A concerning trend is emerging in Mar del Plata’s once-tranquil political landscape. Incidents of unprovoked beatings and discriminatory violence are on the rise, largely attributable to groups of right-wing fanatics masquerading as patriotic nationalists.
The Buenos Aires Herald reports that minority groups are, with increasing regularity, finding themselves the targets of assaults and threats, while swastikas have been daubed on public and private property and memorials to the victims of the last military dictatorship vandalised.
A spate of attacks
In a country in which it is believed upwards of 5,000 Nazis sought refuge following the Second World War, these developments are concerning.
In a recent attack, a teenage homosexual couple were set upon by individuals “wearing Nazi insignia and beaten violently with PVC pipes filled with concrete”. The most recent spate of violence has lead the director general of the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights group, José Luis Zerillo, to file a lawsuit against the office of the attorney general in the city.
Zerillo’s case includes an account from November 2014, when Alexander Levchenco – known in Mar del Plata as ‘El Rusito’, (The Little Russian) – “led a gang of neo-Nazis armed with clubs and knives in an attack against the annual National Women’s Meeting (ENM) in the city”. A young man was also assaulted by members of the National Patriotic Forum (FONAPA), and had a swastika symbol cut into his hand with a razor.
On 14 February, the ‘Nevermind’ bar owned by prominent LGBT activist Javier Moreno, was vandalised by a local far-right group. Moreno is also the president of the Mar del Plata Association for Equal Rights (AMADI) and has had frequent run-ins with the city’s fascist groups – and one man in particular.
Carlos Gustavo Pampillón leads the FONAPA group, one of a number of fascist groups in the city that includes ‘El Giachino’, ‘Black Flag’ and ‘Red Roses’. Educated at the National University of Mar del Plata, Pampillón is a fierce Argentine ultra-nationalist who also proclaims himself to be an anti-communist and “against the digressions of cultural Marxism”.
Although he has rarely appeared before the press, Pampillón uses his social media accounts to attempt to set the record straight in frequent hailstorms of capital letters, denials and definitions. He is regularly photographed performing Nazi salutes and promoting provocative messages in defence of ‘la Patria’.
Dejar de quejarse y empezar a hacer es el único camino para terminar con este narcosocialismo que corroe la patria. pic.twitter.com/Lh2pZXKU
— Carlos Pampillon (@CarlosPampillon) 14 January 2013
A brief foray into mainstream politics saw Pampillón throw his support behind right-wing candidate Carlos Arroyo in Mar del Plata’s 2015 local elections, who ran on the controversial Cambiemos (Let’s Change) ticket. Arroyo was victorious, gaining 47 percent of the vote.
The party had previously been denounced by Argentina’s National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI) for xenophobia against Bolivian residents in Mar del Plata.
As Argentina enters a new post-Kirchnerist era, concern grows at the following far-right groups are managing to attract votes. Before last year’s national elections, the Bandera Vecinal party, a group founded by right-wing nationalist Alejandro Biondini, was granted official status; allowing it to field a candidate for the presidency.
However, although support for ultra-nationalist groups increases steadily following years of economic hardship, the numbers they represent are comparatively very small. Biondini himself ran for the presidency in 2011 on the Social Alternative Party’s ticket, but received just 0.19 percent of the vote.
Nationalist sentiment is strong in what is a proud country, but ultra-nationalists are a relative minority and events such as those in Mar del Plata are uncommon; yet represent an intolerance that needs to be eradicated.
However, should these groups manage to organize themselves and coalesce under a single flag – the Bandera Vecinal being the most likely at present – then they could represent a significant and unwanted challenge to Argentina’s progressive democratic tradition.