I first started watching events in Argentina about a week ago. I’d discovered a channel on the Roku named “LATAM” that has a selection of Latin American news. Along with Telemundo and Brazil, it has a Venezuelan news channel and “Canal 26” from Argentina. That night, on the Argentine news, was coverage of a wage strike to be held for one day, the next day, by teachers wanting a wage hike.
Today, the Reuters channel on the Roku covered news of more wage protests and strikes in Argentina. Well, at the point where it is reaching Reuters, I suppose it is of more general interest.
Tuning in today to Canal 26, they covered the wage protests some, but then went on to more “happy talk” programs (near as I could tell it was about the actors in a romance show, but I couldn’t tell if it was a movie or TV series). The Venezuelan channel covered it a bit too, but only obliquely. Nicaraguan TV was showing a local baseball game (no team I’d ever heard of and attendance was very low, lots of empty bleachers, but the play was good…)
Now the reason I find this experience compelling is simple: You learn things NOT reported. Things like: Nicaragua doesn’t give a tinkers damn about the goings on in Venezuela and Argentina. Even Argentine news seems to see it as more of “the usual and expected” than some great crisis. Venezuelan news has that formal not-quite-stilted manner of all Communist News shows. Things carefully manicured to The Narrative.
For those who don’t know, Maduro, the present President of Venezuela, tried to do a “Me & The People!” show of popular support. It didn’t work out well:
Wed Apr 12, 2017 | 10:27 AM EDT
Venezuela’s Maduro jeered by crowd as unrest grows
Venezuelans jeer President Maduro as unrest grows
By Maria Ramirez and Alexandra Ulmer | SAN FELIX, Venezuela/CARACAS
Angry Venezuelans threw objects at President Nicolas Maduro during a rally on Tuesday, as protests mount against the unpopular leftist leader amid a brutal economic crisis and what critics say is his lurch into dictatorship.
State television footage showed a crowd mobbing the vehicle that Maduro was standing on as he waved goodbye at the end of a military event in San Felix, in the south-eastern state of Bolivar. Amid the commotion, people threw objects at Maduro, who was wearing a traditional Venezuelan suit and a yellow-blue-red presidential sash, while his bodyguards scrambled.
The state broadcaster then halted transmission.
In a separate video shared on social media, voices yelling “Damn you!” were heard as the vehicle apparently transporting Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, tried to make its way through the crowd.
Note the State broadcaster cutting transmission and yet “Social Media” gets out anyway and has the reality…
This wasn’t the first time:
Venezuelan President Is Chased by Angry Protesters
By NICHOLAS CASEYSEPT. 3, 2016
So at least 1/2 a year…
Now the protests are so large, counted in the tens of thousands officially, so likely even larger, and completely taking over whole freeways / avenues, that it can’t be ignored. So what did the Venezuelan news show?
They actually showed the marchers and the completely full major roads, with a ‘crawler’ that I’m pretty sure said something like “protesters moving freely” in the city, as though it were being allowed instead of tolerated due to inability to stop it. That itself is interesting news…
Meanwhile Maduro was on (some other USA news channel) saying how he was sure that this was all just a USA / CIA driven attempt to subvert his government and stop the revolution (or some such… hey, it was mix of him speaking Spanish and the translation being ‘free’ over the top of it and my so-so hearing has trouble unscrambling the two language at the same time…) I suppose the fact that the people of Venezuela are starving has nothing at all to do with their protests asking for a job and / or food… /sarc;
Oh, and Venezuela nationalized the GM factory there. They have not assembled any cars there since 2015 due to the political environment and government making a mess of the economy, so nobody can buy one, but hey, the Government can run it now. Of course, figuring out how to make cars with no inventory of parts will be an interesting exercise. That, and no electricity to run it, and no money for wages, and no food for the workers, and… But I’m sure The Government will realize all that in “due time”…
The bit that interested me, though, was the indirect things you can pick up from the Local News. For one, the image was much lower resolution than the Nicaraguan feed that was nice high def image. Now if Nicaragua and Argentine can managed much better equipment and bandwidth being not-so-hot economies themselves, Venezuela must be way far into the toilet. Also the Venezuela feed would run for about 2 minutes, then go to “downloading, please wait” for an indefinite period. I began to just exit and relaunch it as that restart was quicker. They are having “issues” with connectivity, IMHO.
Then the announcer was clearly well fed, and NOT going to risk anything. Perfunctorily reading news with that flat “I Know NOTHING!” presentation of a guy who could read “The USA has been bombed and subjugated by The People’s Venezuelan Victory Force. Long live Maduro.” without a hint of surprise, doubt, or incredulity, and about as much emotion as reading “Coffee futures were flat today”…
All manicured and equally dead.
Meanwhile, the Nicaraguans were clearly having a great time (at least the ones calling the game… one guy tried to bunt and popped up, flied out. The excitement by the announcer even got me interested and I didn’t even know who was playing whom…).
The Argentine news was interesting. The announcer of the news clearly was not happy about the need to have protests for wages. That vague undertone to the voice that says “I know folks who have been hurting, but all I can do is report the news”. The folks doing the “happy talk” show having a great time getting excited about the diversions that were available (and celebrity is often about that.) One unexpected bit is that I could hear a slight Italian influence / accent in the Argentine Spanish. A large number of Italians emigrated to Argentina when the Irish were headed to the USA (and after; even up to W.W.II era) and it seems to have left an imprint on the local dialect. Not much, just a bit more song and less trilled R and clipped consonants. I’m thinking I’m going to watch them a lot more and try to adopt that accent as I like it more ;-) It’s a more European sound (but NOT Castilian Spanish with the lisp…)
Basically, just the manner of the presentation and the “set dressing” and how much at liberty the various “talent” is to create their “show” comes through. You get a very real feel for the people, and that gives context to The Story.
For those wishing a bit of background on Argentine wage issues, but without the Spanish immersion:
This is from Reuters via The Guardian. I’d rather quote the Reuters article directly, but it loves to toss the R. Pi into the “mobile” version and I can’t get it to stop… so the link ends up not being exactly the one I’m quoting, or you get a ‘mobile’ link on a non-mobile device… Bolding mine.
Reuters in Buenos Aires
Thursday 6 April 2017 10.27 EDT
Police and protesters clash as worker strike paralyzes Argentina
Truck and bus drivers, teachers, government customs agents and others march on Buenos Aires as labor unions demand higher wages in line with inflation
Protesters in Argentina have clashed with police during marches over government austerity measures as labor unions challenged the president, Mauricio Macri, in the first general strike since he took office 16 months ago.
Security forces used high-powered water cannon and teargas to control picketers who had blocked the Pan-American Highway, the main road leading from the north to capital city Buenos Aires, where normally bustling streets were half-empty and businesses were closed.
“No customs officials are here, so there will be no exports or imports today,” said Guillermo Wade, manager of the maritime chamber at Argentina’s main grain hub of Rosario. The country is the world’s top exporter of soymeal livestock feed and the third-largest supplier of soybeans.
Macri, a proponent of free markets, took office in December 2015. He eliminated currency and trade controls and cut government spending, including gas subsidies, a move that sparked steep increases in home heating bills.
Protesters are also clamoring for wage increases in line with inflation, which was clocked at 40% last year and is expected at about 20% in 2017.
“The situation is dramatic,” Julio Piumato, a spokesman for the labor umbrella group CGT, said in a telephone interview.
“Wealth is being concentrated in the hands of a few at the same rate that poverty is growing,” he said. “Urgent measures are needed to create employment. One out of every three Argentinians is poor.”
A poll last month showed that for the first time since Macri took office, more Argentinians disapprove than approve of his performance.
He was elected after more than a decade of populist rule left Argentina with rampant inflation, dwindling central bank reserves and a wide fiscal deficit.
As they have an economy that was run into the ditch by “populist rule”, a sudden application of “austerity” and realizing that you not only must live within your means, but make up for prior high use of the National Credit Card, comes as a shock to those who want to have everything without necessarily producing enough profit to pay for it.
While I’m no fan of inflation, it is THE most common way to repudiate the past debts while still nominally paying them off and not being in official default. It’s the huge spending in excess of income that’s the root cause, but that is years in the past so largely forgotten by those feeling present pain.
Sadly, I’m pretty sure this scenario is what’s in store for the EU and the USA given current debt patterns. (Though who gets there first is still a bit up in the air). That, IMHO, is just why it matters to look at and watch Argentina.
When your economy is growing at 1% / year, and you have wage increases of 3% / year, that excess accumulates as a problem. Then, when it must be rebalanced, either you accept that you do NOT get any raise for years or by necessity the monetary officials will do the same thing via inflation. Often the excesses were more like 10% wage hikes and 20% benefits promises with a stagnant or shrinking economy. After a few years, you are 50% to 100% “in the hole” and it takes a couple of years of 40% inflation to re-balance. But economies don’t function well at inflation over about 5%, and are seriously broken in hyperinflation ranges like 40%+, so things just spiral down the sewer in real terms while the nominal economy comes to balance.
Then you get marches, changing the political guard, replacement of currencies, etc. etc. IF you are lucky, you avoid a ‘revolution’. If not, you end up with a destroyed country and economy (wether by economic ruin or by war often depending on which neighbors can be attacked or what DemiGod rises to power and how psychopathic he / she might be…)
What is very clear is that for the present, nobody with any real money is going to be investing it in either Argentina or Venezuela. One is in economic free fall and headed for hyperinflation and the other one is… well, the same only more so with revolution against the revolutionary in the air.
But hey, there’s a good ball game on in Nicaragua… Even if “not many” could afford to buy a ticket…
The 2014–16 Nicaraguan protests are a series of protests against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and actions performed by his government. The protests initiated when construction began on the Nicaraguan Canal, with several hundred protesters blocking roads and clashing with police during the groundbreaking of the canal. Since then, tens of thousands of Nicaraguans protested against President Ortega due to the canal and what they call a corrupt electoral system.
Maybe I’ll just go start the BBQ instead…