Politics is never straight forward. Argentinas politics even more so. In this country, the past is never far away from the present.
One of the most recent political controversies in Argentina has even made it to Netflix. The death of investigator Alberto Nisman.
Nisman had been out in charge of investigating the AMIA bombing in 1984. Argentinas worse terrorist attack.
In July 1994 a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association. Eighty-five people were killed and hundreds more injured. Argentina has the largest Jewish population in South America.
A group linked to Iran claimed responsibility for the attack. Two years earlier, the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires had been attacked killing twenty-nine people.
Since the bombing, there have been many many accusations of cover-ups, including a possible local connection to the attacks. Senior members of the local Police were found not guilty of these charges in 2004. In 2005 the judge leading the investigation Juan José Galeano was impeached following claims of irregularities in the investigation.
In 2015 Alberto Nisman published a report accusing Christina Kirchner of covering up Irans involvement in the attack. Kirchner was President from 2007 until 2015.
Hours before he was to present his allegations to congress, he was found dead in his apartment. Initially, it looked liked he had committed suicide by a shot to the head. There was no forced entry or robbery. Nisman owned two guns. The gun found at the scene was not one of these.
Even people opposed to Nisman have said he was murdered. There have been calls for Kirchner to face trial. In December she became Vice President after the recent elections. It is said any chance of progress in the case has gone as long as she is near the seat of power.
A few weeks ago Nismans family and supporters held a rally in Buenos Aires demanding justice. Last week newly elected Peronist President Alberto Fernández made his first foreign visit to Israel where he promised to discover the truth.
I have not seen the Netflix documentary. I don’t feel the need. Real-life in Argentina is way more interesting.
Financial crisis update.
Argentinas latest financial crisis continues. It has been almost forty years since the last military takeover, but democracy has not covered itself in glory.
An economy in recession a third of the time. High inflation and debt defaults are constant. Argentina is currently trying to avoid its 9th sovereign debt default.
There was a time Argentina said they would not pay their debt. This time they are saying they want to pay but cannot. If they are going to be able to borrow again, they will have to pay. Argentina loves to borrow money. Paying back not so much. I suppose none of us does.
The current Peronist government is to the left. They were left a mess by the last rightwing government. To be fair, the rightwing government was left a mess by the previous leftist Peronist government.
It seems to be a never-ending cycle. Rightwing governments implement policies that the IMF wants. The IMF has a shocking record in South America. They seem to be a one-trick pony. Deep cuts that always hurt the poorest the most.
Left-wing governments spend money they don’t have. The result is the same. Crisis. It is a tough time for people here. Salary increases lagged inflation by over 17% last year.
I am sure the economy will bottom out soon. Growth will return. It is part of the cycle. The problem I can see is that nothing different is happening. The new Peronist government have made changes from the last government.
They have implemented a tax of 30% for any purchase outside Argentina. If any Argentinian buys an airline ticket for travel outside Argentina, they pay an extra 30%. If they use their debit/credit card outside Argentina, 30% tax is applied. The problem this and other strategies were done before. By the last Peronist government. This tax does not affect tourists.
If a business now wants to lay someone off, they have to pay double the redundancy payment. While that is good for workers, most experts say it will stop small business hiring new people. You can feel the next crisis is being prepared before the recovery happens.
What is it with me and the pigeons?
Something really weird is happening to me in Argentina. No matter where I sit, pigeons follow me. Even when I am not eating. It first happened in Northern Argentina when it was a race between pigeons and me who got to eat my sandwich. I won that just about.
Last week in San Telmo Buenos Aires a squadron of dive bomber pigeons made an aerial attack on the table I was using. Much to the amusement of everyone. I was only drinking a beer.
In La Boca Buenos Aires out of twenty or more tables mine was the only one pigeons wanted to use as a landing point. I wanted to have lunch, but after previous experience, I decided not.
During the week, I took a visit to the La Boca neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. La Boca was where many Italian immigrants settled. I hopped on a bus that took me the 8km journey for 20 cents.
The area where tourists go is the Caminito. It is quite a small area near the river. It was interesting but very touristy. I would have liked to look around a bit more but it not recommended to stray too far. I asked the girl who served my coffee. I would not advise you go four streets from here Senor. It did feel a bit like I was in a tourist cage looking out. I did take her advise.
An interesting bit of history. In 1882 after a strike La Boca seceded from Argentina. They raised the flag of Genoa Italy. The flag was personally taken down by the then President of Argentina.
Buenos Aires gets a lot of bad press for safety. I find that a lot of comments online are way off the mark most of the time when I travel. Don’t go to San Telmo after 8 pm they roar.
I have been there a few times up to midnight. It is packed with people socialising and Police. It is not a place I expect a gun to be pointed in my face. After midnight who knows.
They say ignorance is bliss. When I visited the Santa Fe area on my way to Buenos Aires, I thought it was a nice peaceful place. Reading news online there was 15 murderers in the first 17 days of January in the area. I was there during this time.
The local police chief was sacked for corruption and police from outside drafted in. Maybe my 5 am 30-minute walk to the bus station was not the best idea. Ignorance may be bliss, but luck eventually runs out.
Give me money fatty.
It took me a long time to get used to the Spanish word Gordo. Properly translated it means fat. When I lived in Gran Canaria, I used to hear it a lot.
As a man with too many kilos, I was surprised to hear it used widely. In the Canary Islands, they use Gordito which means chubby. It actually is meant in a complimentary way.
In Argentina, it is straight out Gordo, but people say it to each other in a friendly way. It takes some getting used to when someone on the street is asking for money starts with Hola Gordo. Hello Fatty. I would not recommend using this strategy in Ireland.
This weeks video is a look around the centre of Buenos Aires.
Join me on my journey.
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