Buenos Aires has bad neighborhoods

Argentina under new governmentEveryday life with inflation, poverty and national debt

It's a football stadium atmosphere. But the huge crowd that celebrated on the streets of Buenos Aires that evening did not celebrate a goal, a saved penalty or a championship. The predominantly young people are celebrating a political event. TV has just announced the results of the presidential elections. And it is clear: Argentina is facing a change of government. The winner of the elections is Alberto Fernández. And so they sing "Alberto Presidente".

Alberto Fernandéz is the bearer of hope for many Argentines. The huge country - about eight times the size of Germany - is in a serious crisis. Once again. The economy is shrinking, the inflation rate is more than 50 percent among the highest in the world, unemployment is rampant, and many of those cheering on election night blame the elected president, Mauricio Macri:

"I am very happy. We have had four hard years behind us. Hard years for the middle class, and especially for the poor in the country. Here, people who have traveled from afar celebrate with people from Buenos Aires. Macri has our country destroyed our education system, the public hospitals. It's all Macri's fault. And that's over now. And people are celebrating democracy, "says a woman on the street.

(picture alliance / dpa / Ralf Hirschberger) New Fernández / Argentina government facing major reform tasks
A policy of social benefits with unclear funding? Business and opposition representatives in Argentina do not think this is the right way to go. You are calling for more far-reaching reforms.

Change of location. Almost two months after the election, the mood has calmed down a bit. But the situation remains bad for most of the 44 million Argentines. At first, superficial glance, there is little to see. Everything looks idyllic in Barrio Palermo, a hip district of Buenos Aires. Young couples take their dogs out, stroll from shop window to shop window. But the impression is deceptive, says Sebastian Sabater. The elderly man is standing alone in his shop on Calle Gurruchaga, one of the chicest shopping streets in Argentina:

"The business has been around for about 70 years, it's a family tradition. My father was a perfumer and soap maker. And with my children, the third generation is now in the soap business. We have our regular business here in Buenos Aires, but we also have a branch in Barcelona. My daughter basically does the same thing in Barcelona as we do here: She produces and sells in a shop in the old town of Barcelona. "

Argentina's President Alberto Fernández has made former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner his Vice President (imago images / Xinhua / Martin Zabala)

In the past there have been crises in Argentina again and again, but this time it is not only the poor who are hit, this time the middle class is suffering above all: the employees whose wages are devalued due to inflation. The entrepreneurs, whose costs are rising and whose income is falling into the abyss:

"Everyone has problems. It is very difficult to find a job or a job at all. And if you have a business, you can barely survive with it and earn enough to cover your costs. Our economy is doing very well bad."

Meat is more expensive than ever, milk, all staple foods. He points to a couple of empty stores in the neighborhood. They all should have shut down in the past few months - due to a lack of customers:

"It hits us very hard. People's purchasing power falls and falls. At the same time, our costs and taxes rise. That makes life very difficult for us. It's completely different in Spain. Things are much better there."

(dpa / picture alliance / Carol Smiljan) Different symptoms, similar problems / What is behind the protests in Latin America
In many Latin American countries, people take to the streets against their governments. According to Latin America experts, these countries all suffer from similar problems.

Many Argentines are currently looking longingly across the Atlantic. Many of you come from immigrants, and often still have passports from Spain or Italy. Sabater's daughter went to Spain a few years ago to set up a branch of the family business there. Without the money from the new company in Barcelona, ​​Sabater would probably be bankrupt by now.

Sabater assumes that he will need this support for a while. He doesn't believe the new government's announcements. Alberto Fernández promised everything during the election campaign:

"To be honest, I don't have any great expectations that the situation will improve quickly. Because it depends on the structures of our country. A friend of mine always speaks of a failed state, a sick country. Everyone sees that he and his family somehow to make ends meet. But the idea of ​​a common good only plays a very subordinate role. "

The country's need in the metro tangible

The subway takes you from Sebastian Sabater's soap shop in the Palermo district to the city center. At the first stop, a young man with a portable electric piano gets on and off he goes. He entertains the passengers for three stops, after which he asks for a few pesos. In between, street children beg for money, young families sell passengers socks, sweets or small pieces of paper with prayers - the country's plight becomes tangible on a 15-minute ride on the metro.

The former Argentine President Mauricio Macri is considered to be economically liberal (dpa-Zentralbild / picture alliance / Ralf Hirschberger)

For many Argentinians, Mauricio Macri is the culprit. The ex-president ruined the country with his austerity program and slashed funds for hospitals, schools, orchestras and theaters. That is why they chose Alberto Fernández, whose promises many Argentines have in their ears:

"An Argentina based on solidarity, an Argentina with less inequality that defends its public education and health system. An Argentina that promotes those who produce and who work."

Macri's evil austerity program, Fernández as the man with the big heart for the needy population. In the presidential elections, this simple formula worked and resulted in a clear majority. But things are much more complicated. This can be seen at a reception by the Argentine Bankers Association. At the turn of the year, the organization invited to a meeting in its offices on San Martín Street, something like Wall Street of Argentina.

Peronism

From the 23rd floor you have a fantastic view over Buenos Aires. There are canapés and a lot of small talk. Nobody knows how the new president will deliver on his grandiose promises: pension increases, higher subsidies, all sorts of things. Argentina is already completely over-indebted, says Claudio Cesario, the president of the banking association:

"Our hope is, of course - and all Argentinians hope so - that the situation will improve. But for that we also have to address our problems. And our biggest challenge right now is that we renegotiate our debts as soon as possible. You have to An agreement can be reached from which both sides benefit: the debtor - our country - and the creditors. We should not adopt an aggressive stance. Argentina can no longer afford the luxury of being disconnected from the financial market for two, three, four or five years That would be madness with the current low interest rates. Germany is now even paying negative interest rates. We have to get market credits again in order to have money for investments. For example, for investments in infrastructure. "

Some of the bankers are quietly saying that the new government will lapse into old Argentine reflexes: Instead of tackling problems at their roots, they will start the money press and pump billions into social programs and new jobs in the public sector. A policy known in the country as Peronism. In the 1950s, President Juan Perón first opted for this type of policy, supported by his young wife Evita. Since then she has been regarded as a kind of saint for the poorer sections of the country.

Eva Perón is still considered to be one of the most important people in Argentine history (Picture Alliance / dpa Fotografia / Museo Evita)

At that time, however, the country was floating in money, Argentina was one of the richest countries on earth after the Second World War. In the meantime, however, the assets have been squandered and the industry run down, says Cesario. A new glut of money will only worsen the situation in the long run. You would actually have a lot of resources to get the country back on its feet:

"The word rich might sound strange, but our country has so much potential, so many raw materials: From oil and gas to lithium, incredibly beautiful and diverse landscapes that could stimulate tourism. And of course we are a major agricultural power . We could actually be the supermarket for the whole world. "

From the rich country to the poor house

But how could rich Argentina become a poor house within a few decades? The bank president has a theory. Peronism and other forms of populism have therefore caused the mentality of many Argentines to change within just two generations. The willingness to get involved has dwindled. In contrast, the demands have grown:

"All over America - and it has been so since the times of Columbus - emigrants from Europe came over the centuries who could hope to improve their economic and social situation if they only work hard enough. That was still up to the Generation of my grandparents and parents like that. Today we see the tendency towards populism in more and more countries here in the region. People are promised more and more, for less and less personal achievement. In Europe this is not so pronounced. An example: a German A worker who works on the assembly line at Volkswagen, for example, drives his Passat, which he might have bought 10, 15 or 20 years ago, and he has no ego problem with it, whereas here, in Argentina, a VW worker would insist on driving a new car, even if he can't actually afford it. That's our big mentality problem. "

In Germany, for example, there is a lot more pragmatism in politics. A change of government usually means neither chaos nor a complete U-turn in politics, which would make the country insecure and impoverish in the long term. Reliable pillars instead of full-bodied promises, Argentina needs something like that, too, believes Cesario: "Argentina lacks such a middle-class policy, and that weakens our productivity."

(imago images / Agencia EFE) Elections in Argentina / The Peronism phenomenon
Four years after his election, Argentina's liberal-conservative President Mauricio Macri is on the verge of collapse. His challenger Alberto Fernández is a clear favorite in the presidential elections.

But how should it go on? What does the future of Argentina look like? And how is the country supposed to get off its mountain of debt? The hopes of many Argentines rest on a rather inhospitable region called Vaca Muerte, in German: Dead Cow. A few years ago, huge oil and gas deposits were discovered here, twelve hours by car southwest of the capital Buenos Aires. Under the soil of an area the size of Belgium lie reserves of raw materials that are among the largest in the world. A state company is now supposed to develop them.

However, there is also resistance. Because the region is only sparsely populated, but not deserted either. Mainly Mapuche, the remnants of the former indigenous population of Argentina, live there. They complain that their livelihoods are being destroyed and that their fields and pastures are becoming unusable as a result of the extraction of raw materials, says Mapuche activist Lorena Bravo:

"This state enterprise came and started plowing the country. Regardless of the consequences. And regardless of the people who live here. We are here, the Mapuche. But our existence has been ignored from the start."

Activists complain that the rulers in distant Buenos Aires are hardly interested in what happens on the sparsely populated flat country. And so Lorena Bravo only has to vacillate between resignation and hope:

"One day they will have to stop. At some point there will be no more oil or gas here. We will be left with our contaminated land. And somehow we will have to live with it, because we have nothing left but to cultivate the fields and raise animals . "

The state is a macho

Back to Buenos Aires. Several hundred mostly young women have gathered in a square in the city center. In chorus they chant that the state is a macho, an oppressor. They too feel abandoned by the government and society. They want to draw attention to the fact that women in Argentina are still too often discriminated against in their job because of their gender, as they say. The economic crisis pushed this injustice into the background. In the first row of the demonstration is Veronica Martinez:

"We demand equality and women's rights. An end to violence against women. We want to be recognized and no longer disadvantaged. A fairer society: that's what we want."

(picture alliance / dpa / ZUMA Press / Claudio Santisteban) Argentina / economic crisis as a central election campaign topic
Argentina's economy is badly shaken. That puts the President Mauricio Macri under pressure in particular. Everything points to a shift to the left - but that doesn't stand for political renewal.

Argentina's present is bleak, the outlook is bleak. For many Argentines it is therefore a consolation to look back at a time when the country was admired around the world, when millions of emigrants from Europe came to the country. Edgardo Sanzo turned this nostalgia into a business model. He does 28 sports with a couple of partners. A company that makes nostalgic sports shoes:

"Basically, we wanted to revive the spirit and design and style of shoes from the 30s, 40s and 50s. For example, the number 28 in our name stands for the year 1928. We started doing this 20 years ago To restore shoes. Our models were original shoes from that time: football, hockey, athletics, mountaineering, rugby and boxing. In other words, all kinds of sports. "

Of course, Edgardo Sanzo also feels the economic crisis in everyday life. He and his friends need to figure out what to spend their money on, budget carefully, cut corners, and hope for the best. But there is at least one good thing about the difficult situation, says Edgardo: You know who your friends are and you learn not to give up so quickly:

"Of course it's sad. But on the other hand we are used to living like in a vortex. It forces us - if you want to see it positively - to be patient and improvisational. My cousin, who lives in Germany, tells me Many people there already have problems with small changes. Here in Argentina we have to deal with dramatic changes all the time, and we have learned that too. You just keep going. That may not be easy for foreigners to understand. For example, inflation. How you should explain it to someone who doesn't know it. We live with it all the time, be it 25 or 50 percent. It's been like this my whole life. I can't even remember a time without inflation. "

How things will go with Argentina is open. For the coming months, the new government has frozen numerous prices by ordinance, for example for electricity or water. This is supposed to curb inflation. But no one can say how things will go on afterwards. Not even the new President Alberto Fernández, who had to admit that difficult times are still ahead of the country: "Los tiempos que vienen no son fáciles."