As I am soon to leave Argentina, I wanted to interview some of the people I’ve met here about the current political situation. I was inspired by the major demonstration that took place here on 8-Nov and my desire to understand more about what’s going on. The interviews were an opportunity for the people to express their opinions. Those opinions are based on what they know and have experienced. The facts may be exaggerated or false but I have not changed them feeling that it is better to write what was said and not challenge the person’s opinions. The opinions are those of the interviewed and no one else’s.
This first interview is the first in a series of interviews I have conducted over the last few weeks. Diego, a high school student, must be one of the most informed and intelligent sixteen year olds I’ve ever met.
We began by talking about the demonstration on 8-Nov.
I started by asking why the demonstration had been so big, with an estimated 700,000 people taking part in Buenos Aires alone, and why it took place when it did. He replied that during the days building up to the demonstration the city suffered a series of power outages and localized flooding which resulted in such a large turn-out. People were frustrated and needed to express themselves. The demonstration itself was planned weeks ago.
The media has stated that ordinary Argentinians are angry about the following five points; inflation, high violent crime rates, constitutional reforms, corruption and the government’s attack on the media. I asked Diego which of the points worried him.
The reforms to the constitution would result in the President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, being able to stand for re-election in 2015 for a second time. Diego isn’t too worried about the chances of reforms as the President needs the support of the opposition and there are no signs of that happening. Corruption has existed here since before he was born and no one is optimistic things will change soon.
When asked why we didn’t see a clear representation of the opposition parties at the demonstration, Diego replied by saying that the demonstration was organized by the people, using social networks, and not by any of the opposition parties – they didn’t belong there.
Diego believes it to be an insult to compare the current situation with the economic crisis which took place here in 2001. Back then people didn’t have money to buy food. They used their kitchen utensils to generate noise to symbolize poverty.
A popular statistic here is that 65% of the public are opposed to the political opposition parties and I wanted to know more about why. Diego used an example to illustrate people’s feelings about the opposition.
Mauricio Macri has been the head of the government of Buenos Aires since 2007. Diego describes him as a conservative and who only cares about the rich. He has, in the past, prioritized development projects, such as the creation of public parks, in rich districts of the city. He’s the most prominent opposition politician due to his public battles with the President. Recent disputes include the management of the city’s subway system – something which millions of residents rely upon. Macri wants to take control of the subway’s management. The problem is that if the City takes control the government will remove its subsidies. This would result in a major increase in ticket prices and the bankruptcy of the company who runs the subway.
The above example highlights how politicians fight in Argentina while the public suffers. If the subway is taken over by the City it will collapse and the people will hate Macri. They will then turn to the President’s side. When asked why people would do that knowing that the government will have contributed to the service collapsing, Diego says that the majority of people are ill informed of the real details and blames a poor general education.
He believes that private companies have too much influence in Argentinian politics and talked about the reign of President Carlos Menem during the 90’s. Menem privatized energy and transport services generating a lot of money for the country but also committed major fraud. Diego says that these private companies now have incredible power and make many of the decisions.
I moved on to asking if there were any positives about the current government and President Cristina. She has helped the poor, he does admit, by providing housing, free computers for school children and free vaccinations – but she also manipulates them. On Election Days she will order the poor to be transported to the polling stations to vote for her by bribing them with food and money. Election Days are celebrated by the poor. The poor are afraid of a change in government as they believe that these advantages will be taken away if that happens. The President has convinced the poor that no other government will provide the same support as this one has.
In conclusion Diego would like to see a unified opposition but he doesn’t see it happening. It is the only way to change the situation. There’s not one figure at the moment that could unify the opposition.