Tension is building here in Argentina. The muffled conversations on the street and in the cafes swirl around one question, how much longer can (President Cristina) Kirchner hang in.
If this is what a brewing revolution smells like, it’s not pretty. It’s not the smell of coffee brewing or bacon and eggs on the stove.
A brewing revolution is more like the rotten-egg smell of a gas leak. You know there’s a problem. You know if you don’t find it and fix it, a spark will happen at the wrong place and at the wrong time and the explosion happens.
Metaphorically, Argentina has that rotten-egg smell. It’s had that smell for decades. It’s gotten worse as the years have gone by. The government’s answer to the problem, up until now, has been akin to spraying more and more air freshener in a futile attempt to cover up the odor and ignore the real problem.
This time though, the country might blow.
This past week, Kirchner lit the fuse when she announced that she was cutting subsides by 80 percent. In the finest of corrupt-government-traditions, Argentine presidents have long paid out more and more in “entitlements” to the country’s poor. As the leaders of South America’s second largest nation piled on the dollars and kept throwing cash around, people became like insatiable meth addicts. It was taking more and more of the drug peso to keep them happy.
Now the cash spigot is being slowly turned off. The path that was set by Greece, Egypt and other countries is now being followed here in Argentina. Austerity measures being put in place to “save” the government may very well be the thing that destroys the government. People here have grown accustomed to two things, and they can’t imagine life without either one.
The first thing is corrupt government. In America, politicians are seen as basically good people. As a group, American politicians are among the lowest of the low, but individually, they can be pretty decent folk. People who work hard and try to do the right thing. Every so often a Gary Hart or a Rod Blagojevich, and the corruption hits Americans and it makes the front page for 24 hours, or until attention is drawn to the shiny new gadget.
In Argentine, corruption is the order of the day. When the President is found to have been smuggling money out of the country in her private jet, people don’t bat an eye. When Kirchner removes the border guards along the what country here border, people don’t ask questions. Corruption is a way of life here in politics and government agencies. The president is corrupt, the police are corrupt, everyone that is in any position to get their fingers into the battered gray money box, is corrupt.
And Argentines are shocked when a politician does the right thing. An honest politician here makes the news just like a crooked one in America makes the news.
The other thing to which Argentines have grown accustomed is entitlements. Money is not handed out here like it is in America. In America someone has to least least go through the motions of proving they are needy. Here someone just has to profess a love for the president and the money starts flowing their way.
When Kirchner announced she was cutting those subsidies by 80 percent, she lit the fuse.
The dynamite might be exploding here on April 10. That’s the day that a national protest has been called. The busses will be shut down. The subways won’t run. The cab drivers will park their yellow and black cars. No one will move. Except the protesters.
100,000 of them.
In America an organizer can work for a year to plan a protest at The White House. Exercising the best advertising skills, tweets will be sent out along with Facebook postings, emails, flyers and signs. Talking heads will show up on the news to talk about the protest and why people are needed.
Bill McKibben organized a protest a few years ago at The White House to protest the XL Pipeline. He and his organization spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring out the people. They worked on the demonstration for over two years to get as large a crowd as possible.
When the protest happened, 13,000 people showed up. McGibbon and his crew bragged, boasted, crowed and twittered about what a grand turnout it was.
Yesterday, March 29, the demonstration was announced. There will easily be 100,000 people showing up.
What is that figure and prediction based on? In November a demonstration was announced. The protest was against corrupt government, inflation and crime. One hundred and ten thousand people showed up one week later.
110,000 in one week. That figure comes from the government. Casa Rosada has all the reason to downplay the numbers, so the actual figure might even be higher.
The intersection of massive subsidy cuts, extreme unrest might just finally have been reached.
People have been smelling the tell-tale odor of rotten-eggs for awhile.
The explosion might clear the air. Argentina needs more than air freshner.
Editorial by Jerry Nelson