Inequality in Latin America has been around since the Europeans first landed. The entire region has long been considered the most unequal part of the world. But the face of inequality is nowhere more apparent than it is in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires.
To go anywhere in Buenos Aires to akin to taking conducting a study of contracts. The art museums, malls and expensive apartments on Libertador Street stand directly across the railroad tracks from the poverty stricken housing of the shantytowns, or villas miseries. When you get below Rivadavia Street, “the South begins” as novelist Jorge Luis Borges said.
Buenos Aires is a puzzle of jurisdictions. The metro contains about 13 million people, about 40 percent of the country’s entire population. The city’s mayor, Mauricio Macri, holds court over a city thought with just 3 million residents.
The problems and challenge has proved to be too much for Macri. He has consistently demonstrated indifference towards the job of developing a decent working relationship with either provincial or national governments.
Macri, and his playboy-wannabe Propuesta Republicana Party are solely interested in projects that will benefit the wealthy and neglect the poor. The people of Buenos Aires deserve better and only with instant and decisive action will improvement come for the city’s poor.
Buenos Aires has been its own entity since 1996 when the federal government gave up its control in appointing the city’s mayor. Today, the Buenos Aires mayor is generally considered as the third most important political position in the country.
Macri’s background is that of a wealthy family. He is a former manager of the popular Boca Juniors. When he took office in 2007, he painted himself as being “business friendly”. Actually, he’s anything but friendly. Unless you are wealthy and own one of the “right” businesses.
Macri is the country’s primary opposition leader. This status has led him to drive hard to keep the city autonomous. Macri’s politics and thinking have moved closer to the idea of “city diplomacy”.
Macri aims for the Buenos Aires city government to negotiate its own terms without having to worry about what the national players are doing. Macri has the power as mayor to bring sweeping change to such issues as poverty and inequality in the city.
He has taken the coward’s way and has not made an efficient use of his power and he has repeatedly refused to address the problems that his city faces.
Basically, Macri has spent his time and the city’s money on urban planning projects which benefit the wealthy Argentines.
Macri hasn’t created any jobs except for jobs for well-educated, middle and upper-class Argentines. He’s forgotten about those who live in the barrios, and his work initiatives have been attention only to the already well off barrios like Palermo.
The 2014 city budget shows the lowest spending on social housing in the past ten years and a full 19 percent drop from last year.
Daniel Filmus, senator for the ruling Frente Para la Victoria party said Macri’s policies would only result in lower salaries, lower social spending and more debt.
Meanwhile, the budget for the city’s Ministry of Social Development’s budget has been cut by $20 million (USD) for the next year. Macri has forced through these cuts despite the fact that 350,000 people in the city are living in a housing emergency.
Macri is showing his ineptitude in other ways as well. His administration has done nothing to clean up the Matanza-Riachuelo River along Buenos Aires’ southern border. It’s an infamous site and was recently listed in Time Magazine’s 10 most polluted places worldwide. Contaminated with zinc, lead, copper and nickel, many of the two million people who live along its banks rely on the river for their drinking water.
Things aren’t about to change soon in Buenos Aires. The mayor is more concerned with image and “business-friendliness” than the real needs of his citizens. The city’s website is a shrine to Macri, attempting to burnish his image and presenting a sunny image of the city where, on every street corner, happy Buenos Aires residents enjoy cafe on the street under banners declaring “En todo estas vos” (you are in the middle of everything).
Maybe Macri believes this. Perhaps he thinks that the benefits of his urban planning projects will “trickle down” to the poor. It didn’t work for Reagan in the U.S. And it won’t work in Buenos Aires.
People who aren’t naive and blinded by the glitz and glamor aren’t fooled. At rallies and other events in the city, youth chant “Macri, basura, se fue la dictadura” (Macri, you’re trash, the dictatorship is gone).
If Macri has future political aspirations, as he apparently does have, he’s got to learn to place the needs of those people living outside of his rose colored idea of modernity.