The Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions got the better of the cultural center it launched in 2016, with meager state aid and savings not being enough to pay the rent. So, Sebastian Masquelet, 40, decided to renovate the house on one level of his great-grandparents, convinced three associates and launched, in July, a bookstore coupled with a café, in the heart of Buenos Aires. “I was lucky to be able to dispose of this place which does not involve a rent. But ultimately, if we do that, it’s because we’re crazy. We have no way of projecting ourselves ”, he breathes, in the spirit that sums up the lucidity mixed with going Argentines, regularly put on the ground and who, each time, get up.
In five months already, inflation, insidious evil of the economy (51% in November 2021, compared to the same period of 2020), has unraveled its wage structure. “When we started, we paid good salaries to our six employees. Today they are bad ”, recognizes the entrepreneur, who, like his entire generation, took his first adult steps in chaos, during the crisis of 2001. “I was 20 years old and felt like I was at the end of the world. Today I wonder if things have changed. It’s frustrating “, he confides, aware of his privileges: he is not part of the 44% of people living under the poverty line, according to the latest calculations by the Observatory of the social debt of the Catholic University.
The current growth, which the government of Alberto Fernandez (center left) prides itself on because it is stronger than expected, with a jump in gross domestic product of 10% in 2021, statistically allows to absorb the fall of the same order of the year 2020, under the impact of the pandemic. However, it does not bring the country back to the poverty level before the 2018 recession (28% of the population in 2017).
The anniversary of the 2001 crisis, which culminated on December 19 and 20 of that year, with monster demonstrations in Buenos Aires and strong repression, revives the traumatic memory of this period, raising fears at each end of year, a resurgence of social anger. Twenty years ago, unemployment was around 20%, and almost half of the population was considered poor. At the time, stores had been looted, endless queues formed in front of banks, while the government had frozen the savings of the population. Fernando de la Rua, the president, had escaped from the presidential palace by helicopter. The country had entered into default, the most colossal in history: 100 billion dollars (88.5 billion euros, at the current rate).
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