Argentina's booksellers claim over a million imported books remain stacked up in customs while the government of President Cristina Fernandez moves ahead with its policy of substituting imports and defending local jobs and the domestic market.
Publishing houses are only the latest sector of the economy to experience the strong-arm tactics of a government determined to rebuild domestic industrial capacity. The auto industry, chemicals, pharmaceutics, textiles are among sectors that have been exposed to the government’s 1 dollar export to match 1 dollar import.
President Cristina Fernandez, CFK, reiterated the ‘model’s’ policy Thursday night when she inaugurated the new Museum of the Book and the Language.
The world is going in one direction and at times it seems like we're going to the opposite, but this is the necessary path to recover a country that already knew how to do things, she said.
The newspaper Clarin published a lengthy article Thursday describing how in order to liberate their books from customs' impound warehouses, publishers have been forced to meet with representatives of Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno and present plans for shifting their production to domestic printing houses.
The article said 1.6 million books remain impounded.
Clarin said publishing executives were too afraid of government retaliation to comment by name, but complain privately that Argentine printers either lack quality or are more expensive than overseas competitors. They also contend Argentine printers can't handle their volume.
The editorial sector is surprised by the prolonged intervention that affects the basic right of the citizens to have access to the book as a vehicle of education and culture, the Publishing Chamber said in one of the few on-the-record statements objecting to the customs slowdowns.
Argentines are huge consumers of literature, buying 76 million books last year.
Of those, 60 million were printed outside the country printers union officials say. Industry Minister Debora Giorgi has invoked similar figures, complaining that 78% of the books bought in Argentina are imported.
The publishers' chamber challenged those numbers, saying that two-thirds of the books sold in Argentina are printed domestically. The unions also say it is inaccurate to say Argentina's printing industry can't print all the books purchased domestically.
In fact, not only can it supply this market, it has the capacity to export as well. That's what happened in the past, we remember, when Argentina was one of the world's leading exporters of books in Spanish, Anselmo Morvillo, president of the graphics workers union FAIGA, said in a statement.
Argentina is a country that has suffered so much cultural oppression ... the disaster of the 1990s, which finally collapsed in 2001 CFK said at the museum opening, appearing in full campaign mode ahead of her expected re-election Oct. 23. There's a lesson we have to take, all of us Argentines: to be precisely ourselves, with our country, with our culture. Nobody can do for us what we can do.