May 24, 2013
Kettles calling (bashed) pots black
Reactions to last Thursday’s mass saucepan-bashing protests seem to veer between a government tendency to downplay their importance and the opposite extreme of enthusing over this bold reaction of a hitherto intimidated society — this editorial will aim at a middle ground. While meeting these protests with the denial applied to so many other problems is obviously flawed, the protest needs to recognize that it asked many more questions than it answered — if many critics fear that Argentina’s government is going down the same road as Venezuela (the theme of many placards last Thursday), they should also be looking at themselves in the mirror of Venezuela’s opposition where they would see a solid unity, a single leadership and a constructive agenda wholly lacking in their own inchoate protests. The government cannot have it both ways when it complains about organized “destabilization” instigated by the opposition and hostile media while also complaining about no comprehensible proposal and congratulating itself on no gains by any rival political force — on balance the protests seem to have been spontaneous (in no way disproved by evidence of time and place co-ordination via Facebook).
Yet this spontaneity and diversity of the protests also seems to work against the focus of both the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition. The rock-solid unity of the opposition alliance in Venezuela should be measured against, for example, the strenuous objections being made by Broad Progressive Front deputy Claudio Lozano against the entry of Civic Coalition Senator María Eugenia Estenssoro into his grouping’s Upper House caucus — this kind of attitude completely ignores the opposition vacuum which contributed to last Thursday’s anger. Yet nor is true opposition served by a blanket unity which overrides all policy and ideological differences towards the purely negative aim of limiting Kirchner presidencies to a hat-trick. Alongside the welter of complaints last Thursday (against a third presidential term for Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, sundry abuses of power, crime, inflation, corruption, currency restrictions, etc.) the saucepan-bashers cast too wide a net to also include frankly anti-democratic elements who often confuse criticism of double standards over human rights with nostalgia for the military dictatorship — even if the government was specious in presenting this part of the protest as the whole, it still tarnishes the image of paladins of liberty.
One side needs to listen but the other should indicate precisely what it means to say.