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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, companeros!
 
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 know it,
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 were chanting.
The meeting this time was real short. We listened to the most
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 her.
 
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 rocks
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 types.....
 
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 get rid
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 companies.
When someone tried to destroy something that might belong to an individual they were asked to pay more attention to what they were doing.
 
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 over
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 away.
 
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.

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