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Case #555

Argentina's Rebellion in the Neighborhoods


In Argentina, neighborhood assemblies are springing up in cities throughout the country, particularly in the capital and surrounding areas, as a groundswell of people seek to change the political landscape amidst the country's social and economic collapse. Many assembly participants are young people who are fed up with the political parties they say have betrayed their ideals. But there are also many unemployed, out-of-business shopkeepers, retirees, teachers and professionals also taking an active role in the meetings. Many had never taken part in any citizen-based mobilization before in their lives. There are several common denominators among the assemblies held each week since late December (2001) in more than 50 neighborhoods, such as the rising anxieties of the most desperate and the increasing calm among those attempting to organize grassroots participation to make their demands heard. The vast majority of the neighbors participating in the assemblies believe that political leaders are ignorant of the people's needs. However, independent citizens are adopting the terminologies characteristic of party politics: assemblies, agendas, motion for order, moderators, committees, and liaison commissions.

Most of the neighborhood assemblies were founded after the first major "caceroleo" protest, when Argentines came out in masses, banging pots and pans in protest against then president la Rua, who resigned Dec 20 (2001). At first the neighborhood movement was just a handful of neighbors who gathered together, concerned about preventing the new government from being made up of the same leaders with a different disguise. From that beginning, it grew into a national movement.


Few neighborhood assembly participants have grand hopes for change. They say that they want to remain alert to the government's measures, channel their need for participation and expression, and try to put some new faces in the political arena. Everyone is completely fed up with corrupt politicians. The neighborhood organizations have been careful to maintain a horizontal structure, in which everyone has the right to make proposals, and leaders seem to emerge based on who best facilitates participation. The slogan heard most often is "all the politicians out", but the assembly-goers insist this is not a call for an end to the democratic system. On the contrary, "to get out of this crisis requires more politics, but real politics. These meetings of common people on the street are the fundamental form of doing politics," says local organizer Roli Sampieri. "Only the ongoing street protests by the Argentine people can convince the career politicians to think of the common good and not about personal gain," according to the activist. "In the long term, there will have to be a change in leadership that is founded on a more community-based conception of politics," he added.
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Action: Political
Setting: Semi-Developed, Urban
Extent of Action: National
Issues: Human Rights
Year(s): 2002
Outcome in progress
Source: February 14, 2002 - Inter Press Service: Common Dreams News Center (www.commondreams.org)


Prepared By: sl, 4/02
Rating: 2
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