What is the case of the Milei government and the state attorney against the Polo Obrero and the piquetero movement?

Foto: Fede Imas @ojoobrerofotografia

The case against the social organizations promoted by prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita consists of an “investigation” typical of the intelligence services, with a lot of stories and little evidence, which has the objective of placing in illegality the entire operation of the popular organizations, particularly the Polo Obrero, the FOL and Barrios de Pie. The basis for this objective is fragmentary evidence, coming from a very small number of denouncers who ratified the calls to line 134 (a total of 7 in the case out of a total of more than 13,000 denouncements declared by Bullrich).

The investigation is promoted by Patricia Bullrich, who not only filed the complaint through the Ministry of Security but also tried to present herself as a plaintiff: a claim rejected by Judge Casanello. The Ministry acts in conjunction with a journalistic task force, led by Esteban Trebucq, Jonatán Viale and Luis Majul, who even meet in Olivos (presidential residence) with the government to articulate this plot of lies against the popular organizations. For its part, Judge Casanello’s secrecy of summary proceedings is absolutely unjustifiable and operates only against the right to defense at this stage.

The first misrepresentation consists of the following: the government of Milei and Bullrich is the one that closed the soup kitchens, froze the amounts of the social programs in the midst of a galloping inflation, dismissed more than 50,000 people from the “Potenciar Trabajo” social program and eliminated the extra amounts paid to those who worked in soup kitchens and productive projects. Sandra Pettovello has a complaint for abandonment of person for this action. And the new regulation of the former “Potenciar Trabajo” includes that if the person mobilizes in the streets, he/she loses it. A sum of plundering and extortion. But Justice and its media whistleblowers maintain that the organizations that demand the return of food assistance are responsible (in their words) for “taking the food out of the mouths” of those who attend the soup kitchens. This is an operation to poison rationality.

To achieve this, they put together a fictional story aimed at criminalizing the entire internal functioning of the organizations. The weakness of this story is shown by the fact that even the judge acting in the case, Sebastian Casanello, whom nobody can suspect of being a trotskyist and who has never set foot in a Polo Obrero dining hall, originally rejected the request of prosecutor Pollicita to raid the homes of the militants and activists accused in the case for lack of evidence. What finally happened after the intervention of the Chamber of Cassation, which, without adding any evidence, agreed with the prosecutor, in order to facilitate a political persecution with the aim of covering up the disaster in which the country is immersed as a result of its criminal policy and to strike those who confront it.

The document that provoked these raids is a masterpiece of forgery. Starting from 13,310 calls with complaints to the number provided by the government (134), they were only able to obtain a total of 7 isolated testimonies (from more than 1.2 million beneficiaries), with partial complaints and denunciations about the operation of their respective soup kitchens and places of organization.

Much ado about nothing

At the heart of the matter is the prosecutor’s (and the government’s) attempt to associate a handful of circumstantial complaints – most of which are dealt with by the organizations themselves – with the alleged existence of extortive pyramidal organizations, with hierarchies and territorial divisions. But the prosecutor arrives at this theory by stringing together testimonies from different neighborhoods, at different stages (before and after Milei’s arrival in government), and from different organizations. These isolated stories are the basis for a police tracking operation in which dozens of comrades’ telephones are tapped and raids are carried out. The titanic efforts of the exploited, such as supporting the rent of a soup kitchen with a monthly contribution, are portrayed as criminal acts.

One of the bases of the prosecutor’s story is the fact that the piqueteros’ organizations are extortive because they can cancel social programs. So where a mobilization is called and it is said “it is worth as a mobilization”, the prosecutor interprets a threat of dismissal and an obligation. But this turns reality upside down. Because the organizations are voluntary and the call for mobilizations has the objective, precisely, that all the assistants could have access to basic social assistance as a result of a struggle, in the same way that a strike or a mobilization leads to a wage increase. The idea that every social struggle is an extortion of the system is at the basis of this criminal action of the State. This, which the government denies, is the basis of the will in organizations that emerged to claim to the State the lack of assistance. It is not the Polo Obrero that is threatening to take away conquests; on the contrary, these conquests were wrested with a struggle of years.

The same lying investment is carried out with the difference between the waiting lists and the number of people attending soup kitchens. There is an objective fact: the food delivered by the government, and that the comrades complement with their own collections and donations, is not enough for those who want to have access to it. The Polo Obrero organizes waiting lists and calls for mobilization to increase the insufficient assistance. What can we read through the blinkers of the prosecutors? That it is the organizations that deny access to food and use this to coerce. Again. To cover up the government’s responsibility, the organizations are attacked.

In third place, comrade Elizabeth Palma is accused of being responsible for reporting the attendance (or not) of the comrades of the Potenciar Trabajo program to the State every month. It is the height of absurdity that the State penalizes a task that was assigned to the organization by the State itself. In the program’s regulations, the organizations are required to report monthly attendance. But the basis of the coercion, the cancellations, is not such, because the cancellations were always given by the ministry. The Polo Obrero does not cancel programs, because it is based on the concept that the programs are a conquest. Together with the Frente de Lucha Piquetero and different organizations, we act to protect these conquests, as we are doing with the claim of the thousands of migrants arbitrarily suspended by the ministry.

The call of the delegates to “mobilize” is nothing more than the exercise of the defense of these conquests by the collective of precarious workers of the “Potenciar Trabajo” program. If the piquetero movement had not been in the streets permanently during all these years, it would have lost all its conquests.

The best demonstration of this informative and judicial fraud consists in the fact that the denouncers, who the state says are included in the program of protected witnesses, are left without foods for the soup kitchens, nor will they be able to access social programs! Curious “protection” of a government that looks for fissures in the social organizations to hit everyone, denouncers and denounced.

The Polo Obrero is organized in assemblies, with revocable delegates. The task of organizing the collective control of these conquests won through struggle is a central task of these assemblies. The delegates play a role in organizing the comrades to fight and defend these demands and to defend the functioning of the soup kitchens. This democratic orientation, of struggle and collective workers’ control of the conquests contrasts with the political clientelism reality (“punterismo”) which is a tradition among the mayors and the burgueois’ politics. Obviously, developing this struggle does not end with these practices, which must be fought every day, defending the organization. In the Polo Obrero, the assemblies have many times separated different comrades and even leaders for punitive behavior. But the State’s attack is not aimed at combating the “punterismo” which is an inseparable aspect of the official policy, but at criminalizing the whole organization.

The militancy of the Polo Obrero is refuting all these measures in the streets. Because the mobilization has been maintained against a government that emptied the soup kitchens, the social programs and does not even receive the organizations. Measures that are added to the repressive mega-operations and the campaigns of terror promoted by Minister Bullrich and the entire cabinet of President Javier Milei against the picketers and workers.

The contributions

The 2% voluntary contribution for the members of the Polo Obrero, with the purpose of financing the functioning of the organization, is a fact of public knowledge. These contributions are fundamental to guarantee the functioning of the organization. Both for the rents, the soup kitchens, as to buy the necessary elements, in many cases fresh food, freight, etc., as well as in some cases the train fare for the struggle measures and all kinds of costs. The State does not pay a single peso to guarantee that the food actually reaches its recipients. Without this self-financing, there would be no soup kitchens and there would be no organization to defend the demands. The criminalization of the contributions to the Polo Obrero, which were never compulsory because no sanction was ever applied to anyone for not contributing, is carried out by the same government that negotiates the continuity of real frauds, such as the compulsory contributions to workers not affiliated to certain unions. The contribution to the Polo Obrero is a trade union contribution in the most legitimate of its mechanisms, because there is no salary receipt withholding as in the trade unions, it is voluntary and personal, since the plan is paid into a bank account.

The prosecutor consecrates all his accusation by pointing out the existence of “hierarchies” and responsibilities in the structuring of organizations such as the Polo Obrero. It is true that the assemblies of the Polo Obrero elect, vote and audit their delegates and leaders, but that has nothing to do with the commission of any crime. The pointing out of reproachable issues and alleged conducts incompatible with the organization, produced circumstantially in “some” places does not imply a causal link to determine the existence of a vertical hierarchy responsible for those conducts.

The enunciation of “lists of access to programs”, for example, is typical of the dynamics of the State, which does not guarantee universal access to social programs. As we have said all our lives, the only way to put an end to all types of intermediation is the universalization of programs and access to soup kitchens.

For the prosecutor any organizational structure tacitly implies a criminal organization… as long as it is to defend the workers, since the same criterion does not apply to their own or related organizations.

What lies behind all this judicial operation, mounted on seven isolated testimonies and State espionage, is the attempt to outlaw the independent organization of the workers, accompanied by a strong media campaign to “dirty” the struggle of the unemployed workers.

But the piquetero movement draws its strength from years of having built organizations implanted in the neighborhoods, with leaders experienced in big struggles. No Milei or Pollicita can put an end to this historical phenomenon of organization of the exploited.

Versión en español.