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"Argentina has several million people trading in local currency since their inflation went through the roof." — Paul Glover, Ithaca, New York activist

Argentina bleeds toward healing

by Raul Riutor, Culture Change correspondent

Avellaneda, Buenos Aires, Argentina.— Argentina, a rich country during the first years of the 20th Century—still a nuclear power in Latin America—suffers now its worst financial, economic and social crisis since independence from Spain in 1816.  Incredibly, it has food to feed the whole impoverished region.
     Some visitors from Washington DC, representing the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Interamerican Development Bank, and others coming  from the European Union, notice when they see the poverty here that the present situation exceeds the crisis in the United States before the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
     Nestor Kirchner, the new President for the next four years since May 25, 2003, did not promise miracles and has been working like a "fireman" in several provinces to keep the schools and hospitals opened and the poor people eating, thanks to some old and new social plans.
     The paradigmatic situation, in figures, it is as follows: 
    FOREIGN DEBT: l72,000,000,000 dollars. Argentina did not pay a cent since the end of 2001, when the country had five Presidents in less than a month.  Roberto Lavagna, the Economy Minister, is asking for a  discharge of the debt.  Kirchner says: "I will not pay with the hunger of my countrymen."  It will take more than a generation to pay that money.
    JOBS: Around 3,000,000 people do not have a regular occupation
    FOOD: More that 2,000,000 kids do not eat at home, but they get some food in the schools.
    PENSIONERS: More than 5,000,000 "jubilados" get only between l50 and 210 pesos (50 to 70 dollars) monthly, enough for one week (in summer, not in the cruel winter).
     With this situation, here in the populous Avellaneda— headquarters of the popular soccer clubs Racing and Independiente— there are continuous meetings of protesters (the now famous "piqueteros") asking for everything: jobs, social plans, medicines, better salaries, security in the streets, the end of corruption (politics, police, parliamentary, municipal, etc.).  They block avenues, streets, bridges and they talk to the radios, TV, newspapers with the usual slogan: "¡Que se vayan todos!  (All of them must go!)
     These actions have taken place almost in all the provinces and Buenos Aires, the federal capital, during the last three years.  Some critics claim that many "piqueteros" do not know what the situation is all about and they go there just to get paid, plus a sandwich and a beer or glass of wine.
     What? Just for one sausage sandwich? How can this be?
Argentina has 4,000,000 square kilometers and a long Atlantic Coast with plenty of fish and also rivers with more wealth.
     Meat? Almost one and a half cow for each of the 37,000,000 people living in Argentina
     And also 30,000,000 sheep and 40,000,000 horses.
    And an enormous harvest of wheat, corn, soy, sunflower, alfalfa, grapes, apples, potatoes... seems there is food for a population ten times bigger.
     So, it is time for some ugly questions:
     Why millions of kids go to sleep without a decent hot meal?
     Why the poor old former workers die at night because they have not keroseno for their heater?
     Why in the sidewalk of an American or European bank here, in Rosario, Tucumán  Santa  Fe or other big Argentine town, thousands of  homeless sleep just with cardboard instead of blankets?
     Why the rich Argentines do not bring back from the Caribbean or Switzerland their 100,000,000,000 dollars to create jobs?
     Why they do not sell the Presidential Plane (Tango 01) and with the 60 millions dollars buy milk and bread for the people who have been eating dogs in Rosario or cold pizza from the garbage baskets around here?
     The former President, Eduardo Duhalde, used this expensive unit to go to Rome to say "Goodbye" to the Pope, John Paul II.
     Why Senators and Representatives do not give back theirs cars with drivers?  The money could go to the "Comedores Barriales"—houses, poor, of course, where children go to eat— and besides, they would not use oil, something that Argentina has little of, just for ten years more, according to the "Instituto Argentino del Petróleo."  They could use bikes, right?
     Now Argentina has a deflationary situation: nobody buys, everybody sells, nobody pays.
      The super-markets are empty.  Well, they have costumers asking for the essentials.  Looking for the cheapest.
     The hospitals are full.  But there isn't any cotton, syringes, alcohol or sheets.
     Medical doctors and nurses are having a very hard time.  Can we blame them if they prefer "to escape" from hell to the First World, maybe to the United States, Australia, Canada, or France?
    They also want to go to Spain or Italy, from where their ancestors came to Argentina, fleeing from wars, poverty and hunger!


Raul Riutor has worked with Jan Lundberg of Sustainable Energy Institute dating back to their association in the early 1980s with the bilingual Energy Detente, published by their employer Lundberg Survey.  Raul worked for Reuters for years prior to that, and since lived in Argentina since the mid 1980s.  He may have improved his racquetball game there, and no doubt he will demonstrate for us whenever he returns to California.

Related discussion: Culture Change Letter on the collapse of the U.S. kill-for-oil culture
Background on Argentina's crisis and liberation: has great Argentina info.
Global Justice Media - a collective of media activists fighting corporate globalization in solidarity with Latin American strugges.
Learn about Argentina's anti-capitalistic experiment, from Utne Reader.
For general information on Argentina, see

See Culture Change magazine articles. 

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