1st May, 2003
When the Argentinian economy collapsed the country’s fat cats and bankrupt politicians melted into the woodwork, leaving the workers of Argentina to sort out the mess. Ben Backwell reports from Buenos Aires on their astonishing rise from the economic rubble.
Buenos Aires, 21 March: Curious onlookers gather in the busy Avenida Callao as a group of men and women begin to pull down the hoardings in front of the giant Bauen Hotel. Two policemen look on from the other side of the road, but do nothing. The 224-room hotel has been closed for over a year, and those clearing the building’s entrances are its former doormen, telephonists, maids and event organisers.
After a year of fighting unsuccessfully in the courts for compensation and the months of salary they are owed, the Bauen’s workers have decided to form a cooperative and reopen the hotel under their own control. On its facade are hung various banners: one says ‘occupy, resist and produce – hotel recovered by its workers’; others belong to the informal neighbourhood assemblies and the National Movement of Recovered Enterprises (MNER). ‘Imagine the quantity of meetings and conferences we could host here,’ says one of the Bauen‘s workers as she walks through its empty corridors.
Seizing the day
Since Argentina’s financial system and economy collapsed in December 2001, such scenes have become quite common. More...
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