Argentines find travel difficult as peso declines

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Before traveling in June to southern Argentina and Chile, information technology executive Natividad Pozzo and her husband submitted sworn declarations to the tax agency and were granted permission to buy $570, which they exchanged for Chilean currency across the border.

Then their cash ran out, and they discovered peso-denominated bank cards don’t work in ATMs outside Argentina. They only made it back across the border by persuading someone they met to buy some pesos.

A month later, Mrs. Pozzo tried to legally buy Uruguayan currency for another trip but was rejected.

As before, she filled out a form detailing the tax information of everyone with whom she would be traveling, their relationship to her, the addresses where she would stay and the purpose and length of her trip.

But the system said she could only buy currencies once every six months.

“Am I no longer free to travel?” Mrs. Pozzo wrote in an angry open letter to the president that she posted on social networks. “Are you forcing me to go to the black market to buy foreign currencies?”

Antoinette Ford, an American-Irish travel writer, tried to exchange Argentine currency at airports in Argentina, Miami, Washington, Dallas and London during a recent trip.

“Nobody would take the pesos,” she complained. “Even the Argentines don’t want the pesos. That’s why they keep trying to get dollars.”

Ms. Ford’s Argentine boyfriend followed the rules before traveling to Italy and was allowed to buy just $1,200.

“That’s the maximum he could get. Between that and monitoring your credit card, you’re kind of [stymied]. They’re going to know exactly what you carried and what you’re spending it on. It’s very socialistic or even communistic,” Ms. Ford said.

Peso falls in value

The controls are meant to combat tax evasion; stem capital flight, which reached $23 billion last year; and keep enough dollars in the central bank’s reserves to pay Argentina’s debts while preventing already high inflation from spiraling out of control.

And they have worked, to a point: Argentines are paying taxes like never before, and the central bank claims $45 billion in dollar reserves.

But the peso’s slide is accelerating: It has lost nearly 8 percent of its value against the dollar this year, more than in all of 2011.

Many Argentines tried to protect their wealth by investing in dollar-denominated real estate until other new rules forced that market into pesos as well, closing off an avenue Enrique Banuchi might have used to get his money out of the country.

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