Watch the news recently, and you’ll find stories of Argentina filling your television screen. A country hit particularly hard by the swine flu, the South American nation’s government is being closely watched in its handling of the situation by the rest of the world.
In recent years, in fact, the land of the tango and of Eva Person has come to receive a great amount of international attention. A female president, a drought, a relentless battle between farmers and the national government – the Paris of South America has had its share of newsworthy events.
What the international community is not talking about, however, is a much more disturbing yet quotidian crisis that Argentines face every day of their lives: that of crime.
Argentina was one of the nations to most suffer the economic downturn that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. While during the 1990s the country had enjoyed a period of unprecedented prosperity under president Carlos Menem, the world economic slipup in 2001 tore the Argentine economy apart. Revealing the faults and shortcomings of Menem’s highly-capitalistic economic policies, the crisis caused the Argentine peso’s value to plummet, leaving many in ruins.
This collapse shattered the looking glass in which Argentines had seen themselves and drove the country into chaos. Overnight, citizens had lost a large majority of their lives’ savings and the national government had fallen to failure and impotence. Like many Latin American nations, Argentina had never been the safest place in the world. However, in the wake of the country’s economic downfall, crime levels soared.
Though the Argentine economy has now somewhat recovered, safety and security remains a huge issue. It is rare to speak with an Argentine who has not at some point faced robbery and theft. Fraud is commonplace, and mistrust runs rampant. Businesses are frequently robbed at gunpoint, and men and women are roughed up on the streets. Citizens are constantly looking over their shoulders and second-guessing the intentions of others. A culture of fear and of mistrust has emerged that is for many Americans unimaginable.
This jump in crime has carried the issue of home security in Argentina to a new level. Several homeowners have installed home security systems and home alarm systems in their homes. Windows are covered with bars, doors are dead bolted several times over, and fences are topped off with spikes. Whereas Americans may be used to locking the front door while leaving a window open to let in the breeze, for Argentines today, this is unfathomable. In the face of the high rates of crime in the streets threatening at their doors, the Argentine people have been forced to quadruple their efforts in home security.
This rich and beautiful country has, unfortunately, been tainted by greed and crime. While walking out of the front door is something that few Americans fear, for those who live in Argentina, such an action is a choice that means facing the danger that waits outside.