Thursday, September 17, 2009

How would you like to grab some pots and pans and join us in a little protest?

There are e-mails circulating to organize a cacerolazo next week, in protest to actions by the government in the past year. I'm not totally up on all that's going on because I still don't understand everything being said or written. What I do know is that last year they took private retirement funds in order to pay for public retirement. Now they're getting ready to make it illegal for journalists to report anything negative about the government or face the very real possibility of being thrown into prison.

What is a cacerolazo you might wonder? Wikipedia provides the following:
Cacerolazo or cacerolada: a form of popular protest practised in certain Spanish-speaking countries – in particular Argentina – which consists in a group of people creating noise by banging pots, pans, and other utensils in order to call for attention.

One of the largest cacerolazos occurred in Argentina in 2001, consisting largely of protests and demonstrations by middle-class people who had seen their savings trapped in the so-called corralito (a set of restrictive economic measures that effectively froze all bank accounts, initially as a short-term fix for the massive draining of bank deposits). The corralito meant that many people who needed a large amount of cash immediately, or who simply lived off the interests from their deposits, suddenly found their savings unavailable. As court appeals were slow and ineffective, people resorted to protest in the streets.

As the Argentine peso quickly devalued and foreign currency fled the country, the government decreed a forced conversion of dollar-denominated accounts into pesos at an arbitrary exchange rate of 1.4 pesos per dollar. At this point the unavailability of cash for people trapped in the corralito compounded with the continuous loss of value of their savings, and the unresponsiveness of the appeal authorities (minor courts and the Supreme Court itself) further angered the protesters.

The first cacerolazos were spontaneous and non-partisan. While in Argentina most demonstrations against government measures are customarily organized by labor union activists and low-level political recruiters among the lower classes, and often featuring an assortment of large banners, drums and pyrotechnic devices, cacerolazos were composed mostly of spontaneously gathered middle-class workers, housewives and professionals, who used not to be involved in grassroots political action of any kind.

After a time, however, the cacerolazo became an organized phenomenon, often of a violent nature, directed against the banks. Many of them were attacked, their facades spray-painted, their glasses broken, their entrances blocked by tire fires, or even their facilities occupied by force at times.

In order to avoid further violence, especially with the deadly December 2001 riots still fresh in the memories of Argentinians, the government decided not to use active police force against the cacerolazos unless absolutely necessary, and to restrict most police presence to barricades in critical spots, a policy that was followed also with piquetero marches of unemployed people asking for state welfare and jobs.
Isolated cacerolazos also featured during the apagón ("blackout") of September 24, 2002, to protest against increases in public service fees requested by the providers.
As the financial and macroeconomic conditions became more stable, the government loosened the restrictions on the withdrawal of deposits, and the cacerolazos died out.
Not sure how many in the interior of the country will participate in this organized but innocuous form of protest. I've heard the folks in Bs. As. do it up big. Interesting concept, no?

Even if people in my town haul out their pots and pans to join in, not sure anyone will hear them over the 14 bands that will be playing around the city, celebrating the annual Festival de Jovenes. We're expecting thousands of young people to descend on the city for the day-long, city-wide party on the same day as the protest.

We never talk politics here; that's not why we came. But I have always had a healthy interest in the political process and am finding it fascinating to see how a different system functions, and thought it might interest others as well. 


rita said...

¿Cuándo va a ser el cacerolazo?

Reminds me of the 'tea parties' starting up all over here in the USA.

Mari said...

Very interesting! It reminds me of the tea parties too.

2Thinks said...

Oh, I like it- the pots the bangs, the banging them in the streets. I do believe the tea partiers here should definately add this feature to their protests. I'm going to suggest it to my town's coordinator.

2Thinks said...

I mean, "..the pots, the pans..." not "the pots, the bangs- goodness that could be gunshots, I don't like that. Sorry about the typo.

Robin @ Be Still and Know said...

Very interesting.

Just tomorrow there is local rally to protest the scheduled closing of our town's library. This library is within walking distance of our home and one we visit on a nearly weekly basis. We are all gathering at a central location and then marching down to the library. The media is schedule to be there. This library is only three years old and is well used by the community. It board voted to close this library in a unpublicized board meeting. This has cause a huge ripple of protest in the community. We are hoping that out voices and a big showing tomorrow will do a lot to change the mind of the powers that be to re think their decision.

Maybe I'll bring my pot's and pan's along to clang together as I walk!!