29 August 2006


Do you know what a piquetero is?

In the beginning there was the state. But President Carlos Menem saw the state and said, "This is not good". So he tore the state apart, privatizing lots of state companies. And he saw that downsizing and massive unemployment were good (apparently).

But a group of workers in Neuquén fired from the state oil company didn't agree, so they took to the nearest national road and blocked it. It was 1996, and the luckier part of Argentina was lost in an drunken haze of cheap dollars, frequent trips to Miami, imported luxuries, and the über-buzzword of the time, "stability".

The piqueteros, in turn, were poor, dirty, working-class residents of a small town with a name that sounded like an Indian chief (instead of the names of dictators, 19th century wealthy landowners and British engineers that grace the towns, streets and squares of the Buenos Aires metropolitan area). Half the country had re-elected Menem, and frankly couldn't relate.

By 2001, however, the shit hit the fan. The unemployed workers had gathered in assemblies and movements. In 2002 the devaluation of the peso smashed the economy. Minuscule leftist parties started recruiting from marginalized people. Road blocks moved to Buenos Aires, where media coverage was easier to get.

The piqueteros of today are not what they used to be. Back then they were unemployed industrial workers with a cause; now they're mostly poor people with no chance of getting a permanent job, led by teams of old-fashioned leftist ideologues. Half of them have sold out to the national government; the other became more extreme in their opposition. The government tolerates them. The road blocks are exceptional today, but in years past they angried "the people" (Mauricio Macri dixit). The piqueteros now participate in demonstrations protesting... well, really anything. A few actually work; many won't or can't. They receive welfare, mediated by their leaders, who keep a teeny-tiny percentage for necessities such as protest banners, T-shirts, cell phones, etc.

Luis D'Elía, a government official and legislator (incompatibility, anyone?) is also a piquetero leader (we could refer to him as Major Sold Out). He's leading a march next Thursday, to counter Juan Carlos Blumberg's march (a guy I'll speak about later, but whom we could refer to as Captain Trigger Happy) . I tell you, both give me the creeps.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.