A 2018 G20 Demonstration in Buenos Aires

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Expect no photos here, they are unnecessary. But you are going to have the background that is rarely discussed in these cases.

Take any artist’s rendition of the revolutionary Paris of the French Revolutions, and you have all you need – in the public domain, even: a sea of red flags and other protest banners, streets full of their bearers. Let me make a little aside with what I saw in the seventies in my university town of Hamilton, Ontario (Canada), to allow the reader to compare his or her own experiences.

About a dozen Communist protesters had organized a march down James Street to the Gore Park area, and perhaps beyond. They are accompanied by a police escort consisting of slightly more members than in the tiny group they were keeping from trouble.

This might sound rather peaceful, and perhaps that was. It all depends upon how strongly you feel about these bearers of revolutionary banners.

How would you feel, if you knew that the local union representative of the city-owned bus company was also the candidate for the Communist party? In addition, he was a bus driver. Would you want to ride on his bus?

I need to add here, that I am referring to two completely different Communist parties. The one that ran in the federal elections got maybe 60 votes. If they restricted themselves to running in the elections, they could hardly be considered dangerous.

But I know, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police knew, that the other Communists did have an action plan. If it was limited to licensed parades down city main streets, I suppose society could survive.

Let us compare that with the situation in Buenos Aires City.

My “amusement” began a year ago, with the World Trade Organization meeting in the same venue. I obtained police permission to enter the restricted zone, only to be refused the opportunity by the person who usually wanted me there. My pro-active efforts were to be heavily insulted.

It may be that society is weary of the high inflation rate, which at the beginning of the year, we were told, was to be less than the 40% of the previous year. Right! We are running at 50%, and the poor have their basket of commodities rising at 56%. Wage increases, which are not exactly the result of collective bargaining as known in the United States and Canada, are far from keeping up, because these are usually stipulated once a year. The last increases were deliberately kept lower than the inflation rate by government request. Not that it did any good!

So just about every day, the fabled “widest avenue in the world”, the 9 de Julio (9th of July) sees a sea of swarming demonstrators coming out from the southern end of the city to march on some iconic area of town – Congress, the House of Government, the Municipal Palace, or the Ministry of Public Works.

These are highly organized demonstrations. To attest to this is the fact that some improvised barbeque stands are set up even before the demonstrators arrive.

Now, I do not know exactly how this works, because I am not one of these masses. What is clear is that:

The demonstrators are paid to arrive. I have heard a man urging a woman to participate for this reason.

Demonstrators are of three varieties: unionists, students, and the poor. The latter come with the entire family. In general, the demonstrators must not be older than 30.

In addition to the payment which they receive, (which, I understand, is more than I make in a day), they receive some barbecued item and a soft drink.

As an example, about 6 weeks ago, during a protest more massive than usual, an expensive modern car, almost a limousine, parked on the side on the 9 de Julio, opened a top window, restricting access. To a person of shady aspect on the outside was delivered a large plastic bag full of something. After crossing out of my mind the more sinister possibilities, I decided that this must be meat for the barbecue – donated by some politician or packing plant friendly to the ideals of the anti-government protesters.

Urging them on is some kind of professional hoarse, raucous “chanter”. It is, or seems to be the same voice in every protest, from the smallest to the largest. Pay must be good.

Unlike the case of the caravan moving up to the United States, I need not look at any international actors responsible for this. These are local powers vying for, – well, power.

More sophisticated elements among the protesters have a brass band, playing passable music.

Now, these protests have been happening at least every two days for I do not know how many months. This may only be a perception – these may have been more frequent, or less so.

This brings us to today, a replay of most, if not all of the above. The city is under an enforced holiday of sorts, due to the areas under lock-down. I escape from this by one block – but can be affected by movements of traffic. Even then, at 3 P.M., as I went to buy some vegetables and eggs from my usual supplier, I could not see how to cross the 9 de Julio. Besides protesters, my street had riot police, and some seemingly irrelevant signs on two blocks, “No parking. Authorized vehicles only – event”.  The event was not defined.  I tried one hundred yards further down. The situation was the same, but no police. It was a struggle to get from one side of this wide avenue to the other. People march holding hands, or long banners, so that no one will get past them. The trick is to cross, without crossing any fanatic. They were coming from as far as the eye could see, and had already gone ahead an equal distance.

I really don’t know if these protesters know why they do what they do. Some are just anti-American. Others feel their sovereignty is being affected, not just by the U.S., but by former European colonial powers.

I did not waste my time reading a complete banner, but I think I can say this:

One read: Out Trump, Merkel, Macron, May …

I think some very important names were missing: Xi, Putin, the Prime Minister of Turkey, the Saudi representative. In general, all but the above four were selected for the message Get Out”, according to my glimpse.

So, the question is: Was the demonstration really against the G20, as the habit is, or was this a uniquely Argentine manifestation with the brass band, the dancers, and those who carry poles of a bamboo-like plant with their banners. (I have never heard those who want to protect nature complain about the depredation of this plant from the places where these might grow.)

If the G20 is what it is said to be in Wikipedia, I really see no reason for these demonstrations. Simply put, Canada, Germany, and the United States began an initiative which was to help poorer countries.

Now, if the local leftists don’t want any help, fine. But they sure buddied up to the Soviet Union in its time, and the main non-Peronist party was a member of the Socialist International. While not members of this outfit, prominent among the red banners is that of M.A.S, Movimiento al Socialismo. A rather unoriginal name is Izquierda Socialista, the Socialist Left. The good news, is that there are so many of these groupings, that like at the beginning of the Russian Revolution and the Trotskyites, if they ever got to power, there would be some heavy infighting at the beginning.

I hope not to have anything to say about violence. At 6 P.M., local time, on my way to an Internet café, a small group of police in riot squad gear is sitting in the shade of a small plaza. Workers are clearing away the debris of the demonstrators on the 9 de Julio.  Some of the less committed are already on their way home.

On the way back home at 9 P.M., there was practically no traffic on the 9 de Julio.  Two unmarked cars seemed to chase someone on a bicycle.  On the northern side, one of the municipal employees used to control traffic did not stop me as I tried to cross the street on a green light, while a speeding vehicle raced through a red light. I stepped back in time, the speeder was ignored.

8 P.M., Friday, 30th of November.

The following day, my street still had the no parking signs.  On a sidewalk of the 9 de Julio, someone had scrawled, in large letters, “Ni un minuto de paz para los ricos. Fuero G20“, which is, “Not even a minute of peace for the rich.  G20, out.”  The signature was of a group which goes around with the face well-hidden – Los Fogoneros, (the Stokers).   Yup, they’re definitely working on stoking something up.

Twenty-five hours later, there are still traffic jams.  But this is the anti-climax.

9 P.M. Saturday, 1st of December.

© 2018, Paul Karl Moeller

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