Argentinian Diary – The Cost of the Buenos Aires G-20

G-20 preparations
G-20 preparations

The Cost of the Buenos Aires G-20

I’m not going to really discuss any of the issues that might, or might not, have resolved at this day and a half get-together of the world’s top gangsters but more about the effects that unnecessary meeting had on the city of Buenos Aires and the country of Argentina in general.

The Argentine government, police and military have probably been clapping each other on the backs since the return to ‘normality’ last Sunday. As a security exercise it was definitely a success. They avoided confrontations (although many in the riot police would have loved to have got their hands dirty – they have shown little reluctance to do so when confronted with peaceful gatherings in the past) and any march of many thousands of working people of Buenos Aires was kept far enough away from their foreign visitors that it wouldn’t have effected their appreciation of the champagne.

But at what cost, in both financial and social repercussions.

20,000 police, hundreds of the high, black barricades – known locally as ‘vallas’ – which closed off streets and surrounded ‘sensitive’ buildings, the lost wages of those who couldn’t get to work due to the cancellation of public transport (buses, local trains and the underground), the loss to businesses in the centre of town (shops, restaurants, etc.) who found that the normally busy streets were more like those after some apocalyptic disaster.

There were security rings within security rings within security rings.

The police presence was there not to provide security to the civil society but for a self selected group of VIPs, whose decisions affect the lives of all those on the planet but of whose lives they know little and care even less.

Minutes after thousands of people, less than half a kilometre away, were rejecting the political decisions that cause unemployment, homelessness and real hunger these same ‘leaders’ of the free (capitalist) world were enjoying a banquet where cost was the last of anyone attending’s concern.

I wondered what these people, who are not entirely stupid but totally heartless, thought about a huge part of a major capital city being in lock down just so they could go the Teatro Colon and ‘enjoy’ a lack lustre dance performance and then a slap up meal. What is behind their thinking when the decisions they make have an effect upon millions of people but they seem to have no concern what those very same people have to say about their policies? Are they in such a protective bubble that they can just compartmentalise such opposition as the work of self-interested and professional agitators? Do they not see the conditions in which so many throughout the world live and struggle to exist?

But them I remembered that they live in a world apart. A world where the maintenance of their decrepit and moribund system is all that matters. At times that system is, more or less, tolerable for a sizeable proportion of people on the planet, even at times a majority, but their periodic crises means that – as it was generations ago – the vast majority of even those chosen few are only a wage packet away from penury and real suffering. Those who live such a life all the time are used to it so why should they complain.

Which city will be welcoming the G-20 next year? Buenos Aires has shown that ‘trouble’ can be averted – but at a price. How many cities would be prepared to accept such disruption and loss for a meeting that barely lasts two days? One thing for sure is that Paris won’t be chosen for that ‘honour’, the people there having shown (as they did in the 19th and 20th centuries) that they don’t suffer such fools gladly.

Conspiracy Theory or not

Not being a devout conspiracy theorist doesn’t mean that sometimes I think some things are too pat to be true.

I read two articles in the local newspapers in the lead up and start if the G-20 conference and don’t know how they might have been reported outside of the country.

One was related to a number of supposed ‘bomb alerts’ that occurred in the city in the days leading up to the summit. I don’t know where these alerts occurred as there was no definite information that could pinpoint a particular location. Also I was in the centre at the time of these so-called ‘alerts’ and wasn’t aware of any additional activity that I would have thought would have accompanied such a response in a situation of high alert.

And the pictures of the supposed bombs were like a five year old’s impression of an explosive device. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the image in the newspaper wasn’t of a black, round object with the world ‘bomb’ written in white on the side and a fuse sticking out the top.

I don’t totally reject the idea that someone might have made a telephone call with a false bomb alert to cause disruption but the other example is even more food for a conspiracy theory.

It seems that a taxi was stopped on the Thursday and a number of ‘Molotov’ cocktails were found, together with a rather large bag of walkie-talkies. As a result of this a number of people were detained. But something was wrong from the beginning when the story was being related on the TV news.

All the bottles looked as if they had just come out of the supermarket, the liquor thrown away and petrol put in its place. All the bottle were of a different size and mark and the labels were pristine, with not a mark of petrol to spoil the image. It was if they were being put on show to advertise their involvement in the heinous attempt to subvert democracy.

But if that wasn’t bad enough the report continued by saying that all those detained had been released on the orders of someone high up in the Argentinian judiciary. Are they kidding?

To the best of my knowledge there wasn’t a general and random ‘stop and search’ operation in force. If that was the case then any reason for stopping a vehicle would have been based on ‘intelligence’. If that was the case how could the security forces then let whoever was implicated in this act of violence go free? Are they pulling someone’s plonker? I doubt whether this issue will ever go through the courts.

As far as I’m concerned, with my ‘conspiracy theorist’ hat on is that theses two reports were all conceived to make the overwhelming security presence(and cost) more acceptable to impressionable Bonaerenses.

But there were positives from the summit.

Trump showed himself not just to be a bully but so arrogant that even though he might get his way in the short term he is only leaving himself with almost insurmountable problems in the future. He spurned those who he might need in the future. He treated his host (an equally cretinous individual) with contempt, even though the lapdog would have done anything to ingratiate himself with the occupant of the White House.

The American considers that he is so settled in his homeland that he doesn’t need the support of other nations. But his knowledge of world history is as dire as his interpersonal skills. He seems to totally ignore the de-dollarisation that is taking place under his nose. He doesn’t seem to be concerned that alliances are being made between those who were previously ‘enemies’. He doesn’t realise that he is the one who will wake up one morning to a different world. A world where competing powers are in an anti-American political and economic alliance.

If American was the loser in this meeting then so was the old world, the European powers such a Britain, France, Spain and Italy – who were barely mentioned in any analysis of what was happening in Buenos Aires.

Whether this will affect the incumbent in the Casa Rosada is another matter.Argentinian politics are complicated (not that the situations in other countries are not equally complex) and although the life of so many was effected over these three days and with the majority of the population living in the general Buenos Aires conurbation, nothing is secure in the future.

Corruption and distrust of politicians is deep within the Argentinian population but the people seem to have a memory lapse when it comes to the future. Corruption claims are made against everyone with a public profile. Even the Co-ordinator of the ‘Madres of the Plaza de Mayo’ has a corruption charge pending.

Some will argue that this is just a result of the ability of one section of the society to manipulate the media and the judiciary. And there’s probably a lot of truth in that. The problem is that when corruption has existed for such a long time, has been embedded in the body politic, many aren’t even aware of what they are doing and make themselves targets.

An Argentinian told me that the problem with his people is that they think with their sentiments rather than their minds. This, in some ways, accounts for the still deeply embedded approach (and appreciation by some) towards Eva (Evita) Peron.

But this is starting to go away from the matter of the G-20.

(I stated at the beginning of my series of posts in relation to my trip to Argentina that I would aim to post virtually every day. I realise that I have already fallen down on that commitment – but will try to redeem my self in subsequent days.

My failure is a down to a mixture or reasons and excuses.

It’s difficult to do someone every day and then still have the energy to write about it in the evening. This is helped by the fact that much of the travelling in this country involves a lot of hours in a bus – the way I’ve chosen to get around the country – and that takes its own toll. After being on a bus journey that was due to take 19 hours but came closer to taking a whole day due to a number of reasons (controllable and not) the last thing the body wants to do is to sit down at a table and type.

The whole body screams out as in the metamorphosis that Jeff Goldblum went through in Cronenberg’s film ‘The Fly’ – but without providing the increased sexual vitality that his character went through.

Added to that the self-imposed requirement to keep the blood/alcohol level at a reading that puts a person into the category of a chronic alcoholic presents certain difficulties when it comes to typing.

But I’ll try to get on track – if the new ‘improved’ WordPress posting tool doesn’t become too much of a nuisance. Do these tech geeks actually use the environments they ‘improve’? )

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Argentinian Diary – The G-20 effect on Buenos Aires

Designed to keep the people out

Designed to keep the people out

Argentinian Diary – Day 4

After four days all plans thrown up in the air

The last thing I though I would be doing, within a week of landing in Argentina, would be sharing the air with 20 of the most duplicitous, cheating, thieving and corrupt creatures on the planet. But that’s what I’ll be doing from Thursday night and for the next three days. For on Friday the 2018 G-20 summit officially begins here in Buenos Aires.

If I had known the summit was to take place I certainly wouldn’t have organised a flight to the southernmost city on the continent on any of days it was due to take place. But not knowing I innocently booked a flight to Ushuaia from Buenos Aires this coming Friday morning. Since I became aware (yesterday evening) the gangsters and their equally odious entourages were to descend on this country, in its own deepening economic and social crisis, I have been trying to decide what to do.

As these meetings have been drawing protests wherever they take place the matter of ‘security’ has become the most important aspect of any planning. But that ‘security’ takes precedence over anything and anyone else. I’m still getting to know the city of Buenos Aires but with what little I do know I can see how this meeting will cause unbelievable disruption during its three days duration. A vast area along the north-eastern coastal edge of the city will become a virtual no-go area.

Public transport in the area will be non-existent for the best part of three days. This includes buses, the subway and even the city’s main railway station – only a shadow of its former splendour.

Pedestrian access will also be strictly regulated – all aimed at preventing the mass build-up of protestors. But everything is unsure. I spent part of this morning trying to get answers about how access will be effected over the weekend but no-one could give me a definitive answer. Knowing what will be the situation no more than eight hours before in advance makes any planning impossible.

So after four days in the country with the only fixed, more or less, plan I have so far made have been ditched. I’ve extended my stay in Buenos Aires till Tuesday of next week – when, in theory, everything will have returned to normal.

When I made that decision, literally on the hoof, as I was walking to the bus station to find out if or how I could get to the international airport for a 09.00 flight I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find anywhere to stay. Would all accommodation, especially of the more economic kind such as my hostel, not be full of angry protestors. The fact there was no problem in extending my stay might indicate the level of the protest – at least from those non-Argentinians.

It will almost certainly mean that I’ll have to forego the airfare. When you go the cheapest way there’s no opportunity to change the timetable. My only hope in this matter is that the workers of Aerolineas Argentinas will call a strike for Friday and I’ll get my money back or an alternative flight. That’s not totally impossible. Strike action is taking place this week as part of a long running dispute with the management. And a statement made by the Transport Minister that I read in a newspaper yesterday was definitely intended to ratchet up tensions by insulting all who work for the company.

This Minister, whose name I can’t and don’t even want to remember, has obviously be cast from the same ugly mould as the transport incumbent in the present British Tory government.

Having made the decision before the end of today at least I won’t be losing out on accommodation I had already booked. The internet booking sites are useful in that way when plans have to be changed at short notice.

The reason for my decision was twofold – the first being more important. I’m very unlikely to be in the same place as the conspirators cabal at any time in the future and it would be a crime to be leaving when it all was going to kick off – whatever that might be. What made that decision easier was the sheer logistical nightmare of getting to the airport. There’s no definitive information about what the restrictions are or how they will affect anyone not part of the circus. They know everything, we know nothing.

Things might be easy (although very unlikely) but I wouldn’t know until I tried to get away. The money has been spent so there’s no real loss. And it will be interesting to see how the Argentinian workers and any foreign supporters will react to the criminal gang polluting their atmosphere. So what’s the reason no to be here?

I’ll have to make efforts to find out exactly what is planned for the three days. I know there is definitely a demo in the timetable for Friday, but exactly where and when I have yet to discover. Yesterday afternoon I was able to eventually get in touch with the only Argentinian contact I have. She’s a Trade Union official and I know she will have all the details to hand. Between now and Friday I have to make sure I also have them. But I forgot about a rally that had been called for this (Tuesday) evening and didn’t remember that it was taking place until I saw a ‘live’ report on the TV. I don’t believe I missed anything. Such rallies are merely a reaffirmation of what the people think, useful, no doubt, but in the general it rarely takes the movement forward.

The weekend could be an interesting few days. The Argentinian state is already ready geared up to deal with crowds who might represent something the government, of whatever political colour, might not like. On my first Saturday afternoon here I saw these large black screens (the name of which I read last night in relation to the ‘incidente’ of Saturday, but can’t at the moment remember and the young people in the hostel I have asked couldn’t come up with the exact name) in the area of the Casa Rosada, pushed to the side but within easy deployment reach.

On my way to the bus station to find out about transport to the airport there were many of them around one of the hotels that will be used by those lackeys attending the summit – many of them spanking new. The no-go area is so large they will be a need for thousands of these things – so someone has already made a pretty penny out of the meeting.

I’ve never experienced a city in lock-down so if you would like to know what happens watch this space for updates.

An Argentinian Joke

It might lose a bit in the translation but this is related to the ‘incidente’ of last Saturday and the on/off, if/when, and where of this incredibly boring game of football. (I never expected to write such a lot and spend so much time on this game.)

‘¿Has escuchado que el partido se juega en martes?’

Have you hear that the game will be played on Tuesday?

‘¿Esta semana que viene?’

‘Next week?

‘No, en la planeta.’

‘No, on the planet.’

In Spanish ‘martes’ means both Tuesday and the planet Mars.

Even more on the ‘incidente’ of Saturday

It has started to be a metaphor of the malaise in which the country is gripped. If you can’t organise an efficient sporting event then how can you run a country? People have ‘resigned’ (i.e., thrown to the wolves, and the only way this might come to an end is the fact that the G-20 will become even more of an issue. But that only lasts three days and if it’s a bad news day on Monday then the sharks will be out for the frenzy. That’s especially so as although the date/s of the game has been announced, the location hasn’t. I’m not really sure how you can do that? And we allow these cretins to rule us. Who is worse, them or us?

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St George’s Hall – Minton Tile Floor – Liverpool

St George Window - Concert Hall - St George's Hall - Liverpool

St George Window

St George’s Hall is one of the most impressive buildings in Liverpool (in a city which has many) and gives an indication of the wealth that once passed through what was once claimed to be ‘the second city of the Empire’ – after London (although other cities claim this ‘accolade’, Glasgow and Bristol being two of them). The Minton Tile floor is an expression of this wealth.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the building itself (I’ll do that in other posts) as here I want to concentrate upon the Minton tiled floor of the main concert room, which has recently been on public view for a couple of weeks. It wasn’t long after the building opened in 1854 that a decision was made to cover the sunken part of the floor to protect the tiles for posterity. In some ways a strange decision as the covering of the more than 30,000 tiles takes away much of the splendour of the hall itself. Don’t get me wrong, the concert hall is still very impressive, but it’s a bit like a book with part of the story missing.

However, that decision made so long ago does mean that on the occasions when the floor is uncovered visitors get an unparalleled idea of what was it was possible to achieve during the heyday of Britain’s industrial greatness. Comparing the protected tiles with the surrounds you are able to appreciate the way that the lack of protection has taken its toll in some places but also to realise that these tiles are incredibly hardy as many areas have survived quite well.

So a few facts and figures. St George’s Hall, built in the middle of the 19th century, is classified as a neoclassical building. That means it takes its architectural influence from the buildings that remain from ancient Greece and Rome – and the Hall mixes the two. Not strictly so, but more or less Greek on the outside and Roman on the inside, especially in the main concert hall where the inspiration for the architect, Harvey Londsdale Elmes, came from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.

At the time when it was unveiled the floor was the largest pavement of its kind in existence being some 140 feet long and 72 wide and was constructed using more than 30,000 tiles. The part of the floor that is normally covered is sunken and is a couple or feet or so below the walk way that goes around the edge of the hall. When uncovered it’s possible to see the grills that were all part of the central heating (and cooling) system that was all part of the original design and one of the first of its kind in the modern world – we have forgotten much of what the Romans had learnt. However, the covering of the floor meant that the imaginative innovation came to nought, at least in the main hall.

In the centre there’s the Royal Coat of Arms, measuring 5 feet in diameter. On both sides of that design the rest of the floor is basically symmetrical, along the length of the hall. Within those two areas are found: the Liverpool Coat of Arms; the Star of St George; the Rose; the Thistle; and the Shamrock. I’m afraid for the Welsh there is nothing, even though the Welsh had a huge influence on the early development of Liverpool and it’s more than likely that many of the men working on the site would have been Welsh, the building trades being where they tended to gravitate. Between these picture designs there are large swirling arcs which are made up of flower designs and filling the gaps geometric designs following a regular patter. At both ends of the hall there are semi-circles that have the face of Neptune at the apex and on both sides are sea satires and nymphs in amorous embrace, together with dolphins and other sea creatures. The dominant colours are buff, brown and blue.

To give an idea of how the tiles were made I can do no better than reproduce a description from one of the local Liverpool newspapers which carried a long story about the Hall at the time of its opening in 1854:

The antique practise of tile making, as appears from the existing remains of ancient works, confined the manufacture of the use of few colours or tints. The method commonly used seems to have been this: – A piece of well tampered clay having been prepared, of a proper size (usually about six inches square and one inch in thickness), a die, having some ornament in relievo was pressed upon it, the indented pattern thus produced was then filled in with clay of some other colour, generally white, the tile was then covered with a metallic glaze, which imparted to the ground (usually red) a deeper and richer colour, and gave the white ornament a yellowish hue. These tiles were often arranged in sets of 4, 16, or more, and sometimes intersected with bands of plain tiles, of a self colour, such as black, red and white, and frequently displayed great geometrical skill and beauty of effect. Good examples may be seen in the churches of St Denis and St Omer, in France, and specimens from the abbeys of Juvaulux, Westminster, and other buildings in England. The modern process of encaustic tile making, as adopted by Messers MINTON, HOLLINS and Co, enables them to produce not only a far greater variety and brilliance of colour in the general effect of a pavement, but admits of several colours being placed upon a single tile, thus producing a soft effect of fine mosaic work, in a much more durable and less expensive material.

From The Liverpool Mercury, September 19th, 1854

In the more distant past the floor was only uncovered at very long intervals, 10 years or more, but it looks like this event has set to become an annual affair. In 2012 it was ‘revealed’ for two weeks in January but in 2013 for two weeks in August. Next year, who knows.

There have been suggestions to try and construct a glass floor over at least a part of the sunken area but so far they have come to nought. And anyway that might allow an understanding of the skill of the craftsmen and the beauty of the design but not of its scale, which can only be appreciated when fully uncovered. To keep the floor on permanent display would bring into conflict the preservation of a unique architectural attribute with the desire to use a major City Centre public indoor space.

I hope the slide show below will provide an idea of what is hidden from view 51 weeks of the year.

Minton Tile Floor Reveal 2018

This year the floor will be uncovered between Friday 3rd and Sunday 12th August. Entrance is via the Heritage Centre on St John’s Lane from 10.00 – 17.00 everyday. Entrance to the Great Hall is £3.00 (under 16s normally get in free – but no information on webpage this year). This allows the visitor to get an overall view of the floor from the balcony.

There are opportunities to walk on the floor, obviously providing a closer view of the art work, as part of a guided tour. These will take place at 10.00 and 16.00 each day the floor is uncovered. In the past the demand has been so great that an extra slot has been created – so check back of the ticket site for an update, especially after the 3rd August. Each group is limited to a maximum of 30 people. Only bookable online by visiting the TicketQuarter website. Tickets cost £12.00 per person, this year there’s no administration fee. 

There’s another option to get a closer look at the floor if you book for the event known as ‘A Night on the Tiles’ which takes place daily at 18.00, 18.45, 19.30 and 20.15 each day the floor is uncovered. This allows you to walk on the floor, you get a class of something fizzy and costs £14.00 per person. Get tickets in advance, online, at the TicketQuarter page. 

Neptune and The Liver Bird - Concert Hall - St George's Hall - Liverpool

Neptune and The Liver Bird