Argentina has been described as the world's worst performing stock market in the British media. British investors lost 62 pence in every pound invested in the Argentine stock market, which fell by over 61 per cent in what the London Times newspaper calls economic meltdown. This was nearly twice as bad as the second worst performing stock market ? Germany, which lost 38 per cent of its value.
Third was Brazil which lost nearly 37 per cent of its value, blamed on "contagion from Argentina", with which it is linked in Mercosur, and also fears over the policies of Brazil's new President.
Two Latin Americana countries are praised for their positive performance ? Peru, up 18.81 per cent, boosted by take-over interest in a number of companies, and Colombia, up 15.85 per cent, helped by United States investment.
The top performing stock market, surprisingly, was Romania, which rose by 96 per cent, favourably influenced by recent decisions to enlarge the European Union. Three countries joining the EU in 2004 were among the top ten performers ? the Czech Republic, Estonia and Hungary.
"Starving" Argentines Argentina's catastrophic economic crisis also featured in a number of newspaper stories in the United Kingdom focusing especially on child deaths resulting from malnutrition. Showing pictures of emaciated children, the newspapers said these images have scandalised Argentina, long regarded as the "grain store of the world" and the fourth biggest exporter of food.
The stories quoted statistics of widespread malnutrition from the charity Red Solidaria and the World Health Organisation adviser, the Centre for Child Nutrition Studies.
A hospital director in Tucuman said that in a country with 50 million cattle and 39 million people, the government is "totally out of touch with people's needs".
Production minister, Anibal Fernandez, is quoted as attributing child deaths to what she called "a sick society and a ruling class that are sons of bitches, all of them, myself included".
President Duhalde's wife, Chiche Duhalde, blamed provincial governments for mismanaging social emergency programmes, and promised to promote an official search for medical emergencies in the poorest provinces.
"Out with all politicians!" Even the UK' special magazine devoted to helping the unemployed, called "The Big Issue", contains two features about Argentina's crisis in its Christmas issue.
The magazine describes activity by left-wing demonstrators, on the anniversary of "the bloody uprising" that unseated President de la Rua.
In an article headlined "Argentina Sees Red", the Big Issue says: "With the peso's value dropping, tourists flock to the tomb of Eva Peron, situated in a cemetery of such opulence that it mocks the living poor who surround it. Meanwhile Argentina's nouveau riche, speculators who made their fortunes off the back of last year's economic collapse, visit lavishly decorated shopping malls protected by private security guards".
Reviewing the forthcoming presidential election, the magazine says: "People are incredulous ? there is no grand political plan. In a poll for one newspaper, 60 per cent of Argentines said they had given up on representative democracy, fed up with corruption and failure. The rallying cry of the streets: "que se vayan todos" ? "out with all politicians" still holds strong".
However, the article says there is hope, even if much of it is without clear direction. Workers have occupied and are running scores of factories. Barter markets have sprung up across the city. The best things are the community projects set up by neighbourhood meetings ? asembleas barricales ? like school classes, food kitchens, occupied buildings, and local festivals". A teacher is quoted as saying: "Everything is against us ? the media, the government, our own mindset. But I am optimistic. We have to nurture our organisation (the interbarrial) on the human level, and let it grow organically".
Red flag in new political landscape In a separate article, headlined "The new Political Landscape of South America", the magazine says: "There is a new map of South America. A great swathe of socialist red is splashed across the continent in the greatest political change in a generation".
Referring to Argentina, it says that in three years this most wealthy of South American countries has seen poverty levels jump from 19 to 52 per cent. "It must be the fastest decline of any nation in peacetime, the worst economic collapse in history".
The International Monetary Fund's tough attitude to Argentina is regarded as punishing Argentina "so as to discourage other countries from defaulting on foreign debts".
Harold Briley, (MP) London
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