Second Teubal letter about Older Women's Plight in Bankrupt Argentina
So many thanks for your rapid diffusion of this
issue, and for the many responses you and I are receiving.
I entirely agree with those letters that suggest the
need of understanding the contextual, global and historical factors
to explain why Argentina, one of the then richest of Latin American
countries, is now living this terminal condition. I adhere to the
reading of Stiglitzīs article, mentioned by Susanne Paul. Besides
in this letter I would like to add information to further contribute to
the understanding of the Argentine situation.
A second thought arose from reading the many responses: why not consider the possibility that the important reactions from people working in so many diverse places may have an influence on local sectors.. Why not think that the international opinion of experts from organisms, organizations, systems, may be useful and may exert pressure in the interest of the Argentine people.
As suggested in these letters, great responsibility lies
on the IMFīs contradictory policies towards Argentina. Of
course, not total responsibility since acquiescence and
exaggerated obedience of local political leaderships, corporations,
banks, and judges, is also responsible; they admitted bribes
and/or pressures, and made these perverse policies possible. I find it
important to briefly describe, as best I can, what has been the journey
that leads to this situation.
During the ī90ties, and following obediently the IMFīs
"suggestions", Menem brutally and corruptly privatized all state
services (electricity, water, communications etc) to pay our foreign
debt and cut down public expenses. When he left, Menem was a
hypermillionaire, and our debt was three or four times greater. The State
had many more employees with lowered salaries, and microeconomic
indicators showed intense increase of all the social variables: child
mortality (for obvious reasons), undernourishment,
health, poverty, unemployment, feminization of poverty with its terrible
consequences, medium and small business closedowns, and massive
concentration of wealth and monopoly of large corporations. Large
sectors of the former middle class downslid and are poor today. And
everybody who is not very rich has gradually been losing buying power
The "emptying" (economic robbery or devastation) of the
IINSSJP, the Pensioneers and Retired Personīs Institute also took place,
with consequent reduction of services towards older persons. 13 % of
Argentinaīs population is composed of older persons. And 22% of the
population of the city of Buenos Aires is older than 60. These persons
have been vitally affected.
During this decade, the IMF and the foreign press continuously praised
Menem as the "wizard that transformed Argentinaīs economy"
since the macroeconomic statistics were great! I have a very tangible
personal vision and experience of this because I spent time in the US on
several occasions during the nineties. Most people (mostly from the
Academia or social area professionals) were surprised that I should be so
worried about this country. I remember having to explain that
Perón "at least did many things for the poor, for areas of
health and education" even if he was a fascist. Or that he was the type that "stole but also was a good
doer" as differing from Menem.
The fact is that, maybe brainwashed by the monolithic
discourse that what was being carried out "was the only way out"
"the only alternative", (now I know that this is an
authoritarian discourse), most of the citizenry knew and let pass,
more or less passively, different but very gross types of
transgressions and illicit actions. If someone initiated legal
action, the results would always be of innocence. (Menem packed the
Supreme Court with his friends; weīre now trying to kick its members
Hence we have the explosions of Israelīs Embassy and the AMIA Community
Center still not clarified, millionaire arms sales to the Bosnia Serb
region not clarified , the explosion of a whole town that had an arms
factory belonging to the army, not clarified, etc etc etc.(the
list is very long) with no proof of anything.
At present, the pockets have been touched of whatīs left of
the middle, lower middle, and higher
middle class, in what is clearly and illegal kidnapping: the
banks simply refuse to return the savings to their legitimate owners,
alleging they donīt have the money because they lent it to others.
This obviously cannot be an argument in any contemporary country. In the
reverse situation, if an individual canīt pay his debts, it means he
shall lose his house or his car, etc.
Besides , these others seem to be many of the 150 local
and foreign corporations that have debts of between 70 million to 300
million dollars each.
People are not free to dispose of their money as they wish. Every day
measures are announced, and taken back the next day; they all tend to try
to maintain the money within the banking system, and innumerable
consequences arise, related to health problems, payment of debts (school
fares, doctorīs bills, getting medicine, and the possibilities to
consume). No money circulates outside of the banks; more layoffs have been
produced. The government protects the banks because "the
financial system must be saved", and has decreed to indirectly "nationalize"
or make "public" the private debt of these corporations and
companies. We all know that Cavallo did this same thing in 1982;
history repeats itself too quickly: and president Duhalde has either
had to bend to the pressures, or has wanted to do so, or has been
bribed to do so.
These measures imply an increase of our
internal and external debt, which will have to be paid by the people of
this country... Truly a deadly mortgage for future generations. In
these situations, those that least have (the poor and the vulnerable), pay
the most. These measures, and the very complex general situation has endangered
the concrete lives and existence of all older persons, including
older women. This situation could be called one of economic genocide.
All citizens and future
generations will have to pay this impressive debt of the
corporations, with their poverty. .. .If at present we have 40% of the population living below the poverty
line, it is esteemed that with these measures (and others), it soon shall
get to a chilling 60%.
As with Enron, whatīs going on here, in a way,
questions the whole financial system.
Itīs hard for me to offer a picture that is sufficiently inclusive, but Iīll add
an aspect: the chain of payments is broken, and geriatric programs
for example, donīt receive their monthly subsidy; hence they canīt pay
their employees and canīt buy medicines. Pharmacies donīt
give any more discounts to retired persons because the IINSSJP (National
Institute for Pensioners and Retired Persons) is in default and wonīt
pay the difference any more. All hospitals have suspended programmed
surgeries because there arenīt any essential and basic medical materials
such as anesthesia, syringes, etc. In one hospital, they re-floated
old glass syringes!
Since inflation has commenced these passed two weeks, retention and
stocking of essential medicines has begun, so as to raise their price in a
few days. Two of my friends, who are very dedicated social workers,
had difficulty in obtaining very essential medicines (for asthma
and arthritis). Medicines
for oncology , heart diseases, diabetics and hemophilic are missing from
public hospitals.. The foreign laboratory lobby wants to prevent hospitals
to produce their own generic medicines. Imagine! At the risk of peoples
It is my
understanding (who really knows what was really said or suggested?) that
during last November and December the IMF wanted a devaluation (which
Cavallo refused to do); now that this has been done (last week), the IMF
says the government should have "dollarized" instead. With
its continuous sarcasm when the IMF functionaries refer to Argentina
, it seems to me that this organism behaves like a schizophrenic parent who
never finds anything well done by its child, and probably delights to
maltreat, change policies, victimize, pressure, manipulate, to
finally tell his child he is free to do his will. For years it has demanded that Argentina to better her internal
revenue, for example, thus generating recession. In addition, locally its been impossible to obtain taxes
from the big companies; these are the great tax evaders. To compensate,
the government historically increases tax pressure on the middle
class, the small vendor, the teacher etc., or reduces social programs.
Lately, it has cut already modest salaries and the pensions of the
retired persons. These measures, so insistently formulated by the IMF, have been very regressive.
I guess the time has come when people are beginning to say "enough"
"this is too much". As Joseph Stiglitz says, we were a bit tardy
to react. But now, all over the country everyday
and peaceful protests
that the law and the constitution be applied, (juridically), equity, and
transparency from the government (local and national), or punctual demands
such as demands for jobs, farm subsidizing, payment of late salaries,
payment of late pensions, etc.
In this sense, the country is very much alive, but I donīt know for
how long the peaceful stance will last, nor Duhaldeīs presidency. He has
again repeated history and bent to the lobbies; and heīs a very tough
guy. It wouldnīt be surprising if he insidiously generates violence, in
order to justify police and army repression. Maybe that will be the only
way he can control this strong and angry citizen movement...
Hope Iīve not been to boring or too confusing, but why not think that
just as international pressure from the companies bent policies in one
direction, why not think that pressures from other sectors of the
world may have an effect in other directions.
And thereīs no government, no Congress apparently. Everybody seems to be
on leave .
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