[Marxism] Costas Lapavitsas: The Syriza strategy has come to an end

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 30 15:53:29 MDT 2015


On 4/30/15 5:34 PM, Dayne Goodwin via Marxism wrote:
> In my judgement, the best strategy right now is what I call a
> consensual and orderly exit. Not a contested exit.

(What Argentina endured in the first 3 years of an Argexit.)

NY Times, March 2, 2003
Once Secure, Argentines Now Lack Food and Hope
By LARRY ROHTER

TUCUMÁN, Argentina— A year after the Argentine economy collapsed, the 
authorities in Buenos Aires are boasting about a record grain harvest 
and suggesting that the country is finally on the mend. Yet in recent 
months, 19 children have died of malnutrition here, so ''the garden of 
the republic,'' as this city is known, is also the leading symbol of its 
agony.

Just a few years ago, this was a largely middle-class nation, with the 
highest per capita income in Latin America. But the crisis that began in 
December 2001 has turned millions of Argentines into paupers without 
jobs, hope or enough food for themselves and their children.

According to the most recent statistics, issued in January, at least 60 
percent of the country's 37 million people now live in poverty, defined 
as an income of less than $220 a month for a family of four. That is 
nearly double the number toward the end of 2001. Even more alarming, 
more than a quarter the population is classified as ''indigent,'' or 
living on less than $100 a month for a family of four.

Fearing a run on its currency after the International Monetary Fund said 
Argentina was not imposing sufficient fiscal austerity and cut off its 
credit line, the Argentine government froze bank accounts and defaulted 
on most of its debt in December 2001. Since then, the economy has shrunk 
by 12 percent, thousands of businesses have closed down and unemployment 
has soared to record levels of nearly 25 percent.

As a result, hunger in this nation that has more cattle than people is 
now rampant, especially among the most vulnerable: the very young and 
the very old. The situation seems to be most acute here in the 
northwest, in working-class cities surrounded by rural areas. While 
other such cities have reported some deaths, this city of 500,000 has 
had the most.

At the one pediatric hospital here, doctors find themselves treating 
patients with kwashiorkor, a disease caused by lack of protein and 
characterized by its victims' distended bellies and reddish hair.

''Problems that we used to see in photographs from Africa, now we are 
facing them here,'' said Dr. Teresa Acuña, a pediatrician at the 
hospital. ''We never thought that this could happen in Argentina.''

The situation is most desperate in poor neighborhoods like Los Vázquez, 
where working-class families that struggle to make ends meet even in the 
best of times are now penniless. Two of the children who died of 
malnutrition -- a 15-month-old girl and a 3-year-old boy -- lived here, 
and relief groups have classified 90 percent of the neighborhood's 
children as undernourished.

Luis Alberto Rocha, a community leader, estimated that the 
neighborhood's population had surged by 50 percent since the end of 
2001, primarily with newcomers from the countryside who have come to 
scavenge at the nearby garbage dump and municipal fruit and vegetable 
market.

''The country is in bad shape, and we, the poor, are even worse off,'' 
said Carlos Roberto Rivera, a 29-year-old father of eight children, ages 
2 to 12. ''There is no work now, and that means we don't eat sometimes. 
For breakfast, the children often will have only maté,'' a traditional 
herbal drink high in caffeine that many Argentines consume in place of 
tea or coffee.

Until the crisis hit, Mr. Rivera had been a bricklayer making up to $100 
a week and had saved enough money to build his own house. But 
construction jobs have vanished, and he said he was lucky to bring home 
$10 a week hauling plastic bags, wooden boxes and other refuse from the 
dump to his neighbors' homes so they can recondition and sell the items.

According to official statistics, after nearly a decade of price 
stability, inflation last year soared 41 percent, largely because the 
peso lost three quarters of its value against the dollar. But the cost 
of the so-called basic basket of food products required for a balanced 
diet increased by 75 percent, forcing families suffering big losses in 
income to cut back even more.

Maté has doubled in price, from 50 centavos a kilo -- 2.2 pounds -- to 
one peso, residents said. Bread has leaped to 1.70 pesos a kilo from 80 
centavos, noodles to 2.40 pesos from 1.50 pesos and sugar to 1.30 pesos 
from 50 centavos.

Mr. Rivera's older sister, Fátima, a mother of nine who is married to 
another bricklayer and lives in Los Vázquez, said that when a peso was 
roughly equivalent to an American dollar, she used to be able to feed 
her family for 10 pesos a day. Today 10 pesos is only worth a little 
over $3. ''Now,'' she said, ''you can't get anything with that money.''

The Argentine government has responded to the crisis with an emergency 
Head of Household Plan, instituted early in 2002 and extended 
indefinitely at the end of the year. Under the plan, the government 
supplies about $45 a month to each of 800,000 families, the only income 
many of them have. But there is not enough government money to meet the 
need, and many eligible families, including those of Mr. Rivera and his 
sister, are still not covered.

The situation has been exacerbated by what relief groups and other 
critics say is government incompetence and corruption. Five civic 
organizations recently filed a formal complaint against the provincial 
governor and asked the authorities in Buenos Aires to channel aid 
directly to charity groups instead of to the government.

Because so many more people are going hungry, their resistance to 
disease is weakened and the incidence of illness has risen. Hospitals 
and clinics are finding themselves lacking the money to buy medicine, 
replace and maintain equipment, and even pay their own employees.

At the pediatric hospital, the number of children seeking care is 
estimated to have risen by more than 30 percent since the beginning of 
last year. But a $1.8 million expansion approved in 2001 has been 
tabled, and doctors and nurses say their paychecks, largely in scrip 
that is worthless outside the province, have been delayed for months.

''The demands made on us are infinite, but our resources are more and 
more limited,'' said Dr. Lorenzo Marcos, the hospital's director. ''We 
have to fight daily for our budget, and the climate here is one of 
permanent tension and improvising to make ends meet. I don't know how 
much longer we can hold out.''

With government services crumbling, the burden increasingly falls on 
private charities, supported by groups like the Red Cross and Caritas. 
But feeding and community centers say they too have been overwhelmed and 
are nearing a breaking point.

Since the mid-1980's, Vilma Rivero has been operating a soup kitchen in 
an area known as Banda del Rio Salí. Her daughter Luciana was one of 
thousands of Argentines who disappeared during the military 
dictatorship. When the government paid Mrs. Rivero an indemnity, she 
used the money to open the center, which for years offered lunch and a 
snack to about 150 needy children a day. In the last year, that figure 
has shot up to as many as 400 children a day, with Ms. Rivero, vigorous 
and forceful at 73, trying to meet the demand with a handful of 
neighborhood volunteers. A typical lunch, served in three shifts over 90 
minutes, consists of meatballs and rice or noodles and chicken. For many 
of the children, it is the only meal of the day.

Many mothers and grandmothers of the children worked until recently as 
cleaning women in middle-class households, earning $15 or $20 a day. 
When the crisis hit, their employers let them go, and now they linger 
outside the kitchen's fence, hoping that enough food will be left over 
for them too to be invited to eat.

''The regulations say that only children up to age 12 are eligible,'' 
Ms. Rivero said. ''But I ask you, how are we going to turn these people 
away? If we don't feed them, they are not going to eat. That's how bad 
it is.''

Questioned by Ms. Rivero, Ermelinda Salto Argelia acknowledged that she 
and her husband, José Ramón Bay, the parents of four children, ''often 
go without food so that the kids can eat.'' Her husband is a street 
vendor, selling items like pencils and dental floss. Many days he comes 
home empty-handed.

''A year and a half ago, things were still going well,'' she said. 
''Sometimes he would make 50 pesos in a single day. But now it's a good 
day when he comes home with 10 pesos.''

The couple's youngest child and only daughter, Milena Rocio Bay, was the 
first baby born in Tucumán in 2000, and that distinction brought the 
family prizes and gifts from a contest sponsored by a local newspaper. 
Today the child weighs only 28 pounds and is listless and cranky, which 
her mother attributes to the medicine she takes for the stomach 
parasites associated with poverty here.

''I'd like to be able to help more, but my budget is the same as it was 
a year ago, and the last time that the government sent over any money to 
help was in October,'' Ms. Rivero said. ''While the rest of the world 
moves ahead, here in Argentina we are trapped in this vicious spiral 
that is taking us to ruin.''





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