Argentina: The storm is natural; the deaths and the disaster are not

April 11, 2013

By Fernando Rosso and Ruth Werner

The history of Argentina in the years of rule by the Kirchners could well be told through the social crimes that took place under their governments. Cromañon at the end of 2004, the Massacre at Once in February, last year, or those dead because of the storm, in Holy Week, exactly a year ago.

The storm that has just affected a large part of the Capital and the Province of Buenos Aires, with an epicenter in La Plata, has again shown the structural crisis of capitalist Argentina and revealed the responsibility and cynicism of the employers’ politicians. The seriousness of the events demolished the climate of national reconciliation proclaimed by Cristina Fernández after embracing Bergoglio in the Vatican. Neither Cristina Fernández Kirchner, nor Scioli, nor Macri lifted a finger in all their years of governing to perform the public works necessary for alleviating the effects of the catastrophe. The result, up to now, is more than 50 dead and hundreds of thousands affected. There was, indeed, a severe natural catastrophe, but, because of the negligence of businessmen and governments, it turned into a new social crime: once more, the working people supply the victims.


The events in the City of Buenos Aires, when not only the garbage but also the filth of the employers’ politicians, those of the ruling party or their opponents, was floating in the streets, were reported endlessly. The politicians’ only concern was shedding responsibility and taking advantage of the events for their primary elections. Macri was vacationing in Brazil and made an “emergency†return, to put himself in front ... of the cameras and make political maneuvers over the people’s tragedy. The national government launched its counter-campaign, almost “celebrating†because Macri was in trouble, while the number of the dead and the victims was increasing.

The storm followed its violent course towards La Plata and surroundings, showing that the “ally’ of the government coalition, Daniel Scioli, holds the Province of Buenos Aires under conditions similar to the Macri “right wing†of the Capital. The Mayor of La Plata, the Kirchner supporter Pablo Bruera, brazenly lied, by reporting that he had assisted those evacuated on the night of April 2, when, in reality, he was still “relaxing,†like Macri, in Brazil.

Cristina Kirchner also considered that she had to engage in demagogy and left for Tolosa to “tour the neighborhoods†and remind the helpless people who had lost their relatives, that when she was a girl, the “water entered her house.†The residents told her off by shouting. The personal fortune of the President [C. Kirchner] amounts to 8,400,000 dollars, with 28 properties. Cristina had to go by quickly, to make statements on TV with promises and more promises. But her real response, rather than the aid that never arrives, is the summons to the army and to the police to carry out their role of control, in order to prevent social outbursts, given what she called a presence of “strange faces.†Hugo Moyano himself expressed his solidarity. However, he has been flirting with the possibility of creating a list in the Capital with Lavagna and Macri, or backing Scioli, the politicians directly responsible for this disaster.

By the afternoon, the news of the first lootings was arriving, and, in the Capital, protest demonstrations began to be heard, with street blockades in the neighborhoods most affected. Already, on the night of April 2, lootings and housing occupations in Villa Soldati had occurred. The news was quickly concealed by all the media.

Growth for a few

During ten years of record growth, those who “made a lot of money†were the big businessmen and bankers, Argentinians and foreigners. Billions of dollars went to pay the foreign debt to the “vultures,†while so much other money disappeared as remittances for the parent companies of the multinationals and the mining companies that contaminate the environment and are looting our wealth. Confession from the party makes proof unnecessary: in these ten years of growth, the infrastructure of the country is the same or worse than in the 1990’s, the decade of the “neoliberal†Carlos Menem. In the City of Buenos Aires, haphazard urbanization, in support of quick capitalist profit, led to the loss of green spaces. The construction of mega-towers drastically reduced land for absorption of rain, and, in order to give bigger profits to the companies, the courtyard was eliminated in those buildings. Natural absorption was considerably reduced. The foundations of the mega-towers act as real dikes to block the natural subterranean drain. Furthermore, successive paving and repaving of the streets, to “reduce costs,†are above the line established for runoff of the water. La Plata has the same problems, uncontrolled construction of buildings without appropriate rain drainage; the city “grew enormously with the same infrastructure from the beginning of the twentieth century†(Clarín, April 4).

Meanwhile, subsidies of multiple millions continue to be earmarked for the privatized firms, like the Roggios or the Ciriglianos, the ones responsible for crimes like those of Once. But there is more: on the day following the storm, the New York Court of Appeals allowed the offer that the government made to the speculative bondholders. The Central Bank has just withdrawn $2,300,000,000 [US] to pay a foreign debt to the multilateral organizations. How many lives could have been saved if it had been invested in infrastructure? For businessmen and their prosperous politicians, everything continues as usual in their luxurious houses; for working people, these “natural†phenomena turn into a tragedy, with loss of lives or of their scant belongings, obtained with a whole life devoted to work. The answer for the helpless people is regimentation of the streets and the always meager social assistance, and a salute to the flag of the new Argentinian Pope, who called for “keeping hope.â€

Solidarity of a class and a class of solidarity

While the floods were displaying the rottenness of the employers’ political maneuvering at the top of society, at the bottom, an enormous solidarity flourished. One of the most important examples was led by the subway workers, who struck all the lines, because of the death of a comrade who perished from being electrocuted. As the delegate from Line B, Claudio Dellecarbonara, charged, “The comrade died because of the negligence and lack of interest of the company and the governments.†There are hundreds of examples of fearlessness, of support, that originate in the neighborhoods, in the factories, in the schools, throughout the country, with the victims. Working-class and popular Argentina has shown once again that class solidarity prevailed, in order to confront the situation.

For an extraordinary situation, an extraordinary solution

From the first hour, we militants of the PTS have been working on helping and accompanying the victims, collaborating to extend workers’, students’ and popular solidarity. We must demand that the unions, the students’ centers, all the workers’ and popular organizations, beginning with the CGT and the CTA, be put at the service of the victims. The organization and distribution of aid in solidarity must be in the hands of the organizations of workers and residents.

No repression against those who are demanding responses to their precarious situation. The employers must pay the workers affected for the days lost, and the national, provincial and city governments must immediately and unconditionally compensate the families stricken by the storm, by granting a subsidy to restore the losses. Companies like Kraft, Nestlé, Kimberly, P&G, supermarket chains like Carrefour, Coto, Jumbo, should be giving out food, mattresses, blankets, mineral water, diapers, to alleviate the needs. And if these companies and chains of superstores do not do it willingly, it is necessary to fight for the confiscation of the goods needed to resolve the calamity that the families of the people are suffering.

Right now, we must implement a national plan of public works, controlled by the workers’ organizations, to build the projects that were needed to prevent these disasters. The resources for taking these measures could be obtained quickly. The money should come from not paying the foreign debt and from extraordinary taxes on the big capitalists. We must put an end to the real estate monopolies that build haphazardly, guided by their profit, without bearing in mind the infrastructure needed to avoid these catastrophes.

Against all these employers’ politicians that show their contempt for the lives of workers and the people, we workers must develop our own political alternative. Promoting the construction of a left of the workers, beginning with strengthening the Workers’ Left Front, is a necessity that this new catastrophe puts on the agenda.