Saturday, November 10, 2012

Anti-Government Protests in Leftist Argentina

The love affair with the Latin leftist/socialist populist movement is starting to crumble, at least in Argentina. Thousands of people took to the streets of Buenos Aires pissed off at everything from crime, corruption, high inflation, and the possibility that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will dump the constitutional term limits to keep herself in power. After all, Hugo Chavez managed to do that, why couldn't she?

Though the actual number of anti-government protesters in Buenos Aires (which included children and seniors) varied greatly depending on who you were talking to, there were at least 30,000 people and there could have been as many as hundreds of thousands.

Organized via social media, the throngs banged pots (typical of the Latin culture) and chanted "We're not afraid," probably a throwback to the days when political opponents simply 'disappeared.' They also carried banners with "Stop the wave of Argentinians killed by crime, enough with corruption and say no to constitutional reform."

One of the major problems facing Argentinians is a huge increase in violent crime that the government seems  powerless to contain.

Newspapers and television programmes provide a daily diet of stories about increasingly bold home robberies, in which armed bands tie up families until victims hand over the cash that many Argentinians have kept at home since the government froze savings accounts and devalued the currency in 2002. The vast majority of the crimes are never solved, while the death toll is rising.

As for inflation:

Inflation also upsets many. The government's much-criticised index puts annual inflation at about 10%, but private economists say prices are rising about three times faster than that. Real estate transactions have slowed to a standstill because of the difficulty in estimating future values, and unions that won 25% pay rises only a few months ago are threatening to strike again unless the government comes up with more.

Kirchner won re-election by 54%, but her disapproval rating dipped to 31% in a poll taken this past September. So it's interesting to note that although Argentinians voted to give her another term, they have suddenly become disenchanted. One 74, year-old Marta Morosini said,

"I came to protest everything that I don't like about this government and I don't like a single thing starting with [the president's] arrogance. They're killing policemen like dogs, and the president doesn't even open her mouth. This government is just a bunch of hooligans and corrupters."
Besides the capital, there were protests across the country as well as overseas. In Madrid, Spain, one 40-year-old Argentinian expat, Marcelo Gimenez,  said:

"In Argentina, there's no separation of power and it cannot be considered a democracy. Cristina is not respecting the constitution. The presidency is not a blank cheque and she must govern for those who are for her and against her."
Apparently there were several smaller protests this year that were easy to dismiss, but not this time. In defense of Fernández Kirchner, supporters blamed it on the rich, though she herself did not comment on the demonstrations. However, she did defend her policies, claiming:

... they helped rescue Argentina from its worst economic crisis a decade ago and kept it afloat during the 2009 world financial downturn.
"During boom times it's easy to run a country but try running when it's crumbling down," Fernández said, while urging Argentinians to support her and pledging never to give up as her late husband had taught her.
"Never let go, not even in the worst moments," she said. "Because it's in the worst moments when the true colours of a leader of a country comes out."

Granted, they were in pretty bad shape, always have been, but whatever she was doing is obviously not working anymore, if it ever worked to begin with.  But someone voted for her, just like they did here.  It's not a far stretch to imagine what's going to happen when all the "gimmes" in this country suddenly no longer have all the freebies they are accustomed to because our government ran out of money.  We could have very scary times ahead for us.

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