Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let's demonstrate!

A los Argentinos les gustan manifestar. (Argentines like to take to the streets)

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Last year, I commented on the apparently irrepressible tendency of folks here in Buenos Aires to take to the streets in protest, at the slightest provocation. It was a poor day for protests if I saw only three on the way to school. Granted, the fact that my route to school took me past "Tribunales" (the High Court Building, a favorite site for street protests) may have influenced my perception. This year, my impression had been that the frequency of demonstrations had dropped somewhat. Apparently, I just haven't been hanging out in the right spots, because as the chart below indicates, this September has actually seen a spike in frequency, with five major blockages in the city just yesterday alone (see photo above):

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This doesn't even include yesterday's most serious demonstration, at the Kraft factory outside the city (following Monday's announcement of major layoffs). There is considerable editorializing about the level of dissatisfaction among the populace:

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It is hard to know whether one should be encouraged by all of this, as a sign of public involvement in a healthy democracy. Given the historical volatility of Argentine politics, as well as a history of street demonstrations which have taken a tragic turn, it appears to have many people worried. Despite the superficial prosperity, there is a definite sense that this is a moment of particular instability in the economy. As la Presidenta Kirchner was doing her tour of the U.S. last week, complete with Obama photo-op, the general consensus in the city seemed to be that she should more appropriately have been at home, trying to deal in a serious fashion with the assortment of problems that face the nation.

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