Tag Archive | "FPV"

Recap: What’s Going On in Tucumán?

The provincial elections in Tucumán that took place on 23rd August have been a constant topic in national news coverage over the past few weeks.

In the election’s wake lay claims of fraud, burned ballot boxes, protests and violent police suppression, and a formal judicial appeal.

To cap it off, on the evening of 16th September 2015, the Administrative Appeals Court of Tucumán ruled that the provincial elections should be annulled and a new vote be called.

As wild accusations and new details continuously pop up across the media sphere, it is becoming harder and harder to keep an unbiased view of the events that truly occurred.

Here’s a recap of events to help answer the question: what’s happening in Tucumán?

(Timeline created by Reilly Ryan)

Election Day and Aftermath

Controversy arose from the onset of election day. Moments after 8am, two motorcyclists shot at the house of Gabriela Basso, an opposition candidate running for town councillor.

At around the same time, an electoral supervisor for Acuerdo Para el Bicentario (APB) — an opposition alliance comprised of the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), PRO, and Frente Renevador —discovered a ballot box containing approximately 30 counterfeit votes for Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) candidate Juan Manzur before voting even began.

Election polls then opened an hour late, due to the large amount of people appointed by the political parties to supervise the process.

Things became even more serious as a total of 42 ballot boxes were burned during election day in various districts throughout the province. Provincial Electoral Board Secretary, Darío Almaraz, confirmed the next day that the ballots were “completely destroyed,” and wouldn’t be valid for counting.

Dozens of ballot boxes were burned in San Pablo, Tucumán (Photo: Diego Aráoz)

Dozens of ballot boxes were burned in San Pablo, Tucumán (Photo: Diego Aráoz)

Police arrested four individuals in connection with the burned ballot boxes. One of those detained was Hugo Alarcon, candidate for Community Delegate in the locality of Sargento Moya and member of the APB.

Though cumulatively these ballots represented just over 1% of the electoral roll, the violence and accumulation of irregularities sparked controversy and led the opposition to question the validity of the ballot.

On 24th August, the Tucumán Electoral Board announced that FPV candidate for governor, Juan Manzur, had won the election with 54,42% of the votes. APB’s José Cano finished second with 40,76%.

That night, thousands of opposition protesters gathered in front of the government headquarters at Plaza de la Independencía in the provincial capital San Miguel de Tucumán, claiming electoral fraud and calling for a re-vote.

After several hours, riot police violently suppressed the protests, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd and injurying more than 20 people. Some protestors dispersed, while others moved on to the house of Juan Manzur, where armed police protected the residence.

The violent scenes sparked widespread outrage, but the head of Tucumán’s police force, Dante Bustamante, defended police actions. “We received insults, spitting, hitting, and threats directly addressed to this zone [the government headquarters], until certain events that elevated the level of violence broke out,” Bustamante said. “But the aggression started with a determined group of young people who threatened to burn down the government headquarters.”

Conversely, socialist party leader Juan Carlos Sanchez — who was injured during the protests —testified against the police in judicial hearings following the clashes. He said: “The demonstration was conducted peacefully and the police, instead of acting calmly, carried out a planned, savage repression.”

Protests continued over the next week. On 31st August, seven days after the initial protest and violent police response, Clarín reported more than 10,000 people marched peacefully in the capital, led by APB candidate José Cano.

José Cano leads a march in the provincial capital (Photo via Notas.org)

José Cano leads a march in the provincial capital (Photo via Notas.org)


The Judicial Appeal

Following up of their claims of fraud and various other irregularities to the media, Cano and the APB filed a judicial appeal on 4th September against the Tucumán Electoral Board and demanded that the results be annulled.

On 8th September the court ruled that the Electoral Board could not proclaim an official winner until it had delivered a ruling on the case.

During this period, information surfaced that the video recordings from the security cameras on the premise where the poll boxes were held had been damaged and lost. According to the company operating the cameras, the video footage was unable to be viewed due to equipment failures in electrical system.

This signified that there was no way to ensure that the poll boxes were not tampered with or manipulated – as at least two witnesses had declared – and became a major facet of the APB’s judicial appeal.

The APB lawyer handling the judicial appeal, Daniel Ponce, told La Nación: “We find ourselves faced with an unprecedented scandal in the electoral history of Argentina, and this adds to the long list of irregularities that prove fraud occurred in Tucumán.”

On 14th September, the Electoral Board announced the results of the recount, confirming Manzur’s victory with 51.64% of the votes against Cano’s 39.94%.

Luis Manzur won the contested election by around 110,000 votes. (photo: Wikipedia)

Luis Manzur won the contested election by around 110,000 votes. (photo: Wikipedia)

However, the Tucumán Electoral Board made clear that Manzur could not be officially appointed Governor until the Tucumán Administrative Appeals Court resolved the APB’s claims of electoral fraud.

On 15th September Electoral Board Secretary, Darío Almaraz, confirmed on Radio Red that, “Today there is not a governor elect, or any other newly elected government official.”

Cano responded to the recount saying that he would not recognise the result until the court made its final ruling.

“The result today is invalidated by justice, to such a point that the Electoral Court cannot proclaim anybody [as winner],” he told Radio America. “The legitimacy of this election has been marred by incidents and the outrageous events that took place on election day.”

Manzur conversely declared himself victor in front of thousands of supporters at Plaza 9 de Julio. He said, “We are here to celebrate because things turned out as we knew they would.”

President Cristiana Fernández Kirchner congratulated Manzur in a National TV Broadcast and requested that people “respect the election results.”

She also criticised the opposition for its repeated claims of electoral fraud. Referring to the opposition’s recent victory in Córdoba she said: “We [the FPV] don’t denounce fraud when we lose.”

Elections Annulled – What Next?

On 16th September the Tucumán Administrative Appeals Court ruled that the elections held 23rd August should be annulled and a new vote called to elect both provincial and municipal authorities.

The court sent the ruling to all parties involved, giving them 48 hours to respond to the decision. The following day the FPV filed an appeal with the Tucumán Supreme Court.

One of the judges who ruled on the case, Salvador Ruiz, explained the decision to local Tucumán newspaper La Gaceta.

“It didn’t matter how many votes one candidate had versus the other,” he said. “If the procedure is flawed, it logically follows that another vote should be called.”

Presidential candidate for the opposition, Mauricio Macri, applauded the court’s ruling. On his official Twitter account, he wrote: “What is happening in Tucumán gives us enormous hope.”

Meanwhile, current Kirchnerist governor of Tucumán, José Alperovich, criticised the court’s ruling.

“The institutional situation we find ourselves in now is a tragedy for Tucumán,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to go through with this [a re-vote] because Juan Manzur won by more than 100,000 votes. Tucumán does not deserve this instability.”

Alperovich also commented on the difficulties of orchestrating a re-vote with national elections just over a month away.

With the current administration’s mandate expiring on 29th October, there are rumours that the federal government will need to designate an interim governor until either the court’s decision is overturned or new elections are held.

Wider Impact

The events in Tucumán have resurrected the debate surrounding Argentina’s electoral process and the need for reform.

On 27th August, three opposition presidential candidates — Sergio Massa (Unidos por una Nueva Alternativa), Mauricio Macri (Cambiemos), and Margarita Stolbizer (Progresistas) — held a joint press conference calling for transparency in the upcoming national elections on 25th October.

They also pressed for widespread change to the electoral process, either in the form of electronic voting or a single-ballot system.

“Since 2006 we’ve fought for the adoption of a new voting system,” said PRO legislator, Pablo Tonelli. “Now we’ve reached an extreme situation when the traditional voting system can no longer be used in Argentina.”

The government responded critically to the opposition’s suggestions for electoral reform so close to the upcoming presidential vote, sighting the impracticality of implementing changes in such a short amount of time and accusing the opposition of political opportunism.

Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández commented that “it’s a stunt to make them appear serious at decision time, they lose elections and create this farce.”

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Scioli Takes Comfortable Lead in Presidential Primaries

Frente para la Victoria’s (FPV) Daniel Scioli won 38.4% of the vote in yesterday’s primary elections, over 12 points ahead of his closest rival, Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri, who gained 24.3%. Former cabinet chief Sergio Massa trailed the pair, picking up 14.2% of the vote.

Candidates Daniel Scioli (left), Mauricio Macri (middle), and Sergio Massa (right)

(L-R) Frontrunners Daniel Scioli, Mauricio Macri, and Sergio Massa

Three other candidates will also be on the ballot on 25th October, having won more than the 1.5% threshold: Margarita Stoblizer from the centre-left Frente Progresistas (3.5%), Compromiso Federal’s Adolfo Rodríguez Saa (2.1%), and Nicolás del Caño from Frente de Izquierda y Trabajadores (FIT) who picked up 1.7%, narrowly beating his FIT rival candidate Jorge Altamira (1.6%).

Five smaller parties did not make the cut, gathering less than 0.5% of the vote each.

Celebrations were strong in all of the camps, for differing reasons. Scioli highlighted his 12-point lead over Macri, whilst the Buenos Aires mayor and Massa were quick to celebrate all the votes picked up by their respective coalitions.

When looking at votes along party lines, the scenario changes, with FPV still leading the field, but by much smaller margins, making the chances of a run-off on 22nd November more likely. (To win outright, a candidate must win more than 45% of the vote, or more than 40% with a ten-point margin of victory over their closest rival.)

Governor of Buenos Aires province Scioli was the only candidate on the governing FPV’s ticket, after June’s announcement of his choice of vice-president – Kirchnerist insider Carlos Zannini – united the party behind a single candidate.

Macri and Massa, on the other hand, both beat out rivals to be on the presidential ticket.

Macri, running on the ticket for coalition Cambiemos, which includes his own party Propuesta Republicana (PRO) and the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), closes the gap on Scioli significantly when adding the votes of UCR senator Ernesto Sanz (3.5%), and Coalición Civica’s Elisa Carrió (2.3%). The coalition’s collective total is 30.1%, just eight points behind Scioli. Massa’s Una Nueva Alternative (UNA) alliance also won 20.6% overall, if second-placed Córdoba governor José Manuel de la Sota’s 6.4% is included.

Whilst all eyes were on the presidential race, six provinces also took to the polls to elect new governors yesterday.

Buenos Aires Province

The most watched race was Buenos Aires Province, where a third of the country’s population resides, and current governor Daniel Scioli’s man – Julián Dominguez – faced off against cabinet chief Aníbal Fernández (a close ally of the president). Whilst the latter only narrowly won the FPV ticket, together the two government candidates picked up 40.3% of the vote, ahead of Cambiemos’ María Eugenia Vidal’s 29.4%, and UNA’s Felipe Sola – who previously governed the province from 2002-07 – and who picked up 19.6%.


In Catamarca the incumbent FpV governor, Lucía Corpacci, comfortably led with 52% of the vote, making it seem likely that she will be reelected in October. Her closest rival, former governor Eduardo Brizuela del Moral, of Frente Cívico y Social, picked up 39%.


In the southern province, incumbent Martín Buzzi won a landslide victory over his challenger to take the FpV candidacy and stand for re-election in October. The FpV also led overall, between them taking 40.4% of the vote, narrowly beating non-Kirchnerist Peronist, and former governor, Mario Das Neves of Alianza Frente Union Chubut Somos Todos (38.8%). Alianza Cambiemos Chubut trailed into third place with 15.6% of the vote, making it likely that the two Peronist candidates will face one another in a run-off in November.

Entre Ríos

With incumbent governor Sergio Urribarri not standing for re-election, fellow FPV candidate Gustavo Bordet came first in the primary with 44.3% of the vote, beating Cambiemos’ Alfredo de Angeli (35.8%).

San Juan

Current vice-governor Sergio Uñac had a good primary, taking over 85% of the votes cast for the FPV, ensuring he is on the ticket in October. It is likely that the FPV will be re-elected, after taking over 61% of the vote in the province. If he wins, Uñac will return to the position he held as caretaker in 2013 when incumbent José Luis Gioja was on medical leave for four months following a helicopter accident.

San Luis

Brother of presidential hopeful Adolfo, Alberto Rodríguez Saa took a seemingly unassailable in the primaries for Alianza Compromiso Federal, scooping 54% of the votes, close to 30 points ahead of Cambiemos, who picked up 26.4%, and FPV, with 16.9%. If he wins in October, which seems likely, Rodríguez Saa will continue the brothers’ dynastic rule of San Luis, which has seen them govern the province for 26 of the 32 years since the return to democracy in 1983.

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Elections 2015: Thirteen Candidates Sign Up for Presidential Race

Thirteen candidates have been presented in the official race to succeed President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner at elections later this year.

Saturday night was the deadline for the different political parties to register their candidates ahead of the open, simultaneous, and mandatory primary elections (PASO) on 9th August.

Only three parties presented multiple candidates to compete in the primaries, meaning that as many as nine of the 13 will run for president on 25th October, provided they gather more than 1.5% of the vote in the PASO.

Alongside the 13 tickets for president and vice-president, parties also presented their candidate lists for legislative elections. Around half of the seats in the lower house and a third of seats in the senate will be renewed in the October election.

Frente Para la Victoria

Daniel Scioli (right) and his running mate Carlos Zannini meet with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Photo via Casa Rosada)

Daniel Scioli (right) and his running mate Carlos Zannini meet with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Photo via Casa Rosada)

After last week’s controversial move by President Fernández, who supported Buenos Aires Province governor Daniel Scioli‘s candidacy by choosing loyal Kirchnerist Carlos Zannini as his vice-president — prompting Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo to abandon the race — the governing Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) will only have Scioli participating in the primaries for president.

In the province of Buenos Aires, however, Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández and former Agriculture Minister Julián Domínguez will compete to become the candidate for governor in the October election. Fernández’s running mate will be the director of the Federal Authority for Audiovisual Communication Services (AFSCA), Martín Sabbatella, while Domínguez will be joined by La Matanza mayor Fernando Espinosa.

Despite speculation over the past few weeks about a possible candidacy of President Fernández —for Congress or the Mercosur Parliament — she will not be running for any public office after her term ends in December. Her son Máximo Kirchner will head the list of candidates for national legislators in representation of the province of Santa Cruz. Other members of youth group La Cámpora will feature prominently in the lists in key districts: Secretary General to the Presidency, Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro, will head the list in the province of Buenos Aires, whilst Economy Minister Axel Kiciloff will do so in the city of Buenos Aires. Other ministers and former ministers, such as Julio de Vido and Nilda Garré, are also competing and likely to be elected to Congress, forming a bloc loyal to the current president.


Macri, Sanz, and Carrió will compete to be the official Cambiemos candidate (Photos via Wikipedia)

Macri, Sanz, and Carrió will compete to be the official Cambiemos candidate (Photos via Wikipedia)

Cambiemos, a new coalition formed after a pact between the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), PRO, and the Coalición Cívica (CC), have three ‘pre-candidates’ for president. PRO leader and current Buenos Aires mayor, Mauricio Macri, will compete against UCR senator Ernesto Sanz and CC legislator Elisa Carrió to be the official Cambiemos candidate in October.

After much speculation, Macri chose Gabriela Michetti to be his running mate. Michetti, a senator for PRO, lost out to Horacio Rodríguez Larreta in the primaries for the Buenos Aires mayoral race in April.

Despite forming a national alliance, the parties of the Cambiemos coalition will present separate candidates for Congress in six provinces and the city of Buenos Aires. The alliance did hold for the key electoral battle in the province of Buenos Aires, with PRO’s María Eugenia Vidal running for governor accompanied by UCR’s Daniel Salvador as her vice.

Una Nueva Alternativa

Sergio Massa and José Manuel de la Sota will face off to represent UNA in October (Photos via Wikipedia)

Sergio Massa and José Manuel de la Sota will face off to represent UNA in October (Photos via Wikipedia)

Sergio Massa, leader of the Frente Renovador will run against Córdoba governor José Manuel de la Sota in the primaries, with the winner to be the official presidential candidate for Una Nueva Alternativa (UNA) in October. Felipe Solá, who became a national legislator for FpV in 2007, will run to be governor of Buenos Aires province, a position he held previously between 2002 and 2007.

Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores

Jorge Altamira and Nicolás del Caño are the two presidential hopefuls from FIT (Photos via Wikipedia)

Jorge Altamira and Nicolás del Caño are the two presidential hopefuls from FIT (Photos via Wikipedia)

The leftist coalition Frente de Izquierda (FIT) will also present two ‘pre-candidates’ for president at the primaries, with Jorge Altamira of the Partido Obrero (PO) running against Nicolás del Caño, of the Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PST).


The remaining five presidential candidates all belong to different political groups, meaning they just need to secure 1.5% of the vote in the PASO to qualify for the October ballot.

Margarita Stolbizer is the candidate for the Frente Progresistas, a centre-left coalition that includes the Partido Socialista, GEN, and Libres del Sur.

Former San Luis governor – and president for one week during the 2001-2 economic crisis – Adolfo Rodríguez Saá also formalised his candidature for his Peronist (but anti-Kirchnerist) party, Compromiso Federal.

Ex-union leader and current legislator in the lower house of Congress, Víctor de Gennaro is candidate for the Frente Popular.

Among the two remaining leftist parties, Manuela Castañeira is the candidate the Nuevo Movimiento al Socialismo (Nuevo MAS) and city legislator Alejandro Bodart will represent MST-Nuevo Izquierda.

If all of the above is too much to take in, Mendoza-based newspaper Los Andes has produced a useful infograph with all the presidential candidates and their selections for vice.

Infograph created by Diario Los Andes

Infograph created by Diario Los Andes

Check back on The Indy after the 9th August primaries for full profiles on the candidates who will compete for the presidency in October.

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Buenos Aires Primaries: Victory for PRO’s Rodríguez Larreta

Rodríguez Larreta casts his vote (photo courtesy of Horacio Rodríguez Larreta)

Rodríguez Larreta casts his vote (photo courtesy of Horacio Rodríguez Larreta)

The hottest primary in the country was finally decided yesterday, with PRO’s Horacio Rodríguez Larreta beating rival Gabriela Michetti as the party’s candidate for mayor of Buenos Aires, coming well ahead of the pack.

The second place was also disputed, and eventually won by Energía Ciudadana Organizada’s (ECO) Martín Lousteau —the former Economy Minister whose 2008 ministerial resolution to modify taxes for agricultural exports triggered the government’s biggest crisis, now reborn as the fresh face of a somewhat incestuous opposition in the city.

The national government’s Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) and its seven pre-candidates were unable to regain the second spot in the preferences of porteños, lost in the 2013 election.

The Numbers

A total of five parties and/or alliances managed to surpass the 1.5% threshold necessary to participate in the election for mayor, whilst six will compete in the election for legislators. Both will take place on 5th July, when a new form of electronic voting is expected to be implemented.

The city government’s PRO obtained a landslide victory with a total of 47.3% of the vote, divided 60/40 between Rodríguez Larreta and Michetti. ECO came second with 22.3%, with Lousteau beating his two internal rivals (one of them another former Kirchnerist official, Graciela Ocaña) with 80% of the vote.

The FPV primary was quite fragmented, with seven candidates from different Kirchnerist factions and one clear favourite. With a combined 18.7% of the vote, Aerolíneas Argentinas president Mariano Recalde will represent the third party in the city, after beating his internal rivals by 65.6%.

The fourth and fifth spots went to the left, to Myriam Bregman of the Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores (FIT, 2.3%) and Luis Zamora of Autodeterminación y Libertad (AyL, 2%) respectively.

In terms of legislators, the numbers were very similar. The main difference is the inclusion of Camino Popular’s Itai Hagman, who scratched the necessary number of votes to overcome the threshold (1.7%), while his pre-candidate for mayor, senator Claudio Lozano, will be unable to participate in the election after getting only 1.44%.


All eyes yesterday were on the internal battle between PRO candidates Rodríguez Larreta and Michetti. Whilst PRO has enjoyed a solid support from porteños since its first victory in 2007, and is a favourite to win the city election, yesterday’s poll was the culmination of a long-running dispute between the two leaders. Mayor Mauricio Macri’s support was crucial to prop up Rodríguez Larreta, who would have otherwise struggled before his better-known and more charismatic rival.

Macri’s involvement also gave the city election a national projection, as a positive result yesterday and on 5th July will strengthen his presidential candidacy, giving him something to show for ahead of the October election. Previous analyses suggested that a victory by Michetti could have hurt Macri’s chances —whilst this is unlikely, Rodríguez Larreta’s landslide victory will give the mayor a boost of popularity on which he will need to capitalise in the coming months.

PRO is also waiting for the definitive vote count in Santa Fe —where his candidate Miguel Del Sel came first by a negligible margin— after it was revealed last week that as many as 200,000 votes had not been included in the provisional vote count. Those results are expected to be available this week.

Fighting for Second Place

Martín Lousteau (middle) celebrates his second place (photo courtesy of Martín Lousteau)

Martín Lousteau (middle) celebrates his second place (photo courtesy of Martín Lousteau)

Despite Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández’s early optimism —exit polls in hand, he predicted a comfortable second spot for FPV— yesterday’s runner-up was new party ECO. The opposition between ECO and PRO is not clear-cut: Lousteau’s victory was celebrated last night by Coalición Cívica and UCR leaders Elisa Carrió and Ernesto Sanz — Macri’s (uncomfortable) allies at the national level.

Analysts also predict that, due to a certain affinity, at least in terms of image, Lousteau may be able to snatch some votes from Michetti in the July election, to try and compete on a second round against favourite Rodríguez Larreta.

Recalde said last night that his aim is to be a part of that second round (which will take place if none of the candidates obtains more than 50% of the vote). However, his chances are slim, as he is unlikely to expand his support base by capturing votes from his rivals.

Sergio Massa —at the moment, the third favourite in the national scenario— had an appalling performance in yesterday’s primaries, with his virtually unknown candidate, economist Guillermo Nielsen, becoming the butt of the jokes after he obtained a pitiful seventh spot, with only 0.9% of the vote. This is unlikely to help Massa’s already fading star.


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Law Proposed to Fine Deputies who Switch Parties

Buenos Aires Deputy Dulce Granados of Frente Para la Victoria (Photo courtesy of Argentine Government)

Buenos Aires Deputy Dulce Granados of Frente Para la Victoria (Photo courtesy of Argentine Government)

Deputy Dulce Granados of Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) has proposed a law that would fine members of Congress who change their party or vote in opposition to their party during their elected term. Granados has proposed the fine be up to $1m.

“To turn on the fly during your elected period, as Senator Leonor Granados Gonzáles did, is an outrageous act for voter confidence, as their vote sets out their beliefs and political decisions,” argued the national representative in defensive of her position.

Granados referred to her sister-in-law Senator Granados Gonzáles of Buenos Aires City who left official government party FPV to move into the ranks of Sergio Massa.

Deputy Granados asked Granados Gonzáles to renounce her seat given to her “in good faith by the voters”, whom she repaid by switching loyalties. “Betrayal is a cowardly and detestable depravity,” she added, quoting enlightenment thinker Baron d’Holbach.

The law would allow each one of the houses, with two-thirds of the votes to suspend the legislators with a lack of funds, compensation, or whatever other payment. Also, they would not be able to be elected or vote for between 8 and 12 years and would receive a fine of between $500,000 and $1 million.

Ironically, despite being the subject of Granados’ example, the law would not actually affect Granados Gonzáles as it would only apply to the national congress, not the senate.

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Ten Years of Kirchnerism: The Power of Words

Often, words and actions are opposed in a false dichotomy. In politics, saying that one is a “man (or woman) of action”, someone who “talks less and does more” is an old cliché. However, as any discourse analyst knows, the distinction between words and actions can be blurry. Language philosopher John Austin focused much of his research on what he called ‘speech acts’, describing the performative quality of words. This can be observed in simple, every-day situations -the classic example is that uttering words such as “I promise” is, at the same time, performing the act of promising something- and it can also be the base to understand more complex social processes in which words, images, and symbols play a great part.

In the last few years, it has become common place in the Argentine media, and in every day speech, to mention ‘el relato‘ -‘the narrative’- put forward by the government in order to impose their view of reality. More often than not, the term is used in a pejorative way, almost as a synonym for lie, deception, a mise en scène that people naively buy into (or cleverly see through and pull apart).

Many seem to have only recently discovered the fact that governments -as well as other groups- promote certain ‘narratives’ in which they insert their actions and policies. This is in no way an innovation of Kirchnerism. Indeed, all governments and all systems need to construct their discourses in order to give legitimacy to their actions. Within modern, media-dominated democracies, the struggle for power is often played out in the field of cultural hegemony.

It is in this field in particular that words matter. What people, government, and the media talk and do not talk about plays a great part in shaping our understanding of the world.

Tomorrow marks a decade since the birth of Kirchnerism. If there is one thing that can be said about this decade, is that public debate has been well and truly alive. So what have Argentines been taking about?

Néstor Kirchner's inauguration, on 25th May 2003 (photo courtesy of Casa Rosada)

Néstor Kirchner’s inauguration, on 25th May 2003 (photo courtesy of Casa Rosada)

Words Matter

Debate happens within the realm of civil society, and while the government has dominated the agenda for years, not all debate has been started or imposed by it. In fact, to a great extent it has been the regional context -and more specifically, its crises- that has brought to the surface many issues that had been silenced for years.

The international consensus that dominated the world after the fall of the Berlin wall and of Soviet socialism marked the glorious triumph of capitalism and liberal democracy. The ‘end of history’ as announced by US academic Francis Fukuyama, was the predominant theory that explained the state of the world, and dissident voices were drowned out amid the cheerful celebrations of the establishment.

That model, now under the spotlight everywhere, first started showing signs of collapse in the crises that struck Latin America in the first few years of the 21st century. The governments that were tasked with picking up the pieces in their respective countries started breaking -more or less quickly, more or less radically- with the certainties of the past and trying out new ways to move their countries forward.

A new discourse, new ‘narratives’ have developed throughout these years, on subjects such as the economy, the role of the state, the rights of minorities, and the nature of power. These debates have helped shape the society that we live in, and have in many cases been either the cause or the consequence of government policy.

At the same time as the state regained its role as the organiser of economic and social relations, the question arose as to whether real power relies on its control or elsewhere. The first Kirchnerist government started off weakly, after having come second in the 2003 election and in the middle of a massive political and institutional crisis. From its very first days, when it confronted the corrupt Supreme Court it had inherited from the previous decade, it presented itself as the government that had come to fight the corporations that secretly pulled the strings of political and economic life.

Youth has become involved in politics (photo by Simon Guerra)

Youth has become involved in politics (photo by Simon Guerra)

As the government increased in popularity and power, the David and Goliath story lost some meaning. But, regardless of whether one considers that the government really fought the corporations or not, the necessary discussion about where power lies was firmly installed in the public debate.

The most positive outcome of this has been that the privileges of corporations have been put into question. Though in the media-dominated public sphere debates tend to become simplified to the extreme, issues such as the power, influence, and political interests of media conglomerates, the inscrutable nature of the privileged judicial caste, or the lobbying power of big business started to be analysed, or at least talked about, outside of the academic world.

The question of power opened up to debate the question of politics as a space for participation, and after the collapse of the party system in 2001, political activism slowly began to regain its place in society. While the ’90s had given rise to some important and interesting political manifestations, it will go down in history as a decade of apathy and despondency. The restoration of the belief that politics can actually change people’s lives and that it is something worth becoming involved in -in a country with a long history of political activism- has sparked a growing interest, especially with young people who seem to have become more active within political parties and social organisations.

However, the understanding that not everything is the same, and that there is more to politics than just corrupt politicians, seems to be increasingly at risk by the degradation of the public discourse encouraged by mass media. When the logic of reality TV takes over, and shock and scandals matter more than discussions about important issues, the public debate suffers as a result.

The value of the commitment to a cause and the struggle for one’s beliefs was exemplified by some of the voices that had screamed for years to be heard and that finally obtained the recognition they deserved, and important policies to go with it.

Gay Marriage Passes Congress (Photo: Beatrice Murch)

Gay Marriage Passes Congress (Photo: Beatrice Murch)

The debate about the importance of dealing with the pending issues from our past and of obtaining justice in order to move forward, promoted tirelessly by human rights organisations for over three decades, resulted in the end of impunity for many perpetrators of human rights violations. The recognition obtained by organisations like Madres and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo and HIJOS was a historical restoration.

Finally, the discussion about equality which ended (or started) with the passing of laws such as those of marriage equality and gender identity allowed us to move ever further from the reactionary conservatism of institutions that still expect to have a final say on issues concerning society’s moral values.

Silenced Voices

Much has been said and much has been put into question in the last ten years. However, in such a vocal era, when everyone tries to scream a little bit louder than the rest, there are still many voices that cry out to be heard.

Despite the massive discussion taking place across the continent -and the world- over the power of media, and despite the regulatory law that was passed in Argentina in 2009, access to the media and the attention it commands remains a privilege reserved to a select few. As with the rest of the economy, the communications’ market is still highly concentrated. The political and economic interests that media owners try to protect shape the agenda, degrading the terms of the public debate and drowning out dissident voices.

Though each new tragedy manages to scratch the surface of the public agenda, the issue of land rights, especially that which involves aboriginal communities, is very rarely analysed with the seriousness it deserves. The expansion of the agricultural frontier and the social and environmental damage it causes is not a concern for the government or for the business elite -both benefit from the dollars obtained by grain exports. One of the most important political conflicts of the last few years, the campo crisis, revolved around the appropriation of those dollars. Not much air time was given to those who used the opportunity to question the agricultural model in place.

QOM camping on 9 de Julio and Av de Mayo protesting their treatment  (Photo: Jessie Akin)

QOM camping on 9 de Julio and Av de Mayo protesting their treatment (Photo: Jessie Akin)

In a resource-rich continent like Latin America, the environmental discussion in general still lags behind. As economic growth and the re-distribution of wealth consolidate, inevitably the time will come when we will have to question our dependency on fossil fuels and non-renewable sources of energy, the appropriate implementation of environmental laws, and our outdated view on industrialisation.

While some minorities have managed to have their voices heard, there are still silent majorities that must keep fighting for their rights. Physical violence against women is a problem that will not go away as long as symbolic violence -which manifests itself in every day speech and in the constant degradation of women in the media- is still prevalent and accepted in society. While the advancement in the rights and participation of women in public life is undeniable, rights that in other countries are considered basic, such as access to a legal and safe abortion, are hardly being discussed on a mainstream level. In these matters, the conservative right still has the upper hand and manages to install a criminal silence.


Debate, discussions, exchange of ideas… they are vital to a democracy. While there are many issues that remain unspoken -or rather, unheard- the balance of the last decade is positive in terms of the many truths that have been questioned. Nothing should be sacred, and everything should be up for debate. Going forward, and as the voices seem to become louder and more aggressive, it is important to ensure that meaningful debate is not drowned out or dumbed down, and that the new truths do not in turn become unquestionable.

It is also important to not become too infatuated with the sound of our own voices. Everyone is talking, but we should also learn to listen.

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Judges to Pay Income Tax Under New Law Proposals

The Palace of Justice (Photo: Thiago James, in Flickr)

Judges and judicial officers may soon have to pay tax on their earnings after the Frente para la Victoria (FpV) submitted new proposals to Congress. The move comes as a first step in the government’s planned “democratisation of the judiciary,” as announced by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last year.

“It is about complying with the Constitution, which states that all Argentines are equal before the law,” FpV deputy Pablo Kosiner, author of the bill, told Pagina 12.

Supreme Court Judge, Raúl Zaffaroni, spoke in favour of the new law, stating, “It is important that the State raises the debate concerning the democratisation of justice, opening it up to the political arena is the best way forward.”

Argentine judges have not had to pay income tax since 1996 but the FpV are looking to restructure the judicial system. “There are many ways to fix it, although it might not be easy,” added Zaffaroni.

He also shrugged off rumors that the Argentine judges govern with corporate power. “There are many debates within our justice system which clearly demonstrates we are not a corporation. We must become more diverse.”

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (0)

Controversial ‘Habitat Law’ Passed by Senate

A new “Habitat Law”, drafted and supported by Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) legislators, was passed yesterday by the Buenos Aires Province Senate.

A gated community in Buenos Aires province (Alex Steffler, Wikimedia)

The law states that large property developments, such as country clubs, gated communities, and private cemeteries, must give up 10% of the cost of the property to fund social housing.

The lower chamber had already approved the bill last month even though the UCR and Unión Pro Peronista deputies have opposed it. Francisco De Narváez, of the Frente Peronista, said he would ask the governor of the province of Buenos Aires to veto the law. De Narvaéz said the law was “unconstitutional” and that if the governor did not veto it “they would take the issue to court”.

“It will produce less work and will not generate one piece of social housing. Destroying private property is not the way forward,” said De Narvaéz.

“This law shows the tip of the iceberg, revealing the way in which Kirchnerism sees society, they believe that private property is an evil,” he added.

Yesterday Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli, member of the FPV, said that he would consider vetoing the law if it weakened the right to private property. However, today his chief of cabinet, Alberto Pérez, told Radio Continental that the law would be promulgated, stating however that “a strict regulation will be put in place so that the right to private property is not violated”.

Pérez added that “to the spirit of creating more social land has to be added that of protecting private property and acquired rights”.

The law also includes clauses that make the properties that are permanently inhabited by one or more families “unseizable”. It also allows for a raise in taxes on properties whose value increases by additional construction or changes in the area they are built in.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (3)

PRO Party Goes Forward with Project to Increase Fuel Prices

Martín Ocampo, legislator for the Propuesta Republicana party (PRO), announced that the City of Buenos Aires will charge a new tax on fuel in order to finance the take-over of the subte by the city scheduled for January 2013.

Car loading fuel at a petrol station (Rama, Wikimedia)

“These measures are taken to encourage public transport over car use,” explained Ocampo. PRO’s intentions are to increase the price of fuel by up to $0,40 per litre depending on the type of fuel. The breakdown would be a $0,40/l increase for premium petrol, $0,30/l for other types of petrol, $0,20/l for gasoil, and $0,10/l for natural gas.

The measure initially counted with the support of Buenos Aires province governor Daniel Scioli, who recently backtracked.

“The difference is that Scioli obeyed orders and we try to be autonomous from the National government,” claimed Ocampo. Scioli is a member of the Frente Para la Victoria party (FPV), as is President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Fernández’ national government has been opposed to a measure it considers “regressive” and warns that the tax on fuel will lead to higher prices of products in other sectors.

Since finally accepting this month to take over the subte after a lengthy battle with the national government the city government has been looking for solutions to compensate for the national governments subsidies that will be cut in 2013.

Other measures PRO have considered are the increase of tariffs on motorway tolls, as well as raise prices of license plates. In this scenario Buenos Aires motorways (25 de Mayo – Perito Moreno, Illia and Dellepiane) tariffs would go up 10%, while license plates for cars valued at more than $150,000 would go up 5%.

At the moment they are not considering raising the price of the subte that already more than doubled in January of this year, from $1,20 to $2,50. Metrovias, the company in charge of the subte, said the price increase resulted in a large drop in passenger numbers.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (0)

Country-Wide Protests Spring Up Against Government

Thousands gathered in cities across the country to protest against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her government last night.

A similar cacerolazo (from cacerola – pot which people symbolically bang on to indicate their discontent) had taken place last month, on 13thSeptember, but last night’s, with a participation of 70,000 to 700,000 people depending on sources, was larger.

Protesters fill the streets during the 8N cacerolazo (photo/Marc Rogers)

“What the Argentine people did [yesterday] they should be proud of. […] The message was for the President who is the one that has to change,” said Mauricio Macri, governor of the city of Buenos Aires and member of the opposition party Propuesta Republicana (PRO) on the radio program Primera Mañana.

“I didn’t lose any sleep over the protest last night and I won’t lose any sleep over it today,” Senator Aníbal Fernández from President Fernández’s Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) defiantly told Radio Mitre this morning.

The recurring themes during both protests were insecurity, corruption, freedom of expression, and opposition to constitutional reform. Argentines opposed to the government fear that President Fernández and her party will push for a constitutional reform that would allow her to run for a third consecutive term, which is forbidden under the current constitution. President Fernández however has never said a reform was in her plans or expressed the wish to run again for the presidency.

An animated protester in Plaza de Mayo (photo/Marc Rogers)

The organisation of the protest mainly took place over the internet via social networking platforms with the tag 8N (for 8th November). Although the PRO party was the most largely represented, protesters united against the current government rather than in favour of any specific party. This is the result of an increasing polarisation in Argentine society between pro or anti-government groups and while the opposition count with the support of large parts of the private media they have no formal political representation.

A majority of those present were from the middle and upper classes of Argentine society who have felt most threatened by the current government’s fiscal and political reforms. Protests even sprung up in capitals across the world in countries with large Argentine expat communities. Protesters in front of embassies in Paris, Madrid, and Sydney will have been particularly hardly hit by the recent monetary reforms that have made it harder to send money out of Argentina.

"My money, my job. I don't want to support lazy people" (photos/Marc Rogers)

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (3)

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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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