TWO YOUNG protesters were shot dead in the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires, on Wednesday of last week. Dario Santillan and Maximiliano Kosteki were part of a demonstration of unemployed workers protesting at the effects of the huge economic crisis gripping the country.
Armed police savagely attacked the protest, and one shot Maximiliano. Fellow protesters dragged him into a nearby rail station. 'Please help me-I'm burning. The cops shot me,' said Maximiliano as he lay dying. Fellow protester Dario tried to help and comfort him. Suddenly a group of armed police led by chief inspector Alfredo Franchiotti burst into the station.
'Don't shoot me,' cried Dario as he tried to get away. Franchiotti aimed his gun and shot Dario in the back, killing him. Dozens more protesters suffered bullet wounds as police went on the rampage. It was the most savage attack on protesters since the police and army killed 27 people in the uprising last December.
The murders last week may have been carried out by individual policemen. But they were acting in the spirit of a coordinated attempt to crack down on protest against the savage austerity measures of Argentinian president Eduardo Duhalde's government. In the days leading up to the murders the government and media talked of the need for police to follow a 'hard hand' approach to protest. The murders came as key government minister Ruckhauf boasted that he had been right when 27 years ago he gave the police and army the go-ahead to attack left wing organisations.
That assault began Argentina's 'dirty war', in which the police and army assassinated thousands of people, and paved the way for a military coup in 1976. Sections of the current government wanted to use the events of last week to prepare for a wider crackdown. Immediately after the killings the government and media put out stories of how the shootings were the result of a clash between rival protesters. The main right wing daily newspaper, La Nacion, talked of protesters pillaging, looting and burning shops.
The aim was to justify a clampdown on all opposition. These plans were blown out of the water thanks to the testimony and courage of individual press and TV photographers and camera crews.
Their pictures show the truth. Outrage at the revelations poured into the streets. The next day some 15,000 people marched in the capital, and teachers and some civil servants struck. In an attempt to head off wider protest President Duhalde was forced to publicly condemn the police for mounting 'a ferocious hunting party' against the unemployed protesters.
The chief of police and his deputy in Buenos Aires were forced to resign. Two policemen directly involved in the killings have been arrested. They are not the only ones with blood on their hands. The unemployed organisation to which Dario and Maximiliano belonged said, 'The government prepared the repression. It is politically and intellectually responsible for the deaths.'
Two sought justice and a better life
'DARIO SANTILLAN and Maximiliano Kosteki were young, unemployed and sought a better life. They never knew each other, but they died together. Both were involved in the Anibal Veron unemployed 'piqueteros' movement which demanded benefits for the unemployed.
Dario, who was 21, had been active since secondary school. One of his teachers described him as 'a teenager not typical of the postmodern generation. 'He read during breaks, argued with his fellow students, and collected food and clothing for people who had suffered from the floods. He felt distant injustices as if they were directed against himself.'
Alberto is the father of Dario and his three brothers. He is ill, as was his ex-wife, who died a year and a half ago. The family live in the tower blocks of Don Orione. These modest flats for workers have turned into cement towns, where people have gas heating which they cannot afford to use.
When he finished school Dario joined the unemployed created by 'labour flexibility'. He commitment and his condition led him to join the piqueteros movement. Maximiliano was 23 on the very day they killed him. He was an art student who joined the piqueteros movement on 1 May. He converted his pottery oven so that it could be used to bake bread for the movement to sell, and used his artistic talent to draw sketches of those struggling.
His mother brought up five children virtually singlehandedly, just about managing until she lost her job as an office manager with the privatisation of the railways. 'He was a quiet boy who did not like violence. His aim was to be a great artist, and in reality he was,' says his sister Mara.'
From the daily left of centre paper PAGINA 12
IMF cuts measured in human suffering
THE PROTESTS and murders in Argentina came as the government continued to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund for new loans to try and stabilise the country's finances. In the six months since the crisis which erupted last December the IMF, and its masters in the US White House, have taken a hard line with Argentina. They are refusing to grant money unless the government imposes even harsher austerity measures on an already impoverished population.
Economic output in Argentina shrank by 16 percent in the first three months of this year-one of the sharpest slumps ever to hit a major industrialised country. In some working class suburbs in Buenos Aires unemployment has hit 80 percent. In a country which was once known as 'the grain basket of the world' and had one of the world's highest meat consumptions per head of population, millions now go hungry.
The BBC reported from the Pilar district of Buenos Aires last week. Adolfo Alarcone and his wife are unemployed, and live in a two-room shack with their six children. 'Of course the family's hungry-they ask for bread all the time,' he told the BBC. 'But we have nothing. It makes me crazy, but what can I do? 'Sometimes I think I should go and steal. The only thing a lot of people do is go to the city and look for food. You've got to go through the rubbish to survive.'
Health minister Ginez Garcia Gonzalez last week admitted that the price of the austerity demanded by his government and bodies like the IMF would be measured in human lives.
Echo of Genoa
THE MURDERS of protesters in Argentina last week echoed that of Carlo Giuliani in Genoa in Italy last year. Carlo was a young unemployed worker who joined the protests at the G8 summit in Genoa last July. He was shot dead by Italian police. The police also smashed up a school being used as a media and accommodation centre by protesters, and savagely beat people in the building.
To justify this repression the police claimed to have found petrol bombs at the centre. Last week an Italian magistrates' investigation found that police had lied and planted evidence. Lied After the raid last year police presented weapons and two wine bottles they said were petrol bombs.
Now testimony by Pasquale Guaglione, a deputy police chief, has shown that the police simply planted the 'bombs'. He said that the same two wine bottles had been in the hands of a mobile police unit earlier in the day. Magistrates also said last week that they no longer believed the story of a police officer who claimed to have been stabbed by a protester.
The rip in the officer's bulletproof jacket was not consistent with a knife cut. The Italian daily La Republica said that the new evidence meant that 'a fragile mountain of lies' against the anti-globalisation protesters was now crumbling.