Tag Archives: Argentina

Week 12 – Speaking Truth to Power

When reading about the perils of Latin America, I sometimes sit back and think to myself, “how do we end this?” There are so many layers of trauma, corruption, and power imbalance that it seems an impossible struggle to fix. The interventions from more powerful countries (the United States, predominantly) seems to be only in the interest of those more powerful countries, although sometimes that backfires, as in the case of the US militarizing anti-drug efforts. Often, because of a weak state, poverty, intimidation, or the promise of wealth, anti-drug actors end up joining the drug trade, and so both sides are now heavily militarized to devastating ends. And because of a weak economy, drug money brings power and stability. So cartels and kingpins are the most powerful and have the most devastating weapons. Those who lose the most in this situation are the poor, without a strong state to protect them, and always fighting against the lure of drug money to feed their families. Cartels will resist any efforts to strengthen the state, and anyone who attempts to contain their corruption often walks straight into death. With these stats, the future seems bleak.

So how do you fight something so powerful? The cartels rule by intimidation, and even the media almost uniformly refuses to publish anything about the drug war. Perhaps personal testimonies broadcast through social media would bring attention, similar to the Madres de la Plaza do Mayo, in Argentina in the 1970s. In 1976, the junta ended all political opposition and began abducting youth. The mothers of these youths gathered peacefully in the Plaza, eventually drawing enough media attention that the events that would lead to a return to civilian rule were set in place. Without the wide circulation of these testimonials, the Argentinian juntas would not have been pressured to release control. But this is risky. Especially when dealing with heavily armed cartels. Even a peaceful act of protest could end in death.

From here in Canada, we can help in the unraveling of this corruption by being mindful of where we put our money, what are we funding? And we can have discussions, in person and online, drawing attention to these injustices so that hopefully awareness will spread, putting pressure on those responsible.


Filed under war on drugs, Week 12

Week 10 – Power to the People

I thought that Dawson’s emphasis on the advent of radio being pivotal in Peronism to be on point. Without being able to broadcast her voice, Evita Peron would not have achieved the level of support she enjoyed. Interesting that she was so aware of this, and so comfortable with the new media, that she perfected a melodramatic tone to suit the form. This approach may have been over-the-top if broadcast today in HD, but in the early years of radio, this type of performance-style discourse was extremely well received. The qualities of a successful politician were forever changed. From radio to Twitter, a charismatic personality will always overshadow the quieter brand of political speaker.

Not only was Peron well suited for radio, but now her message, which was directed to the non-elite population, could reach its target audience without interference. Anyone could hear her speak, even from a great distance. Large crowds could gather and listen, together building a sense of community. No longer was political discussion reserved for the literate upper classes, everyone could participate. Those in charge could do nothing to contain this new power, and the face of politics was forever changed.

Another aspect of this week’s readings that I found fascinating is the emergence of different music styles as political rally flags. The popularity of Samba, and the fact that anyone could listen no matter where they found themselves on the economic totem pole, made Samba an effective tool for unifying the people. Dawson points out that it was the poor who shaped the sound of Samba, and it eventually became the defining sound of Brazil. Those in power made attempts to control it, but the people wouldn’t have it. The same happened with Tango in Argentina. Tango had its own language, often vulgar, and decidedly anti-state. The popularity of the music was a political act, the people versus the state. The community building power of radio is apparent in the popularity of Samba and Tango, just as in Peronism.

Maybe students of politics should have drama and music classes as part of their required credits.

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Filed under Week 10