December 11, 2017

The end of a lenient stance towards picket lines?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kirchnerism and roadblocks: a troubled relationship

The draft bill to limit protests presented yesterday by Victory Front (FpV) lawmakers marks what could be considered the final chapter in the troubled relationship between the Kirchnerite governments and social movements.

When former late president Néstor Kirchner took office in May 2003, he faced widespread street protests and regular roadblocks (“piquetes”) that were initiated by groups of unemployed people during the second half of the 1990s. The situation was not the same as during the 2001-02 economic crisis and soon returned to normal — by the country’s standards, that is — but the method of establishing picket lines became a widespread practice among protesters.

In 2004, then-Interior minister Aníbal Fernández took aim at picketers and said people “did not support” their methods, which escalated to a verbal conflict with other members of the government. However, Kirchner vowed not to disperse protests and federal forces did not, in principle, resort to the use of force.

The former head of state did not want to repeat the experience of caretaker president Eduardo Duhalde.

During Duhalde’s term in office, protesters Maximiliano Kosteki and Darío Santillán — members of the unemployed movement — were killed after blocking Pueyrredón Bridge, which connects Buenos Aires City to the provincial district of Avellaneda. In a violent clearing of the blockade, federal and provincial police forces opened fire against the protesters, killing both of them at a nearby train station.

The continuity of protests and several years of record-high car sales began to complicate traffic in the country’s main cities, especially Buenos Aires, and earlier this year, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner called for a bill to put an end to roadblocks in the City.

Last month, a bill draft presented by City lawmaker Sergio Abrevaya — that forces all groups of people protesting in the streets to guarantee the circulation of traffic — garnered support from FpV, UNEN and PRO party members.

— Herald staff

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