Update: December 22, 2002
What's New on ArgentinaNow:
In English and Spanish:
(see bottom of articles section for English, En EspaÒol
Letter to Daniela
An Argentine Father Writes to His Unborn Daughter
Changing Society through Relationship
History of an Asambleista
One Woman's Story
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
Travel Notes of a Young Austrian
The Protest Movements One Year Later
Piqueteros, Asambleistas, Ahorristas:
Where are they now?
DECEMBER 20: A CACEROLAZO HEARD AROUND THE WORLD
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 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
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
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
Supporters gathered in Europe, the United States, and other South
American countries to protest corporate capitalism and the neoliberal
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
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
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
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, www.americas.org) and the English coverage
at www.indymedia.org has expanded. Readers are also welcome to
post news in the Forum section.
- Update: November 6, 2002
- WHAT´S NEW ON ARGENTINA NOW
- 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
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
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
- "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
- 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
- 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 www.indymedia.org.
- UPDATE: OCTOBER 9
- 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
- Members of the Argentine government are worried that going
into depleted bank reserves will cause runaway inflation and
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
- "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
- 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
- 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
- "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,
- 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 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
- 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
- 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
"I haven´t seen anything like this kind of police
repression since the years of the dictatorship," said one
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
Another massive demonstration has been scheduled for today.
(for more news on the deaths of Santillán y Kosteki, see
- Update: June 4, 2002
- NEIGHBORHOOD ASSEMBLY UPDATE:
- 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
- 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
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
- 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.
- JOKES AND GRAFFITI
- "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
- "Argentina will soon be a paradise, because we'll all
be walking around without any clothes on."
- Update May 26
- MAY 25 CELEBRATED WITH SPEECHES, POTBANGING, FLAGS AND
- 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
- 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)
- GET RID OF THEM ALL, SAY RESULTS OF NEW POLL
- 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)
- FIGHT OVER LAW OF ECONOMIC SUBVERSION CONTINUES
- 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
- SOCIAL ASSISTANCE PLAN STALLS; ACCUSATIONS FLY
- 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)
- MORE DEMONSTRATIONS, ROADBLOCKS CALLED
- 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
- MALNUTRITION ON THE RISE IN TUCUMAN
- 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.
- IMF DEMANDS GENERATE RESISTANCE AND CONTROVERSY IN ARGENTINA
- 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
- 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,"
- 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."