Sunday, February 10, 2013

Aggressive mini-mob confronts Argentine Vice Minister Axel Kicillof and his family

Axel Kicilloff, the national Vice Minister for Economic Policy and Developmental Planning and one of President Cristina Fernández' closest advisers, became the target of aggressive hecklers last Sunday while traveling with his wife and two young children in the economy class of a ferry from Uruguay. TV Pública argentina reports on it here, with the discussion on Kicillof beginning just after 9:30 and runs through around 39:00, 678 - 06-02-13 (1 de 4):

Also from TV Pública argentina, a shorter version showing Kiciloff and his family being guided out of the seating area by ferry security, El ataque de pasajeros a Axel Kicillof 05.02.2013:

This news report also describes the incident, "Patoterismo y violencia" Página 12 05.02.2013:

La agresión contra el viceministro de Economía ocurrió en la lancha que salió el domingo a las 20.45 (las 19.45 para la Argentina) desde Colonia, donde tiene una casa de fin de semana. Los gritos ("delincuente", "de dónde sacaste los dólares", "chorro") se extendieron durante unos treinta minutos y el personal de Buquebús se acercó para sacarlo del sector. Aunque Kicillof inicialmente no quería retirarse, finalmente accedió a hacerlo.

Un testigo que viajaba en el barco relató a Página/12 que cuando otros pasajeros intentaron salir en defensa del funcionario, los gritos de los que lo insultaban se volvieron más fuertes y que los hijos del viceministro estaban visiblemente asustados por la violencia de la situación.

[The aggression against the Vice Minister of Economics occurred in the boat the disembarked Sunday {Feb. 3} at 8:45PM (7:45 for Argentina) from Colonia, where he has a weekend house. The cries ("delinguent", "where did you get the money", "thief") that lasted around 30 minutes and the personnel of the Buquebús {name of the ferry} came to take them out of the section. Even though Kicillof initially didn't want to leave, he finally agreed to do so.

A witness who was travelling in the ferry told Página/12 that when other passengers tried to come to the official's defense, the screams of those who were insulting him became louder and that the Vice Minister's children were visibly disturbed by the violence of the situation.]
The video shows more explicit profanity ("son of a whore") and anti-Semitic cries ("judio de mierda" ["shitty Jew"]). This was not someone just yelling "your policies suck!" This was a hostile crowd that was addressing him, his wife and his two small children in a clearly threatening way, like any angry mob of cowards we've seen in many other situations.

It doesn't appear that Kiciloff or his family were actually hit by anyone. But as the footage in the video above shows, they were in a corner section of the ferry and the angry and threatening tone of the gather mini-mob was clear.

As I've described here previously, the Argentine oligarchy and its main political arms, the UCR (Unión Cívica Radical) and Buenos Airies Mayor Maricio Marci's PRO (Propuesta Republicana), have escalated the militancy of their opposition in recent months, with aggressive protests including road blockades, and were very likely behind a wave of brazen supermarket robberies that helped the opposition promote fears that crime was running out of control.

The incident with Kiciloff and his family are a reflection of the kind of aggressive hostility that the opposition is promoting, though there is no evidence that I've heard that the attack was pre-planned or directly organized by some opposition group.

Vice President Boudou, who was aggressively heckled during a speech in the province of Santa Fe recently, condemned those who harangued Kiciloff and his family in such a threatening and aggressive way. Boudou rightly distinguished between people heckling him at a rally, which he notes is a political act, and the kind of aggressive, personal harassment to which Kiciloff and his family were subjected on the ferry in a private situation. Boudou the ferry incident as "fascista, nazi y cobarde" ("fascist, Nazi and cowardly"). (Boudou sobre los escraches: "Es un ataque personal" INFOnews 07.02.2013)

Here is another video of Kiciloff on the ferry that reports on Boudou's remarks, Funcionarios agredidos: Insultos y abucheos a Boudou y Kicillof TV Pública argentina 04.02.2013:

Additional reports:

Two leading opposition figures, Governor José Manuel de la Sota of Córdoba province (a member of Cristina's Partido Justicialista but an internal opponent of hers) and anti-Cristina labor leader Hugo Moyano, both blamed the attack on Cristina's government (!!) for being too divisive. (De la Sota minimizó los ataques a Kicillof y Boudou INFOnews 04.02.2013; Moyano justificó el escrache a Kicillof y a Boudou INFOnews 06.02.2013)

The "Patoterismo y violencia" article cited above notes that while the ferry incident seemed to arise spontaneously, the protest again Boudou in Santa Fe appeared to be more of an organized event.

Kiciloff's wife Soledad Quereilhac spoke in an interview about the incident. She said one of the things the hostile passengers were chanting was "que se bajen", i.e., "get off the boat." When people are yelling things like that at you in the middle of a large river, you pretty much have to take that as a direct threat. She said that reflects a "facho" (fascist) attitude. But, she said, "Lo que han hecho habla más de ellos que de nosotros" ("What they did says more about them than about us.") She says that the family has maintained a "super low profile" in public, and that this is the first time something like that has happened to them. (Lucas Morando, "En el escrache hubo un inconsciente facho" Perfil 10.02.2013; Habló la mujer de Kicillof: "Lo que nos hicieron habla más de ellos que de nosotros" INFOnews 10.02.2013

Kiciloff is a particular symbol of the kirchnerista economic policies of the current Argentine government, and in particular of the nationalization of previously Spanish-owned oil company YPF. La Nación, the traditional media outlet of the anti-Peronist oligarchy, ran a column by Carlos Pagni describing him as a Jewish Marxist. Kiciloff is Jewish, but does not describe himself as a Marxist. But this kind of thing provides "respectable" validation for the kind of aggressive hostility that Kiciloff, Quereilhac and their children encountered last weekend.

The issue of political violence, how it originates, how it operates and how it should be treated by the law are major themes in Argentine politics since the dictatorship of 1976-83. Unlike in the United States when Congresswoman Gabby Giffords took a bullet in the head from a would-be assassin and the US President thought that was worth of no more response than a rhetorical call for "civility," it appears that Argentine political leaders recognize that there's an ugly escalation of general political tension here that has to be addressed as such before it escalates to further violence. And, as Vice President Boudou's response indicates, vague platitudes about civility are not likely to seem like sufficient responses to them.

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1 comment:

Jorge Ramiro said...

Argentina, I love that conutry. I have been there a lot of years ago. I remember the Obelisco, Teatro Colon, La Boca. Such a nice places and good people. Like the publicity of the football says, a country of good people. I went sometime to see a soccer match. Boca vs River. OMG. It was such an experience. I rent apartments buenos aires near Puerto Madero, great place.