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Argentina Autonomous Communities - News

Morag | 10.12.2003 12:13 | Globalisation | Social Struggles

In July this year, activists from the autonomous communities in Argentina toured the UK. Graciela Monteagudo updates us on what they've been doing since that time.

dear friends:
i hope this email finds our well and strong. we have a bunch of exciting news to share with you:

a) international autonomist encuentro in Buenos Aires, Argentina - January 8 to the 11, 2004
b) upcoming delegations to Argentina: January 12-21
March 6 -14 with the People United (
c) upcoming aap activities in the neighborhood of Solano, Buenos Aires - January/March 2004
d) autonomista tour in october 2004: members of popular assemblies, recuperated factories and unemployed workers movements
e) dreams: build a puppet show in Palestine, South Africa, Bolivia and Argentina and tour it worldwide with women from these countries
f) narrative of the automous caravan and the aap tour, from montreal to the ftaa protests in miami and the soa protests in georgia

a,b and c) please check our website for more info about the encuentro, the upcoming delegations and the workshops in solano about domestic violence and art and activism.

d) autonomista tour in october 2004 - we are already starting to book our new tour. We will keep the format we've been using so far. "que se vayan tod@s, a cardboard piece" as a historical introduction to argentina. then, our speakers will dialogue with the audience. For this tour we intend to bring over members of the popular assemblies, recuperated factories and movement of unemployed workers. we will bring as many women as we can. we would like to tour the east coast, but also the west coast, if at all possible.

e) dreams: we are beginning to plan a new production. We would like to go with a group of artists to Palestine, South Africa, Bolivia and Argentina. We would build scenes of a puppet show about the social movements and autonomy in each of these countries. Once the show or shows are finished, we will first tour them to different social movements in the countries we are building them and then, once we have all the pieces together, we will tour it internationally with a woman from each country speaking about their struggle. We are looking for funding and support for this exciting project. Please let us know if you can be of help with any part of it.

f) we just finished touring with the autonomous caravan. we started out in montreal and tour our way down to miami and the soa in georgia. it took us a month. although it was quite hard at times, it was also wicked fun. we met tons of really cool people along the way. we want to thank everybody that collaborated with us, from students, faculty and community members that raised money and did publicity to the folks who opened their homes to us, from those who asked great questions during the presentations to all of you who attended and or helped spread the word! a rather longish narrative follows, hope you have the time to read it.

the enemy is not that big, we just look at it from our knees! (a graffity in buenos aires)
amor y autonomia!

Autonomous Women in the World
by Graciela Monteagudo in collaboration with Mark Brown*
translated by Joseph Huff-Hannon
Argentina Autonomista Project

On March 26, 2003, I participated with some two thousand other companeros in a protest outside the house of Eduardo Duhalde, then President of Argentina, responsible for the Avellaneda massacre. On June 26, 2002, two members of the unemployed workers movement, Maxi Kosteki and Darío Santillán, were executed by the police during a brutal repression of a road blockade at the Pueyrredon Bridge, which separates the capital city from the province. When we arrived at the front of the police fence that separated us from Duhalde’s house, we found ourselves in front of various lines of police in combat gear. In front, near the fence, were the female police officers, led by a female sergeant.

Mabel Kosteki, Maxi’s mom, approached the fence, along with the mother of Darío, and with the mothers of the victims of the trigger-happy police. They asked the female police officers: "Don't you realize that your companeras are on this side of the fence? Don't you realize that on your side are the assassins? They also asked them if they didn't also have sons or daughters. While some of the women police officers cried, the sergeant marched furiously up and down the line, police baton in hand. Many on our side yelled "bitches/whores" at the police. I asked the women on our side if they didn't see that the problem was that that they were cops; Whores are not assasins. A woman said to me that it was about time that there was a little feminism in these protests. That woman was Neka Jara, from the unemployed workers movement of Solano.

I had been searching her out for a long time because I had wanted to invite her to participate in a tour of Europe and the United States. I was
particularly interested in the work done by the MTD Solano because of
the connection between the autonomous projects (gardens, a
shoe-making workshop) with direct action. After having participated in
the struggles of the 80s and early 90s in Argentina, I had moved to the United States to work with street theater. After Seattle, I dedicated myself full time to producing theater during the protests and street events. This put me in contact with a lot of people in the anti-globalization movement, in the United States and in Europe.

When the "piquetes" (road blockades) started in the mid-90s in Argentina, I started to follow the process. It seemed interesting to see the objective connection between the horizontal forms of organizing and direct democracy that were being used in the struggles in Chiapas, as in Seattle, as in the road-blockades in the north and south of Argentina. When the insurrection of December 2001 came to pass with the cry of "Que se vayan todos" (they all must go), an international spotlight was shone on Argentina and people from other countries flocked there to participate in and study the phenomenon.

When the repression hit on the Pueyrredon Bridge, on June 26, 2002, I was in Calgary, Canada. I was helping to organize the giant puppets that we were to use at the protest of the meetings of the G-8. The reaction of the activists there to the news of the repression left a bitter taste in my
mouth. They wrote them a declaration of solidarity. I began to think that
there had to be a way to establish personal relationships between the argentine movement and the rest of the world. So I began to organize visits to Buenos Aires for community artists and activists, and to plan visits of compañeras from Argentina to come to the United States. Many of the projects involve the production of puppets and shows as a way to share histories and experiences. We call this effort the argentina autonomista project.

The first tour that I organized I did by myself, because the women whom I had invited from the unemployed workers movement were unable to get their passports on time. But I brought with me a puppet show, a collective creation between myself and two Italian artists, Damiano Giambelli and Cristina Discaciatti. Before taking it on tour, we brought it to assemblies and discussions in and around Buenos Aires, opening up a debate about the show. We then re-wrote the show to reflect this process of debate and consultation.

Thanks to the work of the London support group for Peoples' Global Action (PGA), Neka and I traveled to the United Kingdom in June 2003. The tour lasted a month. We visited an impressive list of social centers in England, Scotland and Wales. We were also invited to a conference in Dublin, Ireland.

The experience of the massive mobilizations against the war in Iraq was still fresh, directed by the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyite group. Despite being massive, the permitted, tamed protests were not enough to force the Blair government to withdraw from the war.

These mobilizations constrasted sharply with the mass Reclaim the Streets (RTS) actions of the late 1990's. At this time, there were also widespread direct actions carried out to stop the construction of freeways and communities. In an effort to avoid the destruction that the roads would cause, hundreds of people climbed into the trees and houses marked for clearing and demolition. In London, RTS had evolved into a situationist-inspired challenge to the capitalist status quo, peaking
in 1999 with a highly successful mass action. On that 18th of June, London Reclaim the Streets organized the Carnival Against Capital in the City of London. "We are Everywhere" (1) narrates how the city was occupied by 10,000 people wearing carnival masks, who evaded the police line and managed not only to flood the basement of the London International Financial Futures Exchange, but enjoyed a huge party while completely paralizing their financial activities during that day.

Due to internal political tensions and state repression, London Reclaim the Streets was forced to reorganize. We noticed an obvious tension between those who were deeply committed to direct action, glorifying it as the only useful tool in the struggle, and those who were trying to open themselves up to experiences of community building, without leaving direction action to the side. Currently in Europe the People's Global Action process is focussing on the setting up of infopoints, which are places where people can go to find out more about PGA (ie. global and local resistance) in an attempt to get their ideas and actions out into the world, to forge new relationships and to sidestep the possibility of our being turned into 'terrorists'. Sharing the experiences from Solano was very important in this context.

It was also interesting to compare the different alternative cultures.
As a rule, the uk activists live in pockets outside of the system, and generate a culture of resistance from these spaces. In many cases they squat in abandoned factories or big houses, some choosing to live without electricity, or by generating their own energy. Many don't travel by plane, so as not to participate in the climate chaos-inducing effect of airplanes. In the future we will have to see how some of these practices jive with the necessity of the movement to grow and leave the confines of a certain social sector.

While we were in Manchester, I thought again about how it would be worth it to bring an unemployed worker organizer, a "piquetera", on tour in North America. But I was also starting to realize that in these tours the
conditions can be quite hard. Each night we slept in the house of a
different person in a different city, ate what we could along the route, and
traveled hours and hours by car. Of course we were also often welcomed with incredible food and lively parties, but in general it was quite difficult.
But the relationship that Neka and I formed was very strong. Without the
emotional support that she offered me, perhaps we would not have been able to finish the tour. During that time in the UK was when I began to question myself; with whom, and exactly why did I feel the need to be doing these tours?

What determines it all in the end is hope. In Solano there is a sense of hope. And in the subjectivity of Neka, in her sensibility, in her way of being a woman and in her sense of duty, I established a personal tie and a feeling of solidarity with Solano and with the autonomous movement.

Talking with friends in the United Sates, we came to the conclusion that the best scenario would be for Neka to come on tour for the occasion of the protests against the FTAA in Miami, and against the School of the Americas, in Georgia. A month long tour through universities and community centers on the East Coast of Canada and the United States was the most logical way to finance the visit. At the same time it could help to spread the word about "the party to end the FTAA" in Miami, and the need to close down the U.S. military school for international terrorists.

And ever since the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre had pushed the social movements towards the edges, opening up their main stage to politicians such as Lula and Chavez, a group of compañeros in Brazil and the US were simultaneously planning a similar tour for the same time frame as we were. So we decided to unify our efforts and call the project the "Autonomous Movements Caravan". Many people from Brazil and Argentina traveled as delegates on the tour. Amongst the group were: Giulius Cesari Aprigio of the Green Alternative Collective (CAVE) from Santos Brazil; Alessandro Campos from Acao Local for Justicia Global from Sao Paulo, Brazil; Hiparidi of the Xavante tribe from Mato Grosso, Brazil; Daniela Batista Lima, of the Associacao Wara; and Soledad from the unemployed workers movement of La Matanza, Argentina.

Getting visas for the delegates to travel to the U.S. was not easy. But we had learned something from past mistakes, and finally Neka was able to obtain a visa. At the last minute the Chilean police complicated the whole scenario by detaining two members of MTD Solano, Neka's movement, in a protest against the eviction of a Mapuche community in southern Chile. Finally, thanks to pressure from human rights organizations, the companeros were released and Neka was able to join the caravan as we reached New York City.

In Manhattan we felt that we were right in the midst of the contradictions of the system. Soledad, from La Matanza, said that the blinding yellow lights of the city were an artifice to impress us. We slept in an activist's living room in the Lower East Side. We went out to smoke on the balcony, from where you could see Wall Street, and we imagined the thousands of workers covered in ashes that had fled from the hell of the twin towers. One of our events was at New York University, the same university where Domingo Cavallo, ex-Economy minister of Argentina, lectures. Another event was in the offices of Community Voices Heard, where a homeless man, almost toothless, clearly explained to us the relationship between the thousands of poor people who survive on the streets at the heart of the system, and the corporate globalization of the world.

In many cities along the way we met people who had been to Argentina. We shared our mate with them, and also with some other people in some
surprising situations, like a women in a Quaker reunion. The Quakers
offered us housing in their retreat center near Philadelphia. We spoke with them about the problems of unemployment and destruction of the environment, about the politics of neoliberalism. Some of them were going down to Miami for the large protests against the FTAA. All of them had participated in the movement against the war.

In Miami we marched with the Immokalee coalition, made up for the most part of illegal workers, mostly Latinos. Neka denounced the politics of hunger and exclusion of the FTAA in a popular tribunal, in which Naomi Klein was one of the judges.

Neka, Giulius and Alessandro talked with the spokescouncil on Wednesday night. Neka saluted their corage and their struggle. It was quite moving. Some members of the caravan participated in a direct action at 7:00 am on the next day, the 20th of November. Others, who were in the country with a tourist visa, were unable to come for security reasons. The call to action had come out of the spokes council, the central organ of the most radical groups. The goal was to knock down the police fence. The FTAA, just like other international organizations like the IMF and the World Bank, design policies that effect masses of people. Nevertheless, they always meet to negotiate behind closed doors and in secret. For a long time now the movement has been trying to knock down those police fences that have come to symbolize that exclusion.

The windows of Starbucks seemed especially unprotected. Nevertheless, the police that surrounded us in that corner didn't make any effort to protect the storefronts, which are normally guarded tightly by police lines during these direct actions. In any case, the movement wasn't duped into provocation, and there was not one broken window in the whole city of Miami.

This did not seem to impact John Timoney, super-cop, the butcher of the protesters at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia in July of 2000. Without blinking an eye he went on TV and explained that violent demonstrators had been using tear gas. He personally claimed to have been gassed by demonstrators!

In fact the police repression started early that day, with a savage attack
against peaceful demonstrators which continued into the next day, all over Miami. Demonstrators were shot at with rubber bullets. With a special fund of $8 million dollars, the police were equipped with concussion grenades, tazers, clubs, and various types of gas. There were tanks, armored cars, and helicopters throughout the city.

The result was over 250 compañeros detained, 100 injured, 12 hospitalized – two in intensive therapy. All sort of abuse were reported from within the jails, including death threats and sexual assault. It is clear that we are beginning to see the practical application of the Homeland Security doctrine, here, in the U.S.

We traveled all the next day to arrive at the protest at the gates of the
School of the Americas in Columbus, Georgia. Over a decade ago, a group of priests and nuns began to enter the military base, denouncing the program of torture and disappearance that the US school teaches to Latin American soldiers and Generals. Prominent graduates of the School include Manuel Noriega of Panama, and Galtieri and Massera of Argentina. The first two are enshrined in the school's ˜Hall of Honor". With the passage of time, people from the anti-globalization movement have become more involved in this movement, and more and more activists are arrested during the civil disobedience actions every year.

Neka, Giulius, and Alessandro spoke from the stage, set up in front of the base. The demonstration lasted all day of a peaceful Saturday. There was music, speakers, and a huge show, made of up hundreds of performers, prepared by ˜The Puppetistas", a group of us who are artists and activists from all over the United States. At nightfall we presented our show ˜Que se vayan tod@s: A cardboard piece". In the words of Joseph Huff-Hannon (one of our incredible translators, and a member of Naomi Klein's documentary team in Buenos Aires) the tour wouldn't have been complete without an outlaw puppet show. With the excuse of obeying the fire code, the local police kicked first us out of the hotel where we were performing. They then kicked us out of the parking lot where we had gone to continue the show, and finally threatened to arrest us if we didn't all disperse from the sidewalk. In an assembly we discussed amongst ourselves that if was better to concentrate our energies on the actions of the following day, and not all be arrested prematurely. Photos and articles can be seen at:

The following day many people were arrested as they entered the base; nuns and priests, punks, anarchists, and pacifists. Their punishment will
probably be three months in Federal prison. The fight continues.

Over the last month we spoke with hundreds of people; from radicalized
relations of Nelson Rockefeller to homeless people in New York City. We met them all along the way, visiting universities where we found radical
students and professors, community centers in which poor and marginalized people discussed direct action against corporate globalization, in the streets of Miami marching with illegal immigrants, exercising our right to protest the FTAA in a militarized city, and in front of the gates of the School of the Americas. Some of those people will be with us in our "Autonomous January" encuentro. All of us are tied together by similar ideas and practices: direct democracy and horizontality as arms in the struggle and the common articulation against a system of global domination.


(*) Mark Brown is one of my dear friends in London. He not only just joined the aap board but he is also involved with London Rising Tide (part of the UK and international Rising Tide grassroots networks for climate justice -, London Action Resource Centre (LARC -, the London Peoples' Global Action support group (PGA - and Funding for Change/Network for Social Change.

The following are websites of participating groups of the "Autonomous Movements Caravan":

Associacao Wara.
Coletivo Alternativo Verde.
MTD Solano.
Argentina Autonomista Project - Proyecto Argentina Autonomista.
Worcester Global Action Network.
School of the Americas Watch.
MTD La Matanza.


We are everywhere,
People's Global Action Network, London,
Joseph Huff-Hannon,


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