16 May 2008

Crazy Argentina, take 2

More about the bizarre conflict between the government and the farmers: after being all fuzzy (in her own way) and speaking of dialogue and such, la Presidenta won't talk to the agricultural organizations "because they've politicized the issue" (!) and, just Clarín becomes surprisingly (shall I say suspiciously?) balanced in its coverage of the latest renewal of the strike, piquetero leader Luis D'Elía goes back to its usual self and announces a total blockade of Rosario on May 25 (Revolution Day) "to stop gorilas from entering the city", since that's when farmers from all around are scheduled to stage a massive demonstration here. (I told you so!)

It would be sensible to remind ourselves that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her minions started speaking of the farmers as right-wing coup-inciting oligarchic nuts from hell (or words to that effect) as soon as the conflict started, and even before her stubbornness let it escalate, thus framing the whole thing as an example of class struggle — the rich trying to destabilize a government that serves the poor. So who politicized it first?

It would also be quite an obvious remark to note that the responsibility of the president is not to stir up conflicts, but to solve them, and that the president has no right to jeopardize the whole country's peace and prosperity only because the opposition isn't wise enough to surrender and fall on its knees (Néstor Kirchner dixit). The one in power has to be magnanimous, truly open to dialogue, extra careful with words, slow to anger and quick to forgive. Cristina is none of those things, that we can see. Well-spoken, yes, but not careful.

In any country but Argentina, also, it would be ridiculous to suppose that a group of people (no matter who) could block all the access roads to a large city and get away with it. In many places, even speaking of doing that would be a crime, or would merit a warning from the authorities. That the person that leads the block may use a gross classist epithet to justify it would be outrageous; and the fact that that person may be employed by the federal administration and answer to the president (or to her husband) would be a huge embarrassment to the government.

But this is Argentina, so people who were thinking of visiting Rosario on May Revolution Day, our most sacred patriotic holiday, are already canceling their trips, fearing they might be stopped and attacked by piqueteros; and we who live in the city are wondering whether it would be wise to try to celebrate at the Flag Memorial, as is customary, for fear that it'll be occupied by Luis D'Elía's thugs, or by any of the several Kirchnerist gangs that have sprouted here, fed by their leaders' contagious resentment and "welfare" government money plus small doses of outdated communist slogans.

If this were a normal country, the police would be on alert and the governor would be ready to call the federal government to get Gendarmería on the road. Since it's Argentina, it's doubtful that the call will be made, or answered.


  1. Hi Pablo. Thanks for your insights in this and previous post. Can you clarify your point of view - I know you don't like la presidenta, now - are you supporting farmers but are against their methods?
    I think in situations like these they are doing the right thing as the experience shows in "more civilized countries" the citizens are gutless to do anything but mumble on the internet/media while the govt. does what it wants.
    So kudos for campesinos, I am with them. And I completely agree with you on what a president SHOULD be. As well as on the potential of Argentina - only a few countries in the world have all conditions set out perfectly for prosperity as Argentina does, it must break your heart, being argentine, to see everything going into the opposite direction.

  2. Hi Tomas,

    First of all, I think Cristina isn't really running the country. She looks like she's just playing the part of the president, and it's obvious she isn't up to it. The ones in charge are her husband and his former ministers and allies. That's why I say "the government" or "Kirchner" but I don't want to focus too much on Cristina.

    Secondly, I generally don't like people blocking roads, but when the farmers did it and I was forced to wait 15 hours to resume my trip back home (after Easter weekend), I didn't curse them. Their cause seemed right, and everybody blocks roads for the most stupid reasons today.

    Anyway, that wasn't a good thing to keep up for more than a few days. I liked it more when they resorted to put pressure on their local authorities and representatives. That worked more or less fine until they went back to the roads (the last time). The president offered conciliation and dialogue and, even though we all know a politician's words are worth nothing, they should've immediately taken her up on them. Now they're going to negotiate, but it seems they lost the high moral ground, and the government will be advertising it as a victory for their own ideas. If the farmers get what they want, the rest of the issues under debate will be forgotten - I mean a more just distribution of the money brought in by the retenciones, and the participation of local governments in the national decisions related to agriculture and exports. That's why, while I hope the conflict ends peacefully, I'd rather have it last a bit more so that the government is forced to face and correct its mistakes on all fronts. It can't be that so much money is extracted from us and so little returns (and that at the whim of the president).


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