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.