Coming back from a long trip abroad, I was struck by negativity. People complaining. Prices have gone up again, the import restrictions are really starting to show, and after winter holidays it seems clear that it is virtually impossible for Argentines to get dollars to travel. What will the future bring? Is a question often asked. But also they ask me why I came back, or why we are still here, living in Argentina. The word ‘2001’, the year of the last crisis, is mentioned more and more. People seem to be preparing themselves or at least bracing themselves for bad times to come.
Maybe I am imagining things. After all I have spend about a month abroad, completely careless and relaxed, not having to worry about security, walking around with my camera in full view even in subways and in the dark. Away from the ‘world’. And in full summer.
And after all, Argentines have always liked to complain. Should we take them seriously now?
But the import restrictions are real. My husband being in imports we know how hard it is to get permission to import. A permission that has to be renewed for each physical import. My husband spends half of his time in the ministry of economy, or at least twice a week. He still gets his permissions, but many companies don’t, or they just get tired trying and sell their company or just close it down (like the luxury brands in avenida Alvear). And it is true that dollars are hard to get, at least at the official rate. But easy to sell at the blue rate (about 30 to 40% higher).
This week I got caught by the rain. My head still in the wind dreaming of my -seemingly long gone- holidays. I had forgotten to check the forecast and hadn’t even looked up at the skies when I left home without umbrella. After a couple of blocks on my way back home, I already started to feel the raindrops on my bare skin, under a few layers of clothes, when it started to really poor. I saw no other solution but to hop into a taxi as waiting for the bus would have soaked me completely. To my surprise the first cab I saw was empty. Usually, at this time of day, and in the rainy weather, all the taxis are full. The driver seemed ill, and he started to talk. He apologized for his state, but he had just come from the police office. He had been robbed by a couple who had put a gun in his waist asking for all his money. He then had to drop them off at villa 31 (one of the worst shanty towns). After that he had gone straight to the police station where they asked him to pay 20$ to open up a file. He told them he had no money, as he had just been robbed! And then the officer advised him to just leave it like that. If he would make an official statement they will just come after him and shoot him or steal his car. It’s better to just let go. The man was clearly still in a shock, and so was I, by his story.
My second shock I got when I looked at the meter. Almost 20$ for taking me 8 blocks to my house. Prices have certainly gone up.
Yes, things are definitely changing. Or am I really still suffering from the (summer-holiday) blues?