March 9, 2014
Barrionuevo as a symptom
Much of the anticipation about yesterday’s trade union gathering organized in Mar del Plata by the restaurant worker Luis Barrionuevo and by the teamster Hugo Moyano was sapped when two potential presidential candidates (Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli and Deputy Sergio Massa) decided that they gained nothing in showing up at a meeting called by a couple of Argentina’s least popular figures. Barrionuevo, especialy, has a long political history that few would take pride in. Perhaps it is the right time to consider that the standing of Barrionuevo, who still thinks of himself as an old school Peronist party kingmaker, says a lot about Argentina’s degraded democracy. It was Barrionuevo who hammered backroom agreements with the influential Radical official Enrique “Coti” Nosiglia that led to the Olivos pact, which allowed for Carlos Menem’s reelection in 1995. Barrionuevo also gained notoriety when he infamously acknowledged in the first person that Argentina’s political and trade union leadership ’’should stop stealing for at least two years’’). That the vast majority of Argentina’s leadership is crooked could well be the case, but it is always up to the courts to investigate corruption allegations. But this specific trade union leader, who never worked as a waiter, enjoys a lifestyle that those who serve at bars and restaurants have never even dreamed of, and that should certainly be brought to the attention of judges. Scioli and Massa could not resist the temptation of attending on Friday the opening of a casino at a hotel owned by the restaurant workers union — a sign that they can’t totally ignore Barrionuevo’s clout and are not about to openly criticize him.
Barrionuevo’s influence is not confined to the trade union world and his past political movements and statements as a candidate have also been scandalous. He rubbished democracy when he organized the burning of ballot boxes in Catamarca on realizing that the outcome of the election would not favour him. Yet perhaps the trademark of this union leader is to always operate in the shadows to attract interests, either with the complicity or the resigned acceptance of much of Argentina’s leadership.
It would be a good thing if those who are vowing to renew Argentina’s politics, and who criticize the unsavoury allies of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration, start to isolate Barrionuevo. But that could well be wishful thinking because it would require having politicians who are totally different from Barrionuevo.