Crítica de la Argentina, the newspaper run by Jorge Lanata, often has fantastic covers. Like the similarly formatted Página 12, which used to be run by Lanata, Crítica uses exceptionally creative graphics to tell its front page tales in visual form.
Wednesday’s edition was no exception. But this time the paper’s brilliant effort was a sad reminder that Argentina has a dark underbelly.
It’s a reality I’d rather not think or write about. But avoiding the issue does nothing to make it go away and does a great deal to trivialize and simply one’s understanding of Argentina’s more complex yet sometimes unsettling reality.
Crítica’s cover satirically used the image of a yellow “caution” road sign to say, literally, “Danger, Police Kidnapping.” The expression immediately conjures up images of those pervasively placed orange road signs so often seen across the U.S. that say, “Caution, Men Working.” But while humorous and certainly clever, Crítica’s graphic was also a bitter reminder that sometimes even police, the guardians of public safety, simply can’t be trusted.
The cover story gives details about how two policemen – a commissioner and a lieutenant - are suspected of participating in the kidnapping of Leonardo Bergara, a 37-year-old local businessman. Bergara was nabbed two weeks ago and his kidnappers are reportedly seeking a $500,000 dollar ransom. Clarín, Argentina’s top-selling daily, tells a similar story on its more traditional cover. Clarin’s story comes accompanied with a breakaway box that includes this gem:
“This isn’t the first case in which police have been involved in kidnappings. In 2001, a federal court condemned a band of kidnappers comprised of at least four policemen. They were known as ‘The Commissioner’s Band.’ This is the band that in 1991 kidnapped (current Buenos Aires Mayor) Mauricio Macri – among others – and collected a $6 million dollar ransom.”
When my wife’s aunt and uncle were kidnapped a few years ago, the kidnappers told them not to report anything to the police because “they’re with us.”
The kidnappers were probably lying. After all, most police are decent people. But the mere possibility that they could be telling the truth scared the victims and made them feel even more vulnerable, unable to seek help from the very people – the very institution – charged with protecting us.
It’s hard to know if crime is getting worse, or better, or if it’s simply unchanged. I saw two arrests in front of my downtown office building yesterday and another one today. This could be sheer coincidence. But since the government doesn’t regularly publish updated and comprehensive crime data, it aggravates the sense of uncertainty arises when stories like these are published.
Starbucks, that little mom and pop coffee shop, has opened a fourth store in Buenos Aires, indicating that even persnickety Porteños have given the famous brand their seal of approval.
The newest store opened last week in the city’s upscale Belgrano R neighborhood, on Avenida Elcano 3179. Starbucks representatives declined to say if the company plans to open other stores. Nor would they say how many customers they have here in Argentina.
They did say that in Buenos Aires the most popular drinks are the Caramel Macchiato, Mocha and Cappuccino.
Argentine President Cristina Fernández made a lot of mistakes in her first year in office, but she has recently made several moves that could help Argentina stay above water even as the global financial crisis threatens to push the world into a recession.
For reasons still somewhat mysterious to me, this entire site was deactivated by my U.S.-based hosting service. I’ve contacted the hosting service, as well as my very good local site programmers – Citricox, a Cordoba Province-based company – and believe the problem is close to being permanently solved. My apologies for the inconvenience. If this happens again and you need to contact me for whatever reason, feel free to do so at taos AT argentinepost.com.
NOTE: This email address is for personal correspondence. Please don’t send me mass mails or add this address to some commercial bulk mailing list. I get enough junk email as it is.
Thanks for your patience and best wishes for a wonderful 2009,
For any of you that were here during Argentina’s historic economic meltdown in 2001-2002, the word “saqueo” will sound familiar. As a noun, it’s somewhat like a “pillaging, looting, or a ravaging” of something, most likely a food store or supermarket.
“The store was pillaged during the riots,” you could say. In Spanish, saqueo describes something similar. If dozens of people plunder a supermarket in search of food, you could say there had been a saqueo.
Happily, this word hasn’t been used much in recent years. As the economy has boomed, the unemployment rate dropped – and, until mid 2007, poverty declined – fewer people found reason to pillage stores for food.
Here is the latest installment of the Scooping Argentina lunfardo lessions. This one involves the word “coima,” which is a noun meaning “a bribe.” As a verb, “coimear” means “to bribe.”
This video is in HD, or at least YouTube’s compressed version of it. If you can’t see it, or it takes too long to load on your computer, click here for the SD version. If you have any technical problems viewing this on your computer, please let me know.
If you want to see the video fullscreen in all its HD glory, click on the video itself. Doing so will take you to YouTube. There, you’ll have to click on the “Watch in HD” link at the bottom right-hand corner of the video. Once you’ve got the HD version, click on the “full-screen” button and it should appear full-screen on your display.
President Cristina Fernandez: Jorge, here’s your Christmas present. It’s a brand new comb – made in Argentina – designed for bald people like yourself. Former Buenos Aires Mayor Jorge Tellerman: Thanks, I’ll never part with it.
CFK: Nestor, what did the big Christmas candle say to the little Christmas candle? Former President Nestor Kirchner: I dunno, Christie, you tell me. CFK: I’m going out tonight.
CFK: Oh, Nestor, this has been such a hard year. And next year looks to be even worse, what with the global economic crisis and all. Nestor: Don’t worry, my love, yule be happy.
Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno: Christina, I’ve got an idea. To pressure Santa Claus into giving everybody extra big gifts this year, we can stuff letters to him into chimneys across the country, demanding that his gifts be bigger and better than last year. CFK: Stuffing letters into dirty chimneys? I dunno, Guille, but to me that sounds like blackmail.
Moreno: Hey, Christie, do you know why Santa goes down those chimneys every year? CFK: Dale, Guille, why? Moreno: Because it soots him.
CFK: Alright, Guillermo, enough playing around. Get out there and make those toy stores lower their prices. Those Playstation 3′s are way too expensive. Moreno: OK, fine, but just one more: What does Santa suffer from when he gets stuck in the chimney? CFK: Alright, Guille, you’re really starting to break my balls. Tell me. Moreno: Santa Claustrophobia.
from The Argentine Post
May your holiday season be filled with peace and joy.
UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect new policy details available here.
UPDATE: Argentina’s plan to slap a tourist fee on visitors has been postponed indefinitely, according to the U.S. embassy. It seems that officials here realized that imposing the fee on tourists wasn’t such a good idea after all.
To the best of my knowledge, the Argentine government has yet to determine exactly how it will implement its new entrance fee system. A Foreign Ministry official told me yesterday that visitors will have to pay to reenter the country every time they do so if their initial entrance period has expired. “U.S. citizens will have to pay the entrance fee every 90 days because they are allowed to stay for 90 days,” the official said. “It’s simple reciprocity.”
However, this same official suggested I call the Argentine Consulate in New York to double confirm the matter. I did, but a person there said “there’s nothing official” about the new policy, meaning that no decision has been made about how often the fee will be charged. Repeated calls to immigration officials and to the Interior Ministry (which has the final word on all of this) have been unsuccessful at getting more details.
Charging people US $134 every 90 days strikes me as counterproductive. It’s hard to imagine the government would actually do this. But who knows, the government continually surprises. There are countless thousands of Americans (not to mention visitors and part-time residents from other countries) who live in or spend a lot of time in Argentina. Many – if not most – are a constant source of income for Argentine restaurants and other businesses. Giving these people another reason to leave Argentina (and not return) seems unwise.
Meanwhile, if the comments received here (and via email) are any indication, many visitors will not come to Argentina in the first place because of the new entrance fee. How many? It’s impossible to say.
Setting aside the concept of reciprocity and the fee’s fairness motive, it seems imprudent from a purely economic perspective to add another disincentive to visiting the country. As we saw in a previous post, the number of people visiting Argentina is declining and could continue to do so. Moreover, with an unprecedented global recession heading our way, cash-strapped travelers need more reason – not less – to travel.
I’ll post an update as soon as I have more information.
UPDATE: I’m told by customs officials that the visa fee will not be charged until March.
Snuggled halfway between Reconquista and San Martin on the two-block, pedestrian alley known as Tres Sargentos lies the greatest vodka bar in all of Argentina: Empire Thai.
“We’ve got 103 different kinds of vodka,” says Empire Thai owner and founder Kevin Rodriguez, a New Jersey native. Rodriguez came to Buenos Aires many years ago as a banker but he soon traded in his suit for an apron and started Empire Thai. He did so in the days before it was hip to do so and before Argentines started opening up their palates to foreign foods and spices.
It was, and is, a success. Empire Thai provides a unique taste of Asian flavor right in the heart of the Micro Centro. As for the vodka – or whatever kind of mixed drink you want – bar master extraordinaire Mona Gallosi will take care of you. Mona, a native of Cipoleti, in the province of Rio Negro, came to Buenos Aires and started working as a server at Empire. She eventually began learning how to mix drinks and had a natural flair for it.
“I studied to become a fashion designer,” says Mona. “And that influences the way I mix drinks. I have a feel for colors and texture that helps me be creative with drinks.”
Mona works with customers to make sure they get the right cocktail the right way. She has been so successful that she’s even had her own radio and TV shows.
So the next time you’re in the mood for something spicy or for a new kind of mixed drink, stop by and try out Empire Thai. And while you’re at it, say hi to Kevin and Mona.
This is a video of a bird sitting atop my car in the Buenos Aires suburb of Martinez. Oddly, the bird didn’t seem to want to move. Birds typically fly away at even the slightest movement. Did it want to be left alone? Was it injured? There’s reason to believe it needed to poop. Perhaps it was constipated and couldn’t move until it had done its damage? Or did it poop only after becoming so nervous that it lost control of its bowels? Whatever the case, it was cool to see a bird sit still for so long. Do any of you readers out there know enough about birds to say what was going on here?
The following videos are of exactly the same footage. But the first one uses YouTube’s old quality settings while the second uses YouTube’s new HD settings. Let me know if you can see the difference:
I shot this video in HD (720P) with my new Flip HD video camera. You can see it in HD in a much larger, widescreen version by clicking on the video box. Doing so will take you to YouTube, and there, at the bottom right-hand corner of the video, you can click on “Watch in HD.” Then, voila, you’ll see the video in 720P at a bigger size.
YouTube has been silently upgrading its service to display HD videos, but it’s still not perfectly clear how to best embed HD videos into blogs like this one.
Let me know if you can view this video alright. I have a whole new series of “Scooping Argentina” videos in HD that I’ll upload as soon as I find a good way of doing so. For now, I’m experimenting with different formats, trying to figure out which is the best, most user-friendly way of displaying video. Any feedback would be appreciated.
Tourism took a big hit in October as the number of people visiting Argentina fell 6.5% from the previous year, the national statistics agency, INDEC, said Monday.
INDEC’s measurement is based on the number of visitors who arrive to the country via Ezeiza, or EZE, the half-ugly, half-modern airport located outside Buenos Aires. About half of the country’s tourists arrive through the airport.
The drop in tourism is the second in two years and (the other was in April) and seems to confirm concerns that the global financial crisis is crimping travel plans for millions of people around the world.
Perhaps surprisingly, the biggest decline wasn’t from the U.S., the epicenter of the global crisis, but from Chile, which sent 31.7% fewer visitors in October. Chile was followed by other Latin American countries. Tourism from the U.S. and Canada fell only 1.3% and it actually rose 0.1% from Europe and 6.1% from Brazil.
The data for November could be worse. Businesses that cater to tourists say sales are way down from a year ago, even on the upscale Avenida Alvear. Meanwhile, occupancy at hotels is down across the country. A friend of mine who owns a chain of five upscale shoe stores – most of which cater to wealthy travelers – says November sales were down by 80% compared with a year ago. “Things are really bad,” he says.
The global financial crisis, which has morphed into a global economic crisis, has hit tango territory.