Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Argentine oligarchy's latest tactic against Cristina Fernández' government: promote looting

"They play dirty in Argentina" ("En Argentina se juega sucio"), writes Jorge Muzam in a brief explanation of the latest tactic of the Argentine oligarchy against the Peronist government of President Cristina Fernández. (Saqueos organizados en Argentina Huffington Post 21.12.2012)

They are promoting gangs of looters in an effort to create a sense of chaos in hopes that the public will blame the President's government for it. It's not a new tactic for reactionaries: create disorder for the purpose of offering yourselves as the solution to that disorder. The opposition in Chile during the Allende government notoriously used such tactics to prepare the coup of 1973. (To be clear, there is no indication I've heard of that a military coup is in the works in Argentina, nor of any active American governmental involvement as their was in Chile.)

Looting in this case means groups of young people going into stores and simultaneously snatching a bunch of stuff off the shelves and running out of the store. There was also some amount of vandalism in the artsy/touristy Boca section of Buenos Aires. These kinds of incidents occurred in cities all over Argentina.

The last time Argentina experienced serious violent civil disorder was during the crisis in 2001, when the IMF was attempting to do to Argentina what the EU is doing right now to Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain: force them into an protracted cycle of impoverishment via self-destructive austerity policies to satisfy their creditors.

As Mario Wainfeld explains in La chispa y las realidades Página 12 23.12.2012:

La situación socioeconómica actual de la Argentina es incomparable con la del año 2001. Inversión social desconocida desde las anteriores experiencias nacionales y populares del peronismo (el del ’45 al ’55, el de los ‘70), con consecuencias enormes y palpables. Muy otros indicadores de empleo, de distribución del ingreso, de amplitud de las coberturas sociales, del consumo, de la institucionalidad laboral. Mucha acción estatal hubo de por medio, potenciada por la enorme capacidad de adaptación y recuperación de los argentinos, en especial los laburantes. El hambre y el desempleo extendidos no son los primeros problemas de los estratos populares, ni de lejos. La comensalidad familiar se ha restaurado en gran proporción. Hay un gobierno legitimado y activo, que coexiste con organizaciones sociales vitales y empoderadas. Algunas lo apoyan y sacan ventaja de ello, otras se le oponen y saben exigir desde la vereda de enfrente.

[The current socioeconomic situation of Argentina cannot be compared to that of the year 2001. Social investment unknown since the previous national and popular experiences of Peronism (that of '45 to '55, that of the 70s), with consequences that are enormous and palpable. Many other indicators of employment, of the distribution of income, the amplitude of the social coverage, consumption, of unionization. Much state action done for the medium term, strengthened by the enormous capacity for adaptation and recuperation of the Argentines, especially the working people. Hunger and prolonged unemployment are not the primary problems of popular governments, not by a long shot. The quality of family life has been largely restored. There is an active and legitimate government that coexists with vital social organizations and powerful social groups. Some support it and take advantage of it, others oppose it and know how to make demands openly.]
Others, such as the ones inciting street gangs to go on looting sprees, exercise their opposition in less legitimate ways.

Part of the context here is that political parties and politicians in Argentina often have contact with street gangs and socially marginal types who can be mobilized when causing a physical ruckus is deemed to be in order. It's not like the Weimar Republic, where political parties had to have their own paramilitary organizations to survive. Nor do they have the general level of gun violence of say, Mexico or the United States. (I suppose in the latter case it goes without saying.)

These are not, notes attorney for juveniles Julián Axat (Saqueos y reclutamiento juvenil el niño rizoma 22.12.2012, highly organized gangs of youths like the infamous MS-13 and similar groups in Central America. He also writes, "En el 2008 un juez se atrevió a denunciar que en la Provincia de Buenos Aires los menores eran instrumento de organizaciones criminales, incluyendo a la policía bonaerense que los usaba como mano de obra barata, y después se descartaba de ellos." ("In 2008, a judge dared to denounce the fact that in the province of Buenos Aires, minors were an instrument of criminal organization, including the Buenos Aires provincial police, who used them to do dirty jobs, and later discard them.")

As Muzam describes it, saying of the opposition leaders:

"No cuentan con suficiente apoyo popular, pero tienen de su lado el actuar mafioso de sus dirigentes, el numeroso lumpen clientelista de cada ciudad, el narcotráfico, los principales medios de comunicación y la oligarquía resentida con este gobierno."

[The can't count on sufficient popular support, but they have at their side the Mafia-like actions of their leaders, the numerous lumpen clientelista {socially marginal thugs with connections to parties} of every city, the drug trafficers, the principal media of communication and the oligarchy that resent this government.]
The part about the media presumably refers mainly to the media empires of La Nación and Clarín, both of which currently take an intensely oppositional stance toward Cristina's government.

Sure enough, this Clarín article Saqueos: enojo de intendentes por la falta de refuerzo policial 23.12.2012 highlights the blame some merchants are laying on the national government at the Peronist provincial government of Buenos Aires Province, headed by Cristina ally Daniel Scioli for supposedly not responding quickly enough on Friday to the dramatic instances of looting. The responses included in that article are very consistent with that classic rightwing political strategy. Stir up violence during a government you don't like, then blame the government for not doing enough to stop it.

The two main opposition groups are the Radicals (Unión Civic Radical, UCR) and the Partido Socialista (PS), both members of the Socialist International, amazingly enough. The UCR is the traditional party of the oligarchy, whose consistent hatred over decades for the Peronist Partido Justicialista (PJ) is one of the defining characteristics of Peronism. The PS is often allied with the UCR in the anti-Peronist/oligarchical cause.

This piece from La Nación, the longtime mouthpiece of the oligarchy, Para Binner, los saqueos fueron "actos vandálicos no ligados a la pobreza" 23.12.2012, has PS leader Hermes Binner pooh-poohing the idea that the opposition had anything to do with the recent round of lootings and vandalism. Another reminder that just because a party has "socialist" in its name doesn't mean it can't be a willing ally of oligarchical groups.

Wainfeld presents a more complete picture of the groups involved in the incidents of looting and vandalism that have attracted considerable attention in recent days and resulted in at least two deaths. In the article linked above and in Los pibes to la esquina 23.12.2012, he looks at a variety of factors at work in the background these incidents. It's not the case, in other words, that the political opposition just hired a bunch of professional gangsters to do this.

The state Channel 7, TV Pública Argentina, ran an eight-part telenovela in 2012 centering around a gang of street kids, Los pibes del puente, which also shows in fictionalized form the kind of ties such marginal youth can develop with wealthy members of "respectable" society.

This is a report on the disorder in San Fernando, one of the municipalities that is part of the conurbana (Greater Buenos Aires) area and part of the Province of Buenos Aires, whose Peronist government is one of the targets of the oligarchy, Vuelve la calma a San Fernando TV Pública Argentina 12/21/2012:

This is a longer report on the action in San Fernando, Saqueos organizados: Vandalismo y destrozos en San Fernando TV Pública Argentina 12/21/2012:

This report shows Edgardo Depetri, a member of Cristina's Parliamentary coalition, the Frente para la Victoria (FpV), talking about the political aspects of the gang attacks, Depetri: "Se trata de grupos organizados que tratan de generar caos" TV Pública Argentina 12/21/2012:

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