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Friday, September 01, 2006

My First Argentina Protest

Yesterday I went to Plaza de Mayo to listen to Juan Carlos Blumberg speak about crime and security in Argentina. It was my first time at a protest here and, for me, it was a very interesting experience. According to media outlets and unofficial police estimates, there were between 40 and 60 thousand people in attendance.

Blumberg has called for Argentina to toughen its laws against criminals. The government, however, has refused to do so, harking back to the tough approach to crime and punishment that was used during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, in which thousands of people were made to disappear. In fact, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have denounced Blumberg and compared him, quite unjustifiably in my opinion, with the military dictators that ruled the country back in the 70s and 80s.

If you don't know the story of Blumberg, a little background is in order. Blumberg was a textile engineer whose son was killed by kidnappers. Although Blumberg paid the ransom in the designated drop-off point, a corrupt cop with knowledge of the operation informed a different criminal gang, who stole the money. When the kidnappers were not paid, they killed Blumberg's son. Since his son's death in 2004, Blumberg has been an anti-crime crusader.

The government dislikes Blumberg so much that they staged a pathetic counter-protest at the obelisk, which gathered only about 5,000 people. In fact, there would have been more people at the Blumberg march, but many people were scared away by the rantings of the leader of the counter-protest, Luis D'Elía, who spoke of marching his counter-protest to the Plaza de Mayo to cause trouble.

Unlike most protests, which are filled with the unemployed, the Blumberg march was filled with middle-class taxpaying families, who were asking their government to fulfill one of its most basic duties - the protection of its citizens. While the piqueteros, the poor, and the leftists here are protesting every other day, it isn't easy to get a middle-class person who has a good job and a family to go and join a protest march. Usually middle-class people are content. Whenever a government starts to see its middle-class rise up and protest, they should pay attention.

The newspapers today were filled with articles at how the government had made a major miscalculation by staging a counter-protest and dismissing Blumberg as an extremist or a right-wing politician. In fact, he made no political statements at the march last night (some expected him to launch a candidacy for governor of Buenos Aires province) - he only called on the present government to improve the security situation.

Unless Kirchner is content to lose middle-class votes, I expect him to address Blumberg's concerns or he just may turn Blumberg into a political foe. We'll see what happens in the coming months.

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33 Comments:

Blogger johnny said...

I don't know whether flagrant "demonization" of one's political, or possibly political, opponents is ordinarily the case in Argentina, but there sure has been alot of it going around since I moved here last January. Not just Blumberg, but a number of politicians and politically active citizens have been targeted. As one who had some admiration for Kirchner from afar, I am less taken with him at this point. Maybe the terrific amount of political jockeying that goes on in Buenos Aires has something to do with all this character assassination, but it is damn ugly. Posters of Blumberg sporting a Hitler mustache were put up downtown by somebody, and I think it was D'Elia who accused him of, to paraphrase,"building a political career on the corpse of his son". Very nasty stuff, and I am left with the impression that some of these people ought to consider getting a life.

9/01/2006 10:11:00 PM  
Anonymous El Americano said...

Argentina is a country that has unsuccessfully tried to get its drivers to wear a freakin' safety-belt for their own good for the better part of the last 40 years. Today only 1 out of ten drivers wears it while driving.

If they've been unable to achieve compliance with something so relatively simple and clearly in the best interests of those affected, what do you think the chances are that they will be able to effectively deal with much more important issues such as crime containment?.

ZILCH.!

9/02/2006 05:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The press tends to focus on left-wing protestors, students, "Mothers of the Disappeared," etc., but I was wondering if there any organized conservative or right-wing groups that hold demonstrations in BA?

9/02/2006 10:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Government also rules with an iron fist a lot what is said and expressed on TV. One word out of line and its game over. An example of this was a friend of ours who was a TV Presenter on the morning news. One morning he went ``off piste`` with some personal comments about recent government economic policy. He now recides on an independent local radio show for a half hour slot per week. A strong message to those who dare question governmental policy here in Argentina.

9/03/2006 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger miss cupcake said...

What Blumberg and his middle class supporters are asking is absolutely justified and within every citizen's rights of a fully functioning government, and this is the crux of the matter - we DO NOT have a fully functioning government. At the most basic and obvious, our crime fighters (police dept and customs dept)are corrupt and often part of the criminal elements (I speak from personal experience and those of my friends').

Kirchner is already trying the old and tested political trick of diverting our attention to the Malvinas so, of course, he has to squash voices such as Blumberg's as these voices of reason and logic have not only opened a Pandora's box of the most fundamental failings of this country but also hinted that the "Emperor" has no clothes on.

9/03/2006 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger johnny said...

Miss cupcake's comments are very edible.

9/03/2006 03:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to what El Americano said,...

"Argentina is a country that has unsuccessfully tried to get its drivers to wear a freakin' safety-belt for their own good for the better part of the last 40 years. Today only 1 out of ten drivers wears it while driving."


Good on 'em! At least the Argentines have some internal locus of control left such that they don't necessarily let insurance conglomerates rule their every action.

9/04/2006 01:26:00 AM  
Blogger PDF said...

I don't know what Blumberg truly thinks. I only know what many people like him want, because I've heard it all my life: laws that make an a priori distinction between them ("the people") and the criminals. They explicitly want security, not justice. I shouldn't have to say that I, too, think that the police is absolutely and systemically corrupt, and the authorities are looking the other way. That's not the question, but what you do when you have the power to gather thousands and make yourself heard. I wouldn't have allowed opportunistic right-wing politicians to march with me. I wouldn't have allowed defenders of the dictatorship to use me as a vehicle for their "mano dura" ideas (or "zero tolerance" if you prefer).

Blumberg is a sad and angry person (with reason) who's trying to dictate criminal policy (which he mustn't be allowed to). D'Elía is a disgrace and a mob leader, and I'm glad his counter-march was a failure. The average citizen who is not an upper-middle-class businessman should not follow either.

9/04/2006 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

"internal locus of control"?

9/04/2006 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Viva Argentina said...

Visit any Hospital in Buenos Aires, I work as a Doctor in a public hospital here. I can assure you that often there is no 'internal locus of control' left for those brought in from accidents where no seats belts were used.

Argentina has the highest car accident mortality rate in the world, yes higher than India or even Iraq. I still have hope that this disregard to safety will lessen and mature over time, but it's not helped by visitors to our country making ignorant remarks to disconnect personal freedom from civil responsibilities.

9/04/2006 05:47:00 PM  
Anonymous El Americano said...

Well said Doc.

I've seen collisions here in the U.S. where the vehicles were traveling at well over 70 mph and after the impact the DRIVER WAS ABLE TO WALK AWAY from the car practically unharmed thanks to the use of a safety belt.

On the other hand I've seen collisions in Argentina were the vehicles involved were traveling at less than 30 mph and yet resulted in fatalities thanks to NOT using the seatbelt.

In Argentina it's also common to see motorcycle drivers carrying their freakin' helmet ON THEIR ELBOW instead of on their head, 'para poder hacer facha y tirar rostro'.

9/04/2006 06:10:00 PM  
Blogger miss cupcake said...

To the anonymous comment which equates "internal locus of control" with not wearing a seat belt with not letting insurance conglomerates rule their every action, I say, here is proof that the people obstinately refuse to do what is in their own best interest and even misguidedly feel smug and justified.

BTW, when a taxi driver gets into his car each day, do you really think he says "to hell with the insurance companies!"?, he is probably just plain lazy about personal safety.

Doesn't this attitude not tell us why the country is the way it is?

9/04/2006 09:02:00 PM  
Anonymous maxsmart86 said...

i would like to say to "miss cupcake" that police corruption is not a problem here alone, if there are drugs in your country is because there is police corruption, very simple, and 1st world countries are the leaders in drug consume, the good thing here is we know that and we discuss it ina a strong way, but in other countries that reality is hidden , but exists,Kirchner is a good president and there is freedom of press here, he didnt fire any journalist like some anonymous said, you are probably influenced by the oposition press , that exists because there is freedom of press, about Blumberg i agree with his and his reclaim and i expect the gov. take note of it , i think they will,..even though they dont want to.

9/05/2006 01:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you all, for your interest and response to my comment about "internal locus of control.” I am happy to be the spark of debate, even in the face of derision. Though the comment was made tongue-in-cheek, I think there could be more thoughtful consideration of the concept behind the comment than name-calling and rejection.

As a former Army MP with more than my share of first response to horrible auto tragedies I am neither ignorant nor uninformed as to the consequences of not wearing seat belts. But as an older citizen, I am also aware and informed about the consequences of a society that, bit-by-bit, gives up its civil rights in the name of civil responsibility.

Please understand, it is not your civil responsibility to try to protect me from myself, and it never will be. And yes, I understand that my foolish actions may affect more than myself and therefore become selfish at times…this is another discussion.

But something I am beginning to understand and really appreciate about Argentines, (as I perceive them,) is the “ownership” they seem to feel, not only in their own lives, but the country, for both its faults and its greatness. That feeling of ownership may occasionally lead to a certain sort of “cockiness” that some may find objectionable. But finding something objectionable is never an excuse for self-righteous moralizing.

What is truly more insidious… that moralizing often supports legislation sponsored by multi-national corporations to further enrich themselves, or that some fool occasionally dashes his brains upon a bridge abutment?

Now, I’m happy to leave it off. Thanks for the opportunity to express myself.

9/05/2006 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger miss cupcake said...

I find it incredulous that the defensiveness of Argentines always falls back to the same in every object, on every blog "it is no better in your country". We are not making comparisons but talking about issues in Argentina; stop diverting attention.
Further,corruption is discussed and dealt with and drug rings are exposed in the 1st world if you choose to take off you blinkers and read international news.

To the one who chooses to be reckless, I hope you have private health care because your attitude is utterly selfish and a strain on your country's already limited public resources. Stop making glorified excuses for yourself, you are only living in your own fantasy land clinging onto whatever "greatness" this country experienced a few centuries ago. You have nothing to be cocky about except your own cockiness.

9/05/2006 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger johnny said...

These last comments by miss cupcake are not so edible. It always amazes me how the "seatbelt" debate can inspire many to dizzying heights of self righteous fervor. Hey, some people are going to wear seat belts, some ain't; some people are going to smoke cigarettes, some ain't. This zealotry to eliminate the bad habits of others always strikes me as misplaced. Beware the time when society decides one of your bad habits must be addressed, and don't tell me you don't have any. Everybody does.

9/05/2006 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

How is a seatbelt law "legislation sponsored by multi-national corporations to further enrich themselves"? Is there some enormous, enormously powerful, mutilnational seatbelt maker I'm not aware of? I think you've picked a bad example to support your conspiracy theories. :)

9/05/2006 06:45:00 PM  
Anonymous El Americano said...

Some of the responses to my seatbelt comment are so out of whack with reality that it makes me smile. Not because they're funny but because they show how some of you guys n gals may have been out in Argieland TOO long and are starting to reason like the natives.

Which means you AREN'T reasoning at all, BTW.

Using a seatbelt is just plain common sense. Wearing one won't save a legislators life but will DEFINITELY save YOURS if necessary.

If you like your children and wish to avoid seeing them fly thru the freakin' windshield when you have a head-on (and the longer you drive in Argieland the greater the chances you will) you make them wear a seatbelt.

If you're proud of your striking profile and that elegant straight nose you have and wish to avoid having all that beauty smashed against the steering wheel when you rear-end someone (and you WILL rear-end someone eventually or be rear-ended)then you wear a safety belt.

In fact, I can't believe the topic is still being debated at all. Here in the U.S. the wisdom of using a safety-belt was discussed, analyzed and resolved DECADES ago.

As usual, freakin' Argentina has a little catchin' up to do. About 200 years worth if you ask me.

9/05/2006 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger tiempodefotos said...

i ve been hurted, but i forgive, about the safety belts , it could be a good income for multinationals , but they work , i had a crash in 1999, and the safety belt , stopped me from flying through the glasses , the the eternity.

9/06/2006 02:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Josh Strike said...

I couldn't agree more that Argentines' willingness to flaunt certain laws, particularly those infringing on their personal liberties, does prove that they, much like the Italians, still retain a sense of how to live their own lives without constant interference from a Mommy State. North Americans have given away all control over their own lives. They have no choice but to eat poisoned food, drink poisoned water; they are spotted and ticketed for not wearing seatbelts or for smoking in the park; these are things that hurt no one but themselves. The US has become a society of whiners.

I also agree with the poster who made the point that people calling for tougher enforcement are, in fact, calling explicitly for security as opposed to justice. Argentina would do well to avoid the industrial-prison state that the US has become, where hysterical mobs routinely convict innocent people via television before any real facts are known.

Like many peoples who've lived through recent dictatorships, the Argentines better understand the value of their liberty than many in long-standing democracies like England or the US, where citizens are just dying to sign away their rights.

I sense that Miss Cupcake, like many US expats married to foreigners, misses the security blanket that comes with North America's frankly proto-fascist conformity. If she longs for the scolding "tyranny of the mommies" imposed on North Americans, she should live in the US; not spend her time scolding people overseas for having minds of their own.

9/06/2006 02:14:00 AM  
Blogger familiaoconnell said...

HELLOOOOO..We are talking about seatbelts you guys. Its not a right to drive a car and along with that priviledge come some responsibilities. Some laws are to protect people, not a facist conspiracy to take your freedoms away. Its a imperical fact that people who would otherwise live in accidents, die without seatbelts..espeically here. People shouldnt have to clean up your gray matter off the ground or live with the guilt of a passenger dying because you were exercising your personal freedoms. If you are intent on killing yourself, have the decency of doing it at home. I find it ironic that we are having a discussion about car accidents and crime..More people die in car accidents here than as crime victims. Why isnt anyone up in arms about enforcement of traffic laws?

9/06/2006 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

A reasonable policy, in any country:
- If you are an adult and do not wear your seatbelt, then have an accident, expect no public, nor even private, insurance help, unless you have paid extra for no-seat-belt coverage. Otherwise, feel free.
- If you are an adult driving a car, and do not have kids (under ? age) in the car wear their seatbelts, expect to be prosecuted for reckless endangerment or more if something happens as a result.

9/07/2006 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger Mad_Maxx said...

Get people to wear seatbelts in Argentina?! Are you joking!?

Hell, maybe they should learn to obey the traffic laws at least half the time first! A turn signal on occasion would be nice. Or even better yet, maybe they should stop driving cars at night without a single headlight OR tailight on it. This is common where I live. You think the police stop these people and make them get off the road? NOOooo. Or how about the motor bikes with Mom, Dad and 3 little kids on it and not one helmet. haha!

AAAYYyyy...it's a cluster. Don't drive here.

9/07/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger tiempodefotos said...

i think el americano has more of argentinian than many , his posts are "cry, cry, complain , complain" , here we call that "tango", he has the spirit of tango, but he doesn t understand the origins of the problemes here, josh strike is in the rigth direction, the first military coup here was in 1930, the last 1976, between those decades we fluctuate from democracy to dictatorships, that has a consecuences in ppls minds, and the prob is that the words "order, or rules" are inmidiately related (inconsciously or not) with the word dictatorship, and the concept of freedom that prevails here is closer to anarchy than anything else , so there is a pendular situation from "military order" to "anarchy", "no rules" both extremes are negative, it is also truth that some countries with no history of dictarors , after 11S are doing things that the dictators did here , and the ppl of those countries are not realizing of that because they never had a military ruler.

9/08/2006 02:00:00 AM  
Blogger johnny said...

Ok, I am on the mandatory seat belt wearing bandwagon ! If you are caught-PRISON ! Also prison for:
1 Excessive sunbathing-we ain't paying for your cancer treatment.
2 Overeating of meat and cheese-we ain't paying for your cardiologist and bypass operations.
3 Huge overeating-we ain't paying for your liposuction and gastric bypass.
4 Smoking-we ain't paying for your lung cancer treatment.
5 Alcohol boozers-we ain't paying for your treatment(this includes red wine-you drunks !!).
6 Prescription drug abuse-no way are we paying for your treatment ! Flush that Xanax ahora mismo !(and we don't like your anti depressants either !).
7 Sport's injuries (including ballet)-we ain't paying for your orthopedic bills, wheelchairs and head injuries.

So, shape up out there you damn human human beings !

9/08/2006 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Mad_Maxx said...

I'm sorry but I don't see the connection it seems some Argentines are trying to make between making people wear seat belts and the abuse of power from governments.

I think this is alot of smoke to hide the fact of the matter, their Stupidity and Ignorance.

I mean come on, doesn't take a rocket scientist to know driving a car at night with no lights on it very is dangerous.

I drive here sometimes. When I HAVE too. Once some guy complained when I pulled out in front of him. Quite loudly as Argentines do. Of course he was oblivious to the fact the street we were on had no lights and his car had no lights and it was 1 thirty in the morning. After my stern look and one finger Yanki salute back to him I shook my head and wondered how can people be SOOOO ignorant.

9/08/2006 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous El Americano said...

"..but he doesn't understand the origins of the problemes here.."

Oh yes I do. The problems started when Argentina decided to break away from Spain and become an independant country. It's been downhill ever since.

That's why General Jose de San Martin gave the country it's independance and upon seeing how things were going decided to leave the newly-founded nation NEVER to return.

You see, since Day One of it's inception Argentines started struggling among themselves in order to see who would be the top-dog, instead of focusing on the task of nation-building. Unlike other cultures where each succesive administration builds upon the acheivements of its predecesors, Argentine governments routinely scrap everything done by the outgoing government and try to redo everything all over again from scratch.

Read a little about Argentine history and do a little research on "el emprestito Baring Brothers" for example which will, among other cases, show how corruption and ineptitude have been the guiding light of Argentina since kick-off time.

Queres un tango?:

"Que argentina fue y sera una porqueria ya lo se;
En el 506;
Y en el 2000 tambien:
Que siempre hubo chorros; Maquiavelos y estafaos;
Contentos y amargaos;
Valores y dubles".

CHAN-CHAN !!!

9/08/2006 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger tiempodefotos said...

To stop using your safety belts,when you drive, is the best thing you both can do in favour of Argentina, USA, and the whole humanity. You both dont have the slightest idea about Argentina or even about your own country, if you want to sit in front of the tv and watch time go by passively may be this is not the place, at least BA, this is a place for productive ppl, obviously, both of you want everything done, here is everything to be done, so keep talking and watching tv,eatig donuts, while the useful ppl DO positive things.

9/09/2006 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous El Americano said...

"at least BA, this is a place for productive ppl,"

BA a place for productive people?. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Que boludo.

9/09/2006 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger Mad_Maxx said...

maxsmart86, what are you talking about? Not wearing seatbelts is the best thing a person can do for Argentina and the USA?!

You sound like one of those public university communist idealist. That, or one of those guys spray painting the Anarchy -A- on the side of buildings.

9/11/2006 02:14:00 AM  
Anonymous El Expatriado II said...

How about some free-market common sense ?

Do not use seatbelt, the insurance company does not pay the first, say, U$ 10,000 of your hospital/ physical therapy/ recovery bills, etc.

Use seatbelt, everything paid for.

Freedom to wrap yourself around a tree, freedom to keep on living, one simple rule: your choice.

9/26/2006 04:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went in Argentina (I'm from Montreal) for businesses and stayed almoust 1 year, so I can say this:
- at first look (tourist look) Argentina and especialy Buenos Aires seeems to be 1st world places...
- BUT ARE NOT: the corruption is perrene, the public institution are inefficient and it's functionaries are 99% of them corrupted, the police is hand in hand with the criminals, the traffic is pure CHAOS (like in ASIA but there nobody is killed because drivers are not agressive like here), crime is bad (and I stayed in Martinez, a suppossely good area of the metropolis; http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/specials/2006/inseguridad_argentina/newsid_6098000/6098796.stm), bureaucracy is a pure nightmare that pass away only with BRIBE. And everybody told me that I was treated better by the public persons because I'm foreigner.
- Buenos Aires has anyway same good points: the central parts are nice, the food is OK, the girls are very nice (butt not as outstanding as every argentinian man claim - "the moust gougeous in the world"), the city is cheap.
- I have traveled for the same reason in Santiago de Chile...and there is another story: the city is quite 100% the opposite of Buenos Aires: safety, efficiency, no corruption and low bureaucracy (many 1st world country should not be as pride as they are, because Chile beats them). In few words: realy 1st world. That's it. Goodbye.

11/18/2006 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger Sofía said...

I was there, but I didn't see you! ;)

Anyway, I just wanted to point out the lyrics go "Que el MUNDO fue y será una porquería, ya lo sé".

12/18/2006 12:00:00 PM  

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