For months, Claudia Guebel could only tell family
and friends about a traumatising encounter with a colleague in the Senate.
At the beginning of this
year, she said, Pedro Fiorda,
a senator’s chief-of-staff,
grabbed her violently by the
arms like a “hunter who catches prey.” Then, she felt his
tongue inside her mouth.
The terror that seized her
made those minutes seem
eternal, she said.
“I didn’t know how to
react, I was paralyzed,” said
Guebel, a congressional aide who previously worked
for the same senator.
In December, she was finally moved to file a formal
complaint with judicial
authorities after actress
Thelma Fardin publicly accused actor Juan Darthes of
raping her in 2009 when she
was 16 and he was 45.
Writers, politicians, journalists and thousands more
expressed support for Fardin on social media.
“With Thelma’s statements, everything was
awakened in me,” said Guebel, 52.
Fiorda could not be reached for comment and Darthes says he is innocent.
Guebel is now part of a
wave of women who have
come forward with sexual
misconduct accusations in
what has inevitably been
compared to the #MeToo
movement in the United
States, where the worlds of
media, business, entertainment and politics have been
roiled by allegations against
Women say they are also
taking a cue from Ni Una
Menos, the grassroots movement that emerged in
2015 and spread globally.
The movement has drawn
thousands into mass demonstrations against feminicide and violence against
women in Argentina, where
a bill attempting to legalise
abortion was defeated in
“For a while in Argentina
we have been witnessing a
paradigm shift ... where the
voices of women are beginning to be heard, understood and, most importantly,
accompanied by others,”
said Fabiana Tuñez, executive director of the National
Institute for Women in Argentina, who said the accusations by Fardin lent the
movement more visibility.
On December 11, the actress announced she had
filed a criminal complaint in
Nicaragua, where she says
she was raped by Darthes in
a hotel during a promotional tour for Patito Feo (“Ugly
Duckling”), a children’s television series. Darthes,
who has since moved to his
native Brazil, but has repeatedly denied the allegation.
Three other women also
have accused him of harassment or abuse.
“We are all very shocked,”
said Sabrina Cartabia,
Fardin’s lawyer. “It is opening up the possibility of
talking about something
In Argentina there is no
national registry of victims
of sexual abuse. But a survey found that 45 percent of
the 2,750 students polled at
public and private universities in Buenos Aires reported suffering physical or
psychological abuse and
nine percent had suffered
sexual abuse. The survey
was published in a 2018 report by UNICEF Argentina.
Another poll conducted
by the Argentine Management Society of Actors
found that 66 percent of actresses said they had suffered some type of harassment
or abuse while exercising
The wave of women speaking out is now challenging
an entrenched machismo
culture in a country where
women are often catcalled,
hissed at and harassed on
In recent weeks, telephone lines that receive reports
of gender violence have
seen sharp increases — the
largest coming on December 12, the day after Fardin’s
Tuñez, who has helped
manage the phone lines,
said she was surprised by
calls from women 70 to 80
years old with stories of childhood abuse.
“They just wanted someone to hear them, because
legally nothing can be done,” she said.
In recent days, alumnae
of the ORT Jewish community school, including the
daughter of politician Daniel Filmus, have also publicly accused a school doctor
of sexually abusing them
when they were between 13
and 14 years old. School
authorities announced that
they are willing to cooperate with an investigation.
But the reverberations of
the larger movement have
spread much further.
Women from political
parties and youth groups
like La Campora have started reporting sexual aggression to blogs, social media
and press outlets. The main
content producer of Argentine television, Pol-Ka, has
committed itself to incorporating a protocol for giving
assistance in cases of sexual
harassment and abuse. And
the Senate recently passed
a law that requires the state
to provide training to public
employees about genderrelated topics.
“Argentina is leading the
social mobilisation of thousands and thousands of women like never before seen
in Latin America, which is
having an impact on sister
countries,” said María Elena Naddeo, who works at
the ombudsman’s office in
the city of Buenos Aires, referring to similar movements in Uruguay, Bolivia,
Ecuador and Chile.
For her part, Guebel says
she will continue working to
eradicate a culture of patriarchy.
In addition to her complaint against Fiorda, she
has filed a complaint against
Senator Juan Carlos Marino (Unión Cívica RadicalLa Pampa) for allegedly
touching her breasts, and
against congressional staffer Juan Carlos Amarilla,
who she says sexually harassed her.
Both Marino and Amarilla have declared themselves innocent. All three have
been formally charged by a
“I am dealing with an incredible level of exhaustion
that has caused me many
health problems and wear
and tear on my soul,” said
Guebel, who has worked in
the Senate for nearly 20
years. “The message that I
can give to women is that
they become bold,” she said.
“This is just the beginning,
we are becoming more