BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (GPI)--
Last night was a hot night in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital, as a crowd surrounded the Obelisk in the city's center, waving signs and Argentine flags.
Many carried pots and pans, which they hit with wooden and metal spoons as they marched to the beat during this nationwide “cacerolazo,” a protest that draws its name from “cacerola,” which means “pan.”
The protesters streamed into the city center from various neighborhoods at 8 p.m. to voice their discontent with the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Hundreds of thousands of people in the capital participated, while protests occurred simultaneously in various provinces across the country.
One family holding hands advanced with signs on their chests. Resting against a stoplight, another woman in her 50s pounded a pan persistently. Others standing atop low roofs wielded signs and photographed the crowd.
Speakers mounted on a van blared the national anthem, and the crowd sang along.
Andrés Vitarelli, 24, stopped singing to say that he joined the protest because the country needs a change.
“I come because there are certain things of Argentine reality that aren’t bearable anymore: the inflation, the insecurity, the lack of respect for institutions, the permanent lie,” he says. “Like so many people, I am here protesting simply so that there’s a reconsideration of how to solve the problems.”
Inflation, restrictions on buying U.S. dollars, insecurity, concerns about freedom of expression and fear of a third presidential term for Fernández drove hundreds of thousands of people to stage a cacerolazo last night. Opponents say it was a protest of the upper-middle class defending its own interests rather than the well-being of the country. Other opponents say that major media outlets promoted the protest in order to attack the government.
The cacerolazo is a form of protest in which people take to the streets banging pots and pans. Marcela Alejandra Perez, who has a degree in sociology, says that pans give a protest an everyday feel.
“The cacerolazo is a form of protest characteristic of the actual society in which we live,” she says. “The pan is a fun and loud symbol. It’s a symbol of the everyday.”
In cacerolazos, people come together from various parts of the city at a chosen hour and start to bang pots and pans, interrupting traffic. On some occasions, the protesters march in columns from various directions to converge in the center of the city, as was the case with this cacerolazo.
The government of Fernández, who assumed the presidency in 2007 and won re-election in 2011, has seen various cacerolazos, with major ones in March and June 2008 and June and September 2012. But last night was the country’s biggest anti-government protest in more than a decade, according to The Associated Press.
The protest was organized via social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Some 45 groups promoted the cacerolazo online, according to La Nación newspaper.
One of these groups was Argentinos Indignados.
“Enough with the insecurity,” it states on its website. “Enough with cutting out liberties. Enough with lying to us.”
The group says it rejects the possibility of Fernández running for re-election in 2015, though the president hasn’t announced plans to run again.
For Vitarelli, a member of the Partido para una República con Oportunidades, an opposition party, rising inflation was the key issue that drew him to the cacerolazo.
“For me, the principal problem in Argentina today is inflation,” he says. “That doesn’t give people the possibility of saving. And those whom it affects most is the poor. The social plans are temporary help.”