Conflicts & War

Argentines march to mark 20th anniversary of political-social crisis

Buenos Aires, Dec 20 (EFE).- Tens of thousands of demonstrators from leftist political parties and social organizations on Monday marched to the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Dec. 19-20, 2001, political-social-economic crisis that erupted in Argentina at that time.

The marchers shouted slogans claiming that the economic problems that sparked the massive 2001 demonstrations have not gone away.

Columns of marchers moved through the capital’s downtown streets chanting slogans rejecting the government’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, with which Argentina has a $42.845 billion debt, and asserting that “adjuster governments” still rule in the South American country and are on the verge of ushering in more austerity as part of a deal with the IMF.

Dec. 20, 2001, marked the end of the 1999-2001 Fernando de la Rua government, a termination brought about by an economic and social crisis and by a wave of protests that left 39 people dead around the country, most of them killed by security forces in their attempt to suppress the protests following the president’s decision to declare a “state of siege” on Dec. 19.

“At 20 years, the popular rebellion against the adjusters lives on,” read a sign posted over a stage set up on the Plaza de Mayo by leftist organizations that are not aligned with the current Alberto Fernandez government.

On the stage, speakers denounced “the continuation of the adjustment and the foreign debt” during Fernandez’s administration, saying “At 20 years, we’re protesting (the government’s actions) within the framework of a pact with the IMF that will bring about more adjustment, misery and unemployment,” said a leader of the Polo Obrero group, referring to a $44 billion deal with the monetary organization.

The demonstrators recalled how social movements had been instrumental in the 2001 crisis.

The Movimiento Evita, which is aligned with the Fernandez government, also organized a march for Monday to recall and pay tribute to the victims of Dec. 19-20, 2001, but “with more organization,” as the organization said on the social networks.

The march was staged to note that there has been a “qualitative leap” because the social organization is part of the Union of Workers for the Popular Economy and “We have constructed an economic and social proposal via the popular economy to provide a response to our sector” of eight million Argentines.

In the future, the group announced that it intends to flesh out “a political proposal” to “build a new majority in Argentina and definitively transform it.”

In 2001, the assorted problems of Argentina, which had been mired in a recession since 1998 and which was experiencing monumental payment difficulties, became more acute when the international debt markets and the IMF withdrew their support for the country.

The government of De la Rua – who died in 2019 – presided over the so-called “corralito” that restricted people from withdrawing their funds from local banks, thus precipitating a wave of riotous protests, “cacerolazo” pot-banging demonstrations and looting of businesses that culminated with the violence on Dec. 19-20.

On those two days, thousands of people challenged the “state of siege” decreed by the government and occupied the main squares and avenues of the country’s cities shouting that all the government officials should “get out.”

One of the foci of the protests was the Plaza de Mayo, which was transformed into a quasi-battleground on the afternoon of Dec. 20 due to the violence with which the police suppressed the demonstrators.

On Dec. 20, De la Rua resigned and left the Casa Rosada, Argentina’s presidential residence and the seat of government, escaping the mob in a helicopter.

De la Rua’s successor, Adolfo Rodriguez Saa, remained in office for only a week, during which time he decreed the largest government default in history of $100 billion.

Current President Fernandez on Sunday unveiled a commemorative plaque at the Casa Rosada that bears the names of the 39 victims of the police repression during the rioting of Dec. 19-20, 2001.

The president noted that “justice in this case took 20 years to arrive” and that “it (only) arrived minimally” because none of the security forces was convicted of anything more than “minor” crimes, and he emphasized that “it took 20 years because those who had to sign the ruling knew that this plaza had been overflowing with people on the 20th demanding justice and they wanted to silence those voices.”

Those responsible for the police repression, which ended with five dead and hundreds of injured in the Plaza de Mayo zone were convicted in May 2016 and their sentences were confirmed on Dec. 13, although the Supreme Court has not yet issued its pronouncement on the matter.

Fernandez also said that he will send to the Argentine Congress a bill that will establish reparations for the people who died or suffered serious injury as a consequence of the state repression in 2001.

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