Argentine Cacerolazos

Enough of the corruption!

Today’s guest post is by Matthew Paulsen, a US expat living abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Matt witnessed several cacerolazos (noisy protests) this past week and I am happy to be able to share them with Melibee readers.

The last few days in Buenos Aires have seen massive public uprisings against the current government administration, reminding me very much of the Arab Spring that the world saw in 2011.

In the last year, Argentina’s citizens have faced a 25-30% rate of inflation (the 2nd highest in the world, and just under that of Venezuela), trade barriers making it impossible to buy many foreign goods, a virtual ban on the purchase of US dollars, the nationalization of a privately held oil company, massive government corruption (the Vice President is under investigation right now for illegal business dealings) and much more.

The people finally said enough and, using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to get out the message, grass root organizers put together two nights of massive protests. Known locally as “caserolazos,” they originally began with entire neighborhoods standing outside of their terraces at a set time at night, and banging pots and pans as a non-violent, but vocal, protest against the government and the situation at hand. They have now turned into two nights of marches through the streets of the city.

Cristina, return this country...

Thursday night’s march ended at the steps of the Casa Rosada (Argentina’s White House) where thousands protested nonviolently but VERY passionately – ending the protest by singing Argentina’s national anthem. Friday’s marches took place primarily in the Recoleta and Palermo neighborhoods (and many others) and, for the most part, were non-violent except for one ugly incident I captured on camera. A pro-government reporter decided to infiltrate the rally and conduct a TV ‘interview’ which was nothing more than sabre rattling. When he tried, everyone surrounded him and made noises so it was impossible to hear anything he was asking/saying. Two minutes later, he was rushed and a protester slammed him to the ground where a group of people then jumped him. Finally, people came to their senses and he was shuttled away, a bit bloody.

Protestors in the streets of Buenos Aires

Needless to say, this was probably done intentionally (totally provoked by the reporter) so the news coverage tomorrow by the pro-government media will undoubtedly focus on the “violence” of the protestors, even though it was something staged by the government.

I just hope this movement stays alive and spreads to other cities in Argentina so the President and all other politicians get the message. These last two nights have made me proud to live here and watch/admire those Argentines who are productive citizens, those who work and pay their taxes, who are now fighting to reclaim their government back, while participating myself in something that looks to be the start of an historic year for this country.

About the Author: Matthew Paulsen is the Director of Marketing for Maiten Destination Management Company in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he is responsible for the development of content for all collateral/marketing materials, including Web copy, promotional brochures and pitch letters.  He was formerly a Manager of International Marketing Development at Cartus (formerly Cendant Mobility). Prior to joining Cartus, he was director of operations for former U.S. Congressman Gary Franks’ re-election campaign. Paulsen is a graduate of the University of Connecticut , holding a B.A. degree in International Relations.  He holds the CRP (Certified Relocation Professional) designation and is a member of SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) and ASTD (American Society for Training and Development).  An active worldwide traveler, Paulsen has visited more than 60 countries over the past decade. He has a basic knowledge of both Spanish and Thai. 

 

 

 

 

  • Taca

    Mathew its a bit funny to hear a gringo talking about a country, when you are only focusing on what's going on in BA city. If you want to portray Argentina, please travel to the "interior" and talk to people there. Just like NYC is not The whole US, BA is not The whole Argentina.

    I understand that what the federal government is doing is affecting your business, and I am sorry for that. I do am proud of all Argentina has to offer culturally and geographically. I do want to show the world the beauty I am coming from.

    I hope you are grateful enough to my country which allowed you to work, live legally, direct a company, etc. Are you up to date with your Argentinean taxes? How much you pay to your employees per hour? Do you give them benefits? Which? what's their share on those? Do you pay the same to the argentinean employees than those from abroad? Was it hard for you and maybe other foreign employees, to obtain a working visa? what about their spouses? Can their spouses also work? Do you give benefits to your cleaning lady? How much do you pay per hour?

    Let me be clear, I am NOT pro-Kristina and I am not against the middle and upper middle class uprising. I left Argentina in 2000, right before it fall apart. I did not have other choice. The same middle class that is uprising now, was the one thriving during the '90s… Thanks to the '90s thousands of us took off. I was not able to find a job, to take classes in the college (UBA, I couldn't afford private) nor even get by. Seriously!

    Dont be fooled by this movement, I understand you might not have seen many live, but this is not that special, neither big. This is a problem of ALL Argentinians and their politicos. It's been this way for history.
    But I believe that before your make any criticism it would be very helpful to get out to the country side and to keep an open mind. Try to talk to people that don't speak English, that's my best advice. I really want you to hear BOTH sides.

    Please treat my country like the american society is demanding and expecting me to do with yours.
    Sincerely,
    Taca

  • Matt Paulsen

    Hi Taca, and thanks for the post. Yes, I am a "gringo" talking about a country I have lived in for the past 5+ years and that I consider home. I believe you may have overreacted a bit to my post so I hope I can clarify a few statements you made. I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel throughout much of Argentina – from Misiones to Mendoza to Cordoba to Salta to Corrientes to Mar del Plata. I have also participated in many of Argentina's incredible cultural events (Carnaval in Gualyguaychu, Octoberfest in Cordoba, Vendimia in Mendoza, etc.) and have had plenty of opportunities to speak to the wonderful people in each of these cities (in Spanish!) about life in Argentina. I am a foreigner in your country and am very grateful for the opportunity to live here. I will not respond to your questions about my taxes, how much I pay employees, benefits I give to my cleaning day, etc. as I think they are simply intended to polarize.

    I recall attending the caserolazos in 2008 and, as of now, the ones taking place now are very small in comparison as you mention. But, this is what I see as the beginning of a movement against the corruption, against the insecurity and against the injustice that exists today – not just in BA but throughout Argentina as I have witnessed. I think it's important for people outside of Argentina to hear an expatriates viewpoint, which is why I wrote the post to begin with. Thank you for your honest feedback and comments!