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Friday, September 09, 2005

Kirchner Reverses and Allows Protests... Sort Of

Anyone whose been here in Buenos Aires for more than a few months has no doubt run into trouble with the piqueteros, the roving bands of unemployed people who block key bridges, streets, subways, and generally cause problems for commuters.

Recently, due to the upcoming elections no doubt, the government decided to take harder line with the piqueteros to try and curry favor with middle class voters, who are fed up with the transit delays on their way to and from work each day. So, what did the government do? They blocked piqueteros from entering the Plaza de Mayo last Friday when they were going to protest for an increase in salaries and unemployment subsidies.

Now, in the face of criticism, the government relents and says they will allow the protests in the Plaza de Mayo once again... sort of. The government said they would require permission from the piqueteros to demonstrate in front of the Government House at Plaza de Mayo. A protest scheduled for today against the planned visit of President George W. Bush, who will attend the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, will be allowed to go forward.

I find this just a little bit hypocritical and quite ridiculous. They'll allow protests criticizing a foreign government, but not a protest criticizing their own government. They do the same thing in China and Cuba. While no one that I know here likes the piqueteros, it seems to me that blocking protests in front of the Government House is just a way to try and silence your critics. Any democracy that purports to allow free speech and the right to assemble has to allow protests outside government offices. After all, that's where the people who make the policies are working. They are the ones that need to be reached.

A better response by the government would be to stop the piqueteros from blocking roads, bridges, and subways -- which does nothing but enrage middle class commuters anyway -- and allow the piqueteros to protest outside government offices. To be honest, I'm not sure why the piqueteros don't adopt this strategy themselves. They would get a lot more sympathy and support from the middle class, whose taxes pay their unemployment subsidies, if they didn't constantly agitate them with road blocks.

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Blogger Chris said...

I agree with you. What they fail to appreciate is that when the piqueteros block intersections, bridges, roads and side streets they actually interfere with hundreds of "small" businesses just trying to make a buck. It seems really counterproductive. Demonstrating in a way that doesn't paralyze the small business owners of BA but intelligently communicates your point to the powers that be is a win win for their cause and democracy.

9/09/2005 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger familiaoconnell said...

I think it will take a lot more than a courteous strategy for people here ever to be sympathetic to the piqueteros.

The problem is, that while labor groups have legitimate beefs with the government or their previous employers (the nature of their protest is quite disparate) the one thing in common is the general perception that they are hired thugs that like to make scary noises and gestures while wearing masks so that people, friends and families don't know what they are doing for a day job. It will take more than a great public relations firm to change the brand image of a piquetero.

9/10/2005 12:53:00 AM  
Blogger leaddog2 said...

Why is Bush attending this summit with people like Chavez, Castro, Kirchner and the Bolivian dopers the Loudest hypocrites there?

9/11/2005 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger familiaoconnell said...

My understanding is that Chavez and Castro wont be there (or a least in the vicinity and that Bush isnt leaving the aircraft carrier that will be moored outside of Mar del Plata.

9/12/2005 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Nada said...

They should not allow piqueteros to block roads. They can protest all they want along govt buildings, but everybody ignores them, so they choose to screw the normal midlle class people´s lives. Medics who cant go to help people, teachers who cant go teach, etc.

And they pay their crappy subsidies, which they live out of, they are like ilegal inmigrants, they do nothing good to the country.

What they do is just screw the Argentine economy, by blocking highways, streets, it stops the flow of people, merchandise, etc, not to mention the discousting mess they leave behind. But thats how they think, I am unfortunate, so I am going to make everybody´s life unfortunate.

Typical argentines :)

9/18/2005 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger Johnny said...

I think they should export the piqueteros to the states where they are really needed !

9/27/2005 08:49:00 PM  

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