November 23, 2017
Monday, March 2, 2015

Different crowd, same rain

Kirchnerite supporters wait outside the Congress for CFK’s arrival yesterday.
Kirchnerite supporters wait outside the Congress for CFK’s arrival yesterday.
Kirchnerite supporters wait outside the Congress for CFK’s arrival yesterday.
By Luciana Bertoia
Herald Staff

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner supporters gather to celebrate Kirchnerite achievements

The crowd was completely different, as was the message. But there was one thing that made yesterday’s street demonstrations similar to that of 11 days ago: the rain. There was no silence yesterday as everyone was eager to voice their opinion of what they considered to be the most important achievements of 12 years of Kirchnerite rule.

It may have been President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s last address to Congress but it was not a sad farewell, rather a chance to celebrate for her supporters.

There was one more similarity to the march on February 18 — when tens (or hundreds) of thousands took to the streets to honour late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman a month after he was found dead of a gunshot after filing a criminal complaint against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner — demonstrators sang the anthem. Yesterday though, it sounded as if the Argentine team was about to play a World Cup final.

Signs of the Kirchnerite liturgy were everywhere and at points it seemed everyone put up their fingers to make a “V” for Victory sign. During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, for Peronists, the “V” also stood for “Vuelve” (he returns) in reference to Juan Domingo Perón’s exile after being overthrown by a military coup. Yesterday, the idea of a return was also present.

Unlike February 18 when the organizers called on marchers to leave political insignias at home, yesterday political banners were omnipresent among the groups who set up camp at the square in front of Congress.

Around 10am — two hours before Fernández de Kirchner arrived — there were no traffic lights on 9 de Julio Avenue. Buses were everywhere and a young man wearing a La Cámpora T-shirt directed traffic. The sun was shining and many of those who were walking down Entre Ríos Avenue were happy it was going to be a “Peronist day.” While no one was happy with the rain that began soon after Fernández de Kirchner started talking, demonstrators took it in stride.

A man standing at the corner of Rivadavia and Callao Avenues looked at the sky and smiled: “Oh, a gorilla is crying.” In the Peronist parlance, a “gorilla” is a conservative opponent. It was time to open up umbrellas, which were mostly stamped with slogans of social organizations.

Yesterday marked the first opportunity government allies had to portray an image of strength after the 18F silent march, which the president herself called an opposition gathering. Although the march had been organized by prosecutors, the president said they were part of a “Judicial Party,” which the demonstrators yesterday also protested against.

“I’m here because Cristina has been forced to live through certain circumstances that have put her government at risk,” 30-year-old Lucrecia Silva yesterday told the Herald while she was trying to stay dry under an umbrella. “When the government is at risk, people take to the streets, not prosecutors,” added the young woman, a Kirchnerite activist who is in medical school.

Unlike the 18F silent march, when people of different stripes gathered, yesterday was a day for militants and those who simply wanted to express support for the administration.

María Rosa Chévez, a domestic worker, counts herself as one of those who is grateful. She was outside Congress, seemingly having a ball while singing some of what have by now become traditional Kirchnerite songs and chants, including Avanti Morocha — the song used by Fernández de Kirchner when she launched her presidential candidacy.

“I am her militant, I had never been a militant before,” María Rosa told the Herald. It was not the first time the 53-year-old went to Congress on March 1 but, being present this year was particularly important for her: “I want to show her that she is not alone, that we support her.”

“I am an independent activist. I am not part of any group but I have been here since Néstor took office,” María Rosa adds.

— Where are you from?

— I can say that I’m living in Buenos Aires City now.

— Have you moved recently?

— No, I mean I can now be proud of my life — and that’s thanks to Néstor and Cristina.

For María Rosa, life wasn’t really worth living before Kirchnerism rose to power.

Groups, not individuals

Two weeks ago, when a much older crowd gathered to express sorrow for Nisman’s death, while some directly blamed the government for his passing, it was obvious many were not used to street demonstrations. And several wore that lack of political activism as a badge of honour.

“I believe Nisman was killed, “ a man from the City neighbourhood of Flores who was with his wife standing outside Nisman’s office told the Herald on February 18, making it clear it was the first time they were taking to the streets. Another woman standing on Bolívar street — who refused to giver her name but told this newspaper that she lived in the City neighbourhood of Villa Lugano — said she joined the silent march because she wanted a country with justice for her children. She also said she had never participated in other demonstrations.

Yesterday, if it was anybody’s first time in the streets, they kept it to themselves, with those present often reminiscing about other large street demonstrations.

The contrast makes sense considering that the ruling Victory Front (FpV) has always made street activism a priority, a way to show its popularity among the masses.

Kirchnerism was a direct reaction to December 2001. And after Kirchner’s death in October 2010, young activists have played an increasingly important role as the president’s foot soldiers.

Members of the Kirchnerite youth organization La Cámpora — the group headed and founded by Fernández de Kirchner’s eldest son, Máximo Kirchner — arrived early in the morning to be in the first row in front of a stage located on Entre Ríos Avenue. They wanted to be there to see “the boss,” as they call Fernández de Kirchner. Next to them were the “cousins,” as some playfully refer to the members of the organization Kolina, which is led by the president’s sister-in-law, Social Development Minister Alicia Kirchner.

A few metres away, a group of activists from HIJOS — the organization that joins together children of forcibly disappeared parents — were also there. That’s where Victoria Montenegro and Pablo Gaona Miranda were, two high-profile activists who recovered their real identity thanks to the work of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo.

The government’s long-held dispute with Clarín, the country’s largest media conglomerate, was evident among the government supporters yesterday.

A banner with the names of Clarín CEO Héctor Magnetto, La Nación owner Bartolomé Mitre, Clarín owner Ernestina Herrera de Noble and late dictator Jorge Rafael Videla hung from a building on Alsina street. It made reference to the controversial sale of Papel Prensa, the country’s main newsprint manufacturer during the 1976-1983 dictatorship. One word united all the names: “accomplices.”

Unlike the 18F march, when demonstrators felt there was nothing else but pain and sorrow, for Kirchnerites — who according to state-run news agency Télam numbered 300,000 demonstrators — yesterday was a time for celebration.

“While I was listening to her, I was thinking how my life has changed over the past 12 years,” Gaona Miranda yesterday told the Herald. The 36-year-old son of disappeared parents recovered his real identity in 2012 although he began having doubts about who he really was years earlier.

“I was moved because I was not the only person thinking about that,” he added. “I could hear many people around me say, ‘we are going to miss her so much.’”


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