04 October 2007

Carlos Fuentealba, half a year later

I couldn't believe it the other day when I heard it was going to be six months since the murder of Carlos Fuentealba. It seemed to me that only a couple months had passed. In the meantime things haven't been exactly nice throughout the country. Protests and demonstrations have continued, in many cases violently dispersed by the police, but not in places where the media care to look.

Carlos Fuentealba was a teacher who worked in Neuquén, a province in the northern edge of Patagonia. On April 4, the teachers' union was on strike and he was accompanying a protest march by car, when the provincial police came. A policeman called Daniel Poblete shot a can of tear gas into the car, hitting Fuentealba in the back of the neck almost at point blank. He died two days later in hospital.

Today, in order to commemorate Fuentealba's death but especially to demand justice for his murder, the teachers all throughout the country are on strike again, and massive demonstrations are planned. The only one arrested for the murder is Poblete, the judiciary of Neuquén is not independent, and the investigations are not advancing.

Jorge Sobisch, the governor of Neuquén who ordered the repression and justified it, is still campaigning for the presidency on a platform of public security, as if nothing had happened. But the large posters in the streets where he appears with a big smile are quickly covered by smaller, cheaper posters with Fuentealba's face and by graffiti that read ASESINO — murderer.

I have my personal take on the matter. First of all, I think teachers should've marched and protested outside school hours or during the weekend, so that the children don't lose more days of an already reduced class schedule. They could devote one hour today to explain what Fuentealba fought for, and why teachers who work in public schools have the right to earn good salaries, and explain to the children what happened. They could review the history of police brutality in Argentina and the history of state-sponsored repression of dissident views, in terms appropriate to the age and background of the students. But they chose to leave the classrooms empty. (In Argentina there are 180 days of classes per year, in theory, but due to strikes this is often reduced to 160 or less. Some developed countries have over 220 days/year.)

Second of all, the demonstrations and protest actions are organized by unions and organizations with a strong political component, in the heat of the presidential campaign. That just doesn't sound right. Sobisch accuses Hugo Yasky, the leader of the CTA union, of being secretly in league with President Kirchner, and says that the national government is financing a campaign against him, which is entirely possible. CTA is fighting to get official recognition as a major labour union and competes with CGT, the older and more traditional Peronist union that has a lot of influence within the government. Yasky is also accused by some of lending his influence to Kirchner and to Minister of Education Daniel Filmus to get approval of the brand-new Education Law by the teachers' union CTERA, even while the law is resisted by many teachers and was rather plainly made up to make Filmus look good at the time when he was campaigning for Chief of Government of Buenos Aires City.

Politics is dirty and the teachers are doing politics, instead of teaching the children how Carlos Fuentealba died and what they should know to avoid such things from happening ever again.

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting here. That is insane someone would shoot gas into a car, since I thought, the use of gas was to scatter large violent crowds that are looting. Why would someone shoot gas into a car, that is just sadistic, and, when your shooting gas, your not supposed to aim at someone's damn head, that is crazy.

    I agree with you about the teachers issue, it's great they want to make their voice heard, but do the children have to suffer, they aren't paying the salaries.

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  2. Maybe the people making these choices were themselves victims of too few classes throughout their education.

    Your idea is great and hopefully one of these days someone who can actually put it in place will come up with it. They would get so much more support, I would bet, if they did it the way you described in this wonderful post.

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