As police go on strike in Argentina’s second largest city, Cordoba, the people have gone on a huge shopping spree, emptying every supermarket in the city. Despite there being massive unemployment and poverty across the city, the media and government have claimed the the shopping spree has nothing to do with being poor, and everything to do with ‘common criminality’.
The widespread emptying of supermarkets in Cordoba comes just twelve months after similar actions spread across the whole of Argentina.
I have no interest in the police strike as such, but the background is that the governor of Cordoba, Jose Manuel De La Sota, had offered the police a 52% pay rise (plus bonuses) which they rejected, despite being the best salary in the country. He claims that the police strike is a direct result of his decision to close 140 brothels in the city which had provided a steady income stream to a large number of corrupt officers.
The supermarket sweep appears to be a pre-planned event that had been organised following the police announcing their strike. It highlights how unstable the slum towns that surround Cordoba can be. People are living in extreme poverty, and with inflation currently at 20%, people are struggling to buy the most basic of commodities.
Typically the mainstream media have chosen to use images of people removing widescreen televisions from shops rather than showing the numerous pictures of empty food stores. They are also attributing every ‘crime’ that occurred in Cordoba on that day, to the people emptying shops (including a man who was shot)
Pedro Torres, the Bishop of Cordoba, a man whose boss sits on a gold throne said that:
"This isn't looting because of poverty. There hasn't been looting of food…What we saw last night bears more signs of looting and criminality than a social movement driven by hunger."
Carlos De Angelis, a sociologist at Buenos Aires University, has taken a different view, stating that:
“If the police aren’t there, the poor rush out to loot. If Argentina doesn’t create productive jobs, social mobility will remain stalled, and that fuels dissatisfaction.”
There are reports of more than 50 arrests being made and more the 100 people reported to have injuries – many of which have occurred due to the breaking of glass in shop windows.
As the police went back to work and things returned to normal it is being reported that similar actions had spread to supermarkets in a district of Buenos Aires, where fifty people tried to empty a store before being shot at by the owner. A least one person was killed.