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.
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.
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.