Background Materials and Logbook November 15-16
On November 30 and December 1, the 2018 G20 summit will bring together the rulers of the 20 most powerful nations for a meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina to strategize about how to maintain world domination. Following the courageous disruption and mass unrest during last year’s G20 summit in Hamburg, the whole world is watching to see what will happen in Buenos Aires. Organizers have planned a global week of action expressing opposition to the concentration of power in the hands of politicians and capitalists and conveying a vision of a more egalitarian world. Our international correspondents in Buenos Aires will be reporting to us daily. Below, you can read the reports from the last few days before the mobilization and review our coverage of a decade and a half of previous resistance to G8 and G20 summits.
We will be publishing a kind of logbook covering the 2018 G20 summit in Buenos Aires and the demonstrations taking place against it. The function of a logbook is to record all essential events concerning the ship—including events on board, but also everything that could affect the ship from outside and observations during the voyage or when going ashore. Here, we will try to present the essential context of the 2018 G20 and give an impression of the general city events.
Prehistory and General Conditions
Buenos Aires was already chosen as the venue for 2018 before the 2017 G20 summit took place in Hamburg. This metropolis of 14 million people has been a protest stronghold in Latin America for a long time. This is even truer now, as a result of the far-reaching social cuts introduced by the neoliberal policies of President Macri’s government. The background to this is a currency crisis and a loan imposed by the IMF as the “only possible antidote.” According to official figures, the repayment and interest burden alone will account for approximately 25% of the state budget for many years to come. (In Germany, by contrast, a total of 6% is currently spent as “debt service” in the state budget.) The IMF is an integral part of the G20; consequently, the protests against the summit address the IMF, social questions, and the future viability of society.
The protest alliance “No al G20” is broad-based: it involves numerous trade unions, environmental associations, human rights groups, ATTAC, and large sections of the women’s movement and left-wing organizations. This mobilization is international, especially involving people from neighboring countries. An action week is planned before the summit, as well as a large-scale demonstration on Friday, November 30, the first day of the two-day summit.
The Argentine government has taken tremendous repressive measures. The deployment of 22,000 Argentine police officers has already been announced, and a further 5000 security forces from various countries are to supplement them. The government purchased discarded combat aircraft from France and new armored vehicles from China with optional MG armament on the roof. In addition, they bought an arsenal including fully 2 million rubber bullets, various surveillance equipment, and other police weaponry. The Argentine state is spending money on this while in the universities, the lights are going out in the evening due to unpaid electricity bills and pensioners have to tighten their belts three holes at a time.
November 30 has been legally declared a “holiday without work” for the entire city of Buenos Aires; the residents are encouraged to spend a long weekend in the countryside. In addition, for the duration of the summit, public transport will be completely suspended in the city center, if not the entire city.
Wednesday, November 14
Senate Waves IMF Program through; Protests before Parliament
It was foreseeable. After the House of Representatives had already approved the draft of the IMF program by a narrow majority; the approval of the much more conservative Senate seemed to be certain. This time, however, the Macri government made every effort to secure the broadest possible approval. That is why they haggled until the end—especially aiming to gain the approval of at least a few Peronists and of representatives of the rural regions. Those in rural areas will be particularly affected by the program because, in addition to the social cuts, it will also cut funding previously earmarked for the poorer provinces. A few specific representatives negotiated special conditions for their regions and finally agreed to pass the controversial IMF budget package. The vote was 45 in favor, 24 against, while opinion polls showed almost exactly the opposite picture among the general population.
While the debate was taking place, a rally of between 3000 and 5000 demonstrators gathered in front of the parliament (“el Congreso”)—quite a small number for Buenos Aires and especially in view of the important reason. A few weeks before, during the vote of the Chamber of Deputies, there came many, many more people and fierce clashes broke out. The largest blocs at that time were young Trotskyists and a more leftist faction within the Peronists. But there was also a kind of “standing panel discussion,” the “Barrios de Pie” were involved, and also a few more militant groups. When a small group, mostly unmasked despite several cameras, began to pry up paving stones from the street with iron rods, a sturdy group came out of the Peronist block and took the rods away from them. The Trotskyists sealed off their bloc with a human chain and shortly thereafter pulled away to hold their own smaller demonstration.
Finally, about 80 fully-equipped police officers stormed out of their own fencing towards the Peronist block, grabbed a very young anarcho-punk demonstrator, and dragged him away to loud protests from the crowd, which they blocked off by forming a chain across a side street. According to the press, a second person was arrested as well.
Notably, after a comparatively short sprint, most of that riot police in full gear were gasping for air. Their protective equipment must be enormously heavy.
Ritualized Protests and Repression before the Congreso
There is hardly a protest in Buenos Aires that does not end in front of the Parliament building—if it does not begin there. Accordingly, everything seems to be arranged: the roadblocks (2-meter-high connectable steel grids) are not transported away between demonstrations, but stored nearby and always rebuilt at the same intersections. At the adjacent main artery, this is indicated by installed signs reading “Evitar zona Congreso—Corte total” (“Avoid the congress zone—total blockage”). The standard barriers cover several hundred meters with numerous shops and an estimated 5000 residents. At the narrow checkpoints, the security guards wear suits; they probably already know many of the residents and regulate everything without helmets and truncheons on their belts. Often, everyday life plays out on three of the four sides of the ritualized barrier.
On the fourth side, however, in front of the main façade, demonstrations take place in front of the barrier on the large square, and clashes occur regularly. Behind the barriers, the police position their “Infanteria” (the usual term here), i.e., helmeted riot police, as well as water cannons and motorcycle units. If they think it’s necessary, they move to the spacious square in front of the parliament building, shoot tear gas and rubber bullets, clear the area, and beat and arrest people, often against embittered resistance.
Barbecue in the front of the barrier.
Thursday, November 15
Press Conference of the Protest Alliance “La Confluencia—Fuera G20 y FMI”
This press conference took place at the Latin American human rights organization “Servicio Paz y Justicia.” The small hall was full to capacity—including, among others, the 1st German Television and the news agency Reuters. The podium is occupied by Beverly Keene, a spokeswoman of the alliance, and Nora Cortiñas, one of the best-known “Madres de la Plaza de Mayo.” Behind them stand other representatives of the alliance.
Beverly Keene briefly introduces the alliance and emphasizes its versatility and openness. It was not for nothing that it is called La Confluencia, i.e., a “confluence” of many different flows into a common river. She stresses that all meetings and preparations are open to the public and, in this context, criticizes the surveillance carried out by security forces. The danger does not come from the alliance, but rather from the premeditated state repression and from the G20 itself.
Then, succinctly but comprehensively, she sets forth the protesters’ concerns. The G20 leaders do not represent the interests of the people, as they claim to, especially not those of Latin America. Rather, their policies produce hunger, poverty, and destruction worldwide, especially in Argentina, where the IMF stipulations are currently aggravating the misery of millions of people. But this is only one part of an international system that no longer has any legitimacy. It is not for nothing that the G20 leaders have to hide behind an armada of security forces.
Then we hear about the events of the protest week, especially the “summit of alternatives” on November 28 and 29, which will take place on the square in front of the parliament building, and the mass demonstration on November 30, the first day of the summit. A trade union representative adds that several million demonstrators have already taken to the streets throughout Argentina against Macri—against the IMF program and thus also against the policy of the G20. Everywhere in the country, mobilizations are taking place; one may expect very, very many participants.
Next, we heard from Nora “Norita” Cortiñas with a short but touching speech. She vehemently called on people not to be intimidated and instead to take to the streets in droves. Her demand carries weight; she publicly opposed the military dictatorship at a time when participating in demonstrations could get you killed. Over 30,000 people were murdered—including Nora Cortiña’s son.
Protest Alliance and Appeals
The alliance involves nine international networks, 102 Argentine organizations, and eight from other countries. Among them are environmental associations (e.g., Friends of the Earth), several grassroots trade unions, organizations that are critical of capitalist globalization, left-wing anti-imperialist groups, ATTAC (also from France and Spain), a Basque Antifascist organization, internationalist groups, various campesino organizations, student associations, women’s organizations, human rights groups, associations for grassroots economy, and others. It does not involve the Peronist-dominated trade unions, but for example the “Movimiento Evita,” who see themselves as “revolutionary Peronists.” What is striking about the alliance and its external image is the large proportion of women in general and the specifically feminist component of the mobilization.
From the outset, the “Confluencia” has explicitly positioned itself as internationalist. This is all the more remarkable in view of the fact that generally, Argentinian politics from right to left are limited to a standard national framework. The call for mobilization was translated into five other languages, including English.
Friday, November 16
An Explosion at the Cemetery; Raids and 14 Arrests
Already on November 14, in the early evening, an explosion took place in the cemetery in the district of Recoleta, allegedly in direct proximity to the grave of Ramón Falcón, an infamous police chief who was assassinated by anarchists on November 14, 1909, precisely 109 years earlier. A woman was seriously injured in the explosion. A mother of two, she lost three fingers and was taken to hospital with severe facial and skull injuries; her companion was arrested directly. According to police, four more “homemade pipe bombs” were found at the grave.
Shortly thereafter, bodyguards arrested another man who allegedly threw a “highly developed incendiary bomb” that did not detonate under the parked car of the judge Claudio Bonadio. The federal judge had conducted various sensational corruption proceedings against former high-ranking Peronist officials and politicians, as well as sentencing two demonstrators to several months’ imprisonment after riots in December 2017. The arrestee is alleged to have visited one of them once in prison.
The police and large sections of the press evaluate both “attempts” as part of a militant campaign in the context of the upcoming G20 summit and classify the three arrested as “violent anarchists.” On this pretext, police carried out raids of several houses, including three left-wing cultural centers. The man arrested at the cemetery is alleged to have lived in one of them, which is alleged to be the “epicenter of the anarchist movement.” The police stormed the long-occupied house with heavily armed special units and arrested ten more people. So-called crow’s feet (caltrops) were presented to the press as “bomb material.” On the following day, another arrest took place.
In addition, two Lebanese brothers were arrested and accused of possessing numerous weapons. Both were accused of associating with Hezbollah and of planning an assassination during the G20. The whole thing became mixed up in the media, which used the excuse to portray a scenario of extreme danger. The press conference of the alliance “Confluencia” was pushed under the table and instead one media “fish story” chased after the next.
Bizarrely, the “donated” armored clearance vehicles from the Chinese to Argentina were delivered in a public ceremony. Security Minister Bullrich once again urged city dwellers to leave Buenos Aires already on the Thursday before the summit, because “…the situation in the city will become very complicated… if there is any violence, we will take immediate measures against and stop it.” In the meantime, the German Foreign Office has also issued a corresponding safety warning.
Anarchism in Argentina
From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, there was a very strong libertarian and anarcho-syndicalist movement in Argentina. For several decades, the FORA (Federación Obrera Regional Argentina) was the largest and most militant trade union in the country. After a long history of strikes, demonstrations, factory occupations, and bloody repression, the movement was largely crushed in the 1930s and 1940s.
Currently, the relatively small anarchist movement is closely linked to a subcultural context, similar to the anarchist movement in many parts of Europe. But anarchists also participate in major political mobilizations, such as those bringing attention to the kidnapping and murder of the activist Santiago Maldonado.
Appendix: Previous Coverage of Resistance to the G8 and G20
For nearly two decades, CrimethInc. has published firsthand accounts and analyses of demonstrations and acts of defiance at summits including the G8 and G20. These stories of strategy, courage, and adventure deserve to be passed on from one generation to the next.
2003 G8 in Évian, France
2005 G8 in Scotland, UK
2007 G8 in Heiligendamm, Germany
2009 G20 in Pittsburgh, USA
2010 G20 in Toronto, Canada
2017 G20 in Hamburg, Germany