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Cristina’s Villa 31 Visit Mired By Controversy Over Origin Of First ‘Slum’ TV Channel

By | [email protected] | August 9, 2016 12:40pm


Former President Cristina Kirchner visited Villa 31, a shantytown with a population of about 40,000 in the City of Buenos Aires, to inaugurate the television studio “Nestor Kirchner,” which will be used to transmit programs on the neighborhood’s channel, Urbana TeVé. While the message she delivered on the ground was one of solidarity and resistance to forces that would want to see shantytowns disappear, many media outlets today are focusing on what they see as an egregious error in her speech claiming she set up the first villa channel (which, apparently, she did not).

The villa is around 200 meters away from one of the wealthy Recoleta neighborhood, but many of the residents live in situations of extreme poverty.

“Villa 31 reminds me of Peronism. Because this villa, like Peronism, was the target of many government officials who tried to make it disappear,” Cristina said, surrounded by activists and supporters within the settlement.

“I feel very safe in Villa 31,” she said. “Villa 31 is the most secure place in the country, at least for me.”

Beyond amplifying her own purported connection to the villa, Cristina spoke of Villa 31 as a neighborhood deserving of pride and respect. “31 is the symbol of resistance. To resist is to advance. When the neighborhood resists, it’s because it wants to advance, it doesn’t want to stop,” she said, and neighbors cheered.

During her visit, she was interviewed on Urbana TeVé by Milcíades Peña. During her interview, she spoke of the strengths of her administration, calling her own “hyperdemocratic” in contrast to current President Mauricio Macri’s, which she said “only works for two-digit unemployment.”

Photo via La Nación

Photo via La Nación

However, the news coverage of Cristina’s visit highlighted a controversial statement. During her introduction of the television channel through Urbana TeVé, Kirchner referred to the channel as the “first villa channel in Latin America.” Publications such as Perfil were quick to jump on the inaccuracy after Joaquín Ramos, the editor of villa television channel Mundo Villa, argued that Mundo Villa was the first channel, actually.

The story of the first channel does not belong to the Kirchners, but to journalist Adams Ledesma, who ran a news company in Villa 31 for two years before his assassination at the age of 33. Ledesma founded Villa 31’s first newspaper, Mundo Villa; along with a team of reporters, Ledesma focused coverage on local beats within Villa 31. Stories about the environment, the worker’s coops and crime illuminated the daily lives of those living in the villa, focusing on the people behind the prejudice and preconceived notions of villa residents. According to coverage of Ledesma in Lavaca, he joined forces with a documentarian, and expanded his reach—he realized that the villas were the only parts of the city that didn’t have TV access, and decided to create his own. Thus, Mundo Villa Television on Channel 31 became the first television channel available to residents of the settlement, for only 70 pesos per month.