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Surging inflation in Argentina leaves people feeling hopeless: ‘It robs you of your dreams’ | International

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Double-digit inflation has long plagued Argentina, causing many to feel like they are getting poorer and poorer with each passing month.

In October 2022, prices in the South American country increased by 6.3% compared to the previous month. Year-over-year, however, the inflationary rates are even more damning – since October 2021, prices have gone up by an astonishing 88%. To make matters worse, over that same period of time, the Argentine peso has lost 30% of its value.

It’s extremely difficult for the average person to make long-term plans when their salaries evaporate so quickly. Signing a rental contract or investing in a business are risky endeavors amid so much volatility. Most Argentine workers are forced to live day-to-day, often holding several different jobs to make ends meet.

While the official data shows that unemployment is low (6.9%) and the economy is growing at a rate of 6.4% percent, few people feel like they’re experiencing any tangible benefits. To understand the reality behind the numbers, EL PAÍS spoke to three generations of Argentines about having to forego their dreams in the current climate.

Carla López, 21-years-old: “More than living, we’re just surviving”

Carla López wants to move out of her parents’ house, but she can’t. She used to work at a Covid-19 vaccination center, where she earned 55,000 pesos a month – about $400 when converted at the official exchange rate. But in August, the municipal government of Buenos Aires shuttered the facility, leaving her unemployed.

“I’ve been looking for work, but I can’t find anything that pays what I was earning before. I’m studying law and there’s the possibility of working as a paralegal… but that kind of job pays badly, or doesn’t pay at all,” she sighs.

López sits in Lezama Park with former colleagues from the vaccination center. They sip mate and discuss their precarious living situations. Only one of the young people present was able to briefly become financially independent two years ago – but when her relationship ended, she had to move back in with her parents.

“I don’t think about the future – it just stresses me out. I think that, more than living, we’re surviving,” says López. She also sees that her parents are more worried about money than ever.

“When I was a girl, we would take a family trip to the beach for a month every year. Then, we cut back to 15 days. Now, my parents are wondering if we can even afford to go for a week. It’s very expensive – double what my monthly salary used to be.”

Enrique Máiquez, 42-years-old: “I need two jobs – one isn’t enough”

Enrique Máiquez during his shift as a municipal gardener.
Enrique Máiquez during his shift as a municipal gardener.Enrique García Medina

Enrique Máiquez lives in Ezeiza, a commuter city 20 miles outside of Buenos Aires. Six years ago, he was let go from his job at a music store, due to falling sales.

“From then on, I’ve had to adjust… but things keep getting worse and worse,” he laments.

With the compensation he received from the music store, along with some savings, he bought a taxi license. He also got a job working for the municipality as a gardener.

“I thought about investing in a kiosk… but it wasn’t feasible. [Former president Mauricio] Macri raised all the fees and [tax] rates… the costs were too high.”

“I leave home at 4am and return at 7pm. I need two jobs – one isn’t enough for me. But [because of devaluation] to keep earning the same amount, I have to work more hours each year,” he explains. He has three children to support.

Máiquez recalls that the worst days of his childhood were in 1989, during the hyperinflation crisis, when his father’s salary disappeared as soon as he received it. He and his four brothers often went to bed without dinner. Now an adult, he feels that the current situation is worse.

“1989 was bad… the 2001 crisis was terrifying. But, afterwards, thank God, the economy picked up quickly. Now, it’s a slow agony. It robs you of your dreams, it takes away your hope… you see more and more poverty every day. All the politicians think about is filling their pockets, it doesn’t matter if they’re Peronists or Radicals.”

Haydé Vargas, 63-years-old: “I dreamed of buying a house… how silly of me”

Haydé Vargas was born in Peru, but has lived in Argentina since 1992. The economic situation during her first years in the country was relatively healthy: inflation was not a problem. Then-president Carlos Menem had implemented a new conversion system, by which a peso had the same value as a dollar. That artificial change stabilized prices for a decade, until everything collapsed during the crisis of December 2001, when, in an effort to boost reserves, Fernando de la Rúa’s administration restricted people’s ability to withdraw cash from banks. This sparked rioting, which forced the government to resign.

Haydé Vargas, pictured while shopping in a supermarket.
Haydé Vargas, pictured while shopping in a supermarket.Enrique García Medina

“It was the best time [in the 1990s]… with ten pesos you could fill your grocery cart.”

A few days after arriving in Buenos Aires, she found work as a live-in maid. She was able to save a large part of her salary and send it back to Peru, where her daughter had stayed behind with her mother.

“I dreamed of buying a house in Peru… how silly of me. Everything got worse very quickly,” she says.

When the woman she was caring for died, Vargas found another job with much lower pay. And then, a few months later, the 2001 crisis broke out. She went back to Peru, but three years later, she returned to Argentina with her daughter.

“I would go back, but she wants to stay here, even though it is difficult because we don’t have enough. Before, we could go out to eat… now, it’s very expensive. And going out at night scares me, because there’s more crime than ever. Even small pleasures are impossible.”

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‘Destitution is almost inevitable’: Afghan refugees in Greece left homeless by failed system | Migration and development

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Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli, 70, looks at his five-year-old granddaughter, sitting on the floor next to him watching cartoons on a phone. They live in a two-bedroom flat in a suburb of Athens. “Even tomorrow, we don’t know what will happen to us,” he says.

The former judge and legal adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Justice, who had a role in putting together the 2004 Afghan constitution, is facing eviction with his family, including his three grandchildren. This is in line with regulations in Greece, which state that once someone has obtained refugee status, they must leave the accommodation provided for them within 30 days.

Since being evacuated to Greece last October, the family have been in limbo, hoping to join relatives in the UK and grieving for lives left behind in Kabul. Due to Rasooli’s high-profile work, as well as that of his daughter, a former journalist, and his son-in-law Fazel Sultani, a prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice, the family had gone into hiding after the Taliban stormed Kabul.

“We had a lot of problems, because the Taliban were saying if somebody had worked with NGOs or international organisations we’d be killed. It was very difficult for me to be there; we went to hide in a few places until we got evacuated,” says Rasooli. He scrolls through his phone to show photos of his home, pointing out books on the shelves, including legal texts he wrote, which he has been told have since been destroyed by Taliban soldiers.

The family has tried to make the best of things and the children are in Greek schools, but until recently, Rasooli feared to go outside in case his papers were checked. They had to wait until this month to receive asylum seeker ID cards.

They struggled to navigate a catch-22 system whereby access to rent subsides requires having a rental contract, while landlords will not rent without proof of the subsidies.

Rasooli and his family are not alone, says Minos Mouzourakis, an advocacy officer at Refugee Support Aegean (RSA). “Destitution is almost inevitable for refugees recognised in Greece. Expecting them to promptly leave accommodation despite exclusion from social welfare and protracted, often year-long, delays in renewing documents is a policy choice breaching the country’s legal obligations according to jurisdictions across the continent,” he says.

Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens, Greece.
Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens. Photograph: Anna Pantelia/The Guardian

RSA has gathered more than 100 testimonies of recognised refugees in Greece who have turned to jobs such as collecting waste cardboard around Athens to sell to recycling companies. For such work they may earn between €10 and €20 a day.

RSA has recorded cases where refugees returned to Greece have faced destitution, such as Soraya* and Somaya* from Afghanistan who were sent back from Sweden in June this year. They are now reliant on soup kitchens and solidarity networks and must wait until January 2023 to get identification documents. Some courts, in countries such as Germany, have halted returns of refugees to Greece judging that they are likely to face inhumane or degrading treatment.

“The situation for recognised refugees in Greece is dire. It is commonplace that people granted protection status in Greece face destitution and homelessness following their positive asylum decision,” says Lucy Alper, a legal coordinator with Refugee Legal Support in Athens.

“The only integration programme, Helios, funded by the EU and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is not fit for purpose. Many people enrolled in the Helios programme cannot access the limited rental subsidies offered, as they must first open a Greek bank account, pay a deposit on a flat and sign a house contract via the government’s online platform. Barriers are at every turn, exacerbated by the bureaucracy of the Greek asylum system.

“Notwithstanding these failures, people are being evicted from their accommodation. There is no safety net,” says Alper.

The IOM says 19,000 people had leased an apartment so far, which spoke to the “feasibility of the requirements”. They added there are, “all the necessary services to support recognised refugees in finding and leasing apartments … IOM in coordination with its partners ensures support and interpretation in issuing all required documents … whenever obstacles are encountered, targeted support is provided to solve possible problems.” It says it had no “recorded cases” of difficulties from those who applied within the appropriate time frame due to bureaucracy.

Rasooli hopes to go to the UK under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) but has a rejection that is under review. His initial rejection letter, seen by the Guardian, states that since he has asylum in Greece, he will have access to medical care and is in relative safety – facts disputed by NGOs who have documented the precariousness of life for refugees in the country.

For now, the family remains in Athens, hopeful for an offer of an apartment for the short term. Nothing about the future is certain.

The Greek Migration Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

* Names have been changed to protect identities

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Europe Lost Russia as Energy Supplier, Russian Envoy Says

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VIENNA (Sputnik) – Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier.

“Isn’t it vice versa: Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier to get the opportunity to buy the US LNG at a much higher price? Great achievement!” Ulyanov wrote on Twitter.

It was his response to a user post that quoted the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) saying Russia had lost Europe as its largest energy client “forever.”

IEA chief Fatih Birol said in October that Russia had lost the European oil and gas market forever and would face a drop in production. The West stepped up sanctions pressure on Russia over Ukraine, which led to higher prices for electricity, fuel and food in Europe and the United States.

A view shows gas metering units at the Gazprom's Amur Gas Processing Plant near the town of Svobodny, Amur Region, Russia. The plant was launched on June 9, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.11.2022

Russia Determined Not to Sell Energy Resources to Those Who Set Price Caps: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said cheap and reliable Russian energy resources were Europe’s competitive advantage, and even a partial rejection of them already had a negative impact on its economy and residents. The US, pushing through the EU’s complete rejection of Russian energy carriers and other resources, is leading to the de-industrialization of Europe, he said.

Putin, commenting on the West’s idea to limit prices for Russian energy resources, said Russia would not supply anything abroad if this was contrary to its own interests.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Russia would not supply oil to countries that set any price cap. He added that such restrictions were interference in market tools, and Moscow was prepared to work with consumers ready for market conditions.



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Kirchner: Argentina’s vice-president blasts ‘firing squad’ overseeing her corruption trial | International

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“Last words…” said Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from her office in the Senate, staring at the camera. She paused for a second, smiled and delivered the line she had already envisaged as a headline. “Never has a judicial term been so appropriate to define what this court is: it is a firing squad.”

Her words were aimed at three federal judges who on December 6 will decide whether she is guilty of leading an alleged scheme to divert state funds through public works contracts. The prosecution wants Fernández de Kirchner to spend 12 years behind bars and be permanently barred from holding public office.

Fernández de Kirchner, 69, has been charged with “illicit association” and “aggravated fraudulent administration” in connection with a corruption case involving 12 other defendants and known in Argentina as the Vialidad Case. The 51 contracts under scrutiny were awarded in the province of Santa Cruz, the political cradle of Kirchnerism, to companies owned by a friend of the Kirchners, Lázaro Baez, over a 12-year period (Baez has since been sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering). Prosecutors said many contracts were inflated and some were never carried out. They have estimated that the scheme cost the state around $1 billion. The defendants include officials accused of collecting bribes and businesspeople suspected of paying them.

But the vice-president claims to be a victim of political persecution.

“A government that was democratically elected three times is not an ‘illicit association’,” she said, alluding to the government of her late husband Néstor Kirchner (2003 -2007) and her own two terms in the president’s office between 2007 and 2015.

On Tuesday, the vice-president spoke for less than 20 minutes, a far cry from the long speeches she has given in the past in court. At her first hearing on December 2, 2019, she claimed to be the victim of a case in which the sentence had been decided ahead of time. The ultimate goal of the trial, according to the vice-president, is to remove her from politics and erode Peronism, the movement she represents.

“The sentence is written, but I never thought it would be so badly written,” said Fernández de Kirchner, accusing the two lead prosecutors in the case, Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola, of spreading lies about her. To reinforce the idea of the firing squad, she recalled the assassination attempt against her outside her house in early September.

Kirchner has maintained throughout the trial that the entire investigation against her is a set-up by the opposition to imprison her. Her lawyers have uploaded a document entitled “The Twenty Lies of the Vialidad Case” to social media.

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