Across from a train viaduct in a southern barrio of Buenos Aires is the mural of a street scene with various additions from other artists: visible through the window of a club are couples dancing, a man stands outside the doors looking in on the crowd, from the man’s mouth has been added a word balloon: “Ibarra mata en Cromañon” ”¦ Ibarra kills in Cromañon. In front of the mural stands a lone sign with the word confidencias.
A political storm over the 194 deaths in the fire at the Cromañon club on December 30 has been developing all year. I’ve written before about Cromañon. Yesterday the city legislature voted to begin impeachment proceedings against Anibal Ibarra, the city’s mayor, for negligence.
Suspended as mayor pending the outcome of the impeachment trial, Ibarra vowed not to resign and claimed that his political rivals are using the incident as a way of targeting him. Politics are certainly playing a large role in this crisis. Unfortunately, the machinations that are so evident in Argentine politics threaten to obscure the institutional and societal issues that underlie the tragedy.
Families of the victims are experiencing understandable pain and suffering. The tragic loss of a loved one, particularly a young life, is one of the most unbearable aspects of human existence. The collective anguish expressed by so many families results in the normal reaction to such a loss: that someone is responsible, that someone must pay.
The legislator casting the deciding vote for the impeachment to move forward stated that “Ibarra has political responsibility but is not guilty of what happened”. The tragedy happened under his command and part of leadership is taking responsibility.
While inspections of clubs, restaurants, and other gathering spots were launched in January after the fire, it’s not apparent that the city government has really focused on eliminating the systemic problems within the city’s institutional structure that allowed such flagrant code violations as at Cromañon. But I’m not convinced that Ibarra’s political opponents would be anymore progressive on this front either. Both political sides need to remember that one of the fundamental responsibilities of a government is to ensure the safety of its citizens.