Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Local politics and miscellany

I had an interesting lunchtime conversation today with the old man sitting next to me (who didn’t think he was too old to ask me out for tomorrow, but that’s beside the point). Some background: Recently, Argentina’s president Christina Kirchner – wife of the last president if that rings any bells – announced her intent to take the equivalent of $23 billion from PRIVATE pension funds to pay off government debt, which is virtually 100% of said pensions. This announcement sparked the drop of the peso to its lowest worth in 6 years, hovering between 3.36-3.44 pesos to U.S. $1 (normal is around 3.10 to 1). Living next to the congress building I am privy to each and every protest, and yesterday there was a huge demonstration against what would be an essential robbery of private funds.

Anyway, this very knowledgeable man and I started talking politics, and if ever I thought the U.S. had cornered the corruption market, now I think we’re just taking a page from Argentina’s well-greased systematic trickery. (It isn’t just this conversation that has me feeling this way; virtually every Argentinean I’ve spoken with thinks their country is crooked, things move slowly because people are too busy figuring out how to rob or cheat the system than make it work, and in general consider their compatriots lazy, liars, or both.)

So, according to my lunchtime compañero, the majority of the people I saw yesterday and see in all the protests are paid to be there by opposition forces, often within the government itself. Disheartening if true! I was always so moved by the latino willingness to protest.

We then got onto the subject of Kirchner herself, who is rapidly becoming a very unpopular pick. Not that she was every popular, according to Ricardo – there was widespread fraud to get her elected. For instance, some 15,000 illegal immigrants were given Argentinean residency (and the documents to prove it) so they would vote for her. Can you imagine if someone tried to pull that in the U.S.? Also, paper ballots are routinely robbed or tampered with, but they refuse to switch to the electronic system for fear of even more extensive voter fraud. I explained with some irony that we’re fighting FOR a paper trail to avoid the very same. He was talking fast and I forget a few other points he made (something about promising specific regions specific things if a certain percentage voted for Christina and even giving bribes like electronics and cars to buy votes, etc.) but all in all it sounds like there are some shady dealings here in my temporary adoptive country. Someone pointed out to me that it’s taken 6+ years to build two additional stops on a particular subway line because those working on the project can’t be bothered to actually work, and those administering the funds can’t be bothered to monitor the work since they’re so busy covering their embezzlement. Paranoid and cynical, perhaps, but it seems there’s some truth to their pessimism.

In other, happier Argentina-related news, I’ve officially booked my trip north to the world’s largest waterfalls, Iguazú. They sit on the border of four countries and are supposed to be incredible! I’ll be there from November 10-14 which includes a full moon, something I planned intentionally so I can catch a nighttime riverboat trip only offered the two days before and during a full moon. Marcos booked my fancy "executive suite bed" bus seat since he gets a discount; apparently the busses here are very lux and include hot meals and booze. Good thing since it's 16 hours each way, but the scenery is supposed to be incredible. I’m also in the process of planning one or possibly two trips to the south and am having a hard time deciding what to do. I’ve had to accept that there are some places I thought I’d see that now I won’t, such as Chiloe and the south in general in Chile. I’d like to go to Puerto Madryn to see penguins and whales and other marine life, El Calafate to see the world's largest glacier, and Ushuaia to say I've been really, really far south and toured the Beagle channel, but time and funds are limited. I’m waiting to hear back from a travel agent to see what kind of airfare he found for me… details to follow as I know them.

This Friday as you all know is Halloween. I've been forcing the idea down my friends' throats here and I hope they've taken me seriously enough that they have thought about costumes and are prepared to go to one of the few, trendy parties (it's sort of a new concept to celebrate Halloween here, done mostly among North Americans living abroad and very hip locals). I plan on going as Snow to celebrate my year of eternal winter, somewhat ironic since it will be my first hot Halloween ever: they're forecasting 81 degrees (88 for Saturday).

In a last "it's two a.m. and this post is already random" subject, I decided to change my hair color for the first time in 6 years, mostly because they don't sell "Very Rich Auburn" down here. So, I opted for "Copper Blonde" and this was the result:

Keep in mind that blonde here means light brown and up, and when put on top of my already dark hair, the result was... Very Rich Auburn. Luckily I stuck with it so long because it's a color I like!

Off to bed, but before I go, I'd like to officially recognize and celebrate the fantastic Phillies victory tonight in the World Series of baseball. I watched the first 6 innings from a bar on Monday and the last 3 from my home tonight (bless international cable) and couldn't be more thrilled for the team, the fans, and the city in general. It's been a long time since Philly had a winning sports team and I think they needed something to bring them together during what's been sort of a rough patch. I hope they dress William Penn in a giant jersey tomorrow. Go Phillies! Now if only the Eagles could pull it together... not to mention the Seahawks for that matter.


Robyn said...

love the blog. love the auburn. what about the old woman you met a couple of weeks ago? any lunch plans with her?

Sunshine said...

It's sadly worst than what you say... There're death people who votes... yes, you're reading properly! They give the documments of death people so they gain more votes.
It's so sad, so pathetic oru reality... we only ask for a Japanesse to rule us just for a year. After that, we'll conquer the world!

About Halloween... You've fullfill us with the Halloween Party... If you could only read the facebook, you'll see it! I still don't know if I'll go as Madonna or else!

Today I see you at your place!

Enjoy your day, it's beautiful out there!

Juan said...

I quote you... "there was widespread fraud to get her elected. For instance, some 15,000 illegal immigrants were given Argentinean residency (and the documents to prove it) so they would vote for her. Can you imagine if someone tried to pull that in the U.S.? "

Where have you been??? The Democratic Party has been doing this for years and continue to do so!!!