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Social Genocide (2004)
"Memoria del saqueo" (original title)

7.9
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After the fall of the military dictatorship in 1983, successive democratic governments launched a series of reforms purporting to turn Argentina into the world's most liberal and prosperous... See full summary »

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After the fall of the military dictatorship in 1983, successive democratic governments launched a series of reforms purporting to turn Argentina into the world's most liberal and prosperous economy. Less than twenty years later, the Argentinians have lost literally everything: major national companies have been sold well below value to foreign corporations; the proceeds of privatizations have been diverted into the pockets of corrupt officials; revised labour laws have taken away all rights from employees; in a country that is traditionally an important exporter of foodstuffs, malnutrition is widespread; millions of people are unemployed and sinking into poverty; and their savings have disappeared in a final banking collapse. The film highlights numerous political, financial, social and judicial aspects that mark out Argentina's road to ruin. Written by Eduardo Casais <casaise@acm.org>

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18 March 2004 (Argentina)  »

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Social Genocide  »

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Historically important, but lacking cinematic pace
23 August 2004 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

When I went to Argentina in 2002 it was a total culture shock in so many senses. Staying in Buenos Airies, there was no visible suggestion of Argentina being a 'developing country' - B.A. holds all the sophistication of 20th century Europe - and in some cases better preserved than it is in Europe. The architecture is visually stunning - walking along any of the main streets I was impressed with the elegance of this modern city that maintained traditional sophistication - not only in the beautiful buildings themselves, but in restaurants, etiquette and the arts. Going to the ballet, you could hear a pin drop (which is hardly the case in many Latin American countries). The citizens are educated, sophisticated and with refined manners. When you see scenes of rioting on television it takes a while to understand - Argentinians did not riot because they are lawless - they rioted against the lawlessness of the government, the institutions, the banks, the imposed social order that had robbed them of their savings, their livelihood, the small businesses they had built up, the investments they had made to protect for their children's' future and their own old age.

How such a chaotic situation occurred in such a civilised country is a dilemma that is unique to Argentina. They have lost everything, and without a single bullet being fired, without a war, without even, sometimes, knowing the faces of the people that stole their personal and their country's wealth. I had taken some local currency with me for my own trip there, but had ignorantly thought I could simply use a credit card or change currency as needed. What a shock. The banks were suddenly closed "for a week". A law was passed in the short time I was there, I was informed, that made changing currency illegal. Moreover, most of the cash machines were now empty. The shops were full of the most fabulous bargains. Antique and bric-a-brac stores looked as if they had the entire contents of several stately homes which they were selling off for peanuts. No-one had any actual money. More than once, the banks had frozen people's savings and replaced their money with vouchers (that were worth very little).

This is a situation that is so hard to understand, that a documentary film such as this was sorely needed to cover all the myriad facts.

A bloody military regime was succeeded by an apparent democracy, but successive leaders betrayed their ideals and, with the aid of banks and unscrupulous foreign investors, sold off Argentina's resources or privatised them to themselves with minimal checks and at a fraction of their real worth. Foreign banks kept their Argentinian subsidiaries 'private' so as not to be responsible for their debts. Private debts and corporate debts were absorbed into the national debt which increased pressure from the International Monetary Fund. Members of the government of all parties, heads of banks, and the Supreme Court all conspired on an ongoing basis with heavy subsidies (i.e. bribes) to keep the corrupt official in power and outside the rule of law.

The greatness and meticulousness of the film is not, however, quite matched by the structure. At two hours long, the pacing is such that only students and persons already very interested in the problems of Argentina will remain glued to the screen. Although it is important for Argentinians to have their history documented clearly, it would be helpful for foreigners to be more aware of the situation, especially when much of the problem is the result of collusion by powerful governments such as that of the United States. Like many Latin American countries, Argentina has suffered pillaging first (militarily) by Spain and Europe and secondly (bureaucratically and financially) by the U.S.A. and foreign big business interests. Unlike many Latin American countries, Argentina has also been repeatedly pillaged by its own leaders. It is the only country in the world that has lost its major natural gas and oil resources without a struggle.

One of the reasons we should learn from Argentina is because 'Democracy' is frequently placed on a pedestal by countries (and their people) such as U.S. and Britain. The latter are countries that have evolved democracy. Democracy installed before a country has grown towards it as a nation can result in government by bureaucrats - only corrupt (or corruptible) politicians - of any party - can get elected, so democracy is a farce. Once in power, they have at their disposal techniques and networks for their own enrichment that are beyond the comprehension of much the general populace, who realise, too late, that they have been fooled. Already in the USA we have seen a president elected by phoney ballots; in Britain, we have seen a government overhauled so that most decision-making is taken in private meetings. Democracy may be preferable to most systems of government, but it still depends on the integrity of individuals, and the ability of such individuals to be heard and elected. A corrupt democracy may be worse than a benign dictatorship; a communist agrarian system may work for a country for a period where the common good needs to be placed on a higher priority than civil liberties. Democracy is a wonderful institution, but there are many reasons for supporting it - some of them benign and some of them purely selfish. A study of this film could help persons interested in social anthropology to build a safer future for all of us. We need to be able to work through the flim-flam of government economic policies – if we cannot trust the integrity of our leaders then it is no good taking long range policies on good words and trust – as the millions of overnight destitute in Argentina have discovered to their cost.


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