De facto 'corralito'

Financial constraints –in the best style of 2001– have already landed, albeit surreptitiously. While banknotes are scarce, the National Government insists on defending itself by foisting the responsibility off on Brazilians for failing to deliver the requested paper banknotes. However, decrepit and rusty Hercules C-130 from Argentine Air Force had been made available to the Dakar Rally. Simultaneously, public, provincial, and private banks have interposed restrictions on ATM withdrawals: being now impossible to withdraw more than five hundred pesos. There’s chaos and urban anger in La Plata city and holiday resorts. Retirees, police agents and social programmes beneficiaries are unable to take out their monthly wages. Dark alternatives are taking shape behind Amado Boudou and Mercedes Marco del Pont’s official ineptitude. Truck driver Hugo Moyano’s political game. The bank run is among us.

13 de Enero de 2011
Here you have kirchnerism’s great contributions, those which, even elliptically, few dare to mention: power cuts (with the subsequent interruption of drinking water supply), picketing, fuel shortage and its price increase, unlimited violence (involving recent squatting) and –more recently–, a brand-new and updated version of banking/finance corralito. Pandemonium has broken out in La Plata, which town centre El Ojo Digital has had the chance of touring in recent days. The City of Diagonals has mutated into a gigantic pressure cooker. Under the scorching sun and a crushing humidity, thousands of people try –most often vainly– to take their wages’ money. Many will die in the attempt, because there is a downside which the national media have chosen to obviate, namely that armoured trucks transporting high values do not arrive at their destinations. And when they do –as an employee from a bank branch in La Plata explained us– ¨they bring half of the usual banknotes¨. A scenario that ends up with the average citizen waiting up to five hours only to find out that banknotes are gone. Sometimes, money fades away just an hour after the truck’s arrival. What is happening in La Plata has widened reaching Argentina’s coast holiday resorts, well-known for not having enough ATMs. The snapshot of people queuing for ages to attempt a withdrawal has become the legal tender, an irony worth it. Certainly, it may be said that this anomaly operates just as infectious diseases do, they know little about discriminating. In La Plata´s scenario, among the victims, there are retirees, Buenos Aires’ police agents and beneficiaries of bonuses and social plans provided by a cracking National Government. Since New Year’s Eve presents are useless if it is impossible to accede to them. Mrs. Nilda Garré –brand-new and proven inept Minister of Security– is extremely busy beheading Federal Police and she will, presumably, continue later on with their already punished colleagues from Buenos Aires province police. Additional preventive measures against violent episodes that have already taken place in bank branches have not been made available. In addition, it is known that there were cases in which ¨opportune¨ criminals have aimed at taking money from those fortunate citizens who have luckily been able to withdraw their salaries. Suggestively, La Plata City has become the epicentre of difficulties for withdrawing fresh cash. In the middle of the scene, the city’s police officers can not hide their fury, and they admit not only the absence of preventive orders, but also their unwillingness to execute them. Because they also sympathise with retirees and Buenos Aires province public employees’ ordeal: they all have been pushed into the same bag. Nearby the access of the City of Diagonals there’s a rather not innocent graffiti which reads: ¨Many policemen laughing and the government doing nothing¨. The colour touch has been added by a few police agents who, dropping swiftly from their police car, changed the sentence at their discretion to express their own discomfort: ¨Many policemen DYing and the government doing nothing¨. As if all that was not enough, facts that serve to fan the flames of anger have come hand in hand with the very same private, national and provincial banking institutions. The Bank of Chaco kicked off, imposing some days ago a little corralito so that none of its customers could withdraw more than five hundred pesos from ATMs or at cash desks. Its authorities have taken the easy way out, attacking the Central Bank with medium-power ammunition for failing to deliver the coveted banknotes. This excuse appears surreal, taking into account the corruption that has always stained Capitanich Administration and specially when considering kirchnerist governor’s personal fortune, who now intends to be a presidential candidate… Problems would have ended right there, if Banco Provincia and Banco Nación’s authorities –Link network– had not chosen the same inauspicious corralito path: if you manage to find a well-stocked ATM, you won’t be able to withdraw more than… five hundred pesos. Five hundred seems to represent, by this time, the magic number, a sort of renovated cabalism to take into account when gambling. By the way, do not expect much if you are considering going to a private bank in order to lay hands on the pieces of paper money showing Julio Argentino Roca's figure: only bank’s customers can withdraw money there. In this regard, Buenos Aires City bank branches’ managers have resorted to the despicable strategy of saying that ¨the system is out of order¨ to (falsely) apologise. They usually make use of another maneouvre, equally controversial: awaiting customers are informed that ATMs will be brought into operation minutes before three in the afternoon. This is like massively pulling one’s leg, since it comes close to closing time. The aim is to get rid of the hot potato, or to throw the ball forward. As far as possible. We, then, talked about a corralito actually announced by a few banks. But there is another ¨de facto corralito¨, which has come true in a colourful array of alternatives: restrictions that you bump into just arriving at the site in question. At the end of the analysis, it stands out that well-emphasised quality of the Government and its authorities, almost professionally trained to mistreat the average citizen, specially the elder and retirees. And it is worth remembering that distinguished officials have already been busy pinching their accumulated funds from ANSES (National Administration of Social Security) to allocate them into the black hole of political campaigns. In such a way that Amado Boudou (one of this tactic’s ideologists) happily stands as a candidate for Buenos Aires City Head of Government, when he is the obliged political responsible for the lack of banknotes and for that theft to the detriment of retirees’ money. Mercedes Marcó del Pont –Minister of Finance’s partner and President Cristina Fernández Wilhelm’s close friend– play along with him. In her role of Central Bank’s head, Mrs. Marcó del Pont can not pretend not to notice what is happening in all banks across Argentina. Therefore, it is not surprising that she has long since stopped showing her artificial and unbearable smile on nationwide television. And it is not surprising either that, among close friends, she is examining the smartest ways to leave the government and take it on the lam. There is an old phrase saying: ¨Neither friends nor enemies in politics; only interests¨. It is not accidental to mention Amado Boudou and Mercedes Marcó del Pont: this should prove very useful to the reader so that tomorrow, he can exactly remember who are the operational managers and the architects of this swampy scenario of corruption, ineptitude and the most excessive incapacity. President Cristina Fernández counts both characters among her favourites; hence, she is the leading puppeteer in this theatre of renovated insults to the detriment of Argentine citizens. Some may say that, after all, Cristina Kirchner is solely guilty of early ineffectiveness as she ignores from beginning to end what is happening in the country and, even worse, within her own entourage. Nilda Garre, for example, only explores the best alternatives to bring Argentina to a new social unrest: she strives minute by minute to prod Security Forces, trying their patience so that they deign to withdraw to barracks, folding arms. This police/military response would be just what Garré’s and her cronies’ (Kunkel, Zannini and Verbitsky) ideology needs. In this way, they could revitalise that of the dismissive characters in favour of a coup who originated within the agricultural and livestock sector, the Army, Security Forces and the ¨oligarchy¨ or even the ¨financial establishment¨. In fact, there is a well-oiled plan to blame businessmen and banking sectors for ¨adding fuel¨ to a bank run. Even though we all know perfectly well that those who have pondered over this Machiavellian scenario are the sinister inhabitants of the Pink House. The only missing element in the recipe was to provoke the middle classes, subsidised families and public employees. This task goes on, now with stressed success because of the de facto corralito problem. From politics, this sort of self-generated trips can be oriented towards the destruction of Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli’s ambitions. Although he also belongs to the Ineffectiveness Club, it is fair to say that the former motorboat racer is being subjected to a quasi-military maneuovre in the style of Hannibal, former General of Carthage. There was an attempt already to mutilate him with a compendium of manufactured episodes of violence and ¨insecurity¨ (where the last known chapter has been the theft of safety boxes from a bank branch in Buenos Aires City), and now the attempts to destroy him once and for all aim at the lack of cash in banks. The extreme-left kirchnerism ideologists swarming through the halls of The Pink House –as reported-aim at blowing Scioli up to the air in order to force the President to stand for reelection in 2011, even though she rejects this possibility. What is the problem? In a government where supporting and ¨dissident¨ Peronists are intermingled, there wouldn’t be room for ¨illustrious¨ surnames like Persico, Depetri, D Elia, Kunkel, Zannini, Verbitsky, Icazuriaga, Larcher, Schoklender, Bonafini and the rest of the bizarre zoo. In either case, the average Argentine is not interested in the intricacies of these second-rate inner quarrelling. The citizen only takes into account what hits him daily with the strength of a straight punch to the jaw, and that's all that matters. Workers, policemen, clerks or public employees, professionals, housewives and retirees just notice the long queues to withdraw cash from ATMs, they wait the next power cut expectantly (in order to save water in their baths) and watch their backs in case they have to deal with an armed criminal just around the corner. After these conditions "neo Alfonsin-like", whatever government supporters or opponents say is empty rhetoric. Within a short time –as we have previously pointed out– many will miss the good Aníbal Fernández. You will see that his security management, though awkward, was not as dangerous as that which Mrs. Nilda Garre has in the stove while you read these lines. On the other hand, when former Quilmes’ mayor declaimed that the lack of security is a "sensation", many of us –well-informed– also had a slight "sensation" that he will end up in prison sooner or later. And talking about imprisonment, it seems that only a few political analysts have noticed the ineffable truck driver Hugo Moyano´s behaviour. While a handful of Sunday columnists wonder about the Union Trade member’s mental state, El Ojo Digital prefers to think that the man is more intelligent than what is seen at a glance. Riding in tandem with his partners Julio Piumato and the fake taxi driver Omar Viviani, what they do when they ¨bless¨ candidates is to destroy them. It is known that during private conversations with his best friends he ranted about the president in the worst of terms. His way of thinking, largely, coincides with the following: if the Lady intends to put me behind the bars, what I can do is to point her as ¨my¨ candidate. This experiment has successfully been executed with ¨Aimé¨ Boudou who, foolishly, received ¨Union Trade members¨ with open arms. Aimé’s candidature was then wrecked. But Don Hugo knows that every time he imposes hands on a candidate, what he is really doing is to give him a very heavy lead life jacket. Two plus two does not always make four… To round off the issue of the implicit corralito, suffice to say that certain economic analysts foresee extremely dangerous scenarios. At this point, the lack of pesos and the high offer of dollars are known. The very same Central Bank has been concentrated on flooding the market with foreign currency while printing more Argentine pesos… that, later on, will be exchanged into dollars. Another big sum of money showing George Washington’s face is expected to come into the country in the near future, arising from the agricultural sector’s currency swap. But what if, overnight, the National Government would get ready to take those U.S. dollars out of the market, being the lack of pesos increasingly serious? The result is obvious: there would be a financial run to complement the bank run already taking place –although the media do not reflect it. It is already too late for those who want to cash their money invested for a fixed term: they will be told that there is no cash to meet their needs. Episodes like this have taken place in past years: in the seventies, in the eighties, and in December 2001. In 1995, with the Tequila Effect wreaking havoc in the market and streets, Carlos Menem was saved by a hair’s breadth from imposing a huge corralito. Initiative which implementation had already been analysed together with Domingo Cavallo. Finally, the U.S. and ¨malicious¨ IMF came to the rescue, and this kept Menem Administration away from implosion during its most delicate moment. Now, kirchnerism / ruling party repeats the worst past vices. To the energy and fuel shortage and the yearly inflation of more than forty points, they are currently adding the bank explosion, while stirring up violence by disarming police and clearing crime’s road. These chapters, in short, are scarred for life in Argentines’ memory, and certainly to repeat them was not necessary. In the heart of chaos, Cristina remains steeped in a paranoid and depressive attack from which not even the most powerful imported sedatives can help her out. Raúl Alfonsín and Fernando De la Rúa spent very little time reminding their countrymen that the worst thing that can happen to a society is to have an inefficient president as dignitary. Cristina Fernández Wilhelm has learned her predecessors’ past steps by heart, as if she wished to repeat everything that have cost us so much to forget. It is reasonable to wish that this so-mistaken plan fails, and that she finishes her term as is right and proper. English translation by Debora Gravano e-Mail: debora.gravano @ gmail.com Matías E. Ruiz, Editor e-Mail: contacto @ elojodigital.com Twitter: http://twitter.com/matiaseruiz
Matías E. Ruiz, Editor