Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Argentine Tax Plan Lands a Tough Ally

Ongoing saga in Argentina. Last week a story told of Nestor, former president, organizing a rally in support of Cristina, La Presidenta, his wife. This is the other side: not nice, but physically intimidating.

When pro-government activist Luis D'Elia crossed paths with one of Argentina's rural antigovernment protesters at a demonstration in March, they spent only a few seconds discussing agrarian policy. Then, while the farm backer was glancing away, the stout, jowly Mr. D'Elia socked him with a right to the head. Mr. D'Elia is the leader of one of the country's most prominent organizations of piqueteros, or picketers, groups of unemployed barrio residents who are available to join rallies on short notice. The piqueteros have served as Mrs. Kirchner's shock troops in a four-month fight over the government's move to impose a politically unpopular soybean-export tax.

Shock troops, or physical goons, one supposes.

The Kirchner government maintains cash stipends to low-income families, and many piqueteros are beneficiaries. Some piqueteros have also benefited from government programs such as financial support for low-income housing.


Last month, Mr. D'Elia suggested people get ready to defend the Kirchner government by exercising their constitutional right to take up arms. In an intemperate radio interview, Mr. D'Elia growled, "I hate whites...I hate the Argentine high classes, which have done so much harm, which have killed so many people, in the name of one flag, which is the flag of their own gain."

As if Nestor and Cristina aren't white?

How do I define demagoguery? Thus: Mrs. Kirchner has said that the farmers have been blocking roads and taking to the streets, just as the piqueteros do, but haven't faced the same disdain because they aren't poor.

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