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Sat Oct 29, 2016, 03:48 PM

Argentine scientists march against Macri's budget cutbacks; Minister of Science threatens to quit.

Scientists, researchers, and students organized a march in front of the Argentine Congress in Buenos Aires Thursday to protest steep cuts to federal science and research budgets proposed by the right-wing Mauricio Macri adminsitration. Similar demonstrations were held in the cities of Bariloche and Córdoba, home to important federal research centers.

The Macri administration's FY2017 budget request included a new round of cuts for Argentina's three main federal scientific agencies: the Ministry of Science and Technology, the National Research Council (CONICET), and the National Space Commission (CONAE).

Their combined budgets had already been reduced from $1.3 billion in 2015 (the last fiscal year before Macri took office) to $950 million in 2016, and would, per the administration's FY2017 budget passed by Congress this month, decline further to $775 million - a 40% cut compared to 2015 levels.

Other research agencies, such as the National Industrial Technology Institute (INTI) and its agricultural counterpart (INTA) are also being cut in real terms by nearly 30%. President Macri was denounced last December by INTI staff for appointing Javier Ibáñez, a soccer hooligan and former municipal official with no credentials, as its director.

One bright spot was at CONICET, whose budget ($565 million) was maintained at current levels after its board of directors issued an open letter to President Macri on October 22. The largest research agency in the country, CONICET employs 20,000 researchers and technicians - nearly 40% of the nation's total, including the private sector.

Its budget is nevertheless down significantly from its high in 2015 of $750 million.

Brain drain

The cuts are steepest at the Ministry of Science and Technology itself, which had a $276 million earmark in the 2016 budget but only $114 million for FY2017 - a 59% cut. The Ministry of Science, established in 2007 by former President Néstor Kirchner, finances research and imports costly precision equipment for scientific use, such that while its budgets are assigned in pesos its real costs are highly dollarized.

"These cutbacks are very deep, and are creating the conditions for a renewed brain drain," the director of CONICET's Tucumán office, Daniel Campi, said. "This defunding process is entering its second year, but would probably take a decade to recover from due to all the research projects that would have to be discontinued and all the teams that would be broken up."

An estimated 15,000 scientists, engineers, and technicians emigrated from Argentina between the dictatorship of Gen. Juan Carlos Onganía, which fired 1,400 academics in 1966 for political reasons, and the 2001-02 economic crisis. One of the policy centerpieces of the Ministry of Science, the Roots Program, led to the return of over 1,300 scientists to Argentina since its inception in 2003. The program is, for the 2017 fiscal year, being largely defunded.

Out of orbit

Argentina's budding satellite program, lauded by NASA as "the leader in its field in Latin America" after its successful manufacture of two communications satellites (ARSAT 1 and 2) in 2014 and 2015, has also been put on the chopping block by Macri. The CONAE budget was slashed from $170 million in FY2016 to $97 million next year, and work on the ARSAT 3 and 4 satellites, cancelled.

Foreign firms have meanwhile been given permits for new ground stations in Argentina, further undermining ARSAT's viability.

Science and Technology Minister Lino Barañao, who has held the post since its establishment in 2007 and was the only prominent official retained by Macri from his predecessor, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, stated that "if funds are not forthcoming, it will be very difficult for me to stay on. I can't be complict in the destruction of something so important for the nation as well as for me personally."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.infonews.com/nota/303012/cientificos-se-movilizaron-contra-el-ajuste&prev=search

And: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.energypress.com.ar/85840-el-presupuesto-que-el-gobierno-propuso-a-ciencia-y-tecnologia-para-2017-representa-el-porcentaje-mas-bajo&prev=search


Defendamos la ciencia - Defend science[/center]

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Reply Argentine scientists march against Macri's budget cutbacks; Minister of Science threatens to quit. (Original post)
forest444 Oct 2016 OP
Judi Lynn Oct 2016 #1
forest444 Oct 2016 #2
Judi Lynn Oct 2016 #3

Response to forest444 (Original post)

Sat Oct 29, 2016, 11:39 PM

1. What a monstrosity. The right-wing loves to flail against science, doesn't it?

Education for the masses is abhorrent to them, anything to alleviate the suffering, the helplessness of the poor is going to be ripped away.

It's so strange having to watch as Macri goes about building his dictatorship. There's no question where he's headed. Mauricio Macri Videla.

If he has decimated so much of the science capabilities of the country already, where's he headed next year, and the years after that? He'll empty the buildings, and lock the doors. Then, when something scientific is needed, he can call upon privatized scientists who will give him the results he wants.

Best wishes to the protesters. Hope he doesn't have their names on his purge lists. They might consider moving to Chile, or farther away, still. Remember Operation Condor.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Reply #1)

Sun Oct 30, 2016, 12:04 AM

2. It is indeed a depressing thought, Judi.

While I doubt that crackdowns on dissent will descend into the kind of depths Argentina saw with Videla, there's no doubt that the courts, gendarmerie, and intelligence services are being used to intimidate opponents.

On that note, thank you for posting news of the UN resolution calling for Milagro Sala's immediate release (and compensation for moral damages). I left my two cents worth on earlier this afternoon here, if you're interested: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10141610382#post1

43 deaths, for a brazenly political - and illegal - operation, and of course all we heard from corporate media (even in Argentina) was crickets. Can you imagine the commotion that would have ensued if 43 officers had died on Cristina Kirchner's watch, under those kinds of circumstances?

On a personal note, I should mention that my father was one of the 15,000 scientists and engineers who left Argentina during the disastrous 1966-2002 period mentioned above. It was, I understand, pretty much the way you described it: scientific resources were decimated, buildings were shuttered (or severely neglected), and by and large the only research activities that flourished, were those that catered to the elite such as private medicine and (for landowners) agronomy.

Most other areas of research either withered or were replaced by imports. That's where the country appears to be headed toward again, sadly.

Thanks as always for your insights, Judi. Sharing is caring.

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Response to forest444 (Reply #2)

Mon Oct 31, 2016, 05:12 PM

3. Never have I considered well enough that there WAS an profound "brain drain"

in Argentina during the military dictatorship, but it's much easier to understand now, after thinking about your comments.

The focus WAS upon providing for the interests of the oligarchy, and attention was channeled into the things that would benefit only them.

I do recall that the agriculturalists fought wildly against the Kirchners throughout their Presidencies, fighting for their own special benefits, rather than allowing the government to serve all the people.
They went after them like wildmen, as if they believed the country should belong to them. They, and Clarín and its cohorts. Newsprint paper monopoly.

The Kirchners had to come to a war each day of their terms, and that's a shame. The fascists didn't respect them, their office for a moment.

The moment of realization for those scientists and engineers under the dictatorship must have been excrutiating when they realized they were being faced with having to leave their home countries, their familiar surroundings, neighborhoods, family friends, associates, perhaps forever, because of a
TRULY EVIL government which was choking the life out of the country, and the people themselves.

It took real strength to be capable of assessing the situation, recognizing its nature, and making that leap of faith to go elsewhere and adapt to a new culture. A lot of people can never rise to the challenge, lack the courage, and suffer because of it.

I hope Macri won't be able to gather the power he seeks. If there's any luck at all, the people themselves won't forget what they, or their parents, or their grandparents have ALREADY be through, in due time, and decide maybe this is one new fascist they really don't want to park his lower anatomy in the President's chair.


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