Argentine savers have withdrawn more than US $ 400 million from their bank accounts this week amid growing rumours that the Central Bank (BCRA) was considering a new corralito, like the one implemented exactly 20 years ago in the days leading up to the resignation of President Fernando de la Rúa.
This time around, analysts have described these rumours as fake news, while BCRA sources downplayed the impact of the withdrawals.
In just three days, savers went to the banks and withdrew around 400 million dollars, after rumours spread since Monday about a possible corralito for deposits in foreign currency.
Technically, a corralito means holders cannot access their cash savings, even though they can be used electronically. If that happened, a US dollar would be worth around 100 Argentine pesos, half of what the unofficial markets knew as blue (instead of black) pay for a greenback.
According to BCRA sources, national reserves in dollars amount to 16 billion, which renders the 400 million negligible.
Confusion had increased Thursday following a BCRA resolution involving US dollars in such jargon that panic was almost inevitable, according to MercoPress sources in Buenos Aires. The real consequences of these measures remain to be seen, in particular their possible impact on the savings of ordinary citizens.
However, the audio went viral on WhatsApp and Telegram warning that a new corralito was approaching, which generated fear among bank account holders.
On December 3, 2001, then Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo designed the corralito strategy during a financial crisis and an exchange rate debacle, with highly volatile markets under a government that had lost all credibility.
In a desperate move, Cavallo enacted the corralito to prevent banks from running out of cash. Cavallo had taken the country out of the hyperinflationary process of 1989/1990, but it was under President Carlos Menem, whose ability to generate confidence among investors far exceeded that of De la Rúa.
Under the 2001 corralito, ”cash withdrawals from bank accounts were limited to up to US $ 250 per week (also AR $ 250 at that time)”, and assorted according to natural persons, regardless of the number of individual or joint accounts any individual could have.