More news -and correction- on Salta riots (was Re: More dead in Argentina due to repression)

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky gorojovsky at
Sat May 13 10:52:41 MDT 2000

En relación a Re: More dead in Argentina due to repression,
el 13 May 00, a las 9:52, Mario Jose de Lima dijo:

> Caro Nestor
> Tenho acompanhado as informacoes passadas via lista sobre o movimento
> grevista e mais esta agora. Aqui, no Brasil, essas informacoes nao tem
> qualquer espaco nos jornais de grande porte. Sao encontradas somente
> algumas notas sobre o movimento grevista. Por outro lado, salda-se os
> "maravilhosos resultados alcancado pela economia argentina, que
> alcanca 'niveis recordes de crescimento". Como podes ver, ha uma
> evidente solidariedade entre o patronato evitando a divulgacao de
> noticias que contradigam os rumos dos projetos liberais em andamento
> no continente, onde sabemos serem esses dois paises - Brasil e
> Argentina - pecas fundamentais. Tenho passado para outras listas as
> informcoes que passastes sobre a gre e mais essa de Salta. Saludos
> Mario

Querido Mario,

Te agradezco la difusión de las informaciones sobre Salta. Hoy tengo
todo mucho más claro. Voy a redactar a continuación algunas cosas
adicionales, en inglés (disculpas, hermano, pero de esta manera
pueden enterarse otros más).


There have not (REPEAT not) been dead people due to repression. The
only dead man, a middle aged truck driver, died from a heart attack
some 30 km from the place of the incidents. There is a relation,
however, between both events. The truck driver seems to have had
heart problems but the tension arising at the preparatives he
witnessed from repressive forces, as well as the fear that he might
be personally harassed either by protestors or policemen, had
something to to with his death.

Protestors have been brutally repressed however, and some were
harshly hit by policemen after they were arrested.  These policemen
are reported to have laughed at them after they were released.

Now, on to the social facts. What has happened yesterday at
Departamento General San Martín, on the North Eastern corner of Salta
Province, was more or less what follows:


The riots currently taking place in Salta have one basic origin: the
IMF plans.

In fact, IMF enforced (or fueled, and certainly financed)
privatization of the Argentinian oil company YPF, which does not
exist any more, implied for the whole area stretching along route 34
(the Argentinian tract of the main road in the Subandean Western
Chaco fringe, linking Tucumán with Santa Cruz de la Sierra in
Bolivia) the loss of thousands of jobs. And here is where it all
began. From a plant of 50,000, the former oil company was jibarized
into a 5,000 subsidiary of a Spanish oil company, Repsol. The
reduction implied the destruction of the whole complex of
technological and engineering development labs that YPF had
generated, the absolute loss of control of Argentinian not too
extensive oil reserves, and --the death toll for large oil towns and
cities such as these in Salta and Cutral Có - Plaza Huincul in

Those who were laid off were given some indemnization, with which
many fled the area and concentrated in the provincial capital, Salta.
Others remained in their home area, but in both cases, as has
happened in general with layoffs and "voluntary retirements", people
tried to make a new living on driving taxis, on opening up miserable
"drugstores" (basically cigarette stands), small groceries, home
video rental, or similar occupations.

Of course, nine out of ten crashed. The oilfields were practically
the only source of urban employment and income in the area;
agricultural employment is also scarce and, due to many reasons, out
of the horizon of these workers. So that, deprived of any other means
of living, people here as well as at many other points in Argentina
began to depend on what was known as "Plan Trabajar", concretely a
system of subsidies sent by the national state to the provinces, and
of course subject to political manipulation by local bosses.

The subsidies were miserable (in particular as compared to the wages
earned as workers at the national oilfields), some u$s 150 a month,
which translated to an average family of four or five means around
one dollar a person a day. It should be taken account that in
Argentina, and particularly in these areas, urban residents have
little or no possibility to develop "survival strategies" upon "non-
urban" activities, that is they cannot supplement wages with income
from, for example, agricultural activity (not even in the form of
maize grown in the backyard!). One dollar a person a day means
exactly that: one dollar a day to satisfy every need.

Even so, the subsidized economy managed to drag along. In a miserable
condition. Residents of Departamento General San Martín (the area
that has revolted) voted for the politicians who made the best
promises, had a justified distrust of Radical politicians, supported
a Peronista provincial governor of name Romero who showed himself to
be the best pupil of the IMF (his outrageous and unbelievable
privatizations of electric power utilities and water services have
been denounced by a comrade of mine, José María Cavallieri, who has
been receiving menaces against his life). But Romero received an
immense weight of votes from this mostly proletarian area of the
province of Salta.

How did he answer? By letting some Plan Trabajar subsidies leak into
the Departamento. During the Menem administration, he had "cured" the
illnesses by resorting to some National Treasury Allowances (ATNs)
which, from Buenos Aires, were sent directly by the President to the
provinces. These mechanisms were some kind of "undercover" and were
accepted by the IMF as a consequence of dealing with Menem.


Immediately after the De la Rúa administration took hold of the reins
of the State, the IMF and their local representatives were
strengthened (and not made weaker).  This was to be a "clean",
"transparent", administration. A reasonable general truism, as
compared to Menem's dark management of funds, bribes and the like.

But what truly lay behind these strong trumpet calls for honesty
which gave the Radicals a good deal of their support during the last
Presidentials was ambiguous. While most of the voters, and probably
De la Rúa himself in part, were thinking in the end of bribery and
generalized corruption, the IMF technocrats and the neoliberal gang
of economists (that De la Rúa favors to the degree that he has
included five of them as ministers) expected that the new
administration would put an end to the outrageous mismanagements of
ATNs and Planes Trabajar by which Menem, in his characteristically
roguish way, had been plastering the situation in the areas most
affected by the destruction of Argentina led by the IMF.

So that, immediately upon arrival of the Alianza government to power,
the Ministry of Economy launched an ambitious plan for further
downsizing of the State, further layoffs, and further enforcement of
IMF recipes. One of the most important sides of this plan is to put
an end to the (from their point of view) outrageous and corrupt
practices implicit in the ATNs and to the undesired State
intervention that the Plan Trabajar implied.

So that, since the very moment when De la Rúa took power, these
sources of some breathing air for people in the North were
extinguished. In fact, this is one of the very few measures taken by
this administration in five months. Almost one eighth of their term
has passed by, the most dynamic one, and little more was done but
slashing these sources of income.

The politicians of the Alianza were thus forced to justify the Labor
Code, and the slashing of ATNs and Planes Trabajar in the name of
whatever principle they could find handy. The problem was that people
do not live on principles, they live on more pedestrian stuff, such
as food or clothing. This situation was compounded, in Salta, by the
enormously corrupt and despotic administration of the Justicialista
governor Romero. All of this put the General Mosconi - Tartagal -
Aguaray line on the warpath.

[On this, an important aside must be done. In the same manner the
Salta oligarchs are probably the most reactionary ones in Argentina,
the Salta Justicialism is one of the most anti-working-class
fractions of that party; one of the reasons behind this may be that
Salta was the only province where a Peronist governor of working
class origin ruled, Governor Xamena who was overthrown by the 1955
coup (a coup that put José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz to bring Salta
back to the past, in what was to be the first incursion into politics
of the man who generated today's Argentina after 1976). Xamena and
his administration were repudiated by the mostly bourgeois and petty
bourgeois leadership of the Salteño Justicialism after the 1955

The protesters resorted to cutting Route 34, and they were greeted
with the greatest police brutality by the formations of the
Provincial Police and the national troops of Gendarmería. It should
be pointed that both protesters and repressors were aware that this
time there would be a clash. As one of the representatives of the
protesters ("piqueteros") declared yesterday in a radio news show,
they knew that the Government could not step back in Mosconi without
receiving a nationwide wave of protests. So that when the troops came
to the place, they did not adopt a disuasive disposition. On the
contrary, they encircled the protesters with a U-shaped formation, so
that those who would attempt to escape to the sides would meet
policemen blocking their way.

What happened, however, was unexpected by the police. First of all,
people stood firmly and answered the gassing and shooting troops with
stones and sticks. Then, while they receded, they began to receive
shelter in the houses along the road. Thus, the policemen ENTERED the
houses, and caught the piqueteros who were in hiding. This enraged
the whole population of the locality. Shortly after the first clash,
a procession by mostly lower middle class inhabitants, who had taken
an image of Virgin Mary with them to traverse the police troops
without being harassed, succesfuly crossed the lines of the police --
and were immediately attacked from behind their backs!
This helped put the Church (which in the North is led by a very
progressive priest, Bishop Toledo) on our side. Moyano flew
immediately to the place of events, and offered solidarity. The CTA
leadership menaced with a general strike, which Moyano on his own
behalf had already suggested, if repression continued.

At the same time, people from Tartagal, Aguaray and Orán began to
flock into General Mosconi. Some reports -probably exaggerated, but
at any rate indicative of the mood- indicate that in Tartagal, a town
around 50,000 or 60,000, one out of five people moved to Mosconi
(which lies some 8 km -5 mi- nearby). In the neighboring province of
Jujuy, where the Corriente Clasista y Combativa (Struggling Classist
Current) led by the Maoist "Perro" ("Dog", a surname earned by his
uncompromising negotiation tactics) Santillán is one of the main
forces in the union movement, preparatives were made to mobilize
towards Mosconi. In the provincial capital of Salta, at the same
time, mobilizations were taking place, with increasing momentum,
against the repressors.

So that the whole thing, in less than 24 hours, was mounting to a
mini-regional upheaval combined with a menace of national strike. Too


 While the Justicialist governor of Salta, Romero, felt forced to
abruptly cut a trip he was doing in Israel (in fact, he seems to have
had decided to leave on vacations because he smelled the riots
beforehand, and did not want to be in Salta by the moment they took
place), De la Rúa called for an emergency meeting of the Government.
As a result of this meeting a commission from the National Government
was sent to negotiate with the piqueteros.

Please pay attention to this: this is the first _independent_
political move by De la Rúa to stop a fire. Up to now, all he has
been doing is to acquiesce by the orders emanating from the IMF,
under pressure of a "currency shock". And this move is to send a
national delegation to carry on conversations with a tiny group of
rebels in a forlorn area of a province devastated by the very
measures that De la Rúa himself has been backing, at least in his
immobility, since he took power.

This first independent move has some interest. The negotiators (all
of them of the first level at the National Administration, Drs.
Becerra, Cevallos and Viqueyra) have just reached some basic
agreements, all of them accepting the claims by the piqueteros.
Troops are being demobilized, intervention of the corrupt local
municipalities will be fostered by the National Government (these
interventions must be made by Provincial powers, Argentina is a
federal country), and redress will be sent for people who have not
been receiving a single coin since De la Rúa took power.

The political consequence of this was resumed by Becerra: "Now, we
know, we shall have to receive the same complaints from every corner
in the country".

What next? This has been a kind of partial victory of the piqueteros,
at least up to this moment. But the crude fact is that the model does
not allow for any concession. Whether De la Rúa is decided to slowly
take the reins and begin to establish some kind of independence from
the IMF -tnanks to the opposition from the popular masses- or he will
finally decide to lead a four year administration of increasingly
bloody confrontation, remains to be seen.

In the meantime, people starve and the foreign debt payments are duly
met, Argentinian firms bust and foreign concerns get fat on their
exactions. And the old mole is still working.

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at

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