Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
Well this blog might not have too much to do with football, but what is happening in Argentina today is quite unlike anything I have ever seen.
My office is located on a wide Parisian avenue that connects the Congress building and, 15 blocks away, the Casa Rosada presidential palace. Outside there are an estimated 60,000 people beating drums, screaming chants and letting off crackers and bombs. I literally cannot hear myself type.
Now understanding Argentinian politics is somewhat akin to comprehending nuclear physics. So why all the noise and protests? Well get this... the thousands of people outside are showing their support for the government. Confused? You will be. 50 blocks north, near my house, there are another 50,000 people, protesting against the government.
Protesters take to the streets in Buenos Aires
It is all over a debate that has utterly polarised Argentinian society. The root of the problem is the dear old Presidenta Christina Kirschner and her decision to whack a huge tax on soya. Less than five years ago, soya was seen as the saviour of the Argentinian economy. It is easy to grow, and much more profitable than beef, the second largest export.
Apparently, to redirect the exported crop to an Argentinian market food in a country where children still die from starvation, the export tax is high. The 'countryside', who even in the UK get off their tractors for a good protest, went crazy. They went on strike. And to understand the repercussion of such a strike one just has to look at inflation (unofficially thought to be around 35% - officially around 9%) of food prices. And you thought Gordon Brown had problems. Perhaps more importantly, Argentina couldn't get its beef.
So on the day of the final senate vote, half the country came out in support and the other half against. But support Argentinian-style means NOISE.
And since I started this blog, it has got even louder, the entire city has been cut off, public transport has come to a standstill, and many people are leaving work. A few days ago a much smaller protest (or was it in support) ended in a riot. Here we hope that the tens of thousands of angry people separated by utterly different ideologies and a mere 50 blocks don't meet.
Farmers gather en masse in Rosario
But on the plus side, everyone out there is thinking about politics, and what does it take for this amount of people to stand up in the UK?
Bloody fox hunting.
Chaos reigns on the streets of Buenos Aires, and will do long into the evening. But by tomorrow a decision by the senate will be made to either approve or disapprove the tax. And no matter which way it goes, it will only exacerbate the problem.
How do I bring this back to football? Well, all those drums and trumpets are being played by hired football fans and barra bravas, some being brought in from more than 2000 miles away especially to bang their drum.
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