(Photo: Natacha Pisarenko AP)
President Mauricio Macri says he is convinced that the disastrous populist governments that have ruined Argentina time and again are a thing of the past. But what I saw on my way to interview him at the presidential palace makes me wonder.
I almost didn’t make it to the Aug. 7 interview because the whole downtown area of this magnificent capital was paralyzed by a massive concentration of the “piqueteros,” radical groups who — without police permits — routinely block avenues to publicize their demands.
Traffic was in total chaos. My taxi driver told me that he couldn’t get to the presidential palace, leaving me several blocks away. The public square in front of the government house was occupied by tens of thousands of people demanding “bread, peace, land, roof and work.” They beat drums and held huge signs bearing images of Che Guevara.
Populism is so ingrained in Argentina that even the majority of Argentines who don’t agree with the piqueteros accept with resignation their practice of shutting down entire parts of the city. The Macri government, like its predecessors, usually refrains from sending police to clear blocked streets, fearing violence and a political backlash.
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