‘Piquetes’, a form of protest as a result of Argentina’s ‘Piqueteros’ movement, spawned during the late 90’s, remains the country’s the best known way to organize and perform a protest.
Its operation is very simple: people meet up and swarm across streets, roads or even highways to draw attention by obstructing the traffic. Piqueteros sometimes take a meat grill and yerba mate to the protest site, enjoying their BBQ while irate drivers look on.
This strategy was successful for many years, becoming the country’s main protest tool to express any kind of disagreement.
Nonetheless, the Mauricio Macri’s new government decided to put an end to this custom on Wednesday, when Buenos Aires was besieged by a mass wave of piquetes. Media outlet Cadena 3 said that were 200 piquetes held across the country, protesting for the detention of Milagro Sala: a popular leader, member of the Tupac Amaru neighborhood organization (not related to the Peruvian guerrilla).
Sala was indicted on charges of alleged mismanagement of public funds and for drug trafficking, according to Infobae. Cadena 3 added that the movilization was promoted by pro-Kirchner organizations including “La Cámpora, Movimiento Evita, Nuevo Encuentro and the CTA (Argentine Workers Central)”. All of them claimed that Sala’s arrest had been illegal.
While it appeared that Wednesday’s piquetes hailed more of the usual, Macri’s government feared mass protests and launched a special protocol set to crackdown on this particular style of protest.
The new protocol, passed by the Minister of Safety, Patricia Bullrich on Thursday, established that the security forces can and will act immediatly when a piquete occurs. Some provinces adhered to that protocol, thanks to the fact that they have some flexibility to decide how are they going to apply it.
But the idea is the same, as La Nación explains: the security forces inform Ministry of Safety, then they warn people to leave the road where they are protesting to ensure that traffic can flow freely. Protestors have a few minutes to disperse but failure to do so will result in the authorities intervening to dissolve the piquete.
During the past few years, piquetes have been used as the most effective way for Argentina’s people to be heard and noticed, with new controls considered as an affront to the right to protest. The former presidential candidate Nicolás del Caño said to El Intransigente that the protocol is unconstitutional and that it is part of a bigger plan which Macri’s government has yet to reveal.
Del Caño added that the strategy will obtain the opposite effect; “This will multiply protests, so this protocol is launched (by Macri) to manage it”, he said.