Argentina; the First Big Challenge

By Carlos Aznárez on January 22, 2016

Carlos Articulo ArgentinaThis past Friday tens of thousands of Argentinean men and women took to the streets to occupy bridges accessing big cities and cutting off the main highways from the North to the South and from the East to the West of the country. Vindication of the people is based on pure logic and an embedded part of the history that is expressed in a popular Argentine slogan of struggle – “If one person is touched all of us are”.  Translated to the current neoliberal reality it is a simplified phrase and a warning that if  Milagro Sala, the parliamentarian from Jujuy, is jailed, in a clear attempt to criminalize social protest, tomorrow all of those who demand justice and freedom can also be imprisoned.

What last Friday showed was the first great mass challenge of Argentine social and popular organizations against the Macri Government that increasingly acts more like a dictatorship through its so called “special” measures.

Those who filled the street intensely waving flags also came with anger and rebellion on what proved to be one of the hottest days of the year in Buenos Aires. The significance of the outpouring of demonstrators is that they came defying the continuous threats of repression coming from the Macri Government in the form of “restrictive” decrees. Truly popular assemblies are now taking place discussing and cursing what is happening in the initial month of Macri and his assembled staff.

Another promising development, which speaks to the degree of maturity of the different sectors of the Argentine left, is that the demonstrations continue without sectarianism.

The prevailing idea is to pull together the will of all to confront the common enemy. As was the case recently in other large national mobilization, one could see the flags of Peronist organizations and left groups entangled in the common demand of freedom for the imprisoned Milagro Salas. The response from the government on Friday was to not confront the protests with unnecessary provocations. There were no policemen or gendarmes for example at the Pueyrredon Bridge, the emblematic site where on June 26, 2002 the piqueteros Maximiliano Kosteki and Darío Santillán were murdered by the state.

Perhaps the Government, despite acting with a decidedly authoritarian hand, has been able to maintain a little common sense as it begins to perceive that each measure of creeping capitalism or open revenge is creating an anti-establishment wave that could put Macri, his ministers and their transnational corporate bosses up against the ropes. In fact, apart from the forcefulness of the cuts and the return of a piquetero movement * that contains organized components of labor, this time there looms the threat of a general strike of the oil industries that would leave the country without gas or fuel. The match was already lit in Patagonia this week when an Assembly of 15,000 workers gave a deadline of 5 days for the end of mass suspensions and the threat of layoffs. This may worry the President some as he rubs elbows with the Magnates of the Planet in Davos promising concessions on the billions Argentina owes the “Vulture Financiers.”

In addition to the protests, there is the fact of the repeated problem of electricity outages in Buenos Aires, where half a million people are suffering in the midst of soaring temperatures. This has generated a disturbing picture of people in the streets and avenues demanding immediate solutions to the situation in which the government is the one to blame the most.

Could Mauricio Macri have really believed that he was touching the sky with his hands when the transnational vultures were receiving him in Davos as one of the family? Does he now think that he is a powerful Lord who enjoys total immunity to do what he pleases and undo as a he pleases without repercussion? Already there are some of his advisers whispering in his ears that there is a grassroots groundswell that is taking place, and that cutting deals with spurious sectors of the Peronist Party, and bureaucratic trade unionists seeking his protection, will not be enough.

Former Argentine Presidents Menem and De la Rúa also believed that they could fool people for a thousand years without them noticing. It was during those regimes the best tradition of struggle a generation of unyielding men and women were founded. It is very similar to those now emerging courageously to meet the challenges in the initial period of Macri.

* The Piquetero Movement of Argentina was a united response of impoverished unemployed workers during the economic collapse of Argentina in late 2001. They were known for factory takeovers, blocking of highways and other militant actions. The Piquetero Movement remains in the fertile memory of every active militant in Argentina. 

Translated by the North America Bureau, Resumen Latinoamericano

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano