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Argentina's Financial Tango

The Buenos Aires Stock Exchange has gained up 85 percent this year, in peso terms
The Buenos Aires Stock Exchange has gained up 85 percent this year, in peso termsPhotograph by Victor R. Caivano/AP Photo

Sweeping generalizations: I don’t like them any more than the next guy. But there’s no point in denying the fact that no one gerrymanders a side of beef like the Argentines. Skirt steak; sweet breads; blood sausages; even gristle chitlins. Nothing goes to waste in the charcoal-fired frenzy that is a traditional asado.

That ravenousness has lately visited Argentina’s currency, stock, and even luxury car markets. And Miami’s skyline. The peso has been getting killed, what with inflation running at least 25 percent a year and the government of expropriation-happy Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner scrambling to keep U.S. dollars in Buenos Aires. A desperate black market for greenbacks, looked at as a store of value, has everyday Argentines and even tourists becoming arbitrageurs. How and where, everyone wonders, can you advantageously swap your pesos for bucks and not have to answer to financial regulators, who are increasingly demanding paperwork, explanations, and levies for transactions that entail foreign exchange. Last week’s peso jig is this week’s clampdown. It’s a game of cat-and-mouse. Better yet: Call it the new tango. It just might be Fernandez’s last dance.