‘Disgusted’ by half of Buenos Aires, singer reveals social rifts in Argentina election column

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‘Half of Buenos Aires disgusts me,’ a well-known singer announced in a newspaper column in Argentina last week (link in Spanish). ‘I’ve been feeling this way for a while.’

The writer, Fito Paez, has sparked a political controversy with the essay published in the paper Pagina 12. Paez was referring to results of the mayoral election on July 10, in which incumbent Mauricio Macri of the center-right opposition won 47% of the vote, signaling -- in Paez’s tough opinion -- a capital almost half-full with selfish and superficial people.


Not everyone agreed, of course.

‘Here, half the porteños [Buenos Aires residents] continue trying to solve the world from tables at bars, taxis, stupefying themselves with prophets from the void dressed like family television entertainers because ‘people like having a good time,’ or showing up to any public event for the chance of appearing in a photo in a trendy magazine,’ Paez wrote. Half ‘are bothered by any notion tied to human rights ... or spend the day tweeting stupidities that no one cares about.’

Paez, obviously, had been supporting Daniel Filmus, the center-left candidate from President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s ruling populist coalition. Filmus came in second in the voting in Buenos Aires, which first elected Macri mayor in 2007. A runoff between the two is scheduled for July 31.

The Paez column has turned into a political tussle of its own (an automated translation is here), exposing lingering social and class rifts in Argentina. Buenos Aires is seen by many as a bastion of the elite, out of touch and indifferent to provincial Argentines, who make up the bulk of the Kirchner coalition base. The widow president is preparing a run for reelection in October.

In a bit of political dissonance, an advisor to the conservative Macri notched up the rhetoric on Paez by characterizing the rock-pop balladeer as ‘fascist’ for stereotyping a good sum of his neighbors. Being called a fascist is not to be taken lightly in a country still healing wounds from its past military dictatorship. Critics also accused Paez of hypocrisy. So concerned with the poor, they huffed, and he lives in the capital’s exclusive Recoleta district?

The papers have been brimming with articles on the column. Macri supporters reacted with indignation at the offenses lobbed by the singer, a native of the neighboring Santa Fe province. ‘It’s fascists against fascists,’ quipped a correspondent for a Peruvian daily.

‘Fito Paez I love disgusting you,’ one person wrote on Twitter. ‘I was terrorized by the thought of sharing your tastes or ideas.’ (Kirchner’s official Twitter account was copied on the note, for apparent emphasis.)


Paez has lain low since the controversy erupted. But Kirchner supporters are coming to his aid in the news media. Writer Andres Rivera said Paez’s words were ‘appropriate and moderate,’ adding ominously that the election results confirm for him that ‘Buenos Aires is crossing into fascism.’

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City