The Macri administration has had (and is still having) two of its most challenging weeks to date. Macri’s camp has a lot of fires to put out, including the conflict with the teachers’ unions, which prevents students from starting the school year, as well as protests from social and community groups and the CGT umbrella union, which has sent thousands to the streets to show their discontent — to put it diplomatically — with the Government’s policies and what protesters claim is inept governing on the part of officials.
This all came to a head yet again two weeks ago, making it impossible for cars and people to navigate the streets of the City of Buenos Aires, especially in Microcentro. Every morning, outlets published articles listing the location of the different protests and blockades so people could plan ahead, and I’m pretty sure that the intersection of Callao and Corrientes was blocked for more days than it was open.
The city was tense. Angry protesters flooding the City’s streets spread their discontent, and soon multitudes of bystanders saw their commute times double and even triple because of strikes and manifestations — which made for even higher numbers of unhappy people. Bottom line, everyone was mad and the City was chaos. And that’s why, while the government continues to deal with angry unions and community organizations who are still protesting, the Security Ministry intends to assuage the anger of the bystanders who are not protesting by flexing some muscle.
In order to calm the anger from people not protesting, Minister Patricia Bullrich has publicly promised that law enforcement officers will begin to clear street protests.
In an interview with political TV show La Cornisa, she said that “Border patrol agents and police officers will act like it’s done in every part of the world, [by] clearing [out people protesting]. That clearing out can have consequences. Argentines want democratic order? Well that requires law enforcement to act.”
The Minister went on to say that there are some in these sectors who hide political motivation behind the social causes they proclaim during their numerous marches in the City: “Ever since the President’s [Mauricio Macri] administration took office, without even knowing what would be done, they were already on the streets.”
“How can it be that they are on the streets every day?” she asked.
However, there’s probably more than one person who cracked a skeptical smile, as Minister Bullrich made the exact same promise around the same time last year. “If they don’t leave in five to 10 minutes, we’ll clear them out,” she said back then. And here we are, a year and a month later, with statistics indicating that there were 17 street blockades per day in 2016. Yes you read that correctly. SEVENTEEN protests per day on average.
With this in mind, Bullrich attempted an answer saying that “what happened during the first year [the Macri administration was in office] was that the metropolitan police were merging with the federal police [to create the City police].”
“Now, they will start working to guarantee public order,” she added.
We’ll see if it ends up being true this time. The chance to come through on these promises will certainly not be in short supply.