Protest in Argentina turns creative with Evitas, flashmobs and fruit

Buenos Aires (AFP) –


Women dressed as Eva Peron, old political anthems blaring in the streets, flash-mobs with step-perfect choreography -- it's all part of the present day cut and thrust of politics in Buenos Aires.

Protesters in crisis-wracked Argentina are showcasing new and creative ways to vent their anger against President Mauricio Macri as campaigning for October 27 elections enters its final month.

Hundreds of "Evitas" have featured in recent protests across the city, complete with 1930s-era pastel dresses and hair buns that were the hallmark of the actress-turned-first lady.

Demonstrators, young and old, are turning up at these protests to dance to the rhythm of an iconic anthem of the Peronist movement that still holds a powerful grip on Argentina's politics.

"For that great Argentina that never betrayed us, Peronism is with Cristina" chanted women in support of two-time former president Cristina Kirchner at one recent protest.

"Peronist girls know what we want and we will fight without fear to win the election. Eva Peron! Eva Peron!"

Kirchner, 66, is running for vice-president alongside Alberto Fernandez, who is the clear favorite to win the October 27 election.

Military leader Juan Peron is credited with upending Argentina's class structure and championing the country's downtrodden during three presidential terms that stretched from the mid-40s to the mid-70s.

Peron's glamorous second wife Eva helped make him popular with the working class before her death in 1952.

Kirchner has in past campaigns tapped into lingering fervor for Eva Peron, popularly known as Evita, and spoken admiringly of her as a militant for social justice.

- Daily protests -

It's a recurring theme in the election campaign, given that the average worker's purchasing power has slumped under Macri and unemployment has risen to more than 10 percent.

Argentina has staggered through an economic crisis since first falling into a recession in 2018, slammed by soaring inflation and rising poverty levels.

Many of the protests are held within Macri's earshot outside his Casa Rosada official residence on Plaza de Mayo, animated by slickly choreographed ranks of dancers, and free fruit handed out to participants.

"We needed to do things that involved us very strongly with this election and with an artistic slant," said teacher Maria Teresa Garcia Bravo, 45, one of the dancing Evitas.

Free market-friendly Macri, seeking re-election in October, suffered a political mauling in August primaries, which showed him 15 points adrift of Fernandez.

Marches, protests and pickets have become a daily occurrence and disrupted business and traffic not just in Buenos Aires -- where they have become the norm -- but in provincial capitals, too.

The music and dance has helped revive the opposition that had seemed jaded by protest as the election approached.

An anti-Macri song "Sivosqueres" (If you want) has swept Buenos Aires, with thousands of people dancing in the streets at demonstrations, aided by Youtube tutorials that showed protesters the moves.

"I can't pay the rent anymore," goes the song by the band Sudor Marika, whose members came together to help drive the anti-Macri campaign.

The music has been used to animate flash-mob protests, a tactic used to disrupt summit-hosting cities in recent years, and which is now a regular part of the Argentine election campaign.

A fruit growers' federation has come together to give away 20,000 kilos of pears, apples and oranges at a recent protest in Plaza de Mayo.

- Food emergency -

Earlier this month, social organizations participated in a 48-hour camp out before the parliament to demand the declaration of a food emergency, to help the poor cope with rising prices.

Lawmakers passed a bill freeing up funds to fight the emergency, which has only added to a growing sense of crisis.

In recent days, groups of protesters stormed several shopping centers including Buenos Aires's exclusive Bullrich center, in "lightning" protests.

Macri has introduced measures to ease the crisis in the wake of his primary defeat, but has pledged to see his market reforms through and honor the terms of a record $57 billion International Monetary Fund bailout.

He has called his supporters onto the streets for a massive show of support on Saturday as the campaign heads into the home strait.

"We know that we can solve the current problems while continuing to move towards the future," Macri tweeted. "The election hasn't happened yet."

The size of the rally will be an important barometer, and his center-right "Cambiemos" (Let's Change) coalition will have to bring its own mass-appeal creativity.