Critique of repressive reason

Image: Luis Quintero


The real intimidation does not come from popular demonstrations, but from the executive and judicial powers over civil society, violating freedom of expression


The attention that the repression of the mobilization against the approval of the second version of the “Bases” law has been generating in the turbulent Argentine environment is decreasing dangerously. A cloak of uncertainty surrounds the magnitude of the consequences, the severity of which still seems indecipherable. Let us recall the context in which the events occurred. The project passed the threshold of conditions to enter the Senate on Wednesday, June 12th, after being processed and approved in the Chamber of Deputies, through arduous negotiations.

In that Chamber, even stricter approval conditions were expected, amid tortuous pressure, buying votes through favors for personal positions, resulting in the prospect of an uncertain result. Several social and trade union organizations, together with left-wing political parties and weakened progressive factions of Peronism, called for a demonstration in front of Congress, to express opposition to the law over a wide spectrum of time, according to each sector, from the early hours of the morning, until dusk, dispersing the concentrations of participants.

As has been the case since the beginning of Milei's administration, the various federal security forces were equipped with unusual technological paraphernalia. The narrow synthesis culminates in riots and repression, or repression and riots, an indistinct duality, which cold accounting records as fires of a couple of cars, a public bicycle station and garbage containers, as well as stones, with 33 citizens detained.

I will address the vandalizations and violent interventions at the end, initially emphasizing the growth of particularized repressive strategies with which a dark network is implanted between the executive and judiciary powers, building a climate of suffocation of public expression and freedom: a kind of superior phase of power of institutional violence, which ironically is camouflaged under the self-proclaimed and mocking “libertarian” label of the current administration.

Without harboring any nostalgia for the previous efforts of the government's main ally, former president Macri's party, with the same security minister, Bullrich, I must admit that not even they dared to make the terrible and palpable qualitative leap that crystallizes in these facts. I will try to examine them.


In the theater of repressive execution operations, the Minister of Security herself personally orchestrates the intervention of a triumvirate of federal forces: Federal Police, Gendarmerie and City Hall, relegating the Municipal Police to an almost anecdotal role or as a spectator of the ministerial choreography.

The issuance of a tweet emerging from the digital shadows of an account called “office of the president”, whose author remains shrouded in mystery. He claims that terrorist groups using sticks, stones and grenades tried to carry out a coup d'état, in addition to congratulating the repression. Hilarious, if it weren't for the fact that the prosecutor on duty takes this with frightening seriousness.

The intervention of the federal jurisdiction through prosecutor Stornelli and judge Servini de Cubría, embarked on a chimerical crusade to uncover such “terrorist” actions and attempted coups using only sticks and stones. It expresses a justice that dances to the tune of executive power.

The punitive cruelty that reaches its peak with the use of maximum security prisons, far from the city, dependent on the Penitentiary Service, which in turn depends on the minister. A decision that contrasts with the reality of prisoners with pending sentences who languish in police stations and penitentiaries, victims of the chronic lack of prison space.

The practice of physical and psychological torture of several detainees, in the dark corners of prisons where some were stripped naked, beaten and subjected to pepper spray, or in prisoner transport cars. All of them insufficiently reported.

The delay in judicial treatment and the delay in sentences leave those prosecuted and even released in a practically eternal limbo.

6-point hypothesis that aims to reflect the darkest facets of deep and disturbing institutionalized repression. Deep in the obscure procedural compendium, the judge's decision declares the lack of merit of 28. The genesis and often the outcome of such court cases are based on the testimonies and records of law enforcement officers, whose stories are a dull echo of predictable accusations: “he threw stones”, “he attacked an officer”, among other banal expressions. Without conclusive images or substantial proof, the absence of tangible evidence is overwhelming.

On the contrary, when there are images, innocence quickly prevails, even due to the very fact that some of them are not even protesters, but street vendors. However, the arrest alone was enough for prosecutor Carlos Stornelli to label those captured as coup plotters and terrorists, in a faithful echo of the government's script, taking them to prison, even to federal maximum security facilities. Among the five still detained, there are no solid arguments to support the allegations of a potential risk of flight or obstruction of justice.

The concept of “public intimidation” applies to these, a pretext under which a high punitive expectation is alleged, thus perpetuating an old doctrine that imposes, in fact, an early and preventive penalty. The police hunt even reached the protesters' private homes, interrogating neighbors and one of the freed women, in case she had left the country.


Within this absurd judicial labyrinth, five souls still remain behind bars, prosecuted on charges of “public intimidation”, a classification as archaic as it is draconian. Cristian Valiente faces accusations of having thrown stones and possessing a grenade, although he insists that it was nothing more than tear spray, discarded by the police, an object that he, in an act of probable naivety, decided to collect. Daniela Calarco and Roberto de la Cruz Gómez are identified as the architects of the fire that consumed a bicycle station and garbage containers. Fernando Gómez is accused of throwing stones and trying to jump a fence.

David Sica, in turn, faces accusations of assaulting a police officer during his arrest. This is an unemployed man who was crossing the city in search of food for the homeless. No evidence of these accusations has yet been produced. All arrests are inadmissible, even if it is proven that Calarco and Gómez caused the fires. Because they are not pyromaniacs, but would have done so in a context of social protest, nor does Valiente throw stones at all his neighbors. There is no risk of complicating the investigation or any danger to society. Just the pursuit of cruelty and scaring the entire society in an exemplary way.

It is evident that the real intimidation does not emanate from tumultuous streets, but from the executive and judicial powers towards civil society, discouraging and violating freedom of expression, the convening of civil and political organizations and the exercise of protest. Not only because of the persecutory action of this real hunt, but also because of the omission of investigation. In fact, the most serious acts of vandalism, the same ones used to justify repression and the absurd conclusion of an attempted coup, were inexplicably left out of judicial scrutiny.

The judge's only paragraph on the fire of the radio vehicle “String3” says that this is a “circumstance reproduced by the journalistic media” and would be judged by “ordinary justice”. Precisely the main action, perfectly recorded by the cameras, about which suspicions are raised of having been a staging orchestrated by the police themselves to justify the subsequent hunt. The security forces not only do not provide the security they are called for, they also appear to be involved in creating pretexts for their own repressive intervention.

I do not want to escape the controversy that in some circles, such as popular assemblies and human rights organizations, are supported by certain self-proclaimed leftists, who defend the legitimacy of violent actions of resistance, the supposedly stimulating virtue of physical confrontation or the denial of any crime against individuals or property in the context of protests or in the face of repressive acts.

In addition to the possible noble intentions that can animate such arguments, I believe that they compromise not only the victims of these true hunts that I describe, but also the future of mobilizations and resistance methodologies. By advocating justified violence, they could inadvertently undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of social movements, as well as discourage the broadest possible appeal of diverse voices to mobilizations.

The strength of expressive freedom is not physical, but its power lies in the attraction of a broad spectrum of society crushed by the expropriation offensive, where each individual, regardless of their physical capacity, finds a role and a space to intervene.

No less important is the government's terrifying display of discouraging social protest and expressive freedom. It is essential to avoid any contribution, even involuntary, that could justify or encourage greater passivity on the part of citizens so as not to feel like “Rambos” of the resistance.

Such contribution is a subtractive tactic of participation and even repression, although not of direct aggressors, but of all other forms of dissent unrelated to physical combat. Including the exercise of reason.

*Emilio Cafassi is a professor of sociology at the University of Buenos Aires.

Translation: Arthur Scavone

Originally published on the portal Faces & Grimaces.

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