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Perpetuating Social Movements amid Declining Opportunity: The Survival Strategies of Two Argentine Piquetero Groups


Edward C. Epstein

University of Utah, US
About Edward
Edward C. Epstein is Professor of Latin American politics and director of graduate studies in the Department of Political Science at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. He specializes in politics in Argentina with an emphasis on political mobilization, trade unions, and social policy. He is co-editor (with D. Pion- Berlin) and co-author of Broken Promises? The Argentine Crisis and Argentine Democracy (Lexington Books, 2006).
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This article examines the recent behaviour in Argentina of two national protest groups of socalled ‘piqueteros’ or picketers (impoverished unemployed individuals who used the blockage of strategic roads and bridges to force government concessions) that emerged politically in the buildup to the crisis of 2001-2002. Using theoretical concepts developed by McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly in understanding social movements, the author analyses what he calls the ‘survival strategy’ adopted by their leaders as the political opportunities that produced their initial growth gave way to a more hostile environment with the normalization of Argentine politics under the Kirchner administration. While the two piquetero groups studied differ considerably in terms of their politics and ideology, both ended up depending on the same traditional tactic of utilizing important government contacts to obtain the resources necessary for organizational maintenance, despite their nominal identity as radical protesters against the present political system.

Resumen: Perpetuando movimientos sociales y oportunidades decrecientes: las estrategias de sobrevivencia de dos grupos de piqueteros argentines

Este artículo examina el comportamiento reciente de dos grupos nacionales de protesta argentinos llamados ‘piqueteros’ (desempleados empobrecidos que usaron el bloqueo de calles y puentes estratégicos para forzar concesiones gubernamentales) que aparecieron durante la crisis de 2001- 2002. Utilizando conceptos teóricos creados por McAdam, Tarrow, y Tilly en su discusión sobre los movimientos sociales, el autor analiza lo que describe como ‘estrategias de sobrevivencia’ adoptadas por sus dirigentes cuando las oportunidades que ocasionaron su crecimiento inicial cedieron ante un ambiente más hostil en el contexto de la normalización de la política argentina durante la administración de Kirchner. Aunque los dos grupos piqueteros estudiados se diferencian mucho en términos de su política e ideología, ambos terminaron dependiendo de la misma táctica tradicional consistente en el recurso a contactos políticos oficiales indispensables para lograr los recursos necesarios para el mantenimiento organizacional del grupo, pese a su identidad nominal como radicales detractores del sistema político imperante.

How to Cite: Epstein, E. C. (2009). Perpetuating Social Movements amid Declining Opportunity: The Survival Strategies of Two Argentine Piquetero Groups. European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, (86), 3–19. DOI:
Published on 15 Apr 2009.
Peer Reviewed


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