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November 1, 2014
Sunday, May 11, 2014

Military/cultural clouds on the horizon

By Mempo Giardinelli
For the Herald

It neither can nor should be denied that many citizens who support the government have in recent times felt a certain concern over decisions or measures which they judge to be misconceived. Not for the first time, of course, and it is perfectly natural in any democratic loyalty. But since these issues arousing concern are not superficial and the doubts appear over certain paths about which it is difficult to agree, this matter merits some reflection.

One very visible example is the Victory Front vote in this capital accompanying the centre-right PRO in the decision to transfer the ESMA Navy Mechanics School (a former concentration camp) and other remembrance spaces into the national orbit — this was heavily questioned by various human rights groups and militants and some Kirchnerites such as Gabriela Cerruti and Pablo Ferreyra even dissented from their caucus in their vote.

Perhaps there is some explanation but what precisely is being questioned is that none has been given or at any rate insufficiently. And this leads to another aspect which the Kirchnerite governments knew how to foster sedulously for so many years — consulting the citizenry and supplying them with good information enabling them to overcome the foolish rhetoric of an opposition steered by a mendacious army of media journalists. Which could be starting to become a lost art.

In this respect there is no better example than the possible legislative approval of the absolutely unsustainable University of Defence. Which is no minor issue but extremely serious because it is a complete mockery to claim for the Armed Forces a democratic and horizontal academic institute like national universities when their structure is by nature necessarily vertical. A claim which, above all, goes against all the educational legislation of this country.

The national universities (a source of pride for the president after having created more than half a dozen in her two terms) are governed by horizontal and ultra-democratic bodies known as Superior Councils. In contrast, the Armed Forces are absolutely denied any such self-government. Imagine a major or colonel voting against a general without consulting him. And although the proposal extends to ministerial and academic representatives (it seems that the discussions within Congress committees are as ferocious as they are funny), this presumed university, if ever approved, will be stillborn.

And even if this proposal stems from the good intentions of integrating into civilian life with proper training the uniformed citizenry equipped with what was historically called the “Arms of the Fatherland,” it should be remembered, in the first place, that such training already exists because all Argentine servicemen graduate from their respective academies with various degrees which are university equivalents. And secondly, if the aim is to have everybody in uniform studying and interacting with civilians, then send them to study or at least take courses in the many very good national universities which already exist with considerably more than a million citizens of all social classes studying there.

There are many signs that the creation of this university is already a done deal. If so, we would be in the presence of yet another mistaken decision serving up on a tray to the opposition the opportunity to criticize — this time validly.

This columnist at least does not know who is behind this “idea,” which does not come from anybody with a proven academic track record or competence. But there remains the certainty that a prior national and popular debate would have been in order — and above all, beyond the Armed Forces.

This issue is not yet a scandal but it could be, which is why these lines would like to de-activate it. It would not be good for either society or the government to bang heads on account of clumsy pen-pushers whose only talent is to open up unnecessary fronts.

It would seem risky without prior debate or clear explanation to rush into imposing a style on a society which has been approving substantial changes and improvements for years and which will be going to the polls next year. Given that it will not only be Kirchnerism which will be paying for the consequences of these errors after the votes have been counted but society as a whole, these worries must not be ruled out.

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