One in a series on how people around the world are perceiving the war in Iraq through their local media.
It's the lunch hour at the Cortino Cafe downtown and a soccer match is playing on the televisions suspended from two walls. But the mute button is on and no one is paying attention anyway. A dozen people sit on stools at the lunch counter, their heads swiveling between bowls of pasta and their newspapers.
"This war is not the solution," said Domingo Sanna, a 42-year-old marketing manager at Dell Computer who is finishing off a bottle of Diet Coke and the second of his three newspapers. "The U.S. should have taken a more cautious approach. I am afraid that I don't see a lot of good coming from the actions taken by the United States government."
John Savedra sits at the stool next to Sanna's, reading La Nacion, one of Buenos Aires' more popular newspapers. "I am not against the United States," said the 70-year-old architect. "I am quite fond of the U.S. and have visited many times. But I don't think Bush is the president to lead the country into a war like this. This is just not the way to deal with Iraq. We can see that in our newspapers every single day."
As elsewhere throughout the world, newspaper circulation here is flat as Argentines increasingly turn to television and the Internet for their information. Still, this city is home to a robust cafe society, a magazine stand on virtually every downtown street corner, enough readers to support 10 daily newspapers and a local press corps that is openly scornful of the war in Iraq.
That reflects the readership here, where polls have shown that nearly eight of every 10 Argentines oppose the Bush administration's military campaign in Iraq. The daily appearance of antiwar editorials and photographs of dead and wounded Iraqi babies and other civilians only stokes that rage.
"It's an absurd war," said Vito Sciortino, 55, who has owned the newspaper kiosk just outside the Cortino Cafe for 20 years. "Our newspapers show us what yours do not in the United States: that when wars are fought, innocent people die. Not just the evildoers, but babies and grandmothers." One of the nine dailies that he sells is Clarin, a tabloid that is the most widely read newspaper in the country. The next best seller is La Nacion, a broadsheet that has traditionally appealed to wealthy Argentines and prosperous landowners (it continues to list cattle prices, for instance). Though some here mock it as "the old woman who sits on the fence," its reporting is popular for its just-the-facts tone.
"It's not as negative about the war as most of the other papers," said Sanna. "I like it because I like to consider myself somewhere in the middle. It doesn't paint a positive picture of the way the war is going but it gives a little more balance."
Savedra also reads La Nacion, but his reading of it and other newspapers leaves him deeply cynical about everyone involved in the war. "Usually when you have war, someone is the good guy and someone is the bad guy. But Saddam is a dictator and Bush is only interested in Iraq's oil. It's like the Devil fighting with himself."
Argentina has its own problems and that colors its view of the war. Amid the worst economic crisis in its history, the value of its currency has plummeted and unemployment has soared. For much of the past year, newspapers here have focused on the country's growing poverty -- particularly in rural provinces -- and rising malnutrition among children.
"Why do you spend all this money to fight?" asked Sciortino from his newspaper stand. "This is money that could be used to feed people, to feed children, to feed Argentines, to feed many, many poor people throughout the world who are starving. Why does the United States not see this?"
Sitting alone at the far end of the cafe's lunch counter, Roberto Figueras, 51, folds his newspaper into a neat bundle and prepares to return to work. He comes here a few times a week, he said, to read his newspaper and eat.
He believes that the Bush administration is solely interested in Iraq's oil, but still he supports the effort to topple Hussein. A military dictatorship governed Argentina for nearly a decade until voters returned to the polls 20 years ago.
"I am against the kind of government that Saddam represents and I am against international terrorism," he said as he put away his reading glasses. "Whatever needs to be done to get rid of dictatorships and terrorism has to be done. I do believe that."
He rises from his stool but says he will likely return to Cortino's tomorrow at lunch time, newspaper in hand.
"It is good to come here and just be left alone to read," he said. "But few of us who come here ever give the food the credit it deserves.
"The chef, you know, he is very good."