The Peronists come through? Viva Christina?
By Jacob Sugarman
The cheers in Buenos Aires began at 9 pm toward the middle of March, around the time the novel coronavirus brought much of the world to an abrupt and unsettling halt. Like the residents of New York, Madrid, and countless other cities sheltering in place, quarantined “porteños” have appeared at their windows and balconies nightly to applaud those on the front lines of the pandemic.
By month’s end, however, a separate sound had begun echoing half an hour later across the wealthier Buenos Aires neighborhoods of Recoleta and Palermo. If not louder than its predecessor, the tone was far more caustic, with participants whistling, blowing plastic horns, and banging pots and pans. Its ostensible aim was to pressure state functionaries to accept a pay cut, but as is so often the case with Argentina’s “cacerolazos,” this protest was distinctly anti-political in nature.
In December of 2019, the Peronist-progressive coalition party Frente de Todos (Everyone’s Front) swept into power after four years of neoliberal mismanagement. Now that it had begun enacting a social democratic agenda, against the backdrop of an unprecedented public health crisis, the forces of reaction were making their voices heard. Indeed, their demonstration began shortly after Minister of Labor Claudio Moroni ordered the country’s largest steel manufacturer, Techint, to pause the firing of 1,450 temporary workers. “Muchachos, les tocó la hora de ganar menos,” President Alberto Fernández told the country’s business leaders at the time. “Boys, it’s time for you to earn less.” (Fernández has since issued an emergency decree banning worker layoffs for a period of two months.)