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Monday, January 16, 2012

Ethic Cleansing....

Buenos AiresImage by via Flickr

A big question that hits me on an ongoing business in day to day life in Buenos Aires is how to remain ethical.  As a Christian, respecting the laws of the goverment are a huge part of my value system.  And for even those of you out there who may not come from a similar background as me have some kind of belief that we need to be law abiding whether we live here or are passing through.

In many of the first world countries, the law is clear and it would be a no brainer to whether you are breaking the law or not. But how do you remain ethical in a country where just like the subway, laws can be shut down one day and new ones installed the very next day?  And without any notification to the rest of us :o So the one thing that I could be doing that was legal one day could be outlawed or only semi legal the next day.

The scripture talks about the idea of government being God-breathed to bring order to a nation. But the Bible says nothing about dealing with government officials with a god-like ego. Anyone who has had to deal with bureaucratic things knows that life or death depends on who you get assigned to and what kind of a mood they are in. And all too often, the boiling pot of growing discrimination against foreigners bubbles over destroying all in its path.

Even those who have their DNI and are law abiding citizens with all right paperwork who are taxpayers aren't safe. Reality kind of hit us when one fine day, there came a tweet from "The Office"  saying that two government officials had shown up and just decided to close down the restaurant due to some issues. This place was fully licensed and had been running about 10 months when this happened.   It was due to some new law or ordinance that had just come into place which no one had any notification about.  Sadly, this wasn't an isolated incident. There have been many stories of inspectors showing up without warning and shutting down businesses even though everything was in order.

Needless to say, all us expats were FURIOUS.  I was in Canada at the time and I was in shock when I got that tweet. But that is the reality of running a business in a country where you can be at the mercy of the system.  The restaurant was more than just an eatery, it was our hangout place where the expat community (and Argentines) come together.  It was our only oasis this desert of a foreign land where we are outsiders who speak a different language, eat different food, and come from a different culture.

note: i just want to make it clear that the ordinance would have nothing to do with Cristina Fernandez Kirchner and the federal government. It would have been local government authorities that are in charge of things having to do with specifically Buenos Aires, not the whole of Argentina.

At this point, I do not know if an expat who is gleefully able to wave about a DNI and permanent residency papers is any better than an expat who crosses over into Uruguay every 90 days to renew their visa to be able to renew their visa to be able to stay in Argentina another 3 months. Maybe a decade ago there were clear benefits and maybe 10 yrs ago it was clear to what is considered ethical and what isn't.  It is possible for people who have legal papers to find themselves discriminated against and none of their rights recognized. At it is possible for people on a tourist visa to receive a smile and nod from immigration and the thumbs up to pass through.

My hearts hope is that this blogpost will shed light on the fact that the foreigners who reside in BsAs aren't above experiencing the hardships that happen in this country. In fact, expats, their businesses, and their activities may find themselves somewhat of a target as the feelings of discrimination towards non Argentines continue to boil underneath. It is one thing to for a foreigner to visit as a tourist, it is another thing to wanna settle and call BsAs "home".

Now the happy ending to the story is that "The Office" did get the go ahead to reopen. What happened with them is not a black and white matter of illegal or legal. To simplify a very complicated set of events, when they were aquiring the license to open, someone gave them the go ahead to do it when another step should have been completed fully. But someone told them they were good to go and it would be no problem at all. It obviously turned out to be a problem because months later someone came along and closed down the restaurant without warning.

All I can say is that every single one of us in BA will never take for granted again the joy of chomping into a mouth watering delicious burger at The Office.....

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Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas