Who won and who lost after the police riot against Argentine President, Alberto Fernández?

The police does not recognize that the loss of their purchasing power was the product of the inflation generated during the Macri administration, between 2016 and 2019

In Venezuela, the police forces played a fundamental role in the coup against Hugo Chávez in 2002. Years later, in Ecuador they also tried — unsuccessfully — to overthrow Rafael Corra in 2010. Recently, in Bolivia the Police promoted and supported the military coup against Evo Morales. Now, in 2020, the Argentine president, Alberto Fernández, is the victim of a police uprising that has the aroma of an attempted coup.

It all started at the beginning of this week, when a group of policemen in the city of La Plata, in the province of Buenos Aires, publicly demanded a salary increase. In a few hours, those few police officers became hundreds.

The government’s response was almost immediate. Early Tuesday, the provincial governor, Axel Kicillof, announced that there would be salary improvements at the end of the week. However, the troops rejected the statements and intensified the protests and mobilizations to other locations in Buenos Aires.

Why is there a scent of a coup? First, after just two days of protest, hundreds of patrols surrounded the president’s official residence on Wednesday. According to Actualidad RT, the policemen made their sirens wail, prevented anybody going in or out of the residence and waved Argentine flags, with an intimidating attitude.

In second instance, the demands of the police date from the government of Mauricio Macri (2015–2019), but curiously a similar situation never occurred during his mandate. And thirdly, one of the main spokespersons is a supporter of former President Macri.

Meanwhile, other officers assure that the protest is a rejection of the recent measure of giving house arrest to Lázaro Báez, a businessman linked to the governments of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández, who was in prison, according to RT.

Police reject dialogue

The newspaper La Nación highlighted that this Wednesday President Fernández sent a delegation with a message to the policemen surrounding the official residence: “Come in to talk”, according to official sources. However, the police officials rejected the offer.

Hours later, the secretary general of the Presidency, Julio Vitobello, and the presidential spokesman, Juan Pablo Biondi, approached the police with a new invitation, but it was also rejected.

“We are not going to go in, let the governor and the president come out to talk to us on the sidewalk. We don’t scratch, let them come out and talk here”, they replied.

The president responded with criticism to the refusal of dialogue and reaffirmed that in a matter of days — together with Governor Axel Kicillof — he will resolve the demands of the police.

“This is not resolved by hiding in patrol cars and playing the sirens, this is resolved by speaking frontally (…) The national government will not turn a blind eye. We are two friends in the same cause and we are committed to the same thing”, he declared.

The counter-response he obtained was practically a threat: “The blood spilled by our colleagues is not worth a statement like this from the President, it is inappropriate, it does not add up. We never hide”.

Some facts and statements

Wednesday began with the arrest of an individual on the outskirts of Quinta de Olivos, after throwing a Molotov cocktail at one of the gates of the presidential residence, reported Prensa Latina.

According to Argentine media, the 48-year-old detainee — presumably with psychiatric problems — left the homemade device at the door of the villa, around 06:00 local time.

Moments later, Oscar Pagano, one of the policemen participating in the protests, threatened to throw himself from a power tower, RT reported. However, after two hours of negotiation, he agreed to be rescued.

For its part, Página 12 reported that the Workers Autonomous Union of Argentina (Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina Autónoma CTAA) questioned the “constant destabilizing attitude promoted by the opposition”, since it seeks to “alter the functioning of democracy”.

The CTAA was also “astonished” at the claims of the Buenos Aires Police that “did not manifest themselves during the four years of the macrista adjustment”.

In similar terms, the president of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Hebe de Bonafini, held the opposition accountable for inciting protests amid the pandemic. “These acts that were never done to former Governor María Eugenia Vidal or former President Mauricio Macri, show us who is behind it all ”.

Lawsuits from the police union

The Sputnik agency collected the police forces’ main demands to the Government, derived from a document they delivered:

  • Increase of 60% to the vital and mobile minimum in all hierarchies and subscales.
  • 50% increase in overtime hours and 100% increase on Sundays, holidays and night hours.
  • Working hours limited to 36 hours per week.
  • Recognition of unhealthy sanitary conditions.
  • Reduction of the retirement regime and retirement with 25 and 30 years of service to 100% of the assets.
  • Creation of a dialogue table with the political power and the acceptance that the minimum time for all Police officers in the province of Buenos Aires has been met.

In the face of this, the Government recognized the loss of purchasing power of their salary. The newspaper La Nación assured that — information not confirmed or denied by the Ministry of Security or the Interior — the Kicillof government offers a 30% salary improvement.

In this regard, the police does not recognize that the loss of their purchasing power was the product of the inflation generated during the Macri administration, between 2016 and 2019, a president who was never threatened as they are doing now with Fernández, who today faces the tough ravages of a health crisis caused by the new coronavirus.

The measure announced by Fernández

In the late hours of Wednesday night, the Argentine president announced that he will help Governor Kicillof financially so that he can resolve the police conflict. To do this, he will take surplus resources from the City’s co-participation, as a percentage point will be transferred from the Financial Strengthening Fund to restore the salaries of the agents, reported La Nación.

“The City received 2.1% more co-participation due to the transfer of the Federal Police. But we noticed that there was a 1% surplus”, he detailed. The measure had been announced months ago but was stopped due to the pandemic that affects the country.

However, although he considers the demand fair, Fernández emphasized that he will not accept actions that threaten democratic life and institutionality. In this sense, he recalled that problems are resolved by complying with the laws of democracy and respecting the institutional framework.

“This is not the way and I hope they reflect (…) We are not going to accept that they continue with this mode of protest and I ask them, amicably and democratically, to depose this attitude”, he said.

In addition, he asked the police force to resume their work, since the demonstrations leave citizens, who need security, in a state of “defenselessness”. From now on it remains to be seen the attitude that the police guild will assume.

For now, Kicillof is tasked with resolving the conflict with “extreme caution”. A source from the government consulted by La Nación stated that they are looking for a way to “not validate the protest methodology of the uniformed, since it can establish a dangerous precedent”. “If we give everything the police ask for, what is left for the state officials and the teachers?”, he reflected.

Reactions to the presidential measure

The announcement of the head of State generated immediate reactions. This Thursday he received the support of 19 governors, who agreed on the need to begin to “correct the imbalances of a concentrated country”.

In a statement, they stated that the measure “is important to resume the debate on partnership to recover the spirit established by our Constitution. So Argentine men and women will have the same rights and opportunities to realize our dreams and projects in any corner of the country where we were born or where we choose for ourselves and our family”.

But, on the other hand, the four governors of the macrista coalition, Together for Change, categorically rejected the measure. They are Gerardo Morales (Jujuy), Rodolfo Suárez (Mendoza), Gustavo Valdés (Corrientes) and the injured, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, from the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (CABA).

Indeed, Rodríguez Larreta will present before the Supreme Court a lawsuit against the presidential measure for the percentage of federal co-participation for the CABA. “We are going to go to court in defense of our right to preserve the resources of the city”, a spokesperson told La Nación.

And finally, Governor Axel Kicillof announced the salary increase for Buenos Aires police officers, which will be equal to those of the CABA at 44,000 pesos. The Ámbito portal also highlighted that it increased the amount for equipment to $ 5,000 (it was $ 1,000), while the value of overtime will triple to $ 120. These are the three main claims of security personnel.

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