March 11, 2014
A week with everything out of place
Argentina faces the return of looting and police strikes — and drug trafficking in the provinces
Just as in the not-so-good old times, looting has returned to Argentina — more specifically to Córdoba and in tragic circumstances with two dead, hundreds of injured, absurd political spats and an exasperating social resentment lying underneath the nation’s skin.
And now in Córdoba, due to the evident ineptitude of Governor José Manuel De la Sota, this country’s second city underwent hours of anguish which bear no relation to Argentina’s general state.
Not only has the governor been inexplicably hushing the crisis but also holding back the necessary pay increases for his provincial police and failing to realize the grave consequences of their confining themselves to their barracks which led to the deplorable looting and vandalism. And he gave a free run to the vandals with nobody (of course) knowing whether they were organized by the lunatic left or the equally extreme right or by both. All very serious, especially when taking into account the denunciation of the journalist Tomás Méndez, who first uncovered a couple of months ago the drug-trafficking scandal in this province which used to be a self-styled centre of learning and is now a byword for bestial behaviour in this republic.
“The Córdoba police were protesting against the loss of illegal income from drug-trafficking,” charged Méndez.
That claim chilled the blood of a society which seemed to accept a police pay increase demand as the most natural thing in the world in this country’s second province when it stemmed from the unacceptable motive of “dirty money from crime which has run dry because the top brass are being probed so the rank and file want an absolutely disproportionate pay hike in lieu of this cash.”
And that was not all Méndez said — his conclusion is equally chilling: “The provincial police have a criminal methodology which in many cases has turned them into criminals.”
In that context Senator Luis Juez — the toughest opponent of the Córdoba provincial government and, strangely enough, also of the national government out of sheer clumsiness (he could have been an important Kirchnerite ally but he dropped out and drifted) — said in his usual colloquial style that the Córdoba police problem “could have been sorted out 72 hours previously with a couple of pennies.”
Hard to know if Senator Juez was right but it is highly suspicious that De la Sota, returning urgently from Panama and taking charge of the disaster, supposedly “fixed” the mutiny by almost trebling pay along with the acceptance of a staggering number of union grievances. The obvious question is “Why not before the horror? And why did he prefer to shift responsibility onto the national government, something as futile as it was foolish?”
Which was surely why Security Secretary Sergio Berni dubbed De la Sota’s appeal for aid from the national government, an opinion effectively echoed by Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich and even Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo, who accused the Córdoba governor of having a “malicious and irresponsible attitude.”
What also seems to lurk in the background and stay hanging in the air is the feeling of the republic’s inability to handle drug-trafficking. That is no doubt why, amid the crossfire, Chaco’s Capitanich is summoning all the governors one by one with a certain sense of urgency, starting last week with City Mayor Mauricio Macri and Santa Fe’s Antonio Bonfatti. And this coming Tuesday it will be the turn of De la Sota himself, of course.
“Coqui” Capitanich, as everybody is already calling him, thus continues showing himself to be a different kind of Cabinet chief, receiving approval from unexpected quarters. Although it is difficult to work out whether his strategy is his own or rather, as he himself has said, he is simply carrying out the orders of the President, who happily is keeping mum and thus taking better care of her image for now. A matter of opinion, of course, but always worthy of attention as a key factor in Argentine politics in the last year at least.
And that is because something has basically changed in the national political atmosphere and it is worth highlighting. Not only because it was interesting to see Macri with Capitanich, both in a good mood and with more agreement than differences, but also because Macri and his Cabinet declared their assets (or rather wealth) showing them all to be millionaires (the mayor declared 30 million pesos and seven million dollars). It is thus to be hoped that from here on it will not be their real estate speculation determining their policies for the shattered capital of this republic.
And in this context there were elections for a new chancellor for the University of Buenos Aires, with one of of the most numerous student bodies in the world (over 300,000). It turned out to be the economist Alberto Barbieri, hitherto vice-chancellor, amid the usual disorder provoked by leftist groups who tried (fortunately in vain) to prevent and/or condition the university assembly.
And as if all that were not enough, the gap between the illegal (romantically called “blue”) and official exchange rates has started to narrow with the latter moving up. Nobody knows if this will halt inflation but it will surely calm down some anxieties although just as surely it will not modify the perverse customs of those detestable Argentine speculators who, for one reason or another, have been harming the country for decades.
And meanwhile in the shadows that great enemy about whom almost nobody wants to speak continues to stalk us — “narcopower” is among us. And in fact you don’t talk about it, you fight it —but in earnest.