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Central America’s Northern Triangle: The Region of Those Who Run (Part I)

Central America’s Northern Triangle: The Region of Those Who Run (Part I)

This article originally appeared as ‘La Región de los que Huyen‘ by Daniel Valencia Caravantes and Jimmy Alvarado in El Faro.

It is after thousands of Central Americans have fled the region, reporting that they were going to be killed in their own countries, that there is talk of a new wave of those displaced by violence. El Salvador does not recognise the phenomenon officially, but says it is creating programme to help those who migrate for that reason. In the meantime, the state hopes that its citizens help each other to escape the country.

A mother and her children flee El Salvador one morning because the eldest is receiving threats at school from the gangs.  A private human rights organisation helps them leave for another country. (Photo: Fred Ramos/El Faro)

A mother and her children flee El Salvador one morning because the eldest is receiving threats at school from the gangs. A private human rights organisation helps them leave for another country. (Photo: Fred Ramos/El Faro)

Chapter 1: A Mother and Daughter Flee

On the banks of a calm river, Maribel and Beatriz, a cosmetician, ate and bathed and played with Maribel’s daughter and Beatriz’s grandson. They dried themselves, changed their clothes, and, when the time came to leave, Maribel registered her last memory of El Salvador: Beatriz, the cosmetician, saying goodbye from the other side of the river. “Take care, mamita,” she said. The last memory that Beatriz has of that day is of Maribel’s back, loaded with a rucksack full of food and clothes. Maribel and her daughter, hand in hand, disappearing along a path that would lead them to Guatemala City.

Beatriz, the cosmetician, is a good Samaritan. When Maribel fled for the first time, she gave her refuge in San Salvador. When she escaped a second time, she put her up in an old family house in the city of Santa Ana. When Maribel finally had to leave El Salvador, because it was no longer safe for her or her daughter, she took her to the illegal crossing so that her escape would not be registered at the border. That’s how Beatriz, becoming a coyote, formed a plan that no one would know about, so that the gangs would not find out where Maribel was hiding.


In this part of the world, the northern triangle of Central America, when someone flees it is because they are being chased by gangs, organised crime, or drug trafficking. That is what the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says. Between 2008 and 2013, 58,063 Maribels crossed the borders of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador because they could no longer live in their home country. If, 30 years ago, thousands of people fled the wars in the region, now they run from the violence of gangs, organised crime, and drugs. The UNHCR says these are the new displaced persons.

Most of those displaced seek refuge in the US. There, the State Department reports that in the last five years, of the more than 40,000 asylum requests from citizens of the Central American triangle, almost half (18,873) came from Salvadorans like Maribel. The UNHCR says Salvadorans are pushed into exile mainly by gang violence.


Maribel, 24, grew up with children who later became prominent members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang in her community, one of concrete walls and sheet metal roofs on the banks of a dirty river. Those who live in gang territory are subjected to their rules. The unwritten rule than condemned Maribel was the one that no pretty girl in the neighbourhood can turn down the advances of a gang leader. “I gained a husband by force, because that is how it must be,” she says. One of his friends sent someone to look for her, and she knew she could not say no. Without knowing her, anyone could think Maribel was foolish. Often, when the murder of a girl by suspected gang members is reported, social networks in El Salvador are full of users commenting that the victim was somehow to blame. “Who forced her to get involved with the gangs?” ask some. “She deserved it” conclude others. Today, Maribel reflects that she could not have turned to anyone for help. Who would rescue her from the intentions of a Marero, backed by his gang, in a community controlled by them? Not even Beatriz, the cosmetician, could do anything. Maribel feared that if she didn’t visit his friend, his friend would be annoyed, the gang would be annoyed, and her and her brother and grandmother could fall out of favour.

She obediently visited him again and again. At the football pitch, on the corner, in the kiosk, she drank cokes with him, then beers, they smoked cigarettes, then a ‘porrito‘ (joint), and they went into a little shack, and first it was a kiss, then two, then they were naked. After one year together, Maribel gave birth to the daughter of a Marero. She was 16 at the time. The gang member, the father, was 20.

There are other unwritten rules with the gangs – rules for living together in a community. For example, there are gang members who force local residents to come to their children’s birthday parties; those who resent neighbours enough to declare them an enemy for not inviting them to share a cake. For those that get involved in the gang, obeying its plans is another rule. In the case of a young woman, it can become a nightmare. There are gang ‘cliques’ that offer up virgin girls as birthday presents; there are gang leaders in prison that demand young girls from their communities come have sex with them and other inmates, or face violent attacks against their families. There are gang rapes… there are pure tragedies.

An MS gang member displays his tattoos inside the Chelatenango prison in El Salvador (photo: Moisen Saman, courtesy of Sony World Photography Awards)

An MS gang member displays his tattoos inside the Chelatenango prison in El Salvador (photo: Moisen Saman, courtesy of Sony World Photography Awards)

When Maribel’s daughter turned two, her gang member father was jailed, accused of murder. And so they came looking for Maribel again. They told her that every week she had to take a bus to the west of the country – a four-hour journey – to the Ciudad Barrios prison, the main prison holding Mara Salvatrucha gang members (more than 2,500 of them), in a mountain town. First she travelled just to have sex with him, but then he started to ask for more things.

“First I started inserting mobile phone chips into my vagina or anus. Then he asked me to insert marijuana. At first I refused, but then…” she says.

But then one night they came looking for her, again. They banged the door, and when she opened it, three young gang members leaped at her, pushed her to the floor, and began kicking her in the stomach, back, legs, thighs, face. They stamped on her, pushing their heels into her cheeks. “You have to go, bitch, or you know what will happen!” they said. “You have to go, or next time we’ll come for them too!” they warned her. From one of the two small rooms in her small house, her brother, grandmother, and baby daughter looked on in horror.

And so Maribel travelled four hours west, and in her vagina travelled a bag with 50g of marijuana. But something happened – perhaps she looked nervous – and they found the drugs during a search at the prison entrance. She spent six months in the women’s jail – six long months that still give her nightmares. “Being there, every night I dreamed that they went back to my house for my daughter,” she says.

When she was released, Maribel returned home and one night they returned. She had to try again, they said. This time not at the same prison, where her husband was, but another one. Unwritten rules. This would be a punishment for failing to deliver the other package. Maribel said yes, but in her mind she was already packing imaginary bags, and later that same night, she went to visit Beatriz, her cosmetician friend. In this first escape, she travelled from her home on the banks of a dirty gully to a middle-class house in the suburbs of San Salvador, near the airport. She carried her daughter, asleep. She remembers that night well: it was a night of fireworks, the ‘Luces Campero’, and the taxi she was in got stuck in a traffic jam. As she watched the sky explode with multi-coloured lights, Maribel cried – she hadn’t been able to say goodbye to anyone.


In Central America’s northern triangle, the most violent region in the world, there are two hegemonic gangs: Barrio 18 and the Mara Salvatrucha (MS). The latter is one of the most dangerous according to the FBI, and listed by US authorities as one of the criminal groups whose finances must be attacked. Both gangs came from Los Angeles, created by young migrants from Central America to defend themselves against other gangs.

With nuances in each country, today the gangs control large territories full of working class, marginalised, and impoverished communities. They are estimated to have tens of thousands of members across the region. In El Salvador alone, the government has estimated that there are around 60,000 active gang members. The National Civil Police calculate that there are 610 gang cliques around the country, with a presence in 14 districts. In San Salvador, where Maribel grew up, there are 216.


Weeks after that night of the ‘Luces Campero’, Beatriz the cosmetician sent Maribel far away, to a relative’s house two hours outside the capital. It wasn’t until she arrived there, far from home, that she called her brother. She asked him to tell her grandmother that she was ok, and told them to pretend that she and her daughter no longer existed. She didn’t tell them where she was, or directions, only that she no longer existed. “It’s better that way,” she said. Through tears and clenched teeth, her brother, two years younger than her, accepted. He would never ask for her again, so that they would never see that he was hiding information about where Maribel was staying.

A few months later, one Tuesday afternoon, in a mobile phone agency, Maribel froze. A week earlier she had reported a faulty phone at the agency, and they told her to come back then to get it fixed. Maribel arrived punctually for the second appointment, and that was when she imagined, once again, packing up her bags. “You’re that girl, right? Maribel? Your family is looking for you,” one of the salespeople told her.

Earlier that day, a news programme had aired a photo of Maribel above the word ‘disappeared’ and a phone contact. One of the salespeople at the agency had recognised Maribel – the young lady with a pretty daughter – that had come by a few days earlier. In the agency they took note of Maribel’s case, and she swears today that it was as if they were waiting for the day of her appointment. Maribel ran back to Beatriz’s house – to clear any doubt she called her brother again and confirmed that he had stuck to his promise to not look for her ever again. Everything suggested that a gang member had passed off as a relative, sent the photo to the news programme, and sought help to find her. Maribel feared the worst. In that town, her last refuge and where they almost caught her, there are 40 gang cliques, 26 of which are linked to MS, the gang that was looking for her. Maribel doesn’t know the exact number, but she was clear that moving from one place to another within El Salvador would not guarantee her anything. It would just be a pause – a break in her escape. The day she felt that one of the salespeople had identified her, her worst fears were realised: it was time to leave the country. That night in the darkness, as the rafters on Beatriz’s metal roof creaked, she imagined that they had arrived, that someone had told them where she was, the address she had given when she bought a new phone. She imagined the gang members walking on the roof.

Maribel feared death for two weeks. At every corner she felt as though someone was watching her. She barely slept, and every creak in the house made her jump. During that period, Beatriz searched for other relatives who could help. And after asking everyone she could think of, she managed to take Maribel away from the noise and risk of the creaking house and to a ranch near the mountainous border with Guatemala. A few days later, the two friends said goodbye, perhaps forever, on the banks of a river.

In Guatemala, friends of Beatriz helped Maribel get a job, but neither her nor her daughter had documents, and her daughter had to be able to study. Maribel spoke to lawyers, who advised her to seek asylum or refuge from the Guatemalan authorities. She travelled to the capital and visited immigration officers, who agreed to review her case. She told them her entire story, but they asked for proof, and she didn’t have any.

From Guatemala, the authorities sent written requests to El Salvador to confirm a few things: that the gang member, the child’s father, existed and was in prison. A register of Maribel’s own stint in prison, the case she was convicted for… but none of this proved her story was true, it was just her word and her tears. On 15th March 2014, the Guatemalan government believed a Salvadoran, accepted that the neighbouring country was incapable of protecting two of its citizens, and so offered them asylum.

Two migrants are detained by border police in Texas after crossing illegally into the US (photo: Fronteras Desk, via flickr)

Two migrants are detained by border police in Texas after crossing illegally into the US (photo: Fronteras Desk, via flickr)

Chapter 2: A Samaritan During the War, Shocked by Peace

A quarter of a century ago, Fernando Protti dodged jungles and bullets in a region where everyone was killing each other. He treated Salvadoran refugees who ended up at the Nicaraguan border fleeing the war between the army and the FMLN guerilla movement. He also helped indigenous people from Guatemala who were fleeing the genocide and seeking sanctuary at the southern border of Mexico. “More than 50,000!” he says.

Now Protti, with whitened hair and beard, is the representative of the UNHCR office for Mexico, Cuba, and Central America. Working from Panama, he is once again concerned by this region, considered by the UN as the most violent in the world for its murder rates, which in Honduras alone reaches above 90 per 100,000 people. Twenty-two years after the war, Protti and the UNHCR have returned to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. They say they are worried: they have alerted the governments and reopened offices in each of the three countries.

“It’s not normal,” says Protti. “The alarming thing now is that we are at peace, at least in theory. And yet, people keep leaving. It is eye-catching to register 17,000 people from Central America fleeing ‘peaceful’ areas. Before, 20,000 would flee El Salvador for Nicaragua, or 50,000 Guatemalans for Mexico, because the army was chasing them. Now they are not leaving en masse, but they are still fleeing.”

From what are the people of Central America fleeing now? “The information we have tells us that they are running away from conflicts with the Maras, organised crime, and drug trafficking.”

Since 2008, the UNHCR has registered an increase in the number of asylum requests that Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans have made in countries all over the world. They count 17,000 Central Americans exiled across the world today, but each year around 8,000 more are telling foreign governments that they fear for their lives in their own countries. There were more than 50,000 requests made in the last five years alone, mostly in the US, though only 4.9% were granted. Only a minority become refugees because people don’t always believe their stories, and they don’t carry proof of their persecution or danger. In 2010, the UN established a norm to guide judges and lawyers all over the world in how to evaluate cases in which the victims were persecuted by gangs or organised crime. This was in answer to the the rise in petitions from people who feared returning to these three Central American countries.

“To reach today’s situation you have to a analyse what began several years ago, when people started arriving in Mexico, mainly, but also the US and Canada,” says Protti. “They said they were escaping the Maras, and the majority were from El Salvador and Honduras.”

Do the governments of these countries recognise that people are fleeing the violence caused by the Maras?

“While Honduras has acknowledged the problem it has, the government in El Salvador, while accepting that there is a problem with people being forcibly displaced by violence, has not reacted in the same way.”

It doesn’t admit it publicly?

“The El Salvador government recognises that there are areas of the capital and around the country where the Maras are present. There is clear evidence of this due to the number of empty houses in different neighbourhoods that have been abandoned by people who were scared or pushed into leaving by the Maras. That is obvious. And in our study of interviews held by the El Salvador government with those who return to the country, it is clear that many say they left because of the violence, even though I can’t give you exact numbers yet.”

The Immigration Office in El Salvador told El Faro that between January 2012 and May 2014, 4,487 citizens that had been deported from Mexico or the US said they had left because of violence.

Of the three countries in the northern triangle, only Honduras has publicly recognised that it has a problem with people being forcibly displaced by violence. At the end of 2013, the Porfirio Lobo administration asked the UNHCR to reopen its office in the country, and in early 2014, the new government led by Juan Orlando Hernández created an Interinstitutional Commission to attend to the displaced. “We need to accept that the situation is overwhelming us,” declared the Honduran Foreign Affairs Minister Mireyra Batres. The commission, however, is still under construction, though the Foreign Affairs and Security Ministries, in collaboration with the UNCHR, have drawn up a route map to proceed along.

The UNHCR has officially reopened its office in Honduras, but also has representatives in Guatemala and El Salvador searching for official data to try and at least draw an outline of the problem in both countries. Neither of these two countries officially recognise the phenomenon of ‘forcibly displaced persons’, even though there are reports of legions of displaced people and ‘ghost towns’ with hundreds of houses abandoned and dismantled after the mass exodus.

Chapter 3: The Children Must Get Away

May 2014, on the outskirts of the capital San Salvador and the suburb of Soyapango. The bus bringing back the Salvadorans deported from Mexico has not yet arrived. In the Migrantes de La Chacra shelter, a group of mothers wait anxiously for the bus to come around the corner. Perhaps they haven’t anticipated it, but this arrival scene is unpleasant: the deported migrants step off the bus tired, scruffy, and shaken.

Much is known about the dangers faced by migrants crossing Mexico. They are raped, kidnapped, killed, and butchered. But the return journey is not entirely safe either. That’s why the migration officers remove their shoelaces and belts. They say that, from time to time, someone is killed on those long return journeys: one gang member murdering another, a coyote who doesn’t want to be given up, a trafficker who doesn’t want to be discovered…

The bus hasn’t arrived, and María’s face betrays her impatience. She composes herself, and while the bus arrives she explains why her son tried to flee to the US.

Not long ago, they almost killed José. He was in seventh grade in his town’s school when a group of classmates, linked to the MS, asked him to join. José refused, “and so they told him they would kill him.”

The Mara Salvatrucha (photo: Matheus Kawasaki)

The Mara Salvatrucha (photo: Matheus Kawasaki)

In José’s school and neighbourhood, located in a town in the Greater San Salvador metropolitan area, his mum says he was “one of the only ones left” when explaining how the majority of his group were on their way to joining the gangs. For a youngster in El Salvador, just living in a neighbourhood ‘owned’ by Barrio 18 and going to a school in MS territory – and vice versa – can mean death. José was harassed as he left home, and as he left school, but he always refused. Always. Until one day the boys grew tired of asking, they surrounded him, took him to a plot near the school, and beat him senseless between eight of them.

“We went looking for him, because it was late,” remembers María. “We found him bleeding heavily, as though he were dead. Who knows what they used to hit him. They had smashed up everything – his mouth, his head, everything. They had left him for dead. They beat him up alright! All smashed in! He was in hospital for two weeks.”

Central America – and particularly the northern triangle – is the region in the world where most youngsters are killed, according to the UN. In El Salvador alone, the age group most at risk of dying is that of 15-29 year-olds, according to the Institute of Legal Medicine. In the last 13 years, 56 out of every 100 people murdered belonged to that age group. In that period, 24,000 youngsters were killed.

After getting out of hospital José left the school. He never left the house, but the gang, who heard he had survived, came back to stalk him. “If we don’t leave, they are going to kill me mum,” he told María. They moved to another area and stayed with some acquaintances, but the gang still caught up with him. They pushed bits of paper under the door of the house he was staying in, saying that they had found him and would soon kill him. In the area he was hiding there were 38 gang cliques, say the police.

María would had never let her son go to the US, but he was so scared that he went behind her back to contact some migrant relatives in the US. They helped him pay the coyote so he could leave without his mother knowing.

José ended up in Tapachula, in southern Mexico, and only then did his mother, who thought he was dead, find out. “He told them his story there, but the authorities said it was a shame, but that they couldn’t help him,” says María.

José finally arrives. His face is tired as he gets off the bus. He has no shoelaces. He looks defeated. He lifts his head to acknowledge his mother from a distance. In a single file they are all led into a room to be given a lunch pack for returning migrants: a stuffed tortilla and a soft drink. The authorities interview him and he tells them he left for fear of his life here. He is moved from one office to another, where he is met by police assigned to the shelter. They don’t ask him why he left, but take his details and fingerprints. “To see if he has a criminal record,” explains the sergeant in charge. Afterwards, he is finally let out to his mother. They hug. He tells her that he has not eaten or slept well. His mother tells him that she has been talking with us.

“I don’t want to tell you any more, beyond what my mother has already said, because I’m afraid,” he says. We ask him what he will do next. “When we get out of here we’ll go to the coyote. He is already waiting for me to try again.”

(To be continued…)

Translated by Marc Rogers


elfaro-logoEl Faro, Latin America’s first digital newspaper, was founded in May 1998. Published in El Salvador, it is dedicated to cultivating the narrative and reporting of in-depth investigations that tell the realities of Central America. In recent years it has won some of the most prestigious international prizes: World Press Photo 2014, IPYS 2013, Moors Cabot 2011, WOLA 2012, and Ortega y Gasset 2011, among others.

Posted in Human Rights, TOP STORY0 Comments

Ecuador Officially Recognises Same-Sex Civil Unions

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa meets members of the LGBT community in 2013 (Photo via Silueta X)

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa meets members of the LGBT community in 2013 (Photo via Silueta X)

Same-sex couples in Ecuador will be able to officially register their civil union from today, considered an important step in tackling discrimination in a country where gay marriage is illegal.

Resolution 174, which was emitted in August by the Civil Registry and came into effect today, allows same-sex unions to formalise their civil status on national identification documents. The measure will afford same-sex couples the same civil rights as heterosexual partnerships, including on matters of estate and medical consent.

“The gay, lesbian, transgender and transsexual communities have the full constitutional right to include their civil union on their ID cards,” said President Rafael Correa after the resolution was approved.

From today, same-sex couples can register their civil union in offices in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, though this will later be rolled out across the country.

Trans activist Diane Rodríguez, who has campaigned for equal rights as founder and head of the organisation ‘X Silhouette’, described the measure as a “huge step forward.”

“For example, in emergencies, my partner can make decisions about my health care at a hospital. Or at the bank, we can open a joint account. Before this, couples had a lot of problems because they had no documents to prove they were married,” Rodríguez, who will be among the first to exercise her new right with her transsexual boyfriend today, told Think Progress.

While the LGBT community celebrates the reforms, same-sex marriage remains illegal in Ecuador, with Correa himself saying that he did not support it. According to the country’s constitution, same sex couples are not allowed to marry or adopt children.

Rodríguez acknowledged that much work was still needed, but said the priority was to ensure that the LGBT community is granted the same constitutional rights as all citizens.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America0 Comments

TV Journalists Claim Harrassment by Formosa Authorities

Formosa province (image: Wikipedia)

Formosa province (image: Wikipedia)

Crew members of the TV programme Periodismo Para Todos (PPT), presented by Jorge Lanata, have reported that they were prevented from filming yesterday in the northern province of Formosa.

According to journalist Rodrigo Alegre and producer Paula Bernini, they were intercepted by a group of men when travelling to a Wichi community near El Potrillo, in the west of the province, to film a report about local schools.

“A Toyota van driven by Moisés Fernández, director of the Institute for Aboriginal Communities (ICA), blocked us off,” Alegre reported last night. “Around 15 to 20 people surrounded the van and told us we couldn’t continue on our way, nor film, without authorisation. One person told us we had three minutes to leave or they would take our van.”

After refusing to turn back, the crew say they were escorted to a nearby school to a meeting of around 80 to 100 people. “They asked us all types of questions… what were we doing there, what were we filming, they said that we were not telling the truth about what’s going on there,” described Alegre.

“They said they were representatives of indigenous communities but the leader was clearly Fernández, who is linked to provincial legislator Roberto Vizcaíno,” said Alegre, who claimed that Vizcaíno himself was in the area making phone calls.

However, Vizcaíno rejected the claims. “It’s a complete lie. I have never threatened a journalist. The only truth is that the aborigines in El Potrillo are annoyed by the lies of these people, and when the journalist crew came they told them that, especially after they refused to listen to them,” Vizcaíno said in Diario Formosa.

The incident came days after PPT aired a report criticising the provincial authorities for not rebuilding schools that had been damaged by floods in 2007. The report showed two schools in Wichi communities that did not have proper walls or materials for the children, but was criticised by local authorities for giving a partial view of the situation.

Community leader in El Potrillo, Eliseo Palomo, also told news portal Formosa360 that no one threatened the journalists, who refused to listen and then left of their own accord.

“We asked them to record the truth. Of course, we don’t deny there is still much to be done, but we also told them that they should understand what this area was like yesterday, and how much has changed for the better,” said Palomo. “They denied us any chance to tell or show them, and left it clear that they came with orders to film squalor and nothing else.”

In another incident the media yesterday, prominent political journalist Gustavo Sylvestre’s car was set alight by an unknown assailant.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Government Celebrates UN Vote on Sovereign Debt

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announces debt  swap plan in August (Photo: Presidencia/Télam)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announces debt swap plan in August (Photo: Presidencia/Télam)

The government has lauded a new UN resolution to create a new framework for restructuring sovereign debt, which it says vindicates its own legal battle against so-called vulture funds.

The resolution was approved last night with support from 124 countries, while 11 voted against the proposal and 41 states abstained.

“Today is a special day for all Argentines. We should feel proud,” said President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last night.

The resolution, which states that an international convention to deal with sovereign debt should be created before the General Assembly summit in 2015, had the backing of the G77 + China group.

“As the president of the G77 + China group said today ‘Argentina made us open our eyes’. That’s why we Argentines should feel proud,” said President Fernández.

The Argentine government said the overwhelming support received for the resolution vindicated its refusal to pay the vulture funds that have taken the country through a drawn-out court battle, ending with Argentina falling into a ‘technical default on 31st July‘.

“Those countries that voted no will one day understand that we need a more equal and fair world, with more doves and fewer vultures in all fields, not just the economy, but the military too,” added President Fernández.

The boost from the UN resolution comes before today’s vote in Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies on a new law to allow the country to pay holders of its restructured debt via domestic channels, thereby circumventing a US court ruling preventing credit payments through New York.

The proposal, which was approved last week in the Senate, will also include an offer for bondholders to swap their titles for ones of identical value issued under Argentine law.

It also declares the 2005 and 2010 debt restructuring to be an issue of public interest, and created a commission to investigate the history of the debt from 1976 until today.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Things You Learn When You Live In Argentina

Things You Learn When You Live In Argentina

¿Querés leerla en castellano? ¡Podés hacerlo acá!

If, by virtue of charity or the circumstance of desperation, you ever chance to live a little time in Argentina, you will acquire many exotic new facts. You will learn that it is possible, and economically-advantageous, to walk 15 large dogs simultaneously. You will learn that you were never really eating ice cream before, just frozen, flavoured milkstuff. You will learn that it’s OK for Christmas decorations to stay up until Easter.

Buenos Aires at night (photo: Federico Ratier)

Buenos Aires at night (photo: Federico Ratier)

You will learn that socio-economic crisis is Argentina’s default setting and that things are never as bad as some people make out. That expectations of public toilets must always be low. That not everyone tangoes, in fact only a small minority do. That every foreign sub-editor will at some time in his or her life use a variation of the phrase ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ to title an article about Argentine politics/football/whatever.

That the most enjoyable aspect of going to a polo game is telling people that you’re going to a polo game, and that polo as a spectator sport is up there with golf and squash. That the standard way to show your unrelenting passion for your football team (though probably not your polo team) is by jumping up and down on the spot for an unlimited period of time, and that not jumping is a sure sign of Englishness.

That long-distance coach travel at first seems more luxurious than what you’re used to, and aeroplane-like and kind of kitschy, what with the coach driver’s mate pulling on white gloves to serve you a glass of sherry by way of aperitif, but after any amount of repetition becomes an intolerable nightmare of cramped legs and bad films. That films on coaches get worse the further north you go, subcontinentally-speaking. That long-distance journeys overland look far more enticing on the map than in their endless fields-of-soy reality. That on long-distance journeys both tedium and time itself can be reduced significantly by the power of mate.

That cold pizza and mate make an acceptable breakfast under certain circumstances. That the locals will always find it remarkable that any non-Argentine should drink mate, that the drinking of mate automatically makes a non-Argentine Argentine to all effects and purposes, and that no matter how Argentine the non-Argentine is now deemed to be, the Argentine will always be dubious as to the non-Argentine’s expertise re: the making of mate.

Mate can be the answer to many things.

Mate can be the answer to many things (photo: Beatrice Murch)

That sándwiches de miga are pretty much the same everywhere you go in Argentine territory, as if mass-produced by some huge as yet undiscovered underground sandwich factory, and that the locals are terribly enthusiastic about said sandwiches. That it is often considered rude to take your shoes off in other people’s homes. That it is a widely-held belief that any dish or foodstuff can be improved with the addition of ham and cheese. That writing stuff about being an expat in Buenos Aires gets kind of repetitive and fernet-and-dulce pretty quickly. That at first the whole sobremesa thing will come across as both exotic and real and then eventually kind of dull and finally make you pine for solitude and whatever’s on TV.

That there is generally nothing on national TV, but then at the same time that there is so very much on national TV, if you are possessed of a heightened sense of irony.

That self-medication is not a problem. That once you get over all the bullshit about how many psychoanalysts there are per capita in Buenos Aires, psychoanalysis can be wonderful thing. That the cancellation of internet/cable/phone services is usually the quickest and most effective way of getting the internet/cable/phone provider to fix whatever they were supposed to fix three months ago, and that the phrase ‘doy de baja el servicio‘ is the first phrase they should teach you in those intensive Spanish class, along with ‘tengo un novio‘, if you’re a woman. That it is impossible to cross the Av 9 de Julio on foot in one go and that you should stop trying. That secondary qualities such as avenue width can be used as a tourist draw.

That if nothing else, Argentina is water-rich, and that this might come in useful one day, and that the day when being water-rich becomes a useful thing, Argentina will somehow manage to screw up this once in a lifetime opportunity.

That listening to Aspen Classic for any length of time will inevitably lead to all kinds of reminiscences and embarrassing memories of your teenage self. That this is the only country in the world where Rick Astley can play in, if not sell out, a 3,200-seater venue by himself, and that none of the locals will find this particularly odd. That Creedence Clearwater never needed a Revival.

That The Simpsons is pretty much an Argentine institution, and that it sounds better in Spanish, primarily because of the Mexican guy who voices Homero. That the locals bemoan the incursion of American culture and that The Nanny was for a long time the most-watched TV show in the country. That some people get really wound up if you say ‘American’ instead of ‘US’ and that the same people then use the term ‘North American’ with complete disregard for Mexicans. That the average social class and education level of the average McDonald’s user is considerably higher than back home, and some even wear suits.

That winter lasts a week, really, and that you never knew it was possible to get tired of summer. That hyperbole and summertime temperatures are happy bedfellows. That sweating is something you learn to accept rather than combat.

That ‘pelotudo’ is a way, way more offensive term than ‘boludo’, despite their near-identical, big-balled etymologies, and that you can only find this out the hard way. That a surprising number of shopkeepers would rather lose one peso than give you nine pesos in change. That the half-a-kilo-of-meat-per-person asado rule-of-thumb is nearly always a gross overestimation. That eating choripán from roadside stands in insalubrious areas is fine, health-wise, but not recommendable psychosomatically speaking, and it’s often actually the chimichurri that does you in.

Go on, they are fine to eat... (Photo: Irena)

Go on, they are fine to eat, probably… (Photo: Irena)

That clubs don’t really get going until 3am, even on a week night, and that a large swathe of the under-30s survive on pretty much no sleep whatsoever. That ‘torta’ (‘cake’) is a non-offensive slang term for ‘lesbian’ and that no lesbian can tell you why this is. That this is a country forward-thinking enough to legalise same-sex marriage but still backwards enough to continue outlawing abortion under practically any circumstances. That there tend to be more Argentine women marrying foreign men than foreign women marrying Argentine men, and that you think this might say a lot about the failings of Argentine men but would prefer to sidestep any controversy.

That a disappointingly high number of Argentines will take offence at this innocent article, which is more about the narrow experience of an expat in Buenos Aires than Argentina itself, and let their country down in the comments. That no matter how much you love Argentina, you will eventually leave it for a country with a higher GDP and more developed attitudes towards litter, and then pine for Argentina at various unexpected moments for the rest of your life, but that if you stay you’ll always wonder what might have been, if you hadn’t been chicken.

Want to read more from Daniel Tunnard? Then we recommend his book about taking all the buses in Buenos Aires, ‘Colectivaizeishon, el inglés que tomó todos los colectivos en Buenos Aires’, available at all good bookshops in Buenos Aires, Mercado Libre, or by contacting the author.

Posted in Expat, Life & Style, The City, TOP STORY10 Comments

Chile: Several Injured in Santiago Bomb Attack

Firemen at the scene of the bomb attack in Santiago, Chile (Photo: Xinhua/Francisco Castillo/AGENCIA UNO)

Firemen at the scene of the bomb attack in Santiago, Chile (Photo: Xinhua/Francisco Castillo/AGENCIA UNO)

At least seven people were injured after a bomb exploded at a fast food restaurant in an underground station in Santiago, Chile.

The blast occurred at the busy Escuela Militar station in the neighbourhood Las Condes at around 2pm today. Initial reports say the bomb was left in a rubbish container at the restaurant.

None of those taken to hospital, including one Venezuelan citizen, are in grave danger, according to local doctors, though some suffered serious injuries, including amputations.

The government confirmed that the explosion was caused by a bomb, and pledged to find those responsible for the attack.

“This is, without doubt, a terrorist act that warrants our contempt,” said government minister Álvaro Elizalde. “The government will invoke the anti-terrorist law to sanction those responsible.”

Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo said the government would use all of its resources to catch the perpetrators. “This is a very serious act that needs the country to act forcefully and apply the maximum penalties.”

President Michelle Bachelet cancelled her activities for today and tomorrow to visit some of those injured and chair a special security meeting.

The bombing comes just days before the country marks another anniversary of the 1973 military coup led by Augusto Pinochet.

Events to remember the coup and those that were killed or tortured during the dictatorship that followed have sometimes turned violent in recent years.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin America0 Comments

Macri Says Federal Police to Stay in Buenos Aires

Argentine Federal Police (photo: wikipedia)

Argentine Federal Police (photo: wikipedia)

Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri said today that he had reached an agreement with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to keep the Federal Police operating in all parts of the capital.

The announcement came just days after Security Secretary Sergio Berni ordered the withdrawal of 5,000 Federal Police officers from neighbourhoods in the City of Buenos Aires where the Metropolitan Police are already operating.

The neighbourhoods in question are: Saavedra, Coghlan, Villa Urquiza, Villa Pueyrredón (Comuna 12), Nueva Pompeya, Parque Patricios, Barracas, La Boca (Comuna 4), Agronomía, Chacarita, Villa Crespo, Paternal, and Villa Ortúzar (Comuna 15).

“They are not leaving,” Macri said in a radio interview this morning, adding that he spoke with the president on Friday. “We reached a joint commitment to coordinate work in those comunas, and a commitment to start a dialogue to analyse how to implement a transfer. We think this will take some time.”

After Berni’s announcement last week, sources from the Metropolitan Police had claimed that around 4,800 officers were there to “collaborate with federal forces”, but that they do not have enough agents or cars to replace the Federal Police entirely.

According to information from the Security Ministry, there are 9,000 Federal Police officers working in the City of Buenos Aires, distributed among 53 precincts.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Book Review: The Militant Song Movement in Latin America

Book Review: The Militant Song Movement in Latin America

militant song“Without an understanding of the emotional component of political involvement it is impossible to fully understand a movement for social change such as the one operating in Latin America at that time. Without an account of how music was pervasively used in the construction of these emotional components, the political and social explanation of what occurred in Latin America during that period will be always inexcusably partial.”

Pablo Vila’s introduction to ‘The Militant Song Movement in Latin America: Chile, Uruguay and Argentina’ (Lexington Books, 2014) succinctly defines the complexities of a movement whose narration differs across the three countries discussed in the book.

The militant song, which emerged as a powerful movement from the 1950s until the mid 1970s, swiftly became an expression of “el pueblo” – the people. The political mobilisation of the masses, constructed upon the validation of subaltern experience and memory, incorporated traditional folklore, as well as the ramifications of poverty and social injustice. The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 increased anti-colonial sentiment in Latin America and emphasised the importance of cultural dissemination which, in Cuba, was epitomised by its own variant of militant song known as “Nueva Trova Cubana”.

The book incorporates history and memory, as well as the processes that have constructed divergent forms of remembrance with regard to the militant song movement. While the militant song departed from common objectives – namely the repudiation of colonial and imperialist influences – the memory frameworks in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina differed following the brutal dictatorships and subsequent transitions towards a democratic framework.

Thus, while political mobilisation against oppression provided a common foundation in all three countries, the memory processes in the aftermath of their respective dictatorships reflected the variations in remembrance of the militant song. In Argentina, songs that nurtured the militant song yet lacked a militant element took precedence within the country’s collective memory. The de-politicisation of songs, aided by the emphasis upon aesthetics and poetry, became a characteristic of Uruguayan memory. On the other hand, militant song in Chile emerged as the strongest with regard to memory, owing to the dictatorship-imposed rupture on society.

La nueva canción chilena was the militant song movement that had a profound impact on Chilean society (Photo courtesy of Memoria Chilena)

La nueva canción chilena was the militant song movement that had a profound impact on Chilean society (Photo courtesy of Memoria Chilena)

Three phases characterise Uruguay’s militant song: the triumph and inspiration of the Cuban Revolution, cultural resistance to dictatorship, and the 1985 return to democracy. While the emphasis upon resistance to colonial influence and the incorporation of local traditions remained for a time, within a limited audience, exposure to the intellectual society and the international left by Daniel Viglietti aided dissemination. Viglietti, a radical Uruguayan singer who collaborated also with Chilean nueva canción musicians, stands out as the epitome of the militant song genre in Uruguay.

Uruguay’s militant song encouraged dialogue between the singer and the audience, placing value upon aesthetics and the literary quality of the songs as the primary means through which to combat dictatorship oppression. As the inspiration of “el pueblo” becomes a disseminated collective experience, political oppression is challenged through “simultaneous and complicit engagement”, according to Maria Figueredo. The prominence of aesthetics in Uruguay’s militant song, while failing to act as a deterrent for the exile of more radical singers such as Viglietti, enabled the manoeuvring and rewriting of songs in a manner that challenged authority within censorship restrictions. However, the shift in focus is also testimony to the later trend of depoliticisation, thus minimising remembrance of Uruguayan militant song and its fusion with politics.

Atahualpa Yupanqui, pioneer of the militant song movement in Argentina is considered to have vindicated previously inaccessible social commentary departing from the subaltern and the consciousness of the indigenous, marginalised for a long time by successive governments. A reflection also of the silence imposed upon the indigenous, Yupanqui’s militant song is immediately distanced from the “hegemonic collective imaginary”, particularly with regard to the song “El arriero va”, which is considered to be the first song endorsing critical commentary about social conditions in 1944.

As Carlos Molinero and Pablo Vila state in their chapter, the recognition of difference from within strikes the first challenge against the hegemony, thus bringing social inclusion of the masses to the fore. This also aided in the expansion and exploration of socio-political themes by other singers such as Mercedes Sosa, thus making the change from political representation to using song as a political weapon. With the singer as protagonist, the song is allowed the freedom to become the epitome of struggle – one particular reference and inspiration for the genre being Che Guevara’s utopian metaphor of the “new man”.

However, unlike the continuous experience of Chile, Argentine militant song was less widespread – a fact reflected in the remembrance of non-militant repertoire that nurtured the movement, rather than an affinity to militant song itself. For example, despite its lack of militant content, “Gracias a la Vida”, authored by Chilean nueva canción pioneer Violeta Parra but mostly associated with Mercedes Sosa, remains at the helm of Argentine remembrance of the genre.

A mural for Victor Jara in Santiago, Chile (photo: Wikipedia)

A mural for Victor Jara, one of the leading singers in Chile’s militant song movement, in Santiago. (photo: Wikipedia)

Chile, on the contrary, remains the embodiment of militant song. ‘La nueva canción Chilena’, incorporated within Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular campaign, was an active movement of political mobilisation and consciousness that rendered the masses participants in political events. Vehemently shunning commercial snares, the nueva canción movement proved formidable in countering imperialist culture at a time when Chilean society was riddled with turbulence, military violence and the resonating clamour for social change. Nueva canción artists willingly pledged their support to Allende’s campaign, with groups and singers such as Inti Illimani and Victor Jara becoming deeply involved the process of rendering the song a viable political vehicle.

Perhaps the most poignant of all was the composition of ‘El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido’ (The people united, will never be defeated’) in August 1973 by Sergio Ortega and Quilapayun, just a few weeks prior to the brutal US-backed military coup led by General Pinochet. The immense inspiration generated by the movement led to the detention and torture of several nueva canción singers such as Angel Parra and Victor Jara – the latter being brutally tortured and murdered in the aftermath of the coup. Other singers and groups, such as Patricio Manns and Inti Illimani, were forced into exile. Records pertaining to the nueva canción movement were destroyed along with other material that reflected the mobilisation of the subaltern, such as literature and indigenous instruments. The fusion of militant song with politics in Chile remains evident – particularly in the ongoing battle for memory and the challenging of dictatorship oblivion – a characteristic that is still enshrined in Chile despite the return to democracy.

Drawing upon valuable historical resources, interviews and a vast repertoire of songs, the book is a valuable reference that highlights not only the role of the singers in this enduring movement, but also the political dimension that is allowed to preserve its emotive aspect. A movement that “has outlived the historical conditions that engendered them,” as Nancy Morris states in her contribution, the relevance of the militant song, epitomised in particular by the Chilean experience of memory in relation to the epoch, needs a constant regeneration to avoid the pitfalls of the political periphery.

The Militant Song Movement in Latin America: Chile, Uruguay and Argentina‘ (Lexington Books, 2014)

Posted in Literature0 Comments

Gendarmerie Under Fire After Officer ‘Fakes’ Road Accident

Gendarmerie forces face off with protesters on the Panamericana highway (Photo: Daniel Dabove/Télam)

Gendarmerie forces face off with protesters on the Panamericana highway (Photo: Daniel Dabove/Télam)

The national gendarmerie is facing heavy criticism after videos appeared to show one officer feigning a road accident by throwing himself onto a slow-moving car during a union protest on the Panamericana highway in July.

At least two separate videos show how Major Juan Alberto López Torales runs and jumps on the bonnet of a car allegedly taking part in the protest by driving deliberately slowly on the highway, around 30kms north of Buenos Aires.

After Torales was knocked to the ground, other gendarmerie officers forced the driver, Christian Romero, out of the car and detained him.

The video spread rapidly on social media platforms and was picked up yesterday by local news outlets, sparking widespread criticism of the gendarmerie’s actions.

Last night, the National Security Ministry released a statement defending Torales, saying he acted “due to the risk of the car causing an accident with another vehicle or against the other gendarmerie officers on the highway.”

The statement added that Torales acted “in accordance with the law and following a police order to liberate the highway from a group of people insisting on obstructing the normal flow of traffic.”

National Security Secretary Sergio Berni also defended the security forces, saying that Torales had risked his own safety to stop the car. “No one is saying that the driver ran over the officer – it was a tactic,” claimed Berni in an interview on Radio Vorterix earlier today. “[The driver] is being charged with disobeying the gendarmerie orders, not for the accident.”

However, The Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS) today released a photo of what it says is the judicial case against Romero and which states: “When the gendarmerie approached the car to begin a road safety operation, the accused abruptly moved the car the forward, running over the victim and causing minor injuries.”

The incident occurred during one of several protests outside the Lear autoparts manufacturing factory on the Panamericana highway north of Buenos Aires. Workers were demanding the reincorporation of 100 workers dismissed and 200 suspended by the company in May.

In several marches, the protesters clashed with gendarmerie officers on the Panamericana, resulting in dozens of injuries, mainly from rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons.

The actions of the security forces were also thrown into doubt by accusations that the gendarmerie had infiltrated the protests undercover. Videos show the man, dressed in civilian clothing and named by Página 12 as Colonel Roberto Angel Galeano, directing other officers until other protesters challenged him.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Argentina’s Supply Law: What’s all the Fuss About?

Argentina’s Supply Law: What’s all the Fuss About?

In a marathon session between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the Senate approved a number of bills sent by the executive, known as ‘consumer protection’ bills, including the creation of a Price Observatory, a new legal jurisdiction for consumer matters, and changes to the Supply Law.

It is mainly this last bill —the one modifying the Supply Law— that has caused uproar in the media, business community, and political opposition in the last few weeks. Those who followed the debate around it would be excused for thinking that yesterday’s vote was the first step towards turning Argentina into the Soviet Union (or rather, today’s socialist bogeyman: Venezuela).

Senators vote on the consumer protection bills (photo: Fernando Sturla/ddc/)

Senators vote on the consumer protection bills (photo: Fernando Sturla/ddc/)

A Long History

The criticism aimed at this bill has been so disproportionate that it makes you wonder whether they were aware that the Supply Law has been in place for 40 years.

The current law was promulgated by President Juan Domingo Perón barely a week before he died, on 24th June 1974. It was not even the first law of its kind in Argentina, with precedents to be found in the administrations of radical presidents Roberto Ortiz (1939) and Arturo Illia (1964).

The existing Supply Law delegates legislative authority to the executive, allowing it to intervene in the different stages of the economic process by controlling prices, forcing producers to continue with the production and distribution of certain goods or services, modifying import tariffs and subsidies, limiting exports, temporarily taking over and running production facilities, expropriating goods necessary to guarantee supply in case of economic emergency, etc.

It specifies penalties for those who artificially inflate prices, cause shortages of goods, or otherwise affect the supply of goods and services necessary to meet basic needs or the “general welfare”. These range from simple fines to prison sentences of up to four years.

Though in force for 40 years, the law has not been used often, and it is generally agreed that it is to be used in cases of emergency. During the democratic period, former president Raúl Alfonsín used it to impose fines on a number of companies and Carlos Menem issued a decree suspending its application in 1991 (and stating it could only be applied again if a supply emergency was declared by Congress) only to reinstate it during a truck drivers’ strike in 1999. Although Menem’s 1991 and 1999 decrees left some controversy regarding the applicability of the law without a formal declaration by Congress of a ‘supply emergency’, a judge ratified that the law is indeed applicable when Shell sued Néstor Kirchner’s government after it forced the oil company to sell diesel during a shortage and fined it millions of pesos in 2006.

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration applied the law in 2008 to intervene in the beef market, and in 2013 to force wheat producers to sell their stocks after a surge in the price of flour and bread. The government threatened to use the law in other occasions, whenever conflicts of this nature arose, such as in 2012 when yerba mate prices doubled almost overnight.

The Changes

It is clear, then, that the Supply Law has a long and somewhat controversial history in Argentina, although it has been used sparingly and in very specific occasions.

The recent uproar surrounding its modification could be justified if such reforms significantly increased the scope of the law or the capacity of the executive to apply it. Yet this does not appear to be the case.

Whilst the original bill sent by the executive to the Senate included some controversial points, they were mostly addressed and toned down during the debate in the respective committees. For the most part, the bill rationalises some aspects of the Supply Law and, if anything, makes the intervention of the executive less discretionary.

Domestic Trade Secretary Augusto Costa and Chief of Cabinet Jorge Capitanich defend the bill before the Senate (photo: Argentine Senate)

Domestic Trade Secretary Augusto Costa and Chief of Cabinet Jorge Capitanich defend the bill before the Senate (photo: Argentine Senate)

In terms of the scope for government intervention in the economy, the main changes to the original 1974 law voted on this week are:

  •  When the executive forces a company to comply with a minimum production quota, it must ensure the production is economically viable; otherwise it must establish a fair compensation.
  •   The sections regarding intervention in the import and export markets have been removed.
  • The section allowing the executive to temporarily take over production and distribution facilities has been removed.
  • The executive can demand that a company submit information regarding its commercial activities and prices, which will remain confidential.
  • The article allowing the executive to expropriate goods has been removed.

Some of the penalties for those who artificially manipulate prices or disrupt the supply of “essential” goods have also been amended:

  • The maximum fine is updated from $1m to $10m.
  • Penalties that include jail time have been eliminated.
  • The abillity to close down a business permanently has been eliminated.

Finally, a number of procedural issues have also been modified:

  • The resolution issued by the executive imposing penalties on a business must be supported by a judicial decision. Also, any suspension of more than three days must be approved by a judge.
  • The resolution of matters pertaining to the law no longer falls under the jurisdiction of economic criminal courts; it is now dealt with by dispute tribunals.
  • Appeals against any sanction must be made within ten days (as opposed to five days) before an Appeals Court, rather than a first instance judge. Also, the new bill reinforces the fact that any fines must be paid before an appeal is lodged.
  • The law does not apply to small and medium-sized companies (SMEs), so long as they do not hold a dominant market position.

Comparisons and Criticisms

A common complaint among opponents of the bill, including industry leaders and opposition Frente Renovador leader Sergio Massa, has been that it is following the example of Venezuela, which introduced a new ‘Fair Prices Law’ at the start of the year.

Aside from the fact that the Supply Law existed in Argentina long before it did in Venezuela, the latest reforms ensure it remains far more moderate than the decree signed by President Nicolás Maduro in January.

In Venezuela, the law outlines that no entity in the supply chain can have a profit margin above 30% of the structural costs of the good or service provided. The executive authority also has the power to immediately and temporarily confiscate goods or seize a company’s facilities for up to 180 days in order to guarantee supply. Meanwhile, those found to be guilty of economic crimes can face up to 14 years in prison, with hoarding, price speculation, contraband, production or distribution boycotts, and attempts to destabilise the economy eliciting the most severe sentences.

The Venezuelan government says the law is essential to allow the state to combat what it calls an “economic sabotage” by big businesses and the conservative opposition. Critics of the Venezuelan law, however, say it has achieved the opposite of its intended goals and exacerbated chronic shortages of basic products, while fuelling a thriving informal economy based on smuggling and overpricing.

Trolley in supermarket, exact dateDrawing simple comparisons between the two countries ignores the complex realities unique to each, though the broader criticism points to concerns over the advance of the state in the productive economy, both ideological (encroachment on private property and enterprise) and practical (public sector inefficiency).

The so-called ‘Group of Six’, made up of business leaders from the key economic sectors, said it would appeal to the courts if the changes to the law are ratified, claiming that it is unconstitutional to restrict a person’s right to trade. On the other hand, consumer associations have backed the changes to the bill.

The government, meanwhile, claims that the law is simply a tool —similar to ones used in many other countries— to regulate market activity and protect consumers from abuse by companies. In presenting the bill for the marathon debate, Frente para la Victoria (FpV) Senator Pablo González said it was necessary because “we do not agree with the ‘invisible hand’ of the market”.

By agreeing during committee debates to exempt SMEs and include a requirement for a judicial order to shut down a company’s operations, the government has addressed some of the specific fears of the private sector by toning down the power of the executive branch to unilaterally intervene in the production process. However, there remains some criticism of the vague language that the law has included since 1974; what constitutes, for example, an “unjustified price increase” or an “abusive profit”?

Some leftist parties have also criticised the bill, with the Partido Obrero saying it diverts attention from the economic problems caused by the government’s own policies, and does not protect workers from rising inflation and the threat of unemployment.

Meanwhile, Itai Hagman, of the newly-formed Patria Grande party, says the law does not go far enough, and notes that the current debate ignores the fact that “the state always intervenes in the economy: the issue is whether it does so in favour of big business or consumers.”

While the wider debate continues, after its approval in the Senate, the new bill will now be voted in the Lower House of Congress, most likely within the next few weeks.

Posted in Analysis, Current Affairs, TOP STORY2 Comments

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After the death of frontman Gustavo Cerati, we revisit our 2011 article on Soda Stereo, from our series Music for the Weekend.

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