31 October 2006


"It's very difficult for the provincial government to do more than what it's done", says Government Minister Roberto Rosúa when queried about the project to grant Rosario the status of autonomous city. Yeah, right.

The idea of autonomous municipalities, with more local control on what they can and cannot do, on how to manage their affairs, on how to raise taxes and elect their authorities, is not new. Lisandro de la Torre (not coincidentally born in Rosario) worked on the concept in the late 19th century. Only in 1994 it was incorporated to the National Constitution, and since then Buenos Aires, which long ago had been split from Buenos Aires Province to become the Federal Capital, was also given the status of Autonomous City, which entitled it to have a kind of constitution, to choose its form of government and to elect it (before that, the mayor was a federal official, appointed by the President).

The Constitution, in general terms, simply says that every province must insure municipal autonomy and regulate its reach. Provincial constitutions should be changed to match that.

Santa Fe Province is a special case in Argentina because it has two very large cities, and the larger one is not the capital. The administrative structure and the political institutions are on the smaller city, Santa Fe. Santa Fe cannot be favoured by Rosario's autonomy, and Santa Fe City would probably not be favoured by having autonomy for itself. Add to it the fact that the last governors have all been from Santa Fe, and what I said the other day about Rosario and Santa Fe, and you'll understand why the projects to turn Rosario into an autonomous city, either through a law or through a modification of the provincial constitution (which would be nothing but fulfilling the requirement in the National Constitution), have been systematically put to sleep by the provincial government.

Minister Rosúa is, of course, lying. He says that the project has been sent to the provincial legislature and the legislators have done nothing, so it's not the governor's fault; the Executive cannot meddle in the affairs of the Legislative. As the report above explains, this is complete bullshit, because party discipline within the Peronist-dominated legislature works fine every time the Peronist governor needs a law to be passed quickly and without debate. As with the National Congress, our legislators are only well-paid levantamanos -- they receive the order to raise their hands in approval down the partisan chain of command, and they comply immediately. So if the governor really wanted municipal autonomy for Rosario, he could have it. Provincial Deputy Raúl Lamberto (Socialist) explains that "they do a mis-en-scène every time the mayor of Rosario demands autonomy", but nothing is actually done because the relevant legislative committees are all controlled by the government's party.

And this is another reason why Rosario should secede from Santa Fe.

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