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Argentines anxious to see the IMF back at their bedside

Ⓒ AFP – EITAN ABRAMOVICH – | A woman shows up in front of the Argentine Parliament, Buenos Aires, May 9, 2018

“A déjà-vu reminiscent of terrible times”: this is how Mabel Chamatropulos, retired, receives the request for financial assistance from Argentina to the IMF, can not help but rethink, as many of his compatriots , to the crisis of 2001.

“I’m 66 years old and I’ve had a lot of financial crises in this country,” said the former bank employee.

Like her, many Argentineans were surprised to hear their president, Mauricio Macri, announce on Tuesday that he was seeking financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund to counter the turbulence in the markets, which caused the peso to fall by more than 7%. One day.

In the third economy in Latin America, marked by cyclical crises combining hyperinflation, devaluation and freezing of bank accounts, the IMF is almost a dirty word.

“The government’s response to IMF assistance is bringing old ghosts back to life,” said Ricardo Rouvier, a social psychologist and consultant. “And the name of the IMF, beyond the rejection it arouses in the majority of people, also gives the impression that the crisis is more serious.”

Natasha, a 46-year-old housewife, is concerned. “I hope it will not be like in 2001,” when Argentina fell into default, a traumatic episode for millions of savers, who had multiplied the demonstrations to the sounds of pots to scream their desperation.

In 2006, the country finally repaid its debt to the IMF for $ 9.6 billion. Revanchard, he then suspended for ten years the periodic controls of the institution.

– “Typically Argentinian” –

At the end of 2015, the arrival of the center-right President Mauricio Macri, favorable to the markets, Argentina returned to the floating exchange, after years of strict control under the government of Cristina Kirchner (center left), which artificially overvalued the peso against the dollar.

Ⓒ AFP – EITAN ABRAMOVICH – | Protesters gather in front of the Argentine Parliament, May 9, 2018 in Buenos Aires

The Argentineans have stopped buying the green ticket on the black market, then ubiquitous, to open foreign currency bank accounts.

“Argentina, even if it does not legally have two currencies, uses it in a cultural way.We Argentinians do our transactions in pesos but in reality we think in dollars: it is a savings currency , reserve, a currency that serves to prevent situations like the one we currently have, “said Ricardo Rouvier.

In his car garage in Buenos Aires, Juan Carlos Lissa, 64, agrees with him.

“This month, I had a significant drop in clientele, and it’s not just in my school, other colleagues tell me it’s the same at home, it’s a typical Argentinean thing, when the dollar begins to fluctuate the Argentine puts the brakes on the expenses “.

“The dollar has a big impact on the tranquility” of the locals, he says.

This is why the fall of the peso against the dollar and the use of the IMF shake the population. “The debt is always us who end up paying,” sighs Juan Carlos.

“The current situation provokes in the population of fear, uncertainty and the memory of the crisis of 2001. Hence the social bad mood,” observes Ricardo Rouvier.

Ⓒ AFP – EITAN ABRAMOVICH – | The Argentine peso fell more than 7% in one day

The government is well aware of this and does not forget the crucial presidential deadline of 2019.

“It is not true that history is always repeating itself,” said Prime Minister Marcos Peña, assuring that recourse to the IMF is only “a preventive action to prevent the impact of a strong crisis on the Argentinian households “.

Economy Minister Nicolas Dujovne insists that “we are talking with a very different IMF than we did 20 years ago, and the IMF has learned the lessons of the past, as we all know. fact”.

Many Argentineans accuse the international body of having validated the economic policies of the 1990s, which led to the bankruptcy of the country.

Mabel is skeptical: “Unfortunately, it also makes me think of the Greek crisis, when they say that the IMF is not the one before, what do they mean?” Which is the one who drowned Greece? in recent years with the Troika? ”

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