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Argentines Speak Out:
Voices from The Neighborhood Assemblies
The neighborhood assemblies sprung up in January of 2001, as groups of neighbors who had taken to the streets in mssive non-violent protest on December 19 began meeting on streetcorners to discuss and plan alternatives to the current political system, as well as acts of civil disobedience and strategies for dealing with emergency health and food issues brought about by the economic crisis. There are now over 200 assemblies in the Buenos Aires area, and others throughout Argentina. The assemblies, as an ongoing political and social movement, have as an underlying theme the transfer of power from existing political parties to the neighborhoods themselves. They are changing not only the political landscape in Argentina but the way the neighbors themselves think and feel about each other.
"This whole thing started, not with words, but with the sound of the banging of pots and pans. It was a music that entered your body and made you move your feet, and so we moved our feet and found ourselves in the Plaza de Mayo."
The phrase "Que se vayan todos" ("Get rid of them all," referring to corrupt politicians) nourishes the movement, it pushes it in a utopian direction.
I am totally grateful to the sons of bitches who provoked this whole thing. Because now the citizens will never be the compliant lot that they were before. I tell you, I'm seventy four years old, and I've seen a lot of wars., and from each one I've come out better and stronger. Without crisis, you just wallow along in the happiness of a fool. We need to use crises to give a new birth to ourselves.
I feel that because of the cazerolazos I have begun to recognize the other as myself. I was happy to see middle class people out supporting the piqueteros, giving them food and water. Before, the piquetero was "the other".
The only book that can explain what is going on here is Alice in Wonderland. Because Alice says you can't explain who you were yesterday because today you are another person.
The cacerolazo has opened the way for the formation of community. We are creating a community in the desert, in the desert of the big city where looking someone in the eye is difficult.
Security used to be in the bank, and insecurity was in the streets. Now insecurity is in the bank. The robber who used to be outside the bank is now in it. And security is in the streets, with our neighbors.
Power is not taken, it is constructed.
For the first time, the "Don't get involved" that formed my generation is being put aside.
I am afraid. Lili, in the second assembly, said that she was bringing her fears with her and Pancho also spoke about it during the interneighborhood assembly.Now I want to say it: I am afraid. And also: they are afraid, we are afraid.Yes they have taken our life savings and we can do nothing, yes the supreme court has sentenced us to injustice, yes we watch our children begging in the streets, our brothers going through garbage, yes our old people are dying inm front of our eyes for lack of care, and the ones who are violating us arehaving a party, promoting the war of poor against poor, yes I don´t know if I´m going to eat tomorrow, nor why I bother to study, work or educate my children..,yes all of this in front of our faces and us with our hands tied. I am afraid.
But in order for this not to paralyze us, let's not run from one of the few things that will save us from this fear and that is to confront it, together. Some false solutions to fear have begun to appear: to escape , to return to the cave, to read a newspaper, to run from the places where we come together in discussion, to look for the enemy in this or that neighbor, anything that is less frightening than our own pain. I think this is a good time to say let's stop, let's stop escaping, let's look back to see if we are not missing a good opportunity to change. Even if it is just to say, together: I am afraid.
We don't need another "leader"...we've had twenty million leaders, and none of them worked. We just need to get our act together. If we don't, we're going to get our heads stepped on.

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