- The Battle of December 20th
(excerpts from an anonymous interview published
in the magazine Pimienta Negra, December 25, 2001)
- When I saw that my kid had to go out with his cart and go
through the trash to find things to sell, and I remembered how,
not long ago, maybe three years, I still worked in the paper
company and still got a Christmas bonus this time of year..to
tell you the truth, my eyes filled with tears, tears of impotence.
But I got a hold of myself and thought about my companeros, in
the last fight that we had, and I imagined what the next one
was going to be like. And this time, the next one was close,
it was going to be the very next evening.
- Save your rage for that moment, Cachito, I said to myself,
inside. You need to let your rage out with your companeros when
we're all together, facing those sons of bitches," I repeated
to myself, like I do every time this feeling of anguish comes
up inside me, and right away I was able to transform my rage.
And like I always say at the
Assemblies: "Rage has to be tranformed into organization,
- That's why we all went back to the Plaza. I had to go back
and give some money to Zulma, and I was with the kids for awhile,
and then I suddenly found msyelf in El Galpon, where we were
going to meet. It was still 12:30, midday, and already my companions
were gathering there.
- Some friends from secondary school had shown up, who had
helped us out with reading and tutoring for the adults in the
neighborhood, and this time they wanted to go to the Plaza with
us. Since a lot of them hadn't even eaten, they shared a sandwhich
that they were selling in the store for a peso.
- I think it was Aldo who had the idea of bringing the televisor
of the house to the community Galpon, since we were all gathered
there, it was a good idea to have information on hand. As we
were going to the galpon, the one on the corner, don Cosme, this
guy who never gets involved in anything, told me that there had
been police brutality in the Plaza, and he asked me what we were
going to do.
- I invited him to the meeting, even though I was almost positive
he wasn't going to come, I invited him anyway. And there we began
to try to put together the jigsaw puzzle of information: each
one commented on what he had heard since the day before, and
we continued to watch what was happening on tv: I think it was
Santiago who said, "Look, now those s.o.b.s of channel 13
are talking about an explosion of the people's rage, when until
yesterday they were defening the government and didn't show any
news when we blocked the roads for twelve days straight.
- The cazerolazos of the night before, which were very important
to break through fear and to begin to turn the politicians upside
down, that took place in the middle class areas, mostly in Buenos
Aires and the communal centers...
- they were an important complement during those two days of
struggle: a lot of movements of unemployed people like ours,
in the days just before that, we were raising the temperature
of protest with picketing of the big multinational supermarkets,
because we didn't go into the local corner store to loot, you
we went instead to the big supermarkets where the multinationals
are sucking the country's blood.
- We piqueteros, who had been maintaining the struggle for
quite some time, were waiting to continue (on Dec 19), but without
going out. And the middle class, who had until now not gone out
in massive protest, took over our leadership that night, or better
said, they joined the fight, going out with their pots and pans
to the Plaza de Mayo and Congreso, even putting up with the repression
of the next morning.
- So, well, it was two o'clcok in the afternoon, and we all
felt the same: Take your State of Siege and Shove it Up Your
Ass", as they had chanted the night before and now we ourselves
- The meeting this time was real short. We listened to the
decisive opinions first, I'll tell you a few: "Quito, who
was in his twenties, a little younger than me, cause I'm thirty
two, said with a passion that I had never before seen in him:
"We can see in the TV that those cop sons of bitches are
stampeding the old ladies with their horses, and just a couple
of weeks ago, we promised the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo that
we would support them in their struggle.
- So it was like when they touched the old ladies, the Madres,
it's like they're messing with our own mothers, and I'm going
to get my self down there to the Plaza
- The only thing we were unable to resolve was the fear that
some people had. "I always go to the roadblocks with my
three kids, and now I want to be there with my companeros, but
I don't have anyone to leave the kids with, and I'm afraid to
go down there with them."
said one woman in the group, and a lot of people agreed with
- I was surprised when we left for the train station...there
were tons of us! We had told Rosa, who has breathing problems,
that it wasn't a good idea for her to come, but she came anyway,
along with Reno y Sixto, the old guys from the neighborhood,
workers all their lives, who, at almost seventy, should have
been enjoying a little retirement, but they weren't getting any
because of the company that laid them off....
- To tell you the truth, my legs were shaking during that trip
down to the plaza. But those military guys, they could have run
a tank over me and they still wouldn't have stopped me! We had
just barely gotten off the bus, six blocks from the Plaza. You
could already smell the gases. So we talked to them, the old
guys and Rosa, .... with a little sadness, because we knew they
were not going to be able to stand the gases and the running.
Don Sixto gave me a handshake that filled me with two thousand
kilos of energy....
- It's true what certain newspapers said: the people throwing
and running from the gasses were from all walks of life, from
office workers to teachers, from old men to young kids, there
were people like us, and other guys who looked like university
- I know that everybody who could converged on the Plaza de
Mayo that afternoon, people from the poor barrios of Gran Buenos
Aires, young people from the middle class, people who worked
in banks, everyone, without differences, in the same trenches.
- There was this one guy we were giving lime to so he could
of the odor of the gasses, as we were running down Cacabuco street
this guy disappears into an apartment building and tells us to
come on in. Since we were looking at him a little funny, he told
us he lived there, and that he was opening the door to give us
shelter from the gas. And living in an apartment in downtown
Buenos Aires can't be all that cheap, you know!
- What unified us was the resistance in each intersection,
in each barricade that we put together out of advertising posters,
everything that belonged to the State or to the international
When someone tried to destroy something that might belong to
an individual they were asked to pay more attention to what they
- The barricade was solid, and the police could throw gasses
at us to stop us, but this well-made barricade was like a position
won. It was at this moment that the guys who were a hundred meters
behind us began to yell, "They killed him, they killed him!"
- El Negro was on this corner, and he came running to tell
us what had happened: in the last dispersion that had been provoked
by the gasses, when some of the boys had been paralyzed
- without being able to run, there was one guy who was bent
trying to get his breath, and a cop got off a motorcycle, and,
looking at the ground, he shot the guy point blank in the temple
with a nine millimeter.
- He shot him, just the way I describe it. I was on the next
corner, but El Negro, Santiago and the guys who were there saw
it clearly. That's when the lead bullets began to fly. Some other
guys gathered up the used shells, and they were nine millimeters.
- °Everybody who could got together, we talked about what
had happened, tried to figure it out: "the shit-faced assassins
were going to wreck the barricades with bullets! From the corner
where we were we began to see the puddle of blood a hundred meters
- I swear to you, rage came pouring out of my eyes. They
were already tearing up because of the gasses, but I remembered
just at that moment, the feeling I had had that morning when
my fifteen year old son had to go out with his cart to pick out
what he could from the trash. " "Sons of bitches!"
I shouted, " Filthy sons of bitches
- The truth is I don't know if I shouted it outloud or inside,
but I looked at the row of cops along Cabildo, and I think anyone
who saw my face at that moment didn't need to hear me to know
what I was feeling.
- You could tell at that moment they were going to show their
power by the force of the bullet if it was necessary , I think
that they were firing on us because they were scared shitless,
and the ones who were giving orders, there in the pink house,
were even more scared than they were that we were going to take
over the Plaza, go into the Pink House and hang them, which is
what they deserved, as Juan said in the meeting.
- And then, you know...I kept thinking of my kid who dropped
out of high school in his second year to help out at home, with
his cart, and I don't want the same thing to happen with the
other children that I have, you understand?
- That's why I wanted to get to the Plaza, I wanted us to take
over the Plaza so that the directors of the International Monetary
Fund can see that when we decide that they're not going to mess
with us, and I was even thinking that when we have bullets, they'll
see what that's like..
- But well, more gas, we were all talking fast, those of us
in the intersection, some were saying we should go by the parallel
road, until someone said, I remember very clearly:
- Hold on, brother, he said. "They're putting bullets
in us and we don't even have a molotov cocktail."
- Okay, so afterwards they said that in 9 de Julio there were
a lot of people arriving, and we all hightailed it over there,
over to the street that's parallel to Avenida de Mayo, I don't
know what it's called. To make sure the barricades and the fires
were up in each corner that we left, so they couldn't advance
with motorcyles or tanks, we set fire to everything we came across,
or better said, to be honest: the first few times I broke everything
I came across, without being able to get out of my head the pool
of blood from the companero who was shot down in chacabuco and
avenida de mayo, nor the idea that my other four kids might be
able to finish high school and have a more honorable future.
This is why I set things osn fire, I'm telling you the truth.
- Afterwards, closer to 9 de Julio, where everything was a
little more calm, if you could call it that, there were plenty
of people who were compalining about the violence and saying
that it wasn't right to break things, that it should be a nonviolent
protest. I had calmed down a bit, but I got heated up again:
"You go tell that guy they killed that you want this to
be non-violent...go tell the owners of this bank, that's been
looting the country when kids here are dying of hunger....you
go talk about peace to the kids they killed yesterday in the
provinces because they went into the supermarkets to get food!"
I said to them, and who knows what else.
- And in 9 de Julio we could regroup, make sure that everyone
was still there who had gotten scattered. Some of us were almost
choking, others had wounds from rubber bullets, but now we were
all a little more relaxed. YOu know, there in the 9 de Julio,
where it's wide...we got our breath there, and while we continued
setting fire to all the barricades, we began to cross the street
with some people we knew, some with faces covered, groups of
companeros from other movements, militants from different sectors,
some teachers, a lot of people from Gran Buenos Aires, and the
tension of those first difficult hours began turning into happiness,
because we were talking about this, and we began to realize,
among ourselves, that we couldn't go to the Plaza de Mayo, but
that now all of Buenos Aires was in chaos. But hold on, hold
on, I don't want to give the idea that I'm in favor of chaos.
They were the ones who provoked this chaos by thinking that by
using police repression they were going to make us docile. We're
not talking about chaos for chaos' sake, but rather if
- they know that if they don't respect us, if they don't learn
how to respect the people, that nobody should think that they
are going to live in any kind of tranquility by exploiting people.
This is the message, it seems to me.
- All of downtown Buenos Aires was smoking with banks on fire,
did you see what they did to McDonald's?
- And from the most remote corners, you could see the columns
of black smoke that let us know the same thing was happpening
all over town. One older guy, in his fifties, while he was helping
to remove the furniture from one of the banks to burn it on the
corner, he yelled into the television cameras:
- These are all of Cavallo's buddies, who destroyed us all,
let's see if now they give us a little respect and get out of
the country! And afterwards, this same guy made a great effort
so that the vaguitos wouldn't rob the computers. "Here we're
not going to rob anything, companeros, we're just going to make
a mess of everything they took from us, but we're not going to
steal, because we're not here for that, we're just here to make
a mess of things.
- The 'vaguitos" are those guys who sometimes pick pockets
in the train sations. I think they were surrised because someone
had called them "companeros", or I don't know, but
after that they began trashing the monitors and the computers
that they were going to steal, throwing them against the ground.
- And I don't know, but even though they talk about vandalism
and all that, I think there's some justice in what went on. What
do I know, but maybe just once, let them lose a little, you know.
Let them be afraid, let them have a little respect.
- Let them know that when the people get tired, how does that
phrase go? I know that most of us felt that the city on fire
was a response to so much oppression, so much disrespect, so
much death, that it just exploded.
- I don't know, speaking seriously now, this was not, as some
people have tried to make it out to be, a social revolution.
We still have a long way to go for that.....
- But what is sure, is that now, all the people, the workers,
the people who we call the unemployed, we are much stronger than
we were because of this social change. I think we know it and
I think they know it, the political class, the military
- Hey, it just now occured to me, that I still have the handkerchief
that I used to protect me from the gasses, dirty from the soot
of the bonfires. I'm going to keep this handkerchief for when
my kids are bigger, a handkerchief full of dignity...this dignity
that is the best inheritance that I can pass on to my kids.