April 18, 2014
Friday, December 6, 2013

Give democracy a chance

If violence was the common denominator between the massive looting of over 1,000 shops in Córdoba and yesterday’s disgraceful student disturbances outside Congress during the election of the new University of Buenos Aires (UBA) Chancellor Alberto Barbieri, those responsible fall into two completely different categories. While social dislocation was definitely a factor, the Córdoba looting should be viewed as not so much class struggle as criminal elements and lawless youth taking advantage of a police strike with a murky backdrop of complicity between the two sides of the law (as evidenced by the provincial police chief being fired for drug links earlier this year) and a tortured relationship between the provincial and national governments, neither of whom rose to the occasion during Córdoba’s horrific ordeal.

Yesterday’s student violence was not only anti-democratic as such but comes precisely at a time when democracy has been smiling on the ideology presumably fuelling the hooded stone-throwing demonstrators — not only had Argentina’s first three Trotskyist deputies elected at the ballot-box been sworn in just the previous day but in recent university elections far left alliances have been picking up their share of student centres. Why not then give peace a chance — and also the democracy which has given them some recent breaks? Barbieri, who yesterday secured a clear enough mandate of 146 of a total 236 delegates against a main rival backed by several leftist organizations, is a moderate Peronist who started his campaign pondering his future relationship with a dominant Kirchnerism and has since had to adjust to a more post-Kirchnerite scenario — yesterday’s incidents throw up deeper challenges to his new authority by rejecting the entire system.

As for Córdoba, the provincial capital was returning to normal as a pay settlement filled the policing vacuum but something more than a renewed chapter of the blame game between the national and provincial governments will be needed after the underlying political and social irresponsibility exposed by the crisis. And nor is the message only for Córdoba — various other provinces have far wider social inequalities, not to mention the urban sprawl of Greater Buenos Aires, while not even the prosperous island of the metropolis ruled by Mauricio Macri is free from incident (the Illia highway was blocked at the start of this week). Problems which require something rather more than a new Security Minister, her right-hand man Sergio Berni or Border Guard mobilizations.

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