Magazine article New Internationalist

Interview with Diego Rozengardt about a New Generation of Political Activists in Argentina

Magazine article New Internationalist

Interview with Diego Rozengardt about a New Generation of Political Activists in Argentina

Article excerpt

Our society has demonstrated that If we stay at home and cry, nothing ever happens.'

This, says Diego Rozengardt, is why he became one of the main organizers of a flourishing social movement in Argentina called Generacion Cromanon. Not that he really chose this role. In fact no-one became a member of Generacion Cromanon by choice.

Rather, activism flared in each of their hearts in the aftermath of the fire that devoured the Republica Cromanon discotheque in Buenos Aires on 30 December 2004. The nightclub was overcrowded: over 3,000 revellers were packed into a club licensed to hold 1,034. By midnight Argentine news bulletins were broadcasting Dante-esque scenes of bodies being pulled from the premises: the bodies of sisters and brothers; lovers and friends; sons and daughters. The fire and toxic fumes injured thousands and 194 people lost their lives. Diego's 18-year-old brother, Julian, was one of those who died.

'We don't call it a tragedy,' explains Diego. 'We call it a massacre. A tragedy is natural, inevitable. This was not natural. This was not inevitable. If we say "tragedy", we talk like there was no guilt.'

And where there is guilt, Generacion Cromanon is making sure that it is exposed. Families and survivors are demanding a wide-ranging inquiry into safety regulations as well as the events that followed the fire. Over 30 people - including officials and businesspeople - have been indicted so far. Diego says that the families are not interested in compensation - they want justice: '[Days after the fire] the Government tried to offer 300,000 pesos ($98,400) to each family with a fatal victim, and 180,000 pesos ($59,040) for every survivor if we agreed not to bring law suits against them. We all refused. [Instead] each family demanded that the State take full responsibility.'

So far the most significant political casualty has been the City Mayor of Buenos Aires, Anibal lbarra - suspended from office while he undergoes impeachment for his alleged failure to enforce fire safety regulations: 'He had advice about the way that clubs and pubs and mini-stadiums were working in this city and he did nothing. That would be negligent. But we [also] know that he has very close relations with the owners of the discotheques. For example, the first time he appeared in the media, he appeared with all the [disco] owners behind him as if they were the victims. That's why we want more than his resignation. We want his incarceration.'

Nevertheless, Diego - an economist and part-time university lecturer-thinks the Mayor may be protected from punishment: 'Justice in this country is not free or independent. …

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