The Murder of a Child Marks a New Phase of the Crisis in Argentina

Ismael Ramirez, a 13 year old boy from the city of Roque Saenz Pena in Argentina was shot and murdered this Monday. He was killed as part of brutal, militarized repression which was unleashed against a group of neighbors who mobilized to demand food from a closing supermarket. Chaco is one of the poorest states in Argentina, more than half of residents are under the official poverty line and it has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the country.

Photos taken of the police deployment during the repression show a militarized force equipped with heavy weaponry. The police in the state of Chaco also have a long history of the brutal repression of indigenous and popular movements. Activists who have organized against evictions and peasant organizers have been murdered in the past.

In a pattern which will be familiar to American audiences, almost immediately after the murder a campaign of defamation was launched across social media including false photos purporting to be of Ismael with guns. Claims were initially made by major media outlets that Ismael died “confronting” the police.

One of the first to dispel these lies was Ismael’s teacher, who opened a moving open letter declaring that “Today I would have had to taught classes with him there like every day. But no. Now I am going to his funeral.”

“As a child he had rights. Rights which were not respected. The right to life. And also another right which is not being respected: the right to dignity.”

His brother described the moments leading to his death as they passed near the supermarket on their way to find their mother. “I heard a shot. I looked back and my brother was shot. I tried talking to him but he didn’t respond. The neighbors called an ambulance in vain because the police wouldn’t allow it to pass. Arriving at the hospital they couldn’t save him.”

“You can’t imagine what it’s like to see him die and than to hear so many lies about him in social media.” He also described how in the city “Almost every day the price of groceries goes up” and that “people went to that protest because they are hard-pressed, because they needed to, because they’re hungry.”

Ismael’s murder has attracted nationwide attention; the callous murder of a 13 year old boy in an operation defending a supermarket reflects both the crushing impact of the growing economic crisis as well as the government’s increasing efforts to strengthen the repressive apparatus.

Greater repression and moves toward allowing the military to take a more active role in policing are all aimed at ensuring the IMF’s austerity measures can be carried out. The massive devaluation of the peso has drastically cut into the real wages of Argentinian workers as well as many of the poorest and most vulnerable.

Macri’s Argentina is on a path to a deepening economic crisis; one which it is desperately attempting to delay by running up greater debts, artificially propping up the peso, and looking to the IMF for the necessary liquidity. As conditions worsen and as greater austerity yields its inevitable harvest of poverty the social crisis which has already begun to boil over in small cities like Roque Saenz Pena will explode.

The murder of Ismael Ramirez is one of the first widely diffused deaths of this new phase of the crisis. Tragically, it is unlikely to be the last. The government, the capitalist class and the police are all preparing an unyielding defense of the sanctity of private property; a defense which will leave many more corpses in its wake.