1. Why is there a demonstration IN FAVOR of the government?
All the US protests I've ever been in or seen were to protest the government or raise an issue that had been ignored or marginalized. So I’ve known civil rights protests, anti-war protests, environmentalist rallies, pro- and anti-abortion marches, gay and lesbian parades, and even parades by Armenians decrying Turkish genocide during a visit to Manhattan.
But 30,000 people waving protest-type banners and signs TO SUPPORT the nation’s leader?
Never. Unless you count all those Hitler films that used to fill up the programming hours in the early years of the History Channel.
Maybe that’s what makes it scary to live here, realizing where some of these traditions come from. The history is shocking. What makes them possible today? How far can this be taken . . . again? So the next questions:
2. Who are these pro-government demonstrators? Who is paying for this?
Well, it turns out that the pro-government public rally was imported half a century ago from the Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini by Juan Peron, one of his deepest admirers and the founder of the party in power today. As journalist James Neilson of the Buenos Aires Herald explains, these “rent-a-crowds” should not be confused with the spontaneous assembly of the citizens who take to the streets banging pots and pans to protest government policies.
“Whenever a Peronist president feels that he or she deserves an ego trip, trade union bosses, the mayors of the sprawling townships of Greater Buenos Aires and the characters who lead private armies of piqueteros start chartering buses and trains, arranging payments whether in cash or in kind plus anything lese it takes to get as many people as possible into the Plaza de Mayo.” State employees are also “encouraged” to attend these rallies paid for by tax dollars.
Can you imagine the Republican Party orchestrating a huge rally in front of the White House to support George Bush's failed policies? Could they get away with using tax dollars to bus in professional protesters while government office employees are told to march themselves down Pennsylvania Avenue, grabbing the signs and banners from the storeroom on the way out?
Of course not. Until I moved here, the idea that a “democratic” government could engage in such tactics was inconceivable. But living in Argentina is a constant challenge to my ideas about democracy and citizenship.
So during that massive outpouring of "support" for Cristina on Tuesday, which happened to be April Fools Day, who was really the fool?