23 November 2006

Aftermath of the hail

This is the story of a still unfolding tragedy. You've already watched the first act, but there's sadly much more.

Act 1: a horrible hail storm hits Rosario. People get hurt, windows get smashed, precarious homes get destroyed. Damages for US$270 million.

Act 2: While people with cars and windows line up before glass shops and get charged suddenly increased prices, people with no cars and no windows desperately ask for help from the government (tin roofs to repair their homes, mattresses to replace those ruined by the rain, etc.).

Act 3: Government workers are sent to assess the damages in the poor neighbourhoods, and the requirements of their residents are recorded and forewarded to the authorities. Surprisingly, the goods are delivered more or less in time.

Act 4: Unsatisfied because they want more or angry because they've been ignored, groups of poor people set up pickets blocking important roads in the peripherical areas of Rosario. Other groups move from their old homes and squat on abandoned public and private lands.

Act 5: A policeman trying to redirect traffic at a busy intersection blocked by a picket is hit by a car and dies a few days later. People in charge of the emergency relief operation report that the pickets are making it impossible to distribute the goods. Indignant neighbours denounce that some are selling their relief packages instead of using it.

This is about the point up to where this tragedy has devolved. Mayor Liftschitz said today, probably with reason, that the picketeers are being (at least) encouraged, if not led, by minority political factions. We've come to know those; they're the kind that always emerge when it's time to burn tires, and who pass as defenders of the poor, when they're in fact borderline criminals with nothing better to do and a very, very skewed left-wing ideology.

The provincial government, which manages the police, has stated through the Government Minister Roberto Rosúa that the street blocks will be handled "through consensus and peaceful means", only employing police force in the case of crimes committed by the picketeers, such as charging cars with a "toll fee" to let them pass unscathed through the blockades. Rosúa, who has excelled at being useless in several ministries under two administrations, seems not to notice that blocking a street with burning tires is a crime. Like the national government in the case of Gualeguaychú, the Santa Fe Provincial Government prefers to look away, fearful of legitimate repression (maybe because they did engage in illegitimate repression not so long ago and were exposed). Or may it be because problems in Rosario make the ruling Socialist Party administration look bad?

In case you haven't noticed already, I consider myself a leftist. I was born under the shadow of the latest dictatorship, which used violence against popular dissidence of any kind, and I hate the use of force against the weak and the poor. I also know that the Argentine police, all of it, is corrupt, brutal, tainted with all sorts of human rights abuses not committed then, but being committed now, everywhere. And I, yes, I want the police to suffocate those pickets, to look for their leaders and bring them to justice. This is not a protest, it's some greedy lowlife politician wannabe rallying the ignorant to see if s/he can get money and goods from the government. This could be done today or tomorrow in an hour, without firing a single bullet, and the money and the goods could reach those who really need it -- 10% of the population of Rosario lives in shanty towns, and they're not all disrupting traffic and threatening drivers. Why do we still put up with this?

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