as a predominant government obliged them to be beaten by demonstrators. Sorry, but I have to make another important clarification: the media systematically criticised every repression over the last 12 years (and there were some) and at the same time criticised the government when it didn’t repress and fire upon social protests. Given the ability of the media to stand on the pavements, on the asphalt and above the city, it was impossible to find a degree of sanity in the mass media in Argentina.
The media descriptions of the repressed include: political point-scorers, gnocchi and hooligans, be they women with children in their arms, grandparents, people on crutches, cooperative workers, employees, unemployed or recently sacked. It’s enough to say that if we are dealing with “good people” who set fires and block the central avenues of Buenos Aires because the lights have been cut off, it is a complaint of the neighbourhood and shame on anyone who criticises them.
When a false campaign is big enough the people stop thinking for themselves and turn into armies of repeaters of the common sense hoisted hysterically by Majul, Laje, Bazán and Feinmann, with the subsequent degradation of the human species that this implies.
This kind of collective hypnosis seeks to create fear in the face of an unhinged regime ready to overturn the Constitution, walk all over Legislative Power and hijack Judicial Power. A regime that enables repression, not only of social protest, but also of the free circulation of people through a new law that allows the police to ask for identification and background checks without any need for behaving suspiciously. Even free political affiliation is curtailed, as the government can find out who could be opposition supporters among the public sector workers in order to get rid of them. And let’s not go into the spying on personal accounts of public sector workers or their obligation to “confess” that they are active in a political party or organisation in interrogations worthy of the Gestapo.
I still can’t understand how hardened have become the hearts of certain people who seem ready to endorse grenades being but in rubbish sacks to blow up the cartoneros or the national airline being destroyed because La Cámpora activists work there.
A bit of sanity, please! I can’t expect sanity from those who carry out a systematic plan to pillage from the State and our homeland, but I can ask for it from the indifferent witnesses of these acts, those who applaud the bitterness and revenge. And to those who still hold onto their heads, but tepidly and suspiciously rant against social organisation. Let’s unite because these guys are walking all over us!
 An expression used in Argentina that means a public employee who, due to political influence, doesn’t come to work but still gets paid.
 Argentinean journalists.
 Every night a small army of “cartoneros” come out to sort through the rubbish left in sacks on the streets and take away anything that can be sold or recycled for money.
 A youth organization supportive of the previous governments of Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez.