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BAUEN, day 8

Legislative dueling

Outside Congress, people were gathering to support the workers. The sun blazed down, adding one more difficulty. The tension in the air was palpable, and as more news arrived, addressing and approving expropriation seemed further away. At one point, those present were surprised to see a sky-blue and white flag rise slowly up the flagpole of the legislative palace, because instead of the warrior sun of the official flag, it had the word BAUEN painted on it. As protesters arrived, the police put up barriers, cutting off Hipólito Yrigoyen Street almost completely.

Irrazábal told Tonarelli to stay calm, that he had the votes. His affirmations were not enough to calm the anxiety of workers who had watched for years as all the bills they took to Congress failed. To top it off, the last session of the 2016 was not just long, but the national budget was scheduled to be dealt with. The body met and prepared itself for a session that would have to finish at the toll of midnight. A rumor circulated, rife with fear, that the bill was not even going to be able to be put on the day’s agenda. Because the bill was being introduced by Deputies without committee endorsement, there had to be an initial vote.

News reached the street that its inclusion had been approved. Hope grew. In contrast to what had happened in the lower house, where workers had followed the session from the balconies, in the Senate, they had no access to the chamber. What was happening inside was communicated via WhatsApp or telephone by legislative aides and Congressional workers, collaborating with the workers. Irrazábal already had the agreement of his whole bloc, which was the majority, to rush the approval. But they had to avoid the predictable stalling tactics of the opposition.

Irrazábal asked the provisional President of the Senate, Federico Pinedo, who had already expressed his extreme opposition to the expropriation of the BAUEN, for the floor, and asked for the bill to be introduced. “It comes without opinion of committee,” he clarified. That first round showed that the balance of forces was favorable to expropriation: the motion to take up the bill was approved with 43 votes in favor and 16 against. The problem was not going to be the number of votes, but time.

The session went on as the budget was debated. Outside, the protesters held on stoically. They were the longstanding members of the BAUEN, those who had occupied and resisted for years, together with other newer but equally committed compañeros, but the hotel stayed open, and the rest of the workers had to go on working to keep it operating. They were even more nervous than the ones outside Congress.


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