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Argentina: The Next Egypt?

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While most of the world is distracted by events in Korea, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, a revolution is forming in South America's second largest country.

The revolution which appears to be waiting on the corner echoes the upheaval which swept through many Arab countries in 2010.

Rocked by government corruption, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere to effect change. This tumultuous period came to be known as The Arab Spring.

Arab Spring
The Arab Spring was a revolutionary wave of demonstrations, protests, and civil unrest in the Arab world that began on 18 December 2010.

Widely believed to have been driven by dissatisfaction with government and the wide gaps in income levels, additional ingredients such as political corruption, human rights violations, inflation, kleptocracy and unemployment ignited unrest which led to revolution.

While there are minor differences, these five components are also apparent in Argentina as they were in China resulting in the revolution at Tiananmen Square in 1989 China and the Arab Spring.

Political corruption
Argentina ranks 105th out of 178 countries in the 2010 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (it is on the same level as Algeria, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Senegal).

In the World Justice Project's 2010 Rule of Law index (which only includes 35 countries) rates Argentina 20th out of these 35 countries for the indicator Absence of Corruption, 29th for Open Government, 28th for Regulatory Enforcement, 20th for Access to Civil Justice and 28th for Effective Criminal Justice (out of 10 indicators I though these were the ones most directly related to corruption).

So in terms of these indices at least, Argentina can be classified as a country where corruption is widespread.

Human rights violations
While not as prevalent today as they were in the late 70s and early 80s, human rights violations still exist in Argentina, but on a small scale compared to many nations.

The Dirty War, state-sponsored violence against Argentine citizenry, was carried out primarily by Jorge Rafael Videla's military government. With the Condor trial now going on in Buenos Aires, the human rights situation in Argentina has improved some.

Today, the picture of the past which the government likes to show is one of an entire country oppressed by a military dictatorship. The logic is simple.

In the 1970s and early 80s, the "terrorists" were funded by the ousted Peronists as an armed opposition. When Peron returned to power, the government declared total war against the terrorists.

Currently, there is a Peronist government in place which consists mainly of people that supported the dictatorship directly, benefited from it or just turned a blind eye to the atrocities.

A glaring human rights violation that takes place almost under the noses of the citizenry is the enslavement of poor people.

Destitute people from Bolivia, Peru and other countries are promised work in Argentina only to have their papers confiscated when they arrive.

Forced to work in sweatshops for as long as 14 hours straight, the pay is minuscule and often nothing at all if they have to pay for their "passage".

Businesses caught doing this just bribe their way out of trouble with the result being that this is a common occurrence in Argentina.

Similarly, women from other countries, as well as females from impoverished families in the remote provinces, are forced into the sex trade.

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With high ranking law enforcement and government officials aware of this, money routinely changes hands and the powers that could stop human sex trafficking look the other way.

Inflation
Argentina's government says that inflation is running steady at an annual rate of just 11.1%. Private economists dismiss the data as another fairy tale and say the real inflation rate is at 26-28%. Meanwhile, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) censured Argentina in February for producing inaccurate data, the first such warning in the organization's history.

The censure lays the foundation for possible sanctions against Argentina which may include the loss of borrowing rights and even expulsion from the IMF.

The data provided was produced by anonymous experts to shield them from prosecution by the government. President Kirchner has a nasty history of levying fines and criminal charges against economists who will report accurately instead of following the government lie.

The government presently is in wage talks with unions and has stated a desire to limit annual salary gains to 20%. With a real inflation of 26-28%, the unions have not been happy and with even steeper inflation (BofA/Merrill Lynch predict an inflation rate of 30% in 2013) a large number of strikes are expected in the South American winter.

Kleptocracy
The effects of a kleptocratic regime or government on a nation are typically adverse in regards to the faring of the state's economy, political affairs and civil rights. Kleptocracy in government often cripples prospects of foreign investment and drastically weakens the domestic market and cross-border trade. As the kleptocracy normally embezzles money from its citizens by misusing funds derived from tax payments, or money laundering schemes, a kleptocratically structured political system tends to degrade nearly everyone's quality of life.

Cristina Fernandez-Kirchner and her late-husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, profited nicely from their positions in government.

In 2008, the first family's official declaration of assets was released and showed an increase in wealth from $2.3 million to over $12 million for the period starting in 2003. During those five years, neither had jobs outside of politics.

Unemployment
Accurate unemployment figures are hard to come by for many of the same reasons as accurate inflation figures.

While the government routinely reports an unemployment rate in the single digits, independent analysts say the figure is closer to the mid 30s.

As the economy tightens and more foreign investors pull out of the country, many people are finding themselves out of work. Individuals holding the equivalent of American Masters Degrees are forced to take jobs working the counter at McDonald's -- if they are lucky.

Just like the youth led the way in The Arab Spring and to a lesser degree the Occupy movement in America, Argentina's youth are at the forefront of creating an atmosphere and dialogue ripe for revolution.

While the protests have shared techniques of mostly civil resistance in sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches, and rallies, the youth have added social media and are effectively utilizing it to organize, communicate, and raise awareness.

As evidenced by the recently ended youth takeover of San Martin Cultural center, a large percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth are planning the revolution utilizing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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