People in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina banged pots and pans on Monday night to stage a noisy protest after a nationally televised speech by President Alberto Fernández, recently linked to a vaccine scandal in which some Argentine government ministers received priority access to coronavirus vaccines before the general public.
Argentina’s Secretariat of Media and Public Communication, Hernán Lombardi, called for Argentinians to stage a “cacerolazo” – a form of protest in Argentina in which people bang pots and pans to call attention to a cause – on March 1 if Fernández failed to address the vaccine scandal during his speech in a manner deemed acceptable by his critics.
Residents of Buenos Aires and other Argentine cities heeded the call on Monday, stepping outside of their homes and onto their balconies with pots in hand to protest the government’s preferential treatment of its ministers and allies.
— Daniel Rios (@Daniel_RiosVE) March 2, 2021
This form of protest, known as a cacerolazo, is common throughout Latin America as a peaceful and socially distant way to express displeasure with the government.
Argentina’s government on February 22 released a list of 70 people who received a coronavirus vaccine before the official launch of Argentina’s national campaign. The list included members of Argentina’s current presidential administration, such as Economic Minister Martín Guzmán, as well as former Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde, his wife, and their children. Many of those on the list are young and do not suffer from health conditions that would make their vaccination a priority under the legal vaccine distribution system.
Argentina’s former health minister, Ginés González García, resigned from his post on February 19 after news of the scandal first broke. President Fernández requested García’s resignation after an Argentine journalist said he had received a coronavirus vaccination early after personally asking the then-health minister for VIP access.
The cacerolazo protest on March 1 was the second major demonstration by Argentines denouncing the vaccine scandal. A number of protesters gathered outside the Argentine federal government’s headquarters in Buenos Aires on February 28 to stage a macabre anti-government demonstration.
“On the railings in front of the Casa Rosada, the seat of the government and the president’s office, protesters hung mock black body bags with the names of pro-government leaders vaccinated,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
“They started by vaccinating friends of the government. It is not appropriate. They are stealing someone else’s life,” a protester named Irene Marcet told AFP.
President Fernández condemned the body bag demonstration in a Twitter statement.
“The way to demonstrate in a democracy cannot be to display mortuary bags with names of political leaders in front of the Casa Rosada,” he wrote.
“This regrettable action only shows how many opponents see the Republic. Let us not be silent before such an act of barbarism,” the president added.