BY TODD CHRETIEN
The killing of two demonstrators by police on June 26 has sent political shock waves through Argentina. The murders took place in an industrial suburb of Buenos Aires, where activists of the militant unemployed movement — known as the piqueteros (picketers) — were blocking a bridge into the capital.
Police fired several volleys into a demonstration of about 1000 piqueteros, injuring close to 100 people. The cops then chased a small group of activists into a train station and gunned down two in cold blood as a photographer stood by. The next day, eight photos documenting the murders, moment by moment, appeared on the front page of the country's main daily newspaper, El Clarin.
On July 3, a protest made up of 40,000 piqueteros, unionists, students, activists from neighbourhood organisations and left-wing political parties defiantly took over the Plaza de Maya in downtown Buenos Aires — the site of another police massacre last December during the uprising that toppled two presidents in a period of a week. "We are all piqueteros" was a main slogan of the demonstration.
The police repression — and the massive response against it — mark an important development in Argentina. President Eduardo Duhalde, who took over the presidency at the end of December after weeks of mass demonstrations forced out his predecessors, is under increasing pressure to call early elections.
He is trying to ram through ever more drastic austerity programs, which have already driven half the population beneath the poverty line. In a desperate attempt to divide the most militant activists from more moderate sections of the movement, Duhalde and his police began threatening to crack down on "violent" protesters while respecting "law-abiding" dissent.
By attacking the piqueteros as they blocked a bridge, Duhalde hoped to vilify them and set the stage for a wider attack on the far left of the movement. But his plan backfired. Mass anger at the police killings forced him to fire the Buenos Aires police chief, arrest the two cops who pulled the triggers and suspend more than 100 other police.
[From Socialist Worker, weekly paper of the US International Socialist Organization. Visit <http://www.socialistworker.org>.]
From Green Left Weekly, July 17, 2002.
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