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‘This Isn’t Goodbye': Gilda, the Cumbia Saint

‘This Isn’t Goodbye': Gilda, the Cumbia Saint

7th September 1996 was a rainy day. But it was a Saturday, and Hugo Alejandro Pastorini and his friends were preparing for a night out when his grandmother told him that popular cumbia artist Gilda was on the TV. “We had a combi that night, you see,” he recalls. “We were going to dance. I couldn’t believe what I saw on the news. They said Gilda died in a car accident.”

An Argentine sweetheart, Gilda was coming back from a tour when a truck crashed into the bus she was travelling in, killing her, her mother, her daughter, three musicians, and the bus driver. Many clubs closed in solidarity with the loss that night; Hugo did not feel like dancing anymore anyway.

Gilda's portrait, used as a cover for her CD "Pasito a pasito con Gilda" (Photo: archive)

Gilda’s portrait, used as a cover for her CD “Pasito a pasito con Gilda” (Photo: archive)

Many stars have died prematurely, leaving their fans heartbroken. Gilda’s case, though, is somehow different. Almost 20 years after her death at the age of 34, dedicated followers continue to worship her, with some claiming they have experienced miracles caused by the artist.

Silvina Alejandra Soto was watching TV with her mother when the news of the fatal crash came up. Her mother was a fan of Gilda, and Silvina, who was training to be a singer herself, felt jealous about all the attention given to a cumbia artist they didn’t even know.

She stood up to leave the room, but suddenly sat back down. She says she could feel a pressure on her shoulders, as if somebody was pushing her down, and she was unable to stop crying. She wasn’t a big fan of Gilda, and did not even really like her songs, but says she had experienced contact with the departed before and immediately realised it was the singer’s spirit touching her. She felt she was close to passing out so she told her mother to ask Gilda to let go; only then was she finally able to stop crying. Silvina then dreamt of Gilda alive every night for the next five years, and she decided to devote herself to the singer.

As an artist herself, Silvina says she lets Gilda inspire her when she paints her portraits. It is the singer who tells her how she should be painted through her visions, they co-produce the artwork. She calls this process “channelling”. Silvina also claims that the singer’s energy remains in the photos of her, as well as in her own pieces. “You can see her eyes follow you across the room,” she says “her photograph is a window through which she remains present, keeps you company, brings you peace, and helps you as much as she can, year after year.”

It’s hard to say how many people consider themselves devotees of Gilda. Many of her fans only admire her music, or worship their idol in the privacy of their own homes. But some openly follow her as a kind of “popular saint“.

It was already like this when she was still alive, says Alejandro Margulis, author of the book ‘Gilda, la abanderada de la bailanta’. People would follow her after her shows, asking her to touch them as they believed she could cure their diseases. Being superstitious (she would write prayers against evil spirits in her diary) and Christian herself, Gilda didn’t like it when people called her a saint. She didn’t think she had any sort of superpowers, yet said she believed in the miraculous potential of her music.

After her death, the singer’s most dedicated followers sought out a place where they could express their grief and devotion freely. They gathered in two places in Argentina: the 24th gallery of the Chacarita cemetery in Buenos Aires, where the singer and her family are buried, and Gilda’s ‘sanctuary’ at Km 129 on Ruta Nacional 19, where the fatal accident took place.

Gilda's tomb in La Chacarita, decorated with flowers and letters from her fans. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Gilda’s tomb in La Chacarita, decorated with flowers and letters from her fans. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

The shrine to Gilda in Chacarita fills up at least twice a year: on the anniversaries of her birthday, 11th October, and the accident, 7th September. Some devotees come more frequently, and travel from afar. Hugo lives in Entre Ríos, the province where Gilda’s accident took place. His colleagues cover him at work from time to time when he wants to visit Chacarita. “As a matter of fact, they are pretty tired of doing it,” he admits. “They think I should be more serious about my life.” To avoid trouble at work he tends to visit the roadside sanctuary more often, as it’s not that far from where he lives.

Hugo claims he has been blessed with Gilda’s miracles more than once, and attributes them to helping him make important decisions. He recalls the time when he had no idea what to do with his life and Gilda “appeared on his wall”. That day he realised he wanted to quit his previous job and find a new one. He also started going out more in order to find somebody to share his days with. All of that, he says, was guided by Gilda, and that’s the reason he wants to keep visiting her tomb, in spite of the logistical challenges.

Hugo says he also witnessed a miracle at the scene of her death, when a flag with Gilda’s face painted on it started to cry. Other people saw it too, though some of them think it was a trick, a cheap prank. But Hugo knows it was for real. He owns a photograph of Gilda, and says he chats with her every morning, as if she were his flatmate.

Hugo Alejandro Pastorini with a hand-painted flag of Gilda/Maxi Bianchi taking a selfie with his idol's tomb. "I always say hello to Gilda when I come here, then I take a photo and send it to other fans", says the teenager. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Hugo Alejandro Pastorini with a hand-painted flag of Gilda/Maxi Bianchi taking a selfie with his idol’s tomb. “I always say hello to Gilda when I come here, then I take a photo and send it to other fans”, says the teenager. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Other followers also claim to feel the presence of Gilda under their roof. “Wherever you look, there is a picture of her,” explains Maxi. “I had to hide most of the things in the boxes though. They were taking up so much space, and I have a baby brother now.”

At 15, Maxi is one of the youngest devotees of Gilda, born a few years after her death. He calls himself Maxi Bianchi (Gilda’s actual name was Miriam Alejandra Bianchi), though this is not his family name. “My parents used to have to bring me here,” he says, “but now I can travel on my own.” It takes him more than an hour to get to Chacarita from his home in La Matanza. “I can’t really feel her here,” he says, about the cemetery. “But I still come every Saturday.”

Maxi started listening to Gilda’s music about five years ago, after he heard a special radio programme on the anniversary of her death. He would confuse her with other cumbia singers, yet he liked her music so he started looking for more information about her. He then noticed that her presence was surrounding him – his neighbours were listening to her, and he himself became obsessed with some of her songs, like ‘Paisaje’ or ‘No me arrepiento de este amor’.

During his summer holidays he decided to visit the sanctuary, where he was given a vignette with Gilda’s photograph. About a month later his pregnant mother suffered from internal bleeding and the family thought she would lose the baby. Maxi decided to ask Gilda for help. “I promised her I would visit her in Chacarita if everything went fine,” he says. The next day his mother was able to return home, and although she needed to rest, she was feeling good. Just as he had promised, Maxi went to Chacarita, where he got in touch with other fans. He started coming every Saturday. “I let them know when I come,” Maxi says “otherwise I have to spend the whole day here alone.” When asked about his peers, Maxi say they admire her as an artist, but are not as devoted to Gilda as he is. His parents don’t join him at Chacarita either. “There is just something about her energy,” he says. “She makes me feel positive. I definitely am a believer.”

Maxi holding his first vignette of Gilda in front of the Chacarita cemetery. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Maxi holding his first vignette of Gilda in front of the Chacarita cemetery. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

Despite their apparent devotion, none of the Gilda fans spoken to to considers their faith in the cumbiera as idolatry. “I’m Catholic, and I actually think it’s God speaking through Gilda,” says Maxi. According to the teenager, you can consider anyone who has proven miracles to be a saint. “It could be Gilda, it could be my grandfather…” he says. “I don’t want to be mixing things. But if you ask for a favour, and it becomes true, I think this person is a saint.”

Silvina also sees a profound connection between her admiration for Gilda and religion. She doesn’t think Gilda is a pagan saint, but an angel, who not only helped her with her art through her visualisations (“She gives me visions I didn’t have before”), but also brought her closer to God. “In my dreams Gilda would tell me many times that the miracles are God’s blessings, not hers. She prays to God for my health on my behalf, and then miracles happen,” Silvina explains. “Gilda also helped me understand the Bible, not through the religion, but through my heart. She made me see the value of Christ’s sacrifice.” Silvina makes it clear that she doesn’t consider herself a fan of Gilda, although she knows many who are. “She’s a kind of an older sister to me, maybe a teacher. She’s strict, but loving, and she makes you feel it.”

But there is also a darker side to the Gilda legend. Humberto Grillo, the guard of the gallery where Gilda’s tomb is placed, explains that some people would get upset about her followers gathering at her grave. Two of them were especially unhappy about it, claiming the devotees were too loud. They both died on the 7th September, same date as Gilda. Now they are buried in the same building as her, forever hearing Gilda receive visits from her followers.

“It’s like they had been trying to take ‘Gil’ down you see,” explains Maxi, “and she ended up taking them down herself.” Isn’t that a cruel thing to do? “It’s weird, right?” says Maxi. “But she used to say her character was pretty complicated. She would say things right into your face. They probably really pissed her off.”

Claudio Milano admits that not all of Gilda’s followers respect the place. They write things for Gilda on other tombs, forgetting she isn’t there alone. He and some others come and clean the place for everybody.

Unlike many of the fans at Chacarita, Claudio actually got to see Gilda sing live, a thing that Maxi can only see in documentaries. He says that when she was singing in clubs, she would really devote herself to her fans, giving them advice. “But she wouldn’t make you feel weird,” he admits “she was just a normal person.” After the shows she would take photos and talk to the people. Claudio started following her shows (“I would ask her where she would be singing next”) and formed her fanclub. He became involved in a conflict with a president of another fanclub of Gilda. “We were young and stupid”, he says “we wanted to be important, and more important than the other. We forgot it was all about Gilda and that she is the only one that matters.”

Claudio even got to know her family, after becoming a father for the first time as an unemployed teenager. Gilda’s brother agreed to be his lawyer and he won the custody over his oldest daughter, something that had seemed to be impossible. This was after Gilda’s death, and for Claudio, it could have been a miracle. He named one of his daughters Gilda, and says his kids are all fans of Gilda’s music.

Part of Gilda’s appeal, according to both Maxi and Claudio, is that she herself didn’t have an easy life. They say she was close to the people because she herself was one of the people. She had to drop out of school after her father’s death and started her own family at a young age. According to Claudio, you can understand her music regardless of where you are from or who you are.

Another fan, Alejandro Margulis says that Gilda first became popular among the poor, before her fame spread to middle and upper classes. She’s also an idol for the LGBT community in Argentina. Even high-level politicians are believed to be fans.

“I have given President Cristina tonnes of photos of Gilda,” Claudio says. “She’s also a fanatic.”

“And so’s Mauricio Macri,” adds Maxi. The latter uses Gilda’s songs in his political campaigns.

A tribute mural to Gilda on the walls of La Chacarita. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

A tribute mural to Gilda on the walls of La Chacarita. (Photo: Michalina Kowol)

There’s an urban legend about one of Gilda’s songs, ‘No es mi despedida’ (This isn’t goodbye). Many claim she knew she was going to die when she recorded the song. Maxi is not so sure. “I don’t know…” he says. “She was so special. Maybe she really knew something was going to happen.”

Claudio is is more sceptical – “That’s just marketing” – as he believes she sang the song for her Bolivian friend, hoping to see her again soon.

But they both agree though that Gilda is still present and that you can feel it through her music – or her miracles. “You go for it,” Claudio says. “Ask her for something. You’ll see she will help you too.”

Posted in Music, Society0 Comments

Santa Fe: Lifschitz Declared Governor-Elect After Recount

Miguel Lifschitz was declared the governor-elect for Santa Fe province.

Miguel Lifschitz was declared the governor-elect for Santa Fe province.

Miguel Lifschitz, of the Frente Progresista Cívico y Social (FPCyS), was confirmed as governor-elect today following a recount of votes from the provincial election on 14th June.

The provincial electoral tribunal reported the definitive results today, showing Lifschitz winning with 584,557 votes, just 1,776 votes ahead of PRO candidate Miguel Del Sel (582,781)

In a historic election results, just 25,582 votes separated the winner with third place Omar Perotti, of the Frente para la Victoria (FpV) party, who got 558,975 votes.

The recount had been ordered after Del Sel contested the initial results, which gave Lifschitz a winning margin of just 2,128 votes. The PRO candidate reported irregularities in the count, which had also excluded the results of more than 300 voting centres due to error.

Parties now have 24 hours to make claims regarding the counting process. PRO has requested the electoral tribunal to allow “over 3,000 policemen” to vote, who were allegedly unable to do so on election day. They have also requested that all boxes of votes be reopened to complete a full recount, something which has already been rejected by local courts.

“Unfortunately, the 70% of people from Santa Fe who did not vote for the governor-elect will be left with the doubt as to who won the 2015 election,” said provincial deputy for PRO Federico Angelini. “I’m not saying it was done with bad intentions, but there were data entry errors, human errors, which made it worthwhile reviewing the whole process.”

Elections in Santa Fe this year have been unusually close and controversial. During the primary elections that took place back in April of this year, approximately 10% of the votes were found to be uncounted, after the authorities had claimed that there had been a full count.

In that case, Del Sel emerged as the candidate with the most votes, narrowly ahead of Lifschitz.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Army Chief Milani to Resign From Post for ‘Personal Reasons’

César Milani after being promoted by the president (Photo: Tito La Penna/Télam/dsl)

César Milani after being promoted by the president (Photo: Tito La Penna/Télam/dsl)

Argentine Army chief César Milani has submitted a request to resign from his position, according to a military press release today.

According to the statement, Milani’s request is based on “strictly personal reasons”.

Milani was proposed as the new head of the army by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in June 2013, with his appointment eventually ratified by the Senate the following December.

His appointment was controversial due to claims that he was involved in crimes against humanity during the last military dictatorship.

Specifically, documents gathered by human rights groups and presented by the Centre of Social and Legal Studies (CELS) link Milani to the disappearance of conscript Alberto Ledo in Tucumán in 1976, as well as the illegal detention of Pedro and Ramón Olivera in La Rioja in 1977.

Milani has always denied any involvement in these crimes, but CELS challenged the decision to promote him and called for a complete investigation into his past. A report published in December 2013 stated: “We don’t affirm that [Milani] tortured people, but we find his claims that he did not know others were doing so unacceptable. For that reason, we believe that he does not deserve the confidence that a democracy should have in its army chief.”

The government defended its decision, stating that Milani had not been charged with any crime and must be presumed innocent until that changes.

So far there has been no official response to Milani’s request.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Undercover BA: The New Breed of Artisan Shoe Designers

Undercover BA: The New Breed of Artisan Shoe Designers

vanessa bell

Vanessa Bell is a freelance writer and trend hunter, running a bespoke personal shopping service called Creme de la Creme, as well as writing as a lifestyle, food, and fashion insider for Wallpaper*, Monocle, and other international publications. She’s lived in Buenos Aires since 2010, having visited all her life as her mother is Argentine. 

 

For any visitor to Buenos Aires, an initial stroll around Palermo, taking in the high street shops on Av. Santa Fe, and a general overview of the sartorial offerings of the major shopping centres would suggest Argentine fashion is a little disappointing, both repetitive and playing safe. Indeed, there are many stubborn trends that never seem to die – wet-look leggings, leopard print, studs, and fringed details are just a few of the perennial offenders. Dubious propositions for those with an iota of fashion sense.

Footwear suffers a similar affliction. The ardent love for vertiginously high platforms is no doubt in part due to the fact that Argentine women tend to be more petite than their European counterparts. This should not be an excuse to justify ‘height at any price’, and yet the offensive platform birkenstocks have been a regular fixture for the last two summer seasons and the recent platformed tractor-style boots and variations on the theme have become the current mainstay of most shoe shop window displays. The snaggle-toothed sole makes even the most elegant porteña look ungainly, as they clomp, bottom-heavy, down the street.

Yet away from the main shopping drags, the picture is much brighter. A crop of young designers unfazed by pandering to the status quo are initiating a fledgling revolution: independent boutiques and designers working from showroom spaces who are quietly carving out their own identities, selling stunning models which buck mainstream trends. One of the exponents of this movement who I mention in one of my previous columns is Jessica Kessel, whose original sassy artisan shoes don’t compromise comfort for style and are made in small quantities with bags of personality.

Here is a round-up of other young designers who are also proposing refreshing alternatives (click titles for more information).

Bauths

By appointment or buy online.

Bauths shoe designs (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

Bauths shoe designs (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

This small label’s focus is on experimental design, with an emphasis on creating a one-off, personalised product. Its styles are practical for walking along Buenos Aires’ uneven pavements yet equally stylish, and can comfortably double up as evening wear. Bauths works primarily with leather, which is embossed and treated to create unique effects and textures with each pair. Models such as their ROD moccasins or TIUS sandals experiment with the use of patent leather and metallic detailing, offering fresh alternatives to conventional styles.

Masklo

Jorge Luis Borges 1918.

Shoe designs by Masklo (Photo: Masklo Facebook page)

Masklo shoe designs  (Masklo Facebook page)

Having just opened their debut store, this unisex brand specialises in design-conscious sandals and minimal trainers, appealing to a gap in the local market. The label was in the official selection for the recent Feria Puro Diseño and their shoes on display highlighted their alternative propositions in terms of form and design. Using quality materials and excellent leather, the emphasis is is also on small-scale artisan production. Wish list favourites are the all-white leather lace-ups, a welcome understated aesthetic that locals are only recently starting to embrace.

Centrico

Francisco Acuña de Figueroa 1800.

Centrico shoe designs (Photos provided by Centrico)

Centrico shoe designs (Photos provided by Centrico)

Located on a quiet crossroad on the periphery of the main Palermo shopping strip is Centrico, a chic glass-fronted store which occupies half a block. Having nurtured a loyal local following, its location has thus far prevented it from becoming overexposed, and it tends to be a more discerning tourist who discovers this picturesque store on their own. Producing both mens and womenswear, the label oozes contemporary sophistication and produces a welcome line of beautiful flats for women, including loafers and brogues.

Hey Coronado

By appointment.

Hey Coronado shoe designs (Hey Coronado Facebook page)

Hey Coronado shoe designs (Hey Coronado Facebook page)

Nati Delgado’s new label has been running for less than a year, but already her innovative and highly original designs have set tongues wagging. Working from a studio space in her Palermo home, she offers her shoes on a small production scale, and makes them to order with different colour options for both uppers and heels. Her cut-out lace up brogues are a personal favourite, and her prices are friendly, hovering around the $1,000 mark.

Bronco

By appointment.

Bronco shoe designs (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

Bronco shoe designs (Photo: Katie McCutcheon)

Romina Iglesias started her label three years ago with a desire to produce classic designs that defied faddy trends. She also offers a personalised service, with a made-to-order policy. Working from her showroom in San Telmo where the samples from her collection are on display, clients have their feet measured and choose the model and material for the uppers according to personal preference, with turnaround in a matter of days. Many of her styles are unisex and go up to a 42, a rarity in Argentina and welcome news for frustrated girls with bigger feet.

For more insider tips, news, and updates, follow Vanessa on facebook or instagram

Posted in Fashion, Underground BA0 Comments

Provincial Elections: FpV Loses in Mendoza, Wins in Tierra del Fuego

El Frente Cambia Mendoza’s Alfredo Cornejo was elected governor of Mendoza with 46.82% of the votes in yesterday’s provincial ballot.

Cornejo defeated FvP’s Adolfo Bermejo, who obtained 39.06% of the votes, marking a setback for the president’s party after eight years ruling the province.

Alfredo Cornejo is the governor-elect of Mendoza province (Photo via Alfredo Cornejo official FB page)

Alfredo Cornejo is the governor-elect of Mendoza province (Photo via Alfredo Cornejo official FB page)

Cornejo, the current mayor of Godoy Cruz, was the candidate representing an alliance formed between the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) and the PRO party. “There is a desire for change that was expressed today in Mendoza and I hope it’s expressed throughout the country,” the governor-elect said last night.

“We have a historical achievement of renewing the governor position of the province and in addition, the first woman vice governor of this province has been elected,” said Cornejo, referring to his running mate, Laura Montero.

In third place, Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores’ Noelia Barbeito obtained 10.41% of the votes.

Tierra del Fuego

Elsewhere, Frente para la Victoria (FpV)’s Rosana Bertone claimed a narrow victory in yesterday’s elections for governor of Tierra del Fuego, not enough to avoid a ballotage.

Bertone won the first round of elections with 42.28% of the votes, followed by UNIR-TDF’s Federico Sciurano, who obtained 33.30% of the votes.

The second round run-off will take place on 28th June.

“It is important for us to recognise that in this first round the FvP has won the election. We will have the ballotage next week because none of the political forces reached 50% plus one [of the votes],” said Sciurano, current mayor of Ushuaia.

Bertone, a national senator for Tierra del Fuego, hopes to have the same results next Sunday, “I want to thank immensely the people of Tierra del Fuego for this act of democracy, thanking those who voted for me and those who did not vote me.”

Partido Social Patagónico’s Roberto Crocianelli came in third with 6.24% of the votes, followed by ex national senator, Nuevo Encuentro’s Osvaldo Lopez, who obtained 5.69% of the votes.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Guatemala: Committee Investigating President Reports Death Threats

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina (photo: Wikipedia)

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina (photo: Wikipedia)

Baudilio Hichos, the leader of the commission of inquiry into the corruption charges against President Otto Pérez Molina, has reported that he and other members of the commission have received death threats.

Hichos, a legislator for the opposition Libertad Democrática Renovada (Lider) party, reported to the country’s Human Rights Attorney that the five-person commission had received various threats via telephone. Hichos said he had managed to record two of the phone calls.

Last week, the Supreme Court unanimously approved the commission of inquiry to determine whether President Pérez Molina should be stripped of his immunity from prosecution. The opposition accuses the president of committing four crimes: concealment, conspiracy, breach of duty, and unjust enrichment.

On Friday, Congress proceeded to select five legislators to lead an inquiry into the charges. Three of those chosen belong to the Lider party, with only one member representing the president’s Partido Patriota (PP).

Once the commission reaches a conclusion, Congress will vote to decide whether to act on the verdict.

Opposition leader Amílcar Pop Ac, who filed the legal complaint against the president and has also reported receiving threats, urged the commission to act against corruption in an interview with Tico Times: “If Congress decides to create a mantle of impunity to protect the president, that will deal a serious blow to the fight against corruption, and will allow the structures of impunity that exist in our country to flourish.”

Protests

The commission was created at the end of the eighth consecutive week of protests against the government in Guatemala. The demonstrations, which have brought together tens of thousands of people, have been organised largely by various student groups and teachers’ organisations using social media.

Since 25th April, the demonstrators have been calling for President Pérez Molina to step down, for the corruption cases against ex-officials to be expedited, and for a reform of electoral law and laws on political parties.

The protests have been fuelled by two major corruption scandals. The first to be reported was a large-scale network of contraband involving alleged bribes from importers to reduce customs duties. A second scandal emerged weeks later, with the Guatemalan Institute of Social Security (IGSS) accused of corruption over key contracts signed with pharmaceutical companies.

So far, as a result of the scandals and the protests, Guatemala has seen the vice president and two energy ministers step down. Moreover, the country’s central bank president, the head of the tax agency, and dozens of other high-ranking officials have also been arrested.

The political crisis comes months before a general election, which is due in September.

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

Appeals Court Reopens Investigation into Police Killing

A mural remembering 'Kiki' Lezcano in Villa 20. (Photo: Nahuel Alfonso, via Cosecha Roja)

A mural remembering ‘Kiki’ Lezcano in Villa 20. (Photo: Nahuel Alfonso, via Cosecha Roja)

The Federal Court of Criminal Appeal has ordered the reopening of the investigation of the fatal shooting of Ezequiel Blanco and Jonathan ‘Kiki’ Lezcano by police officer Daniel Santiago Veyga.

The court annulled the acquittal of Veyga, ruling that there was not enough evidence to support his claims of acting in self-defence.

The incident occurred in Parque Chacabuco on 8th July 2009, where Veyga claims to have been the victim of an attempted assault near his house. According to the version told by the police, 25-year-old Blanco and Lezcano (17) got into Veyga’s van and planned to kill him once they became aware of his occupation. At this point, the police officer says he took out his service gun and fatally shot them both.

In the initial investigation, the judge acquitted Veyga based solely on his written statement. However, this ruling was overturned in 2011 after an anonymous video emerged showing Lezcano bleeding in the car while several people mocked him. For the prosecution, the video insinuated that Veyga and other police officers present at the scene left the victims to die.

Veyga was acquitted a second time in November 2013, after Judge Juan Maria Ramos Padilla said there was not enough evidence to charge the officer. The ruling included sharp criticism of the original investigation, highlighting a “failure of the judiciary”.

Lezcano’s mother, Angélica Urquiza, once again appealed the decision of Judge Padilla at the federal level. She categorises the crime as a case of ‘gatillo facil‘, a term commonly used to describe killings by security forces. Urquiza testified in the second investigation, describing several incidents in which her son, who had served time in a youth detention centre, had been threatened or beaten by the police in the months before he was killed.

One of the irregularities in the case is the disappearance of crucial evidence, such as victims’ garments and the weapons they were allegedly using to assault Veyga. The treatment of the bodies is also considered suspicious: Lezcano’s unidentified body was buried in an unmarked grave in Chacarita cemetery, while the police identified Blanco’s body on 13th July 2009 but failed to notify his relative. It was two months before the families discovered the whereabouts of the bodies.

In last week’s ruling, appeals court judges Mariano Borinsky, Juan Carlos Gemignani, and Gustavo Hornos noted that the previous investigation “had not established the circumstances of the incident so as to affirm the existence of legitimate self-defense as grounds for justification for deadly conduct.”

The ruling continued: “The overturned ruling failed to provide sufficient grounds for determining that, in this specific case, Veyga has been unable to repel the aggression without compromising vital organs of the victims.”

The case will now return to the judicial system in the upcoming days.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

Santa Fe: Socialists Claim Victory in Contested Local Election

Miguel Lifschitz claimed a narrow victory in Santa Fe.

Miguel Lifschitz claimed a narrow victory in Santa Fe.

According to the provisional count, the Frente Progresista Civico y Social (FPCyS) will continue to govern in the province of Santa Fe after candidate Miguel Lifschitz claimed a narrow victory in yesterday’s controversial election.

In an unprecedented result, the three most voted candidates for governor were separated by just 1.5%. With more than 95% of votes counted, Lifschitz was first with 30.69% support, just 2,128 votes ahead of PRO candidate, Miguel Torres Del Sel, with 30.58%. Omar Angel Perotti, candidate for Frente para la Victoria (FpV), came in third with 29.25% of the votes.

A full recount will take place this week, with the provincial authorities aiming to complete the final count by either Thursday or Friday.

After hours of waiting, there was confusion last night when both Del Sel and Lifschitz claimed victory. From the FPCyS camp, Lifschitz affirmed that “Sante Fe continues to be progressive. We have more future than history,” as activists waved the party’s orange and blue flags.

Meanwhile, according to the PRO’s own count, Del Sel should be leading Lifschitz by a 0.7% margin.
PRO leader and Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri addressed the controversies last night: “We have to go through the legal steps, accept the results and do so with the self-criticism that the socialists [FPCyS] didn’t have during the campaign.”

Macri and Del Sel criticised the FPCyS for declaring victory in such a tight race when there were still votes to be counted. “It’s practically a three-way tie, with very little difference between the candidates,” said Del Sel in a press conference. “Both we and the public want to know what the true final result is, because otherwise we’ll start to lose confidence in our democracy and that’s the worst thing that can happen to the country.”

This isn’t the first time that Santa Fe has dealt with polemic elections. During the primary elections that took place back in April of this year, approximately 10% of the votes were found to be uncounted, after the authorities had claimed that there had been a full count. In that case, Del Sel emerged as the candidate with the most votes, narrowly ahead of Lifschitz.

This time, 4.55% of the total votes were left uncounted with the Electoral Tribunal dismissing 304 telegrams from voting tables. Current Santa Fe socialist governor, Antonio Bonfatti explained that: “there are about 300 tables that have not been included because the tribunal couldn’t upload them due to errors, illegibility, or inaccuracies in making the telegram.”

“Our numbers indicate [a victory], but to be prudent and serious, we will have to wait for the definitive count, because it’s a little difference of between 2,000 and 3,000 votes, according to what we’re seeing,” indicated Lifschitz this morning while speaking with radio La Red.

Río Negro

Elsewhere, general elections also took place in the province Río Negro, where governor Alberto Weretilneck was re-elected with 52.72% of the votes, followed by FpV’s Miguel Pichetto, who obtained 34% of the votes.

The landslide victory was seen as a blow to the national FpV government. However, Weretilneck, who launched the ‘Juntos, Somos Río Negro’ alliance this year, dismissed speculation that he would support an opposition candidate in the presidential elections later this year.

“I’m not going to answer to any candidate because it would be incoherent with what happened yesterday,” said Weretilneck in a radio interview this morning. “We have built a provincial political movement.”

Weretilneck was elected as deputy governor in 2011 but served nearly a full term as governor following the death of Carlos Soria just 20 days after taking office.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups Argentina0 Comments

On Now: Baby Call

On Now: Baby Call

Baby Call

Baby Call

Great dystopian writers have made strenuous efforts to warn us that it would not be necessary to blame aliens or intelligent robots for causing the demise of humanity, because we would have already found a way to do it all by ourselves.

Some visionary minds – George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, or Ray Bradbury – exposed their nightmares through literature and succeeded in creating suffocating, gloomy, and repressive worlds. These futuristic societies share a key element, that people are labelled. Labelled according to their functions, capacities, and jobs. Manipulation, repression, determinism and predestination are the basis of such bleak environments. The lethal weapon turns out to be the urgent necessity humans have to seek and hold power for the sole purpose of controlling their peers.

Writer and director Sofia Wilhelmi takes on these themes of labelling and control, and portrays her thoughts on the widening social gaps in the 21st century in her play: Baby Call. The piece tells the story of a well-off 50-year-old woman called Teresa who controls her Peruvian 30-year-old maid Mary through a baby-call device. Teresa talks, Mary listens; Teresa demands, Mary gives; Teresa complains, Mary grants. However, their solitude is interrupted when one sleepless night two robbers, Marco and Yoni, enter Teresa’s house and make off with her belongings. Fortunately, the baby call is in place to monitor the thieves’ movements and conversations.

These four different characters of Baby Call are labelled, stigmatised according to their position in the social ladder. Even though they are aware of their incapacity to communicate with one another, owing to the fact that they belong to two antagonistic milieus, they fight a silent war to see who can exert control. Both women remain locked in a room while the burglars search around the house looking for valuable objects. Tension grows towards an inevitable climax: Teresa and the leader of the band finally confront each other, both representatives of two different and opposing statuses. They quarrel, they swear, they shout. The house is a battlefield and their distinctive clothes their armour. The final assault comes when Yoni savagely screams that the reason why there are still outcasts in the world is that there are still wealthy people.

Teresa and Mary are confronted by an intruder in Baby Call (Photo courtesy of Octavia Comunicación)

Teresa and Mary are confronted by an intruder in Baby Call (Photo courtesy of Octavia Comunicación)

It’s no wonder Baby Call won the Bienal de Arte Joven in 2014. Nothing has been left to chance. The play is a clear example of how a mise en scène can never become a successful product if the composing elements are not harmoniously intertwined by an invisible thread. The scenography is naturalistic, experimental, and invites the spectator to delve right into Teresa´s house. The sound is controlled by computers which are deliberately placed on stage and blend well with the surrounding household objects. But the director’s major accomplishment is the way she deals with comedy. The timing, the text, the irony, and the superb acting techniques make an unbeatable combination that cause the audience to frequently shriek with laughter.

The play is a comedy because no other theatrical genre would have been able to contain such a deep and complex proposal. Laughter is needed when the truth unveiled becomes too much to bear, when visions of dystopias come to our minds, when reality is perfectly sketched on stage. It is both the well-heeled and the castaways who can prevent a human catastrophe from happening, Teresa has to share her wealth and Yoni does not have to break into her house. Is it too late to rehearse one more time? We all hope it is not.

Baby Call is on every Sunday (9pm) at the Teatro del Abasto (Humahuaca 3549, Buenos Aires). Length: 60 minutes. Tickets $120.

Posted in Theatre, TOP STORY0 Comments

Hand of Pod: The 2015 Copa América Preview Episode!

Hand of Pod: The 2015 Copa América Preview Episode!

Hand Of Pod is a podcast dedicated to discussing the domestic football scene in Argentina, with the inevitable occasional digressions into the land of the continental cups and the national team.

The latest episode of Hand Of Pod sees Sam, Andrés and English Dan gather for an uncharacteristically early recording session, defying a national strike to see to it that you get your weekly dose of nonsense. We begin with a look at the last weekend of action in the Argentine Primera, in which San Lorenzo’s lead at the top was cut by Boca Juniors with a thumping 4-0 win at home to Newell’s Old Boys, but River Plate threw away the chance to stay level with Boca by only drawing away to Olimpo.

Dan’s presence means Racing are up for discussion again, but the main focus is of course the Copa América, which gets underway on Thursday evening when hosts Chile take on Ecuador. We give you the lowdown on (in our opinion) the main contenders – using Sam’s newly-patented ‘how many players in their mid-twenties do each squad have?’ metric (eat your heart out, Nate Silver!), and of course go particularly big on Lionel Messi & co., who are looking to finally claim Argentina’s first senior trophy since the 1993 Copa.

 

You can find out more about the team behind HOP here.

Posted in Sport0 Comments

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As a possible ‪Grexit‬ looms in the old continent, we revisit Marc Rogers' article comparing Greece's current situation to Argentina's own 2001-2 crisis.

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