December is already here. Crazy, right? It will be a month of heat and holiday parties. But in Argentina, December also means something else: the possibility of social unrest and looting.
Administrations are smart to not underestimate the month’s potential volatility, which is what makes the statement from current Security Minister all the more interesting. Patricia Bullrich, declared in an interview that, from what can be seen “in the streets [and] in the neighborhoods,” the administration is expecting a “calm December.” Responding to the Facebook groups that have been created “to cause trouble”, she said: “They are political groups, with political objectives. We will act if they want to create chaos.”
So, if memes about looting and invitations to loot your nearest supermarket on a random December day have started to flood your Facebook newsfeed, that’s why.
December’s spotty social track record in Argentina can be traced back to 2001, when the already heated economic and social crisis dominating the country reached a boiling point. Tension from the restrictions placed on withdrawing money from banks — known as Corralito — was a major variable at play, but the final straw came when then-President Fernando de La Rúa declared a state of siege on December 19th. People spontaneously took the streets to protest. The political manifestations quickly turn violent, and pockets of the country fell into a state of chaos — a chaos that included widespread looting throughout the republic.
Incapable of containing the situation, De la Rúa resigned the next day and left the Casa Rosada in a helicopter, leaving one of the most infamous images of Argentine history. However, the protests were far from over and during the next weeks three interim presidents — Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, Ramón Puerta and Eduardo Camaño — resigned from the country’s highest office, also unable to deal with the chaos. 39 people — 9 of them children — were killed during the turmoil due to the repression ordered by the governing administrations.
Bullrich emphasized that Argentina is currently “a country of peace and tranquility,” and that the government’s goal is to make sure “no one breaks the law and feels like they own the country.” However, she also announced that “security forces” are satisfied because “there was a historic reparation to the salaries of both the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard [who operate in the country’s streets as well].” Bullrich made sure to make these remarks because historically social outbursts go hand in hand with unsatisfied security forces.
The most recent incident occurred in 2013, when the security forces of all but three provinces protested for salary increases and better working conditions. Some protests included the refusal on the part of law enforcement to work, which caused looting in several regions of the country. The most affected were Córdoba and especially Tucumán, where eight people died as a consequence of the events – people who looted, as well as those seeking to defend their businesses.
The Argentine Business Confederation (CAE) and different regional chambers of commerce estimated losses of AR $568 million and claimed that around 1,900 businesses were affected. The only jurisdictions that didn’t see violence were the City of Buenos Aires and the Provinces of Santa Cruz and Santiago del Estero.
That’s why happy — or at least satisfied — security forces, in addition to the Government agreeing to declare a “social emergency” (and allocate AR $30 billion to different welfare plans for the next three years) are being cited as reasons for why December is expected to be calmer than those of the more recent past.