Work Abroad but earn in USD

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Argentines Rally in Support of Dictator?

I received an interesting question from a reader who read an Associated Press article about Argentines rallying "to support dictatorship." Having seen the local coverage of this rally as well, I wanted to clarify for the international readers out there what is actually going on.

Reader's Question

I just saw this AP article about a rally in support the 76-83 regime. I'm totally confused by it so I thought I'd get your opinion as a current resident of Bs. As. First of all, would you agree that this is a rather small group of people compared to those "counterpart" protesters that the article mentions (they didn't mention how many people were in that group)? Since you live there, have you noticed whether there is some kind of renewed pro-military movement or something?

There was some discussion on your page previously in which there was pretty much a consensus that Argentines were generally against all aspects of dictatorship and the "milicos." I'm also confused as to why the AP would even put this weirdly short and one-sided article up on their cover page. I thought these people might just be family members of those parties involved who may finally have to pay for their crimes (and if so, why would this be a headline).

Political Situation

As part of the leftist opposition during the days of the dictatorship, President Kirchner is making the prosecution of former military men and elements of the old regime one of his key domestic policies. In addition to the prosecution of top generals and military officers, prosecutors have opened cases on police officers and even civilians who served in the government at the time -- the most famous of which is José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz, who served as the junta's economy minister from 1976 to 1981.

Many members of the former regime received pardons from former President Carlos Menem, which have now been overturned by the courts. In addition, two laws that prevented the prosecution of former regime members were overturned by the Supreme Court early this year, setting the stage for further prosecutions.

Opposition to Kirchner

The largest opposition to Kirchner's actions comes from the family members of the former regime elements, many of whom feel they are being scapegoated for Kirchner's political gain. They say Kirchner is rewriting history by only telling one side of the story -- the abuses of power by the government. They claim the government is failing to prosecute the former left-wing terrorists, who also committed abuses. Before they were essentially wiped out by the military regime, these left-wing terrorists were setting off bombs in Buenos Aires, killing government officials, kidnapping businessmen, and causing chaos and havoc in the country. Some say Kirchner would prefer to glaze over that part of the story and just focus on abuses by the military government.

Most of the Argentines I know are part of the middle class -- people who work hard, have families, and play by the rules -- and they don't subscribe to the version of history that Kirchner is putting out. They say there was an undeclared civil war and that there were abuses on both sides. They certainly don't support what the military government did, but think the government now is revisionist and one-sided with history. It is no secret that Kirchner was part of the leftist opposition to the military regime and now, they say, he's using his presidency to punish is former foes.

My Take on Things

To be fair, I'm not sure I can intelligently take a side on this issue. I know what it means to fear terrorism and it can never be condoned. At the same time, the disappearance of people without a trial is not something that can be excused in the name of fighting terrorism. Perhaps the military started out with the execution of terrorists, but they finished by going after political opponents, students, and left-wing sympathizers who had nothing to do with terrorism.

I do think the climate has gone too far, however. Just a few months back, left-wing students protested to stop the vote for rector of the University of Buenos Aires. One of the candidates had been a civil servant during the military government and the students felt he should not be given the opportunity to be on the ballot. Blocking the exercise of democracy through popular protest by a vocal and militant minority should not be condoned, but it is increasingly accepted here when it is the far-left who are doing the protesting. Kirchner has failed on multiple occasions to use police force to stop left-wing protests from becoming violent. He even allowed left-wingers to occupy the French Embassy, which, to me, shows a complete disrespect of law and order.

Incidents like these, as well as the failure to stop urban crime, have led to the Blumberg anti-crime movement. Personally, I feel the pendulum has swung too far. There must be a happy medium between government repression and total anarchy. Asking the police to enforce laws and bring order to the society does not mean a return to repression. However, there are many who feel otherwise and would prefer to see the leftists set loose to do what they will.

Ultimately, the Argentine people will have to decide how they wish to proceed. They will either reelect Kirchner and the trials will continue along with the tacit approval of left-wing activists, or they will choose center-right candidates who want to provide law and order to the country and take a harder line on issues like crime. Next year's presidential elections will determine what path Argentina takes.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Working in Argentina

Regular readers of this blog will recall that I usually advise people against working in Argentina. However, I'm going to take a stab at this question anyway. I'll also give my cautionary warning, as always.

Reader's Question

I came across your blog and loved it. My question to you is: how did you find a job over there? Did you go through a recruiter? My expertise is in the healthcare arena and I thought you may know how to connect with people.

I am planning another visit in Jan hoping to visit some companies. I will just continue to read your blog from the beginning hoping to gain some insight.

Working & The Middle Class

The main reason I usually advise expats against coming to Argentina and trying to find a job on their own is that they're going to be paid a normal middle class salary here. Middle class in Argentina is very different than middle class in the United States or in Europe. The fact is, your earning power is going to take a significant hit if you give up your job in the US or Europe and take a job here, with a few notable exceptions.

If you're sent here by an international company, you're probably going to continue to earn the same kind of wage you earned back home. In that case, you should jump on the opportunity to move here. You'll be earning a high wage, but your costs of living will drop drastically -- a recipe for savings.

If you are a successful businessperson, you should consider Argentina as well. You can start a business here with less capital than you can elsewhere. Labor is widely available and not too expensive. There are opportunities everywhere.

If Money Isn't Important

If you just don't care about the fact that you'll lose earning power by working for a local firm, I can still share some recommendations. First and foremost, you'll need to speak Spanish fluently. Unless you're going to be working with English-speakers all day long (there are only a few jobs like this and they don't pay well, such as teaching English), a complete domination of the Spanish language will be necessary. Your employer is not going to provide you a translator.

How would you go about finding the job? The reader mentioned recruiters, which do exist. However, the recruiters work for the companies, not the worker. You'll find that many recruiters will advertise for their positions in the Clarin or La Nacion (there's a section with help wanted ads for professionals).

The Big Obstacle: The Work Permit

The big problem is that most foreigners don't have authorization to work. They don't have DNIs and CUILs and that means that to the local labor market, they don't exist. Any employer who wants to hire you will have to retain a visa lawyer to do your foreign employee visa, which is going to cost them time and money. They could just hire an Argentine worker and not bother with all of that.

If you are really serious about getting a job here in Argentina, one thing you might consider is getting yourself a rentista visa and just coming down here and starting your job search. Contact ARCA and they'll get your visa taken care of. Once you get a visa, DNI and CUIL, you can then enter the job market on equal footing with any other Argentine. Companies won't have to spend any money or waste any time with the government when they go to hire you.

One Last Warning

Let me just warn again that if you are going to take a job in the local market here -- without being sent by a international company for some specific expertise that you have -- you're going to take a serious hit in your wages. Here you might just earn between 20-35% of what you earned in the USA or Europe. In addition to that, you won't be building up credits in your home country's pension system, so you might jeopardize your chances for a comfortable retirement if you work here for the long term.

If you just want to try it out for a few years as a change of scenery, make sure you have plenty of savings and realize that you might have to make serious compromises in your lifestyle in order to make things work. Good luck!

Labels: ,