Mendoza & Aconcagua

One of many nice plazas in Mendoza

4/26/2002: 3?°??' south; Mendoza, Argentina

Arrived late; really impresive pass; asked cabbie about economic situation and he said that everything was "tranquillo" in Mendoza, but that it would be hard to get money.

4/27/2002: 3?°??' south; Mendoza, Argentina

Rented equipment; piano (more funky music), dinner & comedy night with Troy.

4/28/2002: 3?°??' south; Confluencia Camp, Aconcagua

Caught a bus up to Puente del Inca at 11:40am for 20 pesos, started hiking at 4pm; made it to camp just before dark. Slept under a multitude of stars.

4/29/2002: 3?°??' south; Confuencia Camp, Aconcagua

Hiked up to Plaza Francia, but mountain was clouded in, so I hiked back down to camp and meditated all day.

4/30/2002: 3?°??' south; Mendoza, Argentina

Sunny morning, so hiked up to Plaza Francia, took pictures and hiked out. Got a ride from Rodger "Rabbit".

Aconcagua's south face - 9,000 feet of rock and ice.

I arrived back in Mendoza late today counting my pesos. Argentine hospitality once again came through and Roger "Rabbit" ?? of Campo Base gave me a free lift back to town from Aconcagua along with the tour group he was leading. I landed in town with $29US and $7 pesos to pay for two nights lodging, meals, and a bus ticket back to Santiago. I was cutting it tight. One of the other travelers at the hostel changed my $29US for $87 pesos, to give me a total of $94 pesos. Hm. Let's see. $26 pesos for lodging and $25 for a bus ticket- that left me with $43 ($14USD) to pay for two dinners, two lunches, two breakfasts and internet time (which was running about $1.50/hour). I also had to return the sleeping bag and stove that I had rented for my Aconcagua hike, and I wanted to catch an early bus back to Santiago so that I wouldn't be arrive late and wake up Scott at 3am for a room.

5/01/2002: 3?°??' south; Mendoza, Argentina

Now for a bit more recent Argentine history. At the end of military rule in 1983, Raúl Alfonsín of the Union Party was elected president. He reorganized the military and charged military and political leaders with human rights abuses. He also introduced fiscal reforms, restructured the debt and approved a treaty with Chile to resolve the dispute over the Beagle Channel Islands (Click here for more).

Alfonsìn could not control inflation, however, and in 1989 Peronist candidate Carlos Menem was elected and instituted an economic program which privatized government buisnesses, balanced the budget, and rescheduled the debt with private banks. In 1991 he also pegged the Argentine Peso 1:1 with the US dollar which helped to reduce inflation from 5,000% in 1989 to just 1% in 1997. The 1:1 peg had a down side, however, which was that Argentine exports were not competative with exports from neighboring Brazil and other latin american countries. While inflation was low unemployment rose to 20%, and the achilies heel of Argenting politics, corruption, once again reared it's ugly head. In 1999 Fernando de la Rua was elected president and he initiated an even more austere economic program. It was not enough, however, to keep the country from defaulting on a $132 billion payment of an IMF loan in December of 2001. The Argentine people were rightly concerned about their savings in the crumbling banking system, and began to withdrawal. So De la Rua took the extreem step of severely limiting withdrawals from bank accounts in order to keep the banking system solvent. This resulted in protests, riots and De la Rua's resignation, and after a quick succession of 3 other presidents, Eduardo Duhalde became president on January 1, 2002. In order to molify the IMF and encourage exports, Duhalde removed the 1:1 peg with the dollar and the peso immediately devalued to 2 pesos per dollar, and after dropping a bit more it has stabilized at around 3:1. And so the people of Argentina have their savings locked up, imported goods (of which there are many) are now three times as expensive, unemployment is rising and so is inflation.

Why the big historical harangue you ask? Because I walked into a bit of this history this morning. In Argentina, as in many countries, May 1 is labor day. Holidays are hard to miss in South America, especialy in Argentina. Almost all of the stores were closed this morning as I strolled the streets of Mendoza. One of the few places that was open was an internet cafe, and so I popped in to check e-mail and check up on the news. CNN had an update on the Argentine economic crisis, with news about labor day protests. Afterwards I stepped out on to the paseo and hadn't walked two blocks before I came to a police baracade a block away from the provincial government building. I asked a policeman what was happening, and he replied that there were big wigs in town and that protests were planned, and moments later I heard drums beating, whistles blowing and loudspeakers blaring. It was very bazar to read about news on the web and then experience it just minutes later. Of course, I had to go down and check it out. A crowd of about 100 people with banners and drums stood in front of a platform where several labor leaders were haranging to great effect and applause. I didn't catch much of what they were saying, but they were not happy and the speaches were laced with unflattering references to politicians and the IMF. I was a bit concerned about rioting, but the demonstration was peaceful and the police were relaxed. I was also feeling quite guilty, as I had been able to withdrawal 100 pesos from the ATM that morning, and here I was watching a demonstration by hard working Argentine citizens who could not withdrawal their own money.

The workers of Argentina protesting the freeze of their bank accounts.

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