Last week, the Argentine government devalued its currency and prices soared. It was just one step on a long road to getting Argentina’s economy back in order as the Central Bank’s currency reserves dip to dangerous levels.
It’s been chaotic, but Argentines don’t sweat it. They’ve seen this before.
Economic crashes, underground dollar exchanges, Rolling Stones cults, and a string of five Presidents in two weeks in 2001 — Argentina is a crazy place.
The South American country is rich with resources, but often broke. As a result, Argentines are so accustomed to political and economic turmoil that they’ve adopted a bunch of interesting coping mechanisms — habits that help them get through the disorder.
And then there’s the stuff that just comes out of left field.
It was a tough time -- Argentina's economy had crashed after it defaulted on $US13.2 billion of foreign debt it could not pay.
The string of presidents started when Fernando de la Rua resigned in December of 2001. The last of the five, Eduardo Duhalde, was appointed in January 2002 amid major protesting.
The country's naval vessel, La Fragata Libertad, was impounded in Ghana for two weeks thanks to a hedge fund manager.
Hedge fund manager Paul Singer got a Ghanaian court to impound the 'Libertad,' which was docked in a Ghanaian port, last year. It was stuck there for months.
The country has refused to pay Singer and other investors $US1.4 billion in sovereign debt. The legal case has raged for years, with Argentina referring to the hedge fund managers as 'vultures.'
Singer took the boat as collateral.
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President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) is known for her good looks, so she has to look good, right?
So why not grab 20 pairs of Louboutin shoes (as well as some designer bags from Louis Vuitton and Hermes) in Paris after a meeting with the president of France?
This could be really fun, actually.
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Argentines pride themselves on their looks, and plastic surgery is huge in the country. As a result, ugly people feel they get the short end of the stick big time.
From BBC back in 2007 during the reign of not-so-attractive President Nestor Kirchner, CFK's late husband:
Gonzalo Otalora does not much care what he looks like. He planted himself in front of the presidential palace, the Casa Rosada or Pink House, to harangue President Nestor Kirchner to change the law.
It's not fair, he said. The beautiful people get all the breaks. Beauty is a natural advantage and he wants the good-lookers to be taxed to finance compensation for the ugly people...
'The president for me is a comrade,' he explained. 'He's a loyal comrade because our childhoods were very similar. He also had thick glasses and spots. They also made fun of him.
No one believes the inflation rate the government reports, but dissenting economists can get in trouble.
For years independant statisticians have put Argentina's inflation rate around 25-30%. The government reports the rate much lower.
Even the IMF put out a report on this and Cristine Legarde, the IMF president, said the country might get a 'red card' for its fibs.
The ruling party, Peronist, (as in Evita Peron) started the whole thing, and one of their beers is named after the former first lady.
The Peron Peron bar started the trend when it released its blonde beer, Evita. Now it also offers 'Montonero,' a dark ale named after the 1970s guerrilla group, and 'Double K' in honour of Argentine leader Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband, President Nestor Kirchner.
Across town, the opposition Radical Party has its own brewery, crafting blonde, red and black varieties named after another president, Hipolito Yrigoyen.
And your application can easily be rejected.
To stem capital flight from the country, the government has placed restrictions on currency exchanges and travel.
Any Argentine wishing to buy dollars to travel abroad must provide their tax-identification number to the tax agency (AFIP) and declare where, when and why they are travel ling. Even after waiting in long queues and filling in stacks of paperwork, would-be travellers are often refused dollars, or granted miserly sums that would hardly cover a souvenir snow-globe. When recently asked to explain how AFIP determines the allotment of dollars, its director bumbled: 'It is a formula that is periodically changed that has ingredients from the central bank, AFIP and God. The truth? I can't explain it because I don't know exactly how it operates.'
Argentines are afraid their economy may crash again, so to get ready people exchange their dollars for pesos.
But since there are restrictions on currency exchange, anyone who wants dollars sometimes must go underground.
Bitcoins are getting popular in Argentina as well.
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