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Update: December 22, 2002

What's New on ArgentinaNow:
In English and Spanish:
(see bottom of articles section for English, En EspaÒol for Spanish.)
Letter to Daniela
An Argentine Father Writes to His Unborn Daughter
Building Trust
Changing Society through Relationship
History of an Asambleista
One Woman's Story

In English:
Is It Possible To Change The World Without Taking Power?
Excerpts from a Buenos Aires Speech by author John Holloway
Interview with Heinz Dieterich
Dieterich takes on representative democracy, the Argentine left and John Holloway
Argentina Arde:
Travel Notes of a Young Austrian
The Protest Movements One Year Later
Piqueteros, Asambleistas, Ahorristas:
Where are they now?


As thousands of Argentines took to the streets again to commemorate the one year anniversary of the demonstrations that ousted president de La Rua last year, they were joined by supporters around the world who banged on pots, shouted Que Se Vayan Todos and danced the tango to protest a world economic model that has left this country with a 25% unemployment rate and half its population in poverty.
In Buenos Aires, the demonstrations began on December 19th with ìa piquete urbanoî of a thousand people who blocked parts of the financial district for several hours, singing, chanting and performing street theater. Cultural events and discussions took place throughout the day in the Plaza de Mayo, and in the evening, the neighborhood assemblies held demonstrations and festivals in their neighborhoods to celebrate the caceralazo of December 19th, when thousands of middle class families filled the streets to protest the state of siege called by de La Rua. In some neighborhoods, memorial services were held for the 35 people who were killed across the country during last yearís demonstrations.

On the morning of December 20th, columns of unemployed piqueteros who marched from all over the country began to arrive in Buenos Aires. By six oíclock, the Plaza de Mayo was packed with piquetero groups, workers from occupied factories, neighborhood assemblies, students, leftist organizations, and other supporters. An estimated 100,000 demonstrators sang, chanted, danced, banged on drums and listened to speeches by piquetero representatives.
ì This has not been an easy year,î said one demonstrator, ìthere are more people going hungry in this country than ever before. But we are still demonstrating, and we are going to keep demonstrating until the corrupt government and the IMF is gone.

In the crowd, one man held aloft a row of puppet heads hanging from nooses, each one representing a different politician. In front of the Plaza de Mayo, a giant paper machier fist had been placed in front of the government Pink House, which was blocked off by an iron gate and heavily guarded by shielded and helmeted police with tanks, police dogs, and fire engines.
Later in the evening, a handfull of rock throwing youths was contained by demonstration security forces. By midnight, everyone had left the Plaza.

Demonstrations also occurred in other regions throughout the country.

Supporters gathered in Europe, the United States, and other South American countries to protest corporate capitalism and the neoliberal economic model.
In Barcelona, 100 tango dancers and musicians performed a Tango Yomango and opened 14 bottles of wine, liberating human qualities like ìdesireî with each bottle they opened.
In Madrid, demonstrators banged on pots in front of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and performed an ìescracheî, or exposure demonstration, against a cybercafe owned by the Spanish telephone company Telefonica, which operates in Argentina.
A three day long event, called Latin America Resists, took place in Paris, which included demonstrations, videos, dances and discussions.
In Glasgow, Scotland, McDonaldís workers combined a demonstration of Argentine support with support for exploited Mexican McDonaldís workers in a work slow down called ìInternational McGo Slow as Fuck,î
In London, activists set up a free shop on Oxford Street, giving out free food and hanging a banner to mark the anniversary of December 20th.
Berlin activists set up a street soup kitchen and danced to tango music, while in Hamburg, 8,000 people marched through the streets. In Toebingen, Germany, textile workers who had not been paid in several months performed a cacerolazo and watched films about the Argentine situation.
In Amsterdam, people blew whistles, threw rolls of toilet paper, and glued the letters ìHands Off Argentinaî to a downtown bank. An escrache was performed against the supermarket chain Albert Heyn, and several people rushed into the supermarket, attempting to fill shopping carts with food to send to Argentina, but they were prevented by local police.
In Portland, Oregon, street puppets performed an ì Argentinazo.î
In many areas of the world, demonstrators withstood bad winter weather and freezing temperatures to show their support. In San Francisco, which has been battered by rainstorms for several days, two tango dancers led a group of protestors through the streets to Union Square, where, after an escrache in front of Citibank, they listened to music, watched films, and participated in a moment of silence for those killed last year. In Malmo, Sweden, demonstrators kept warm by dancing to the Candombe and shouting ìNo to the External Debt!î In Montreal, Canada, they chanted Que Se Vayan Todos, banged on pots, and performed a memorial service.
In Berne, Switzerland, 400 demonstratos combined a critique of Christmas consumerism with their show of support for Argentina. Demonstrators dressed as Christmas boxes paraded through the streets, and a sign was held aloft that said ìThe people of Argentina are fighting and so are we!î
Demonstrations were reported in Chile, Puerto Rico, Greece, Washington D.C., New York City, Austria and other countries throughout the world.

The AP version:
The Associated Press wire service ran this lead in their story about the demonstration, written by Kevin Gray, and pubished in newspapers throughout the United States:
ìPounding drumbeats and shouts of ì Throw Them All Out! echoed throughout Buenos Aires on Friday as thousands of Argentines took to the streets one year after deadly riots plunged the country into a deep economic crisis.î
Somehow I donít think it was the riots that plunged the country into economic crisis, Kevin.

You're in Whose Army?
On December 20th, the Argentine television station Cronica announced that a bomb had gone off in the offices of the Spanish telephone company Telefonica. A group calling themselves the Ejercito Santuchisto--the Santuchisto Army-- claimed responsibility for the bombing, the third in one week.
No one has ever heard of this group before, whose name is an interesting derivation of the words ìSantaî (Santa, as in Claus, or ìsaintî) and ìchisteî, which in Spanish means ìjoke.î
Some people in Buenos Aires are asking whether this chaos -producing joker saint might actually be working for one of the opposing politicians in the upcoming elections. In the provinces, sources say unemployed people in the outskirts of the city were offered 20 to 70 pesos each by political ìorganizersî to loot grocery stores on December 20th and destabilize the current government.
Apparantly no one took them up on the offer.

Changes In ArgentinaNow
As some of you may have noted, we've gotten a bit lax about posting news updates in the What's New section of ArgentinaNow, which initially we were posting on a weekly basis. Well, now we are making it official: as of January, we will be moving to a monthly format, in which we will continue to post commentary and other articles by Argentine and foreign writers. There are now a number of mailing lists and sites in existence which are providing alternative news updates on a more regular basis (a-infos, argentina_solidarity, and the English coverage at has expanded. Readers are also welcome to post news in the Forum section.

Update: November 6, 2002
In Spanish Section (En Español)- Three Articles from the Colegiales Neighborhood Assembly Newspaper, Tres Notas del Boletín de La Asamblea de Colegiales, La Cacerola de Zapiola: La Huerta, by Hugo Perez, Reporte de Enlace, por Alberto, La Envidia de Invierno, por Lisa Garrigues
In English: The Jealousy of Winter, Garrigues
News Updates:
Crime Stats Contradict Media Crime Wave
Despite recent media attention on a supposed crime wave in Buenos Aires,
statistics published by the newspaper Clarin on November 5 show that reported crime in the city capital has increased only 3% from last year, while crime in Greater Buenos Aires has decreased.
In an article published in its November 5 edition under the headline "The Amount of Crime Doesn't Stop", statistics released by the National System of Criminal Information of the Argentine Dept of Justice show that reported crimes in Buenos Aires were 102,137 for the first trimester of this year, as compared to 99, 215 for the same time last year. In Gran Buenos Aires, where poverty and unemployment are higher, 142.325 crimes were reported in the first half of 2002 and 173.783 for the same period of 2001.

Crimes against property made up 71.6% of all crimes reported, followed by crimes against persons,( homicides, assaults) at 11.1%, crimes against liberty (threats, etc.) at 7.5%, and other crimes at 9.8%.
The 3% rise in crime from last year to this year is less than in previous years, though overall crime has risen 220 percent in the last decade. The biggest jump occured in 1995, when Carlos Menem was president and economic conditions worsened dramatically.
Menem, who is running for relection, recently ran a large ad in Clarin in which he blamed current president Eduardo Dualde for the rise in street crime.
The same article in Clarin reported a growing lack of confidence in police and judges, and a decrease in the amount of people willing to report crimes when they occurred.
In the past several months, Argentine newspapers and televisions have focused heavily on the recent rise in "express kidnappings" as well as other street crimes, and international television and newspapers have also run features on the rise in crime and insecurity in Buenos Aires. Police presence has increased throughout the city, and businesses which specialize in "personal security" items like handguns guns and alarm systems are doing well.
Several cases have also received media attention in which police themselves were accused of perpetrating violent crimes against the populace. Three months ago, the body of 17 year old Diego Rivera was found floating in a swamp and local police
were investigated for participating in the gang that kidnapped him. Another boy's drowned body was uncovered after police allegedly ordered him to jump in the river.
In on the street interviews conducted recently, some people expressed genuine concern at the insecurity in the streets, while others felt the "crime wave" was a media invention to instill fear in a populace which has been actively taking their protests to the streets since December of last year.
"There's a lot of violence," said publicity salesman Horatio H. Tajitsu. " Express kidnappings, demonstrations, roadblocks by piqueteros, it's all part of the same discontent. The poverty and misery is generating a lot of anger."
"To me, the media is putting on a big show with this crime thing," said travel agent Susana Gonzales, 51."Every time you see another crime reported, it generates more fear. I think the fear and the crime are the work of large financial interests."
"It's a way to create a demand for a more authoritarian government, keep people out of the streets, and get public attention off things like government corruption, the IMF and hunger, " said Maria Marta Feyrera, 31,a musician.
Activists Call for International Day of Solidary With Argentina
Activists around the world are calling for a moblization in support of Argentina and against multinational financial interests on December 20, the anniversary of the massive street protests which took place last year. Potbanging and other protests are scheduled. Further information can be obtained with the mailing list
Greenpeace Activists Arrested in Anti-Nuclear Waste Demonstration
Last week police arested 30 activists with Greenpeace Argentina outside the national congress in Buenos Aires.
The activists were protesting actions by the government which is trying to alter the constitution to allow for the importing of nuclear waste.
Assembly members, piqueteros and students who had gathered outside the police station were also arrested, as police wielded batons and fired rubber bullets into the non-violent demonstration.
More coverage available in English and Spanish at

Use Reserves or Face Sanctions, Says IMF
If Argentina doesn't go into its bank reserves to make payments to its international creditors, it will face economic sanctions, Anne Kreuger of the International Monetary Fund has told the Argentine government.
Members of the Argentine government are worried that going into depleted bank reserves will cause runaway inflation and financial speculation.
Argentina has asked for a postponement of a payment to the World Bank which is due this week.
If an agreement with the IMF is not reached by mid-November, Argentina will have to go into its bank reserves to bank payments to other international creditors, or face default and possible economic sanctions.
Source: Clarin, Ambito Financiero
Bribes, Anyone?
An article published in the Financial Times by Thomas Catan has caused an explosion of local media attention on the relationship beetween Argentine senators and representatives of foreign banks in Argentina.
Catan claims that Argentine senators asked for bribes from foreign banks that operated in the country in return for blocking legislation that could cost the banks millions of dollars. The bribes, Catan says, were discussed during a meeting that was held on August 16 between a group of bankers--Carlos Giovanelli, of Citibank, Emilio Cardenas and Mike Smith of HSBC, and Manuel Sacerdote of Bankboston--and US ambassador James Walsh and British ambassador Robin Christopher.
Bankers are displeased with a proposed law that would make foreign financial entities responsible for the deposits of their clients within the country, and a law that would impose a tax of 2% upon the interest and commissions that banks impose upon their clients in order to finance an unemployment fund and better insurance benefits for bank workers.
Following the publication of the article, Argentine Judge Claudio Bonadio demanded copies of Catan's incoming and outgoing calls, a demand which was later rescinded after the federal chamber accused the judge of "disrespect for basic constitutional rights".
Bonadio has since shifted his attention to the bankers and senators.
Catan has moved out of the country "to pursue other assignments".
Among the key players in the scandal are:
Juan Carlos Masqueda, president of the senate. Reported in the magazine Veintitres to have said that "definite pressure" was put on the government by officials of the International Monetary Fund regarding laws that could hurt the banks. Of bribes, reported to have said "there was something."
Carlos Bercun. Works as a $25,000 a month consultant to the Bank Association to "follow" laws that can affect the financial sector. Suspected of being the messenger who asked for the bribes for the senators. "This time., they have no proof on me," he's reported to have said.
Mike Smith, of HSBC bank. Reported to have said to Argentine judge Claudio Bonadio: "Asking for bribes is normal."
Mario Vicens, President of the Bank Association (Associacion de Bancos). In addition to his thirty thousand dollar a month salary, makes an extra half a million if he is able to negotiate compensation for the "damages" suffered by the banks for devaluation and pesification.
Senator Malvina Segui, Has an "advisor" who is accused of asking for a bribe to stop the 2% law. Co author of proposed law of financial responsibility. Lead investigator on the Committee of Investigation of Financial Crimes. Claims she's being persecuted because of her work on the Investigation, which, she claims, is "the first time that the atrocities committed by bankers in Argentina are being investigated." (See below.)
Jorge Capitanich, Luis Gioja. Senators who are accused by Senator Segui of meeting with bankers.
Juan Jose Zanola, secretary general of the banker's union. Said that the directors of HSBC were worried about the possible approval of the law of 2%.
Investigators in the case say they that thirty three representatives of foreign banks operating in Argentina will be summoned to testify.
Source: Veintitres
Senate Report Criticizes Banks' Role in Argentina Crisis
An investigative report headed by senator Malvina Segui and released in August is severely critical of not only the behavior of private bankers but also of the authorities of the Central Bank, who the report says could have avoided several money laundering schemes as well as last year's draining of bank deposits.
Some highlights include:
Foreign control of the Argentine banking system has increased considerably since 1981, when there were 203 financial entities operative in the country, with 33 foreign banks holding 17% of the country's deposits. At the end of 2001, 39 foreign banks held 48% of the country's deposits.
Organizations and mechanisms that were supposed to control money laundering were "inefficient". In one of several examples cited by the commission, an employee who made a salary of 700 pesos transferred 750 thousand dollars out of the country..
The authorities of the Central Bank were found to adopt an attitude that was inefficient when it came to protecting the rights of savers but which benefitted the bankers. For example, although they knew since February 2001 that large amounts of money were being transferred out of the country, the authorities of the Central Bank did nothing to stop the drain until the bank freeze of December, which largely affected small time savers.
The flight of money from the banking system prevented the Argentine government from making its international financial committments. This resulted in an "megatransfer" of the public debt for a private one with the banks, adding on another 25 thousand million dollars to Argentina's external debt.
The commission is investigating whether or not the banks Credit Suisse, Boston Corporation, HSBC, JP Morgan Securities and Salomon Swith Barney, have paid taxes on the 160 million dollars in commissions which they earned from the State of Argentina during this "mega transfer".
The Central Bank has not maintained the amount of money required by law in order to be able to cover the loss of funds in the event of a bank failure. The rapid loss of funds after February of 2001 was not accompanied by measures on the part of the Central Bank that would guarantee the savers' deposits.
The Central Bank did not comply with the order following pesification that all financial entities must convert all the dollars they had to pesos at 1.40 pesos per dollar. In this way, the banks, who had their savers money trapped in the freeze, performed business transactions with their clients money, selling their dollars on the free market at a higher price, transactions that may have run into hundreds of millions of dollars.
Source: Veintitres
Zanon Attack Repulsed
Workers at the occupied ceramics factory in Neuquen continue to face physical beatings and threats from groups who want the workers to abandon the factory. Attacks and threats against local media have also been reported. For detailed reports in English and Spanish see http://www.indymedia. org.
The Long Arm of The Law Strikes Again
The body of teenager Ezequial DeMonty was pulled from the Riachuelo river last month, after witnesses said he had drowned after the police had forced him and several of his friends to jump in the river.
The grisly discovery came after another missing boy, Diego Peralta, was found dead in a swamp, allegedly abducted and then killed by a mixed band of police and criminals, an event which caused enraged neighbors to set a local police station on fire.
Recent investigations into police misconduct in these cases and others have resulted in several arrests and produced a growing body of evidence proving rampant corruption and abuse within both the Bonarense and the Federal Police.
Statistics Update:
Fifty percent of all Argentines are living in poverty.
One in four Argentines is "indigent" and can't afford a basic meal.
Seven out of ten Argentine children are living in poverty.
The official unemployment rate is 22%, but some economic analysts have registered an "unofficial" unemployment rate of 30%.
A recent Help Wanted Ad for 350 supermarket jobs drew a crowd of 10,000 applicants.
Source: Clarin
The Return of the Cacerolazo
After a winter lull, the caceralazo, or potbanging demonstration, has returned to Buenos Aires. In September, city residents once again took to the streets and hung out of their balconies banging their pots and pans. One protest was called by various civic organizations to protest rising crime and violence. The other was called by residents themselves to protest a proposed rise in gas and electric costs,and was accompanied by a voluntary black out throughout the country. Thousands of people took part in both protests.
And the Winner is...No One.
Election Indifference Grips the Nation
Though the upcoming March elections have sparked considerable jostling for position among the candidates, the reaction among Argentine citizens, who are required by law to cast their votes is still, at best, lukewarm.
Most polls now show Rodriguez Saa in the lead, followed by the ARI Candidate Elisa Carrio. Carlos Menem is running busily behind the front runners, with blue and white posters plastered all over Buenos Aires reading, "Bring Menem back."
On a recent sunny day in Buenos Aires, the "Militant Peronists" were seen handing out flyers on a streetcorner urging passers by to vote for "nobody."
The "blank vote" turnout, which won a considerable percentage of last October's legislative elections, is expected to be large, and emails are circulating for a plebiscite that would take place before the national elections. "Do you think the elections are a fraud?" The plebiscite would ask, "Yes or No".
Support also continues to grow for a "constitutional assembly"that would begin to reshape the political system, but no date has been set yet.
Dia de La Raza: Day of Celebration or Day of Mourning?
October 12 , the anniversary of the conquest of the American continent by the Europeans, is traditionally celebrated in Argentina as "Dia de La Raza" But Argentines that were interviewed were confused about what "Dia de La Raza" was supposed to mean.
"It means we celebrate that we come from the Spanish race," said one.
"No," said another, "it means we celebrate that we come from the mix of indigenous and Spanish races." "
"Can you imagine, celebrating when your continent was conquered?" said another. "It should be a day of mourning, not a day of celebration."
Most Argentines are a mix of "criollo", or Spanish and indigenous, with more recent European immigrants. A smaller percentage of Argentines have ancestors that were African slaves brought to the country in the 1700's. In Buenos Aires, the European influence is much stronger than in the provinces, with many people directly descended from Italian or Spanish or Eastern European grandparents who came to Argentina in the 20th century.
Most of the original inhabitants of Argentina were wiped out by the Argentine military's Desert Campaigns of the late 19th century.
For the indigenous communities that survived--the Toba, the Wichi, the Kolla,the Mapuche and the others who face ongoing battles for land, tribal, and human rights--October 12 is not a day to celebrate colonization.
Recently, a Toba community in the Formosa province of Argentina was attacked by Argentine police.
The Wichi, in the north of Argentina, continue to struggle with hunger and poverty.
In Patagonia, the Mapuche face battles with the oil companies RPF/REPSOL over water contamination and birth defects resulting from pollution, as well as efforts by the clothing company Benneton to evict them from their land. (See Mapuche vs. Repsol in articles section.) They are calling for a meeting of solidarity on October 12.
Some indigenous inhabitants of Argentina believe that the 500 years in which the European conquerors repressed, enslaved and massacred their people is an era that is now coming to an end. Quechua-Aymara inhabitants from the Jujuy province speak of a "new era" in their tradition in which the first peoples regain their power, the grandfathers return to the earth, and the Europeans, or "younger brothers" learn to live in harmony with the original peoples and the earth.
A conference of original peoples and their supporters is scheduled in Buenos Aires for the week of December 16-21. The conference will focus on the rights of indigenous peoples and on healing the earth.
Update: September 3, 2002
Signs of a New Solidarity
The murder of two piqueteros by Buenos Aires police in June has brought together diverse elements of the Argentine social movements in a renewed show of solidarity.
Although the middle class neighborhood assembly members have used "roadbanger and potbanger, it's the same fight" as a slogan in their marches, it was the deaths Dario Santillan and Maxi Kosteki that not only brought thousands out into the streets to protest police violence but has spawned numerous talks, meetings and debates between the working class piqueteros who have been blocking roads since the mid 1990's and the newly politicized middle class, many of whom took to the streets for the first time last December as a reaction against President De La Rua's state of siege declaration.
At the piquetero "tent city" encampment which took place in the Plaza de Mayo in July, assembly members mingled with the piqueteros who had lit fires to cook food and keep warm, asking them questions about their organization, history, and goals.
"I'm very interested in learning more about the piquetero organizations," said one assembly member, Monica. "They've been organized longer than we have," said another, Maria, "we can probably learn from them."
Beto Ibarra, national coordinator for the Piquetero organization MTL (Movimiento de Territorio Liberación) reiterated that "it's the same fight."
Since the deaths of Santillan and Kosteki, members of the piqutero groups Anibal Veron, MTD and Barrios de Pie have been asked to speak at various meetings of the neighborhood assemblies, many of whom have now "recuperated" abandoned buildings and turned them into soup kitchens and cultural centers.
Todos Somos Cartoneros
The Cartoneros, the estimated 30,000 people who make their living going through the garbage recycling cardboard, have become another increasingly visible presence among the many groups that make up the massive social movements occurring in Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina. Assisted by the neighborhood assemblies, they have protested to keep the city from shutting down the train stations where whole families gather with their carts full of cardboard. The city of Buenos Aires has recently decided to convert their garbage collection system into two separate bags, one for garbage and one for cardboard. Eighty percent of Buenos Aires residents who were recently polled by Clarin said they would go along with the new system, and almost half of these said they were doing it "to show solidarity with the cartoneros." "Todos Somos Cartoneros", A recent festival, presented by the neighborhood assembly of Colegiales in order to raise money to help the cartoneros pay for vaccination against tetanus, brought together 15 different musical bands, as well as members of diverse neighborhood assemblies. (see the section En Español for impressions of the festival, in Spanish)
The National Interneighhood Assembly, Alternative Economies, Worker Cooperatives
Other recent events which have increased the ties between diverse groups have included the National Interneighborhood Assembly, the Second Seminar on Alternative Economies, and two day long seminars presented by workers who have occupied factories throughout the country.
The National Interneighborhood Assembly brought together 170 neighborhood assemblies from different areas throughout the country, mostly from Buenos Aires and the surrounding areas, but some from Cordoba and Rosario.
Sentiments and proposals expressed by assembly representatives were similar, and included calls for a complete renewal of the political system (everybody out!), elimination of dependence on the International Monetary Fund, renewed call for an interneighborhood assembly that was made up of neighbors and not leftwing political parties, who have been accused of "taking over" the weekly interneighborhood meetings.
Surprise guests at the assembly included a visitor from Mexico who said there were now 60 "neighborhood assemblies" based on the Argentine model functioning in Mexico City, and an eight year old participant in a "children's assembly" that had been started in one Buenos Aires neighborhood.
At the July meeting of Second Assembly of Economic Alternatives, about 200 people from diverse gorups gathered in a "recuperated" building to discuss alternative means of production, distribution, and food growing. Some groups will continue to meet on a weekly basis.
Workers from occupied plants and businessses all over the country attended two national meetings which were held at the Brukman and Grissinopolis factories. Grissinopolis, a bakery in Buenos Aires, is currently under threat of eviction, and Zanon, a factory in Neuquen, was recently the site of a massive demonstration of 1,000 people who showed up to prevent a threatened eviction from occurring there.
(For more on alternative economies and worker occupied factories, see "Starting Over" in the Articles section.)
On Friday, August 30, piqueteros, neighborhood assemblies, and other groups came together in demonstrations throughout the country, in a massive show of support for a national assembly that would reform the consitution and overhaul the current political system. The national day of demonstrations was called for by piquetero leaders and leftist political candidates Luis Zamora and Elisa Carrio. In Buenos Aires, 30,000 people marched to the Plaza de Mayo, shouting "Que Se Vayan Todos" (Get Rid of Them All!), a chant that has echoed repeatedly throughout the country since the fall of President De La Rua last December. Demonstrations and roadblocks were also held in other cities throughout Argentina.
One Buenos Aires demonstrator, Monica L., who had been with 40 other members of her neighborhood assembly as they crowded laughing and chanting onto the subway, commented on the lack of attention by the national and international media given to the various movements and demonstrations that have been occurring for months throughout Argentina. " Down below, here with the people, you have all this incredible mobilization happening all over and all this activity going on. But with the television media, you see none of it. Nothing."
Buenos Aires Hosts World Thematic Social Forum
Under the slogan "Another Argentina is possible" thousands of people from political and anti-globaliazation groups througout Latin America attended conferences and workshops in several different banner-decorated university buildings throughout Buenos Aires, after marching together to the Plaza de Congreso. Issues discussed included the North American Free Trade Agreement, the piquetero and neighborhood assembly movement, indigenous rights, and worker occupied factories. Workshops were also held on art, social psychology, and spontaneous theater. ( For impressions of the forum, see Eduardo Coiro's report, in Spanish, in the En Español section.)
Update: July 4, 2002

Piquetero Deaths Provoke Massive Protest Marches
Citizens of Buenos Aires continue to demand justice
for the deaths of two young piqueteros, Dario Santillán y Maximiliano Kosteki, who were shot last week by police during a roadblock demonstration.
The piqueteros are unemployed men and women who have been blocking roads throughout the country to demand jobs in a country whose unemployment rate has soared to %25.
Though the police department's initial statement was that "the piqueteros shot each other", photographs were published in Clarin and Pagina 12 that showed the demonstrators had been shot by police as they tried to flee.
The demonstration resulted in 90 injuries, most of them demonstrators with wounds from lead or rubber bullets or tear gas inhalation. One hundred and sixty people were arrested, and released within a few hours.
During the demonstration, police broke into a Communist Party headquarters without a permit and dragged demonstrators out of the building.
"I haven´t seen anything like this kind of police repression since the years of the dictatorship," said one witness.
The chief of police and minister of security have both resigned, as investigation continues and the scandal threatens to engulf President Dualde's weak interim government. Yesterday, Dualde called for national elections in March 2003.
Despite a new "firm hand" policy by the government, and efforts by some media to use the event to instill fear in the populace, 20,000 people demonstrated last Thursday in the Plaza de Mayo, many of them chanting, " Tonight we are all piqueteros."
Another massive demonstration has been scheduled for today.
(for more news on the deaths of Santillán y Kosteki, see http://www.

Update: June 4, 2002
Five Months Old and Still Walking
The Neighborhood Assemblies, born in early January 2002 from the December cacerolazos, are almost a half a year old. Despite repeated rumours that the assemblies are "dying out", the opposite seems to be true.
Though the individual assemblies are smaller in number than they were in January, and some are still beset by problems in organizing and learning to work together, they continue to be an important force making "politics without politicians" in Buenos Aires and other major cities.
One assembly is actively participating in the administration of a local hospital, another is working with the streetside recyclers to help them maintain their source of income in the face of city government threats to turn over the recycling to private business, and others have continually showed up en masse to support the efforts and actions of their neighbors. Three weeks ago two pot-banging assemblies showed up to help a retired couple get their savings back in Colegiales (see article below), and assemblies in Pompeya and San Telmo have gathered in large numbers to support workers who took over factories in those neighborhoods.
Julio Tamae of the Pompeya assembly says new participants are showing up every week at the meetings in his barrio. Another resident of Pompeya, Hernan Gonzales, says: "The assemblies continue to be the red line that is drawn before repressive government policies, the line that says "Here, and no further."
The Interbarrial
The profuse and enthusiastic chaos of the early "interbarriales", the inter-neighborhood assemblies, has been replaced by a structured delegate voting system in which each assembly sends two delegates to the interbarrial with a mandate to vote on particular issues from the neighborhood assembley. This was done because some assembly members felt the assemblies were being taken over by organized left wing political parties, and they wanted to restrict voting to people who were actually participants in the assemblies. Proposals currently being discussed include the organization of an interneighborhood press committee and actions against the raising of prices by the private utility companies.
Threats and Harassment
A few months ago stick-wielding supporters of President Dualde descended upon the assembly of Merlot and beat up several members. In other assemblies people have been followed by unmarked cars as they walked home. Assembly members continue to receive threats and harassment.
Many members, who rely on emails to keep up their connections with fellow asambleistas, have received repeated computer virus attacks, some of them disabling. One virus-laden email message had a title that said: "assemblies go".
One neighbor in Saavedra received the following telephone threat: "Stop messing around with the assemblies, because if you don't, you,re dead meat."
Others have received threats via email.
One group of asambleistas who were distributing invitations to a party in the Saavedra train station were threatened with jail by federal police.
Three people who were getting out of a car after a demonstration at economy minister Lavagna's house were asked for identification by police in a car.
Four neighbors who were leaving a bar in their neighborhood were intercepted by police who asked them what they were doing inside the bar and asked them for identification.
In Saavedra park one man made death threats to a group of asamblistas and other people who were enjoying a fair.
La Trama
Despite the threats, and the onset of winter chill, assembly members are still meeting on streetcorners and inside buildings, continuing their experiment in solidarity, organization and direct democracy. Last weekend, the assembly of Palermo organized an event called La Trama ("The Weaving") which consisted of music, dance, encounters and other cultural events in which local businesses and neighbors participated. Here is what one asambleista, Eduardo Coiro, had to say about La Trama:
"Yesterday, I lived the closing event of La Trama, a beautiful and powerful exprience that went beyond listening to ideas and proposals. I heard the sounds of soul and communion in each participant, each drumbeat, each fire juggling, each dance to bossa nova, afro, folklore or rock. I watched people thoroughly enjoying themselves, living with the intensity of those drumbeats that echo in your chest, the rythms of a shared heartbeat. I felt a strange pride in knowing that among the originators of this assembly, born the 17th of January, there were friends with whom I had banged on pots in front of Congress, with whom I had demonstrated against the Supreme Court.
Today they, these doers and sustainers, are a part of the collective miracle that is The Weaving and that speaks of how in the neighborhood assembly we have managed to overcome internal differences in an action that was real, shared and open to everyone.
(It) was overflowing with people, it was a fountain, a force full of impact. There were kids dancing with their moms and dads, all ages, all stories, lots of different political ideologies. Everyone of us on the same ground, one made of dreams and hope.
In this profound wound that is Argentina, it is not easy to get organized, go out onto the street, and recognize in each one of us the seed of what is human and equal despite our differences. We have to overcome the prejudice and terror that has destroyed time and again the collective body, the continual crises that have left us without bread or illusions, that have stripped us of words, of the capacity to love, of the capacity of the direct and transparent human encounter.
We have been forced to retreat into immobility, into the defense of our own entrenched solitude, into a culture of desperation. For the profound wound that is Argentina, I see no remedy that is more healing than the collective action of the people, whether it be a roadblock, an assembly, a cacerolazo, or this indefinable collective creation of The Weaving, a beautiful experience of initiation into political life for whole families.
With a certain difficulty in describing experiences that go beyond mere reason, I can't stop tellling you of my admiration for The Weaving, for the work of the wonderful and honest people of the Assembly of Palermo Viejo.
Hasta La Victoria
Eduardo Coiro
Senators Accused of Taking Bribes to Defeat
Law of Economic Subversion
The Law of Economic Subversion, which protects the country against
economic damage by banks and other businesses, was repealed last week after a bitter struggle and a walkout by one senator which enabled the law to be annulled by a single vote. Angry demonstrations broke out in front of the Congressional building after the repeal.
The repeal of this law was one of the demands of the IMF for resuming aid to Argentina.
Journalist Gabriel Fernandez of the Revista La Senal, said national deputies who voted to repeal the law received an "incentive" of 30,000 to 50,000 dollars each. His source, who Fernandez says is someone "reliable" inside the National Congress, made the statement that "this is not the first law that has been bought". Fernandez' source said the money came from the businesses who would benefit from the repeal of the economic subversion law. The source added, "All you have to do is look at the list of businesses who will benefit from the law and look at the deputies who voted for the law to put two and two together."
May 29: Roadblocks and Demonstrations Throughout the Country
A massive protest and strike called by the CTA (Centro deTrabajadores Argentinos) on May 29 resulted in more than 1,000 roadblocks throughout the country, as well as demonstrations, marches, and streetcorner potlucks.
It was estimated that half a million people,composed of workers, teachers and human rights activists, participated in the activities.
"This was a natural rebellion against humiliation and decadence, against hunger, unemployment and capitulation," said CTA leader Victor de Gennaro. "But it also represented a step forward in sharing our anguish and being a part of a new and organized working class."
Route Three was closed by about 30,000 people. "We turned Route Three into the largest pedestrian walkway in the world," said Piquetero leader Luis D'Elio.
Savers to Get Money Back...
(Well, some of it. Someday. Maybe)
President Dualde's administration is attempting to ease the restrictions of the banking freeze by converting depositor's money into bonds with three to ten year maturity times.
Since the depositors won't be able to use the money in their accounts, and the bonds will decrease substantially in value, this new plan has not been welcomed by savers.
Crowds of people continue to bang pots and chant slogans in front of banks throughout the city. In many areas, the ubiquitous pot has been replaced by metal hammers which savers are using to bang on the armored steel facades that have been erected to protect the banks.
Last week, bank demonstrators were beaten and arrested by police in Buenos Aires, and five banks were attacked and vandalized by small groups of people between midnight and five a.m. in Rosario and Villa Urquiza.
Future Leaders Solve the Problems of Argentina
A high school English class in Lugano was given an assigment last week to identify and come up with solutions to one of Argentina's problems. All ten students in the class agreed that the primary solution to the Argentine crisis was "learning to work together" and "learning to think about us instead of me".
Other solutions proposed and approved were cutting inflated pensions of privelege in half, and building self-sufficient factories. All students agreed that the country needed to renogiate the external debt, with half the students proposing a complete moratorium on paying the debt .
All students agreed that they were ready to take on the responsiblity of guiding the country that would fall on their generation's shoulders in the next few years, but only one said she wanted to be a politician.
"The government is like a bikini. Nobody knows how it is held up, but everyone wants it to fall."
"It is forbidden to steal--the government doesn't want any competition."
"Argentina will soon be a paradise, because we'll all be walking around without any clothes on."

Update May 26
On May 25, 1810, the day of the Argentine Revolution, Argentines gathered in front of the Cabildo and ousted the viceroy, claiming he no longer represented their interests. On May 25 of this year, the populace once again gathered on the streets to honor the national holiday, but this time many of them were banging pots, insulting politicians, and handing out bananas.
While President Dualde conducted the usual ceremonies to a lukewarm crowd who politely applauded his speeches, throngs of people pressed up against metal barriers erected by police, banging pots and displaying a banner which read "Que Se Vayan Todos" --Get Rid of Them All. Women in historical costumes moved throughout the crowd, passing out bananas with a blue ribbon around them that read: "The People Know What It's All About." Members of local neighborhood assemblies said that the bananas were meant as a visual comment on the idea of the "banana republic" , as well as having obvious phallic connotations.
In the province of Santa Fe, the governor escaped out the side door after giving his speech to avoid an angry crowd of potbangers, but the minister of Health, Carlos Parola, was not so lucky: he ran into 400 people who insulted and spit upon him.
Catholic Archbishop Bergoglio, in his traditional speech, said "National Dissolution is at the Gates" and blamed this on the greed and hunger for power of "political, business, and union leaders."
In one Buenos Aires school district the day before, children from several different schools put together a chain of Argentine flags to demonstrate to the world that "We are not a colony."
(Clarin, 26 May, Pagina 12, 24 May)
If elections were held today, current president Eduardo Dualde would receive 1.8% of the vote, and 90% of the populace would vote for a complete change of representatives in both houses, according to the results of a poll conducted by the consulting firm CEOP and released by Clarin on Sunday. Voters were divided on calling for elections before the scheduled time in September 2003, with 50.3% for and 42.3% against. Fifty two per cent of the voters said there was currently no political organization in existence that could lead the country out of its crisis.
(Clarin, 26 May)
The legislative dispute continues over whether or not to remove the Economic Subversion Law, as demanded by the International Monetary Fund, with a revised bill returning to both houses of Congress today. This law has been use by Argentine investigators to prosecute bankers for illegally removing funds from the country.
The removal of the law has been supported by most Peronists, who argue that existing laws will protect the country against financial crimes. The Radicals, as well as a resisting block of Peronists, have held the position that the effect of the removal of this law will be an immediate halt to all investigative activities, as well as amnesty and impunity for the bankers being prosecuted.
"We will give no one impunity," said one Radical leader, Humberto Roggero.
The IMF has claimed that without removing this law and dropping the current investigation of banks like Citibank and Bank Boston, foreign investors and banks will be hesitant to re-invest in the Argentine economy.
(Clarin, 27 May
Citibank Largest Owner of Bankrupt Argentine Companies
As the economy worsens,more and more bankrupt Argentine companies are being taken over by the banks they owe money to. This has been compounded by the rising dollar debt incurred by companies after the devaluation of the peso. Currently Citibank is the largest owner, with 100 companies, followed by Banco Nacion, who also owns 12 million hectares of land. Generally, the objective of the owning bank is not to manage the company but to buy and sell it as quickly as possible.
Clarin, 26 May
The plan to give a 150 a month subsidy to unemployed heads of household is moving at a snail's pace. Spokespeople for President Dualde argue that politicians in the provinces are refusing to hand over the lists of people who need the subsidy because they don't want to lose this as a political tool, while provincial officials blame Dualde's administration for disorganization and technical problems in administering the plan.
(Clarin, 27 May)
The Agrarian Federation of Argentina has called for a four day strike which will include roadblocks and demonstrations. The protest will be joined by small and medium sized transportation companies, who will stop their trucks until the government resolves problems connected with rising fuel prices.
(Clarin, 27 May)

Update: May 21, 200
In one villa in the province of Tucuman, malnutrition has increased by over 600% in six months, and children are showing up in hospitals with Stage Three malnutrition symptoms. For the complete story , see Children Who Go Hungry in Articles section.
Of the current demands being made by the International Monetary Fund for renewed aid to Argentina, three have generated particular controversy and resistance from Argentine commentators, politicians and members of the populace: changes in the bankcruptcy law, a repeal of the law of economic subversion, and demands for a reduction of state spending in the provinces.
The changes in the bankruptcy law, which have been approved by Argentine legislative bodies, facilitate a process known as the "cram-down", which make it easier for foreign creditor companies to take over bankcrupt national companies,including the company's property. The revised bankcrupcy law has created fears among Argentines, who virtually have no national industry left because of privatization, that they will lose what few national companies they have left, causing not only job and property loss, but also an further loss of national sovereignty.
These fears have been particularly strong in the communications and culture industries, where commentators have pointed out that an "internationalization" of a country's cultural and communications industries can be a death blow to that country's national sovereignty and culture. Legislators are currently considering a rider to the new Bankruptcy Law that will exempt communications and culture industries.
The Law of Economic Subversion has recently been used by Argentine investigators to go after banks like Citibank who they claim illegally transferred large amounts of dollars out of the country, facilitating last year's economic collapse and causing thousands of middle and low income savers to lose their savings to the unpopular bank freeze. The IMF, whose members include the banks who have been investigated, wants this law eliminated, which has provoked heated debate among legislators, as well as street demonstrations. The repeal of this law is still being debated.
The cutbacks in provincial government spending that the IMF has requested have raised concerns that this will generate the loss of an additional 500,000 jobs in an already recession-wracked economy. However, most of the provinces have already agreed to IMF demands, with the notable exception of Felipe Sola of the province of Buenos Aires, who has called IMF demands unrealistic. "I don't know if I can even pay next months state salaries," he says.
During a recent heated legislative debate of the Bankruptcy and Economic Subversion laws, one legislator, Alicia Castro, raised the U.S. flag and said, "If you are going to pass these laws, you might as well take down the Argentine flag and put this one up instead." The U.S. is one of the most powerful members of the IMF. In the streets of Buenos Aires and other cities, demonstrations against what one sign held aloft by a protestor called "The International Misery Fund" are on the increase.
Update: 15 May, 2002
Eyewitness Account From Buenos Aires:
Elderly Couple Get Savings Back After Bank Sit-In
An elderly couple and several hundred potbanging neighbors held a Buenos Aires bank hostage Wednesday night,forcing the bank to give the couple back half of the money in their savings account. The Colegiales branch of Banco de la Nacion on Avenida Federico de la Croze was surrounded by passing neighbors and people from two different neighborhood assemblies as the couple, Norma and Roberto Marquez, 81 and 86, held a sit-in inside the bank, defying Argentina's six month long bank freeze.
The couple went to the bank at eleven o'clock in the morning with a judge's order authorizing them to take out the $38,000 in savings which they had in their account. But when they got there, they were told to wait while bank officials decided whether to honor the judge's decree or not. Seven hours later they finally got their answer, a single word faxed from the central bank: no. Bank officials told them the judge's order was no longer applicable because the law had changed since the judge had signed the order. The couple decided to stay in the bank until they got their money.
"We worked hard for our life savings," said Norma. "They have no right to take it."
At seven o,clock in the evening they were still there, seated calmly and stubbornly in two chairs behind the plate glass window of the bank, facing the scattered crowd of neighbors and media that had gathered to watch them. Bank officials and police moved nervously about inside the bank, fearing to physically move them out because of the couple's advanced age. On the plate glass windows of the bank, handscrawled signs said: "We're going to stay until we get our money."
"I'm not leaving from here until the police drag me out," Norma, a tiny blonde woman, told a journalist through a crack in the door. Someone in the crowd said Norma had threatened to kill herself. It was Norma who did most of the talking. Her grey-haired husband Roberto sat quietly next to her, looking tired,with a thick square bandage on his forehead. Their son in law, Pablo Perrin, a tall man in a dark grey suit, passed out flyers outside. "Her daughter is unemployed," he said, "and I'm unemployed. Aside from their pension of 150 pesos a month, (about fifty dollars) their savings is all the money they have to live on."
At eight o'clock the members of the neighborhood assembly of Colegiales showed up. First about eight, then fifteen, then thirty. Holding their assembly banner and waving the Argentine flag, they began banging pots and chanting ""Give the abuelitos (little grandparents) back their money!" and "Que se vayan todos! ("Get rid of everybody," referring to corrupt politicians.) Pretty soon other people in the crowd were chanting and banging pots too. "Give them back their money!" From down the street, some of the streetcorner boys who recycle cardboard came with drums, and added their drumbeats and voices to the chant:"GIVE THEM BACK THEIR MONEY!" The neighborhood assembly of Colegiales was joined by the Colegiales-Chacarita neighborhood assembly, who attached their own black and yellow banner to the side of the bank.
In less than an hour, the crowd grew from a handful of neighbors to around three hundred, with people spilling out onto the street and banging on the side of the bank. The noise was deafening: journalists who wanted to talk to the old couple tried to get the potbangers to quiet down. 'You tell them that it's either the IMF or the people," shouted one red-headed woman. "You write that down!" Another woman began a shouting match with a member of the team from the Buenos Aies television station Channel 13. "You aren't even showing the neighbors outside, are you?" She said. "You're all part of the Clarin media empire, you guys never tell the truth!" "Lady, lady, I'm just an employee here, I'm a worker!" The guy from Channel 13 said. But it was true: most of the cameras were focused on what was going on inside the bank, and very few of them were showing the angry potbanging neighbors.
Finally, at about nine o'clock, a bank official came to the door. "They're going to get their money," he said. "Tomorrow. Now please, go home. Please don't break any windows." The man sounded desperate. The banging of the pots and pans were so loud the man could barely be heard. "They're going to get their money tomorrow" the word was passed through the crowd. "Please," a media spokesperson said to the angry neighbors," the old folks have asked that you be quiet for just awhile." The neighbors calmed down, and waited. But eventually the banging and shouting started up again.
One of the men wedged into the group of journalists pressed up against the plate glass windows of the bank said, "They're terrified inside. They still have all those bank employees to get out of the bank, and they're afraid the crowd is going to kill them if they let them out through the front door."
Suddenly an ambulance drove up, its siren still on. The door opened just long enough to let three uniformed attendants walk briskly into the bank. When it opened again, a panic stricken young bank employee with his body clenched in an embryonic position and his hands over his ears was quickly wheeled out in a wheel chair. The crowd ignored him and kept up their banging and shouting.
Finally, the doors opened and Norma and Roberta appeared, with Norma leading the way. The neighbors broke into applause. "Thank you!" They shouted. "Thank you Norma!" Some of them hugged her. The crowd of camera people and journalists elbowed each other to get their microphones in front of Norma. Norma was calm. She was smiling. They were going to get half of their savings, she said. In dollars. Her husband looked tired, but satisfied.
A journalist asked their son in law Pablo Perrin why the bank had finally given Norma and Roberto their money. "Because of the pressure of the people, that's why," he said quietly.
---Lisa Garrigues
The Argentine government avoided falling into default by paying $680 million that it owes to the World Bank, but it still has to pay off 938 million to the Inter-American Development Bank at the end of the month. Acoording to reports from the ministry of finance, the government will have to pay off 9481 million dollars to various multilateral credit organizations this year: $5467 million to the International Monetary Fund, $2084 million to the World Bank, $1669 million to the Inter-Ameriacan Development Bank and $261 million to the Paris Club, a group of private and institutional investors.
Following the suggestion of U.S. Treasury Dept. officials, the government used dollars in the Central Bank reserve to pay off this debt, sparking fears among some economists that this would further decrease the value of the peso.
Meanwhile, the Inter American Development Bank has agreed to loan $700 million for social welfare programs, and the World Bank has said it will give another $700 million for food and medicine only when Argentina meets the demands of the International Monetary Fund, which include making it easier for international creditors to take over bankcrupt Argentine companies, and eliminating a law which protects the country from financial damage by banks and other businesses.
(sources: Clarin, La Naccion, May 14)
Last update: May 6, 2002
The Buenos Aires newspaper Clarin reports that a new study by the Argentine research organization INDEC has found that 42% of the total population of Argentina is now living in poverty, and that 1,547,000 people have fallen below the poverty line in the last five months. "Poverty" is defined in the study as less than 455 pesos a month for a family of four. The study also found that since 1998, there are 5.5 million new poor, and that half of these people have become poor in the last ten months.
(from Clarin, Friday, May 3, 2002)
"I heard the lady start to talk to the teller. She said she couldn't take it anymore, that she needed the money to eat. The bank employee continued to repeat that he couldn't do anything," said Alejandro Castagno, who was four places behind the woman. Immediately, according to Castagno, the woman said, "I'm going to kill myself." She took out a bottle of alcohol from her purse, and set herself on fire with a lighter.
The incident took place on Thursday in the San Isidro branch of the Banco Rio. The woman, 59, was in "delicate" condition in the Municipal Hospital with third degree burns.
(Ed note: Last December, the Argentine government instituted a bank freeze which allows its citizens to withdraw only 300 pesos a week from their accounts.)
Argentina Businesses for Two Pesos?
(original article appeared in Clarin, May 3, 2002)
Oscar Lamberto, ex-Secretary of Finance of Eduardo Dualde, said that Anne Kreuger, the number two official of the International Monetary Fund and the United States delegate for the organization, wants Argentina to "explode" and to undergo a hyperinflation that will bring down the price of the country's assets so that North American businesses can "come in and buy our businesses for two pesos."
The ex-Secretary, who was one of the negotiators with the IMF mission headed by Anoop Singh, also stated that the organization was undertaking a prolonged strategy of delay in the negotiations to release any funds to Argentina. "Every time we concede to the conditions they require, they come up with new demands," he complained, and said that it was likely that IMF assistance would come "after the country touched bottom", he told the weekly Veintitres.
He also claimed that the IMF held two positions. One, sustained by Kreuger, who "represented the United States", and the other by the head of the organization, the German Horst Kohler. The latter, he claimed, wanted Argentina to "lay off 500,000 public employees, that we suffer what we need to suffer, but he prefers that we don't end up with hyperinflation."

Update: April 24, 2002
Economy Minister Resigns After Demonstrators Surround Congress
Economy Minister Remis Lenicof resigned last night after five thousand potbanging demonstrators surrounded the Congess building for two days, trapping the Congress members inside the building for the first day of demonstrations. Demonstrators were protesting a new economic plan that would replace the money in their frozen savings and checking accounts with bonds that would ultimately be worth 20% of their initial value.
President Dualde is meeting with his cabinet today to discuss who will replace Lenicof, as well as alternatives to the current economic plan. Resignation has stalled further negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, and several cabinet ministers have called for a pause in negotations with the Fund, whose economic requirements include changes in bankcruptcy laws, cutbacks in provincial budgets which could result in severe job loss, and the removal of a national law which has enabled the prosecution of multinational companies who damage the national economy by removing funds or other assets from the country.
Unrest Continues in Provinces
Demonstrations , food demands, and roadblocks continue throughout the country this week. In San Juan, unpaid state workers engaged in street battles with police which left eighteen wounded. Unemployed workers cut off roads in Santa Fe, in Mar del Plata 300 people blocked roads and demanded food , and in Chubut 200 unpaid teachers took over the Legislature building.

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