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October 21, 2014
Sunday, August 31, 2014

Strange scenes from a parkside window

By Mempo Giardinelli
For the Herald

A funny little country, isn’t it? With its strange structures, its not -always open veins, its sniping and its tricks of the trade. A lovable country, no doubt, for all its defects, but above all, odd, weird, at times inexplicable. Let’s take a closer look.

Two days after last Thursday’s nationwide strike, it is still being debated whether it was the huge success proclaimed by the CGT bosses Hugo Moyano and Luis Barrionuevo, not quite so successful as admitted by the CTA’s Pablo Micheli or the outright failure described by various government officials.

What is true is that here in Chaco, neither 90 percent nor 25 percent of people went on strike. Maybe half and half — luckily without provocation or violence. Indeed it was almost a normal day with some schools and banks open, along with the vast majority of downtown shops and almost all the little corner stores in the suburbs. Public transport flowed regularly with normal parking and the same cars as always on my block at least.

It is quite conceivable that other provinces were similar with perhaps some of the larger inland cities repeating the greater paralysis of the national capital — or at least that is what the opposition television channels wanted to show. But watching on the screen the rallies with the red flags and the drums of the Workers Party on the one hand and the exaggerations of the trade union leaders at the press conferences in their bunkers on the other, it seemed clear for the first time that this methodology of so-called “national” strikes which are really only metropolitan nuisances in the capital has had its day. Or at least should stop calling itself “national.”

Blocking streets with pickets and threatening violence only achieves forced compliance with the strike action which betrays a growing incapacity to obtain genuine support with conviction, lowering the bar to the moral level of several of their leaders. While accepting the bear’s hug (for them, historically so far to the right) of the militant adhesion of the Argentine left — a left so confused and delirious but also so hyperactive.

It won’t be immediate but the fatigue felt by everyday people over these strikes and extortionate rallies is growing all the time. And their discredit is also growing, as is the incapacity of the leadership to understand that while Argentine society has much to be dissatisfied with and while its grievances are nearly always justified, this does not bestow any rights on the dinosaurs of the labour right and the left in combination.

Another peculiar feature of this country is the embarrassing role of the political opposition whose leadership remained tight-lipped. A silence while things were happening. But afterwards they were quick enough to read and listen to the journalists who tell them what to do and start saying what and how to oppose.

In this unhappy context, it is a pity that the national government remains immersed in its inability to open up dialogue, appealing to the people and the best leaders of that small sector of the opposition which is responsible — not to lay down the law but to recognize their protagonism.

It is a pity because this is a society which, when it matters, knows how to rise above its curiously clumsy leadership. Not always, of course, but often the response of Argentine society has been and continues to be superior although its more genuine grievances do not always obtain a hearing.

In these days of the “national worker strike” we in Chaco have witnessed astonishing and stimulating events — the general joy over the advance of the Parque Nacional El Impenetrable-La Fidelidad, which is now just around the corner. A few weeks ago the Senate unanimously approved the law to create this national park which will be the biggest in northern Argentina — secured by mass petition and not only the future ultimate refuge for Chaco’s fauna and flora but also a source of employment for thousands of its people, especially the indigenous, who will find work in the tourist activities which always accompany national parks.

In view of the scandalous denunciations of deforestation and poaching and while the Lower House completes the passage of this exemplary legislation, there is no lack of voices calling for an immediate takeover of the expropriated lands, for which a public subscription is paying. Taking into account this national political context of shouts and threats, lies and mental lethargy with some newspapers keeping silent while others speak out and none of them publish the same information because that is subordinate to press operations and employer interests, it is possible to understand the schizophrenic kaleidoscope which we read every day. As if the script had been written by that memorable Capusotto personality called Arnaldo Pérez Manija with headlines to match — the irresistible rise of the illegal dollar known as the “blue”; “homeland or vultures”; hyperinflationary disaster; new and spectacular trains; the brother of Socialist presidential hopeful Hermes Binner involved in babysnatching; YPF signing new oil investment agreements; Carlos Bianchi kicked out of Boca; a statue for Manu Ginóbili and the usual farce of a justice system which acquits or convicts according to which side tugs hardest.

Funny little country, isn’t it?

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