You were way ahead of the curve in what you perceived in the coming collapse of Argentina. I just read this and you came to mind. I thought I would share the article.E-
Hi, I’ve been receiving lots of email about this article.
Remember that scene from the movie “Braveheart”, where Mel Gibson says he’s William Wallace and one of the guys says that cant be because William Wallace is seven feet tall and has arms as wide as tree trunks or something along those lines? This somewhat reminds me of that. I’m sure that the person that wrote it didn’t mean anything by it but there are several inaccuracies that I’d like to address. We all make mistakes of course and as time goes by memories tend to blur a bit, happens to me all the time. But I believe its important to stay as accurate as possible so that any lessons gained from these events are also truthful.
First, about the people doing battle with the police. Anyone doing battle with the police at any time before or after the fall of President Fernando DelaRua’s government was either rioting or looting. The original “cacerolazo” of December 19th in Plaza de Mayo was a peaceful demonstration against a president that had lost touch with reality, but that had nothing to do with those destroying private property and looting. It is true that some innocent people died, caught between the looters and the police, and that cop got “trigger happy”, yet its hard to believe that everyone that got shot right in the middle of a mass looting in a supermarket just happened to be there looking for his son, his uncle or the neighbor’s dog. If you are in the middle of a violent looting and cops trying to stop it bad things can happen to you. Normal, by this I mean law abiding citizens didn’t do battle with the police. The country was falling apart, and the last thing we needed was another roadblock, another “imperialist” McDonald being trashed or another looted supermarket.
While bank accounts where frozen, you could still use credit and debit cards. The problem was that many stores, especially smaller ones, didn’t accept them any more in Argentina. For some time it was only big chain store accepting them in the country. Still, if you were abroad, say in the United States, you could use your credit card without a problem. I know this well because we went Aspen, Colorado, for a week on January 2002, a couple months before I got married. My folks had invited us all and there was no point in canceling the holidays. The “corralito” was an attempt to stop the flight of capital from the banking system, money leaving banks and going either abroad or under people’s mattresses. In fact, as an incentive for people to do this, they would give you back 5% from taxes if you paid with debit cards. I remember this well too because I would deposit the money I would use for making the monthly grocery purchases just the day before going to the store, so as to take advantage of the discount yet not leave money sitting there given the obvious instability. That plus another 15% discount you got from the store when paying with debit or credit card which the big chains were still accepting made for a much appreciated 20% discount.
While it is true that electricity went off often, its not true that stores run low on food. Sometimes there wasn’t quick resupply of certain products. Sometimes rationing was imposed so as to avoid hoarding and you could take maybe 1 pack of sugar per day or 3liters of milk per day per family group, and even this you could avoid by going to another store and buying there too. But other than the supermarket itself being closed because of recent looting, as long as you had the money, cash or money in the bank for some of the big stores that accepted credit cards, you could buy as much food as you wanted. Don’t get me wrong, people did starve to death and they still do, but because they cant afford the food, not because there isn’t any.
An important point, food never became a medium of exchange. This simply never happened. This I want to clarify because if not people may be lead to believe that it could be a possible scenario. At least during the economic collapse that took place in Argentina I can assure you that food never replaced currency. The closest to that was coupons used in some of the various barter clubs, Clubs del Trueque, which did become popular but never did it replace the local defaulted peso, even less, a much sought after shiny US dollar bill. Even gold, which became sought after for selling in some of the “We buy Gold” stores that sprouted everywhere within days, even then it didn’t become an alternative currency used by people.
People did accept the local currency, the peso, but they would do so at whatever exchange rate it had that day with the US dollar, so within days the peso had devaluated to one third of its value. Still, in spite of that, if you have the cash and enough of it, you bought as much food, gas, or any other goods and service as you wanted.
About leaving the country with cash, back in those days it wasn’t nearly as hard as it is now, at least hard when doing it legally. Especially if the cash you had could be fitted in your pants, it was really not a problem at all to just keep it there, walk through customs and security and board a plane that would take you abroad. The crazy restrictions and extra control regarding ordinary people traveling maybe with a bit too much cash started after the reelection of Cristina Kirchner in 2011, not in 2001.
The more accurate the accounts, the better the lessons we learn from these events. Again, I’m not saying any of this to discredit anyone and I know that as time goes by many of these details are harder to remember.
If anyone has any questions or would like to add anything feel free to comment below or send me an email.
Take care people.