Friday, November 25, 2011

The advantages of having networked ahead of time and the ordeal of buying dollars in Argentina

Mr. Green looks much older than I remember. Stress does that to people in a short amount of time. I’ve seen it happen before several times. There’s more wrinkles in his face, and he has grown a beard which is mostly gray.  Last time I saw him was several months ago, he was clean shaven and had a cheerful ring in his voice that is now gone.  He mumbles “I’m only selling to those that I know now”.
I keep my voice down as I speak. The small store in the downtown district of Buenos Aires is supposed to sell pens, pocket knives and various office supplies, even though in reality it’s just a front for a “cave”, where an “Arbolito”, Mr. Green, operates buying and selling dollars. (arbolito=tree for Spanish =green=USD, hence Mr. Green)  .

“I saw it on the news and knew it was bad, that´s why I waited until things cooled down a bit. Is it really that bad, people arrested by SIDE (Argentine Intelligence) undercover agents and all? This must be terrible for business”.

“Yes. It is”, he says and nods while looking over my shoulder towards the street. You know what they say about you not really being paranoid if they are really out there to get you.
I ask for the current exchange rate for buying. 4.90 pesos per dollar. Not bad. Officially its 4.25. No doubt a handful of politicians are making a killing these days with the bicycle scheme of buying in the official market and selling in the black one, what is now called the price for the Blue dollar. Of course only those in power can do that. For the rest of us mere mortals you have to go through official scrutiny and if you’re even allowed to buy dollars through official channels at all, its just 50 or 100 a month for an upper middle class type of income. Ridiculous.

Out of habit I haggle a bit but get nowhere. 3.90 it is, and I should consider myself lucky that Mr. Green has known me since 2001 when this mess first started. I cant avoid the déjà vu feeling.
Its about 2.30 PM. The time when the buzz of the Capital district calms down. The time when cops and other agents, undercover or not, are still feeling heavy and lazy because of lunch break.
Would 12AM to 1.30 PM be a better time? Not really. That’s when everyone gets their office break… and sneak around looking to buy dollars before going back to work. 2Pm to 3Pm is about right.
I do the deal, quickly check the money just in case I’m getting a counterfeit bill, and hurry to the car I have ready waiting for me a couple blocks down the street, driver inside ready to go.

The new dollar “corralito” has paralyzed everything. People don’t want to sell anything that may go up in pesos soon. Travel agencies only accept dollars for international flights. Things like imported firearms? Houses? Better have dollars, and dollars aren’t easy to come by these days if you don’t know the right people. At least one real estate broker that I know well decided to take a couple weeks off and give people vacations.
2001 Déjà vu indeed.
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Anonymous said...

Funny, the US is essentially doing the same thing as Argentina ( inflating the currency ) and yet you are scrambling hard and fast for USD and dumping the peso.

In theory, if the US were to keep sabotaging economies around the globe they could keep on printing money for quite some time because the world would keep rushing into the dollar as a "safe haven".

This could in fact be what the US foreign policy is trying to do.

Anonymous said...

Good post - the dollar is no better than the peso - both are fiat. Why if the police are cracking down on the dollar trade - why not just buy silver and gold? Do the people have a mindset of trusting fiat over precious metals?


Totalinvestor said...

Why would you want to buy US dollars when you can still buy gold and silver?

Maldek said...

@Total + anons

"Why U$"

Because you can actualy PAY in U$. Same here in Paraguay.

You want a crap car from chile that was in use 15 years in japan already?
No problem - you pay in the local currency.

You want a somewhat decent car?
You better have 10-20K U$ in cash!

You want a nice home in a decent neighborhood?
You better have 100K+ U$ in cash!

And I do mean U$, when I bought my car I had to exchange my cash euros into cash U$.

Thats how it works here in Paraguay and most other parts in south america. U$ has a fine reputation still, undeserved or not ;P

Anonymous said...

Perhaps because dollars are still perceived to have value, which gives them value? And because imported goods are purchased with dollars, not silver or gold? The importer must pay for the imported goods with dollars so this creates demand for dollars in the domestic economy.(?) I agree, gold and silver are better than dollars for long term savings. (I live in the States.)

gaga said...

No, the US is not doing the same thing as Argentina. All paper currency is inflated away, different from simply cutting 30% its value immediatly

Bull3t said...

Its not about whether U.S. dollars are fiat compared to the peso.Neither currency has inherent value.

The primary reason dollars are in demand in Argentina is because its the only stable form of exchange.You can buy gold and silver for longer term stores of value, but the reason banknotes exist to begin with is because toting metals around to buy things is a pain.

Since the government has once again mismanaged the economy the people are voting with their wallets to buy and sell goods only in U.S. Dollars. This poses a problem for the Argentine government, who want people to use pesos.

Anonymous said...

So what I am hearing as to why those in South America are still taking dollars is that they haven't learned anything... still chasing after fiat believing in fiat accepting fiat after their own fiat collapses.

This doesn't bode well for humanity. One would think after getting their wealth stolen that they would only accept real money going forward - yet this isn't the case, they just move to someone else's fiat they believe is of more value.... wow - I guess when you all lose it again for the second time when the dollar goes down suddenly -- perhaps then you'll wake up - but perhaps not...

Discouraged in my fellow man...