Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kirchner and the Press

Since democratization in the early 1980s, the relation between the press and the government has been normalized, although the current administration is currently seeking to restrict the rights of the press, which is generating a large and penetrating argument throughout the country. The current president, Cristina Kirchner, introduced a bill to congress about two weeks ago seeking cut media rights, and reinforce government control. This law change would be the first dealing with the media since the arrival of democracy. The law seeks to limit the number of licenses for media outlets a single company can own from the current limit twenty-four, to ten. Oversight for complying with the norms and renewal of licenses would be provided by the government every two years. Opponents of the bill assert that it will convert Argentina’s media into a category similar to those controlled by Chavez in Venezuela.

Clarín, the media company who would lose the largest amount of money and control under the new bill has also been subject to intimidation and raids. However, the media conglomerate has fought back by constantly attacking the proposed law and administration though its newspapers and radio and TV stations. Additionally, Kirchner has proposed decriminalizing libel. Many opponents speculate that this decriminalization would be too perfect for the government to manipulate information after it disbands the private sector media giants.

The following links provide some further information about the reading. Apart from the New York Times article, they are all in Spanish.

The high quality image included in this post is an excerpt from an front page article I scanned from what is probably the country's most prestigious periodical - "La Nación." For those who are Spanish speakers in this class, it should provide more insight on the situation. Because it is not owned by Grupo Clarín, it can also be viewed as slightly less biased, although any large media source is likely to be "Anti-K."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bates, Argentina, and Violence

Although Robert Bates argues that societies governed by states and not kinship groups
are those that are developed, his theory is only partly applicable to Argentina. Clearly, one must take into account the definition to be used to define a developed country when examining Argentina or any other state. While the country is (as of this year) a member of the G20, most Argentines refer to their country as the third world. Additionally, although it is considered an upper-middle income country by the World Bank, it does not rank in the upper echelon of The Economist’s Quality-of-life survey, the IMF advanced economy list, nor the UN’s Human Development Index. This makes sense considering that while Argentina a large country in territory and population, its GDP per capita is only slightly above the world average according to World Bank, IMF and CIA estimates.

Returning to Bates’ argument, there is little doubt that Argentina’s government is clearly in charge politically and economically, when it chooses to. The country’s violent past is clearly apparent through conversations with Argentines, but also physically throughout the city. For those unaware, Argentina’s military dictatorships and “dirty war” consisting of extreme government oppression left about 30,000 people “disappeared.” These enemies of the state, overwhelmingly students and professors, were victims of kidnapping, torture, and murder. Much more detailed information can be found through any web search. The following are two links about the topic from Wikipedia and George Washington University respectively.

The most common physical signs of Argentina’s violent past include memorials, mass graves, and graffiti. Many clues about the events which occurred, continue to unravel including recently as construction workers found thousands of human bones while working on a new freeway. Throughout the city large posters are apparent which condemn the past acts of suppression and murder, including in the sights where massive graves are found. These posters often show the photos of the government’s victims. Furthermore, reminders of the dictatorship led war of attempted reclaiming of the British controlled Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands) are omnipresent. Particularly attention grabbing is the continuing occupation of the Plaza de Mayo (the city’s main plaza) by protesting veterans of the war. The city is also covered in anti-military/dictatorship graffiti, typically with slogans such as “Nunca Más” (Never again). It is also extremely easy to access information about the violence through personal anecdotes from any adult. In example includes the host mother of one of my friends; she was kidnapped and incarcerated by the government during the military rule.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Introduction and Background Info

Who: Danny Zipse ’10

Majors: International Relations, Spanish

Where: Since February I have been living in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Argentina – whose greater area is home to about 13 million people. I have had the opportunity to see a wide variety of Argentine lifestyles within the federal capital. Between February and July, I lived in a neighborhood called Once (eleven), home of the city’s wholesale and imitation goods, as well as many prostitution and other illicit trades. It is regarded as a middle and lower middle-class neighborhood. Its notable residents include Orthodox Jews and (primarily Bolivian) immigrants. Opting for a more tranquil area, I now live in Núñez, a residential upper middle-class neighborhood near the border with La Provincia de Buenos Aires.

Studies: Through my program with CIEE, I have the opportunity to take classes in four different universities in the city. I have taken advantage of this opportunity and enrolled in three of them. They include FLACSO, a private Pan-Latin American university, in which I take classes with other Americans. In my other two universities I participate in direct enrollment classes with Argentines. They include UBA (La Universidad de Buenos Aires), the free and public university which has about 310,000 students (not a typo) and UCA, a private Catholic university with about 18,000 students. Oddly, UBA – whose buildings are in deplorable condition and covered in extreme leftist graffiti – is actually the more challenging and respected university in the country. La UCA is a more organized and cleaner system, yet less challenging.