Friends, do you hear that?

This is a translation of an article by Olga Rodríguez, published in on 13th May 2014.

Friends, do you hear that?

Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortázar

In an article published in 1975, Julio Cortázar recalled Cato the Elder and his demand, Delenda est Carthago (Carthage must be destroyed), with which he would end all of his speeches in the Roman Senate during the last years of the Punic Wars, thus calling for the invasion of Carthage. With this example, Cortázar was advocating a similar insistence against the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

“I am awake to what surrounds me as history and hence, once again Delenda est Pinochet. (…) A Latin American writer has the obligation to be Cato, to repeat ad nauseam: Delenda est Pinochet.”

It was a time of repression and infamy in Chile, whilst large sections of society, who were satisfied with the neoliberal economic measures imposed by the dictator, looked the other way.

Also at that time Argentina was living days of terror, but this mattered little when it came to going ahead with the hosting of the World Cup on Argentinian soil in 1978. The Latin American country saw death flights, electrocutions, robbery of children, torture, murder and disappearances mixed with celebrations in the football system, with cheering and goals.

Many Western countries looked the other way, untroubled by the horror and the systematic violations of human rights that were being committed in the country. With their participation in the World Cup they legitimised the Argentinian dictatorship, more than certain countries, with the US leading, had done until then. Among various Argentinian exiles based in France an awareness campaign was launched, with the title “Friend, do you hear that?”, that Cortazár disseminated in his articles.

Returning to the present. In this country there are families with all members in long term unemployment, who do not get even a euro in income, assistance, pension, or unemployment benefit. There are homes threatened with an eviction notice, and people –many people- who have already been expelled from their homes, stripped of their right to decent housing. Meanwhile, public money is used to pay off banking debt and the Government says that building a hunting lodge for the king, costing €3.4 million, is in the “general interest”.

There are politicians and businessmen with accounts in tax havens in order to evade paying taxes, whilst ordinary people pay theirs and the rise in VAT and income tax. There are houses with empty fridges in which families go to sleep as soon as the sun goes down so as to be able to deal with the heating bill at the end of the month. Meanwhile, the Government spends four million euro to advertise the new electricity bill. All very logical.

Pensions will go down by three points of purchasing power, that is, €3 billion approximately, until 2017. Wages are being frozen, public services and assistance is being cut, public enterprises and hospitals set up with the money of everyone are being privatised, poverty and inequality is growing.

People are sacked in order to hire on the cheap; rooftops are expropriated for the installation of phone antennae, but expropriation of houses owned by banks in order to give them to people who are homeless is prohibited; houses that belong to the public are sold off to vulture funds; the losses are socialised and the revenues are privatised.

We are governed by lobbies that do not stand for election and give little pats on the back to Rajoy for having picked up all the messages, “for how well he is doing things”, as Botín[1] has said. Meanwhile, youth unemployment stands at 56% and thousands of educated, trained and willing young people feel forced to emigrate or move back to their parents’ home to be able to maintain themselves.

In recent years there has been a silent ideological and economic coup d’État, for the delectation of an insatiable financial power that, unless it is stopped, will be able to lay waste to everything it meets in its path. It is for this very reason that we must draw attention to those guilty of this looting. Their photographs must be taken and there must be an explanation of the profits they extract by stripping people of their rights.

It is the moment to shout out loud: “Friends, do you hear that?” Do you hear the mothers who have nothing to maintain their children? Do you hear the couples condemned to living under the same roof against their wishes because they can’t cope with the expense of a separation? Do you hear the people who have been evicted, or those threatened with losing their home? Do you hear the long term unemployed whom this system offers nothing but humiliation?

Do you hear the people who work at least ten hours a day and don’t even reach €800 a month? Do you hear, meanwhile, the accumulated cash swarming into the pockets of the super rich? Do you hear the inequality of opportunities? Do you hear the ways the rich have of paying less taxes? Do you hear the lies they tell? Do you hear that, Friends? Or do you prefer to go on ignoring it?

It is the moment of the Delenda est that Cortázar shouted from his exile. Inequality and poverty are not natural catastrophes that fall from the sky out of divine punishment. Behind them there are people responsible and they must be pointed out, through the polls and the street, with protest, with condemnation, with votes. It is time to say, against them, Delenda est this almighty plunder. Delenda est. Enough. Enough.



[1] Emilio Botín, Chief Executive of Grupo Santander Banks.


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