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October 24, 2014
Sunday, March 16, 2014

Political opposition and native hooligans

Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich speaks before senators last week.
By Mempo Giardinelli
For the Herald

Capitanich’s report at the Senate was badly received as if condemned in advance by its Kirchnerite origin

The Cabinet Chief’s first report to a plenary session of the Senate last Wednesday lasted 12 hours and even if there was no scandal, the result can be considered disappointing. Jorge Capitanich showed once again the immense patience of which he is capable, some opposition leaders displayed their vocation to repeat media slogans and in general, everybody showed their face.
With far more ideology and sectarianism than good will to understand, debate and enlighten, his report was badly received as if condemned in advance by its Kirchnerite origin.

Capitanich moved as he knows how to, with serenity and without yielding to provocation, but he also vented his frustrations on the opposition in general: “If you listen to the opposition, nothing works in Argentina,” he said irritably and not without justification.

“Economic debates should be conducted on the basis of quantitative data” was another of his phrases after complaining about the “supine ignorance of some legislators in issues like the subsidies and their quantitative impact.” And more specifically harsh was a sentence directed to the opposition in its entirety but above all to the great metropolitan dailies which for years have been the true protagonists of politics and which write the scripts for the political leaders and parliamentarians: “They always seek to generate mistrust, anxiety and unease in the Argentine people,” blasted Capitanich.

Meanwhile beyond the Senate, bands of ruffians with obvious protection from the worst of this country’s trade unionism were killing each other off (within the construction workers’ union) or attacking a handicapped motor-cyclist and hurling him from Avellaneda Bridge for the presumed crime (in their eyes) of “disobeying” the traffic blockade ordered by pickets from the longshoremen’s union.

In reality, such barbarities are only symptoms of one of the worst facets of the ominous results left by at least 40 years of repression, crisis, authoritarianism and corruption, and which have led to this society not respecting the norms — something seen as smart behaviour deserving applause. All added to what has already been sustained in this column — that the lack of effective punishment is one of the worst evils of contemporary Argentina.

The warning signs lie not only in the labour world — also the growth of the drug business in all its phases, turning innumerable lower-class neighbourhoods into a no man’s land and even relatively modern cities like Rosario, the second-largest in the country and under Socialist rule for many years.

The political protection enjoyed by the violent in Argentina is the problem. And therein lies the serpent’s egg because the irritatingly persistent existence of over three million outcasts (at least) does not mean that they are all killers. Rather the victims of a society full of injustice, oscillating between the repression of others and their own lack of self-control, brutalized but not so beautifully or subtly as in the way immortalized by Julio Cortázar, now in the centenary year of his birth.

Then there are the barras bravas (hooligans) who have spoiled the party Argentine soccer once was. All of them, almost without exception, linked to second-rate politicians but with territorial clout or to venal businessmen and the drug-traffickers they serve. They have been empowered by the lack of political will to straighten them out. An absence which, unfortunately, has been the responsibility of all the governments and all the oppositions in this country since at least 1983.

That is why it is shocking to read recent reports that right now a dozen of these people are heading to Porto Alegre to find lodgings for over 600 of their “colleagues” while they prepare for the World Cup in Brazil. Absolutely astounding (according to these reports) that legal advice is being sought so that many of these fans facing criminal charges can leave the country.

Independently of the fact that the tickets for these games range between 700 and 3.000 dollars in all tourist agencies (when obtainable), the worst is the evident protection this low life enjoys. Apparently members of a grouping called Hinchadas Unidas Argentinas (HUA) already protagonized outrages in the last World Cup in South Africa (2010), where many of them were even arrested. The absurdity is that not only are there political leaders who smooth their path while fully aware of the rock-bottom moral quality and zero education of these vandals but it can be foreseen that Argentine diplomats will have to intervene when our hooligans do the mischief they will undoubtedly do.

On top of all this, Buenos Aires province Lieutenant-Governor Gabriel Mariotto, surely sharing Governor Daniel Scioli’s frustration, has been insisting on the need for a law to declare education an “essential public service,” thus limiting the right to strike in that sector at least. It is not easy either to approve or disapprove of this idea but in plain view are millions of schoolchildren being held hostage by teachers who without the slightest doubt have the right to better salaries, of course, but perhaps not to obtain them in such an irritating way. And at a cost to themselves too because the lack of education and poor education finally works out to be extremely expensive in social terms. A cost which the whole country clearly ends up paying.

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