Activist Dead in Argentina

Tuesday, 10th April 2007 at 2:42 UTC 1 comment

In Memory of Carlos Fuentealba, Teacher and Activist, killed in action Wednesday 4th April 2007.

There’s been some very tense protests surrounding a local teachers strike in Argentina over the last week.  A protester died from injuries sustained when they were hit by a tear gas canister while protesting the state’s decision not to substantially raise the wages it pays teachers.  News of the death has brought protesters nationwide to the streets and the whole country to a standstill, and may perhaps even affect the national elections due in just a few weeks…

The Argentinians have a wonderful history of protesting, and it will be interesting to see how this develops.  Their protests of December 2001 against the austerity measures imposed by the IMF rocked the world, and showed what can be achieved through concerted action.  The autonomously run factories that exist to this day are testament to their commitment to making the world a better place through direct action and radical democracy.  When injustice is dealt, they have no problem getting out on to the highway and blocking it; none of the hours of meetings to decide if this should happen, just get on with it!

As to teaching; it has been proven that much of a country’s prosperity hangs on its ability to educate future generations.  Its sad to note the extent to which education is becoming commodified around the world.  Yet in a world that claims to pay more to those who are better qualified and have higher responsibilities, teachers almost always suffer low wages and receive little recognition of the role that they play.

From the reports I’ve found, it appears the teachers had gathered noisily, but peacefully, on a local highway, to make their protests visible and effective. The police decided to clear the area by force. They fired tear-gas, and a few rocks came back. One of the tear-gas canisters hit Carlos Fuentealba, and he later died in hospital.

I always find it infuriating when Western activists condemn Southern protesters for throwing the odd stone in response to full-on tear gassing; who are we to comment on these people’s response to state violence – will we ever experience this kind of desperate struggle?

It is always a tragedy when an activist is forced to give their life in the course of a struggle.  Perhaps its rather poignant that this has occurred at the time of Easter.  Its a long time since anyone has died as a result of a UK protest.  But as the Zapatista’s say, people only die when they’re forgotten.  So today, I’ll remember Carlos Fuentealba, and what he did for his fellow workers, the teachers of the next generation in Neuquen.

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Entry filed under: Activism, Argentina, Education, Workers.

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