- Half a block from the site where furious protesters and
looters on Thursday erected a barricade in Buenos Aires, toy shop owner
Eduardo Kripper surveyed the shards of glass scattered among his Christmas
display of dolls, cars, wooden sailboats and a plastic viking
- "You could say my hopes for a good Christmas are
just as shattered," said the owner of The Magic Mirror.
- Adolfo Rodriguez Saa was named as interim President
until elections on 3 March. He was chosen by the Peronist party, which
controls parliament, following the resignation of Fernando de la Rua,
after the protests against the government's handling of the country's
economic crisis left more than 20 people dead.
- As the political turbulence feeds talk of drastic
devaluation, the mood this Christmas season is more jittery than jolly.
Even before the protests, sales at The Magic Mirror were well down on
recent years. Thieves also took about £700 worth of merchandise
during the looting that left the display window shattered.
- Beyond its battered front, the store is still crammed
with games, models, dolls and things to delight children on Christmas
What it lacks is customers. "In a normal Christmas season you
even have room to walk because the shop would be so crowded," said
Graciela Kripper, Eduardo's wife and assistant. "But sales are less
than half what they used to be in a normal December".
- In the space of an hour Friday evening only three
ventured in and one of them left without buying anything. "Even my
regular hobby clients have lost all purchasing power, they're broke
Mr Kripper said. Almost all the toys in the shop are imported and must
be paid for in dollars. Given the Argentine peso's one-to-one peg with
the US currency, this has never been a problem. But devaluation will make
it one. "Everything we buy is in dollars and our customers won't
be able to afford our merchandise in pesos," said his son Gabriel,
who helps out at the store.
As he described their predicament, Sonia Pratt, 37, walked in to rummage
through a box of plastic, battery-powered dinosaurs for a gift for her
four-year-old daughter Carolina. When Carolina became frightened by the
recent pot-and-pan banging protests, her mother explained their noise
would help get rid of a "bad man" in government named De la
Rua. She is also putting together a file on events for when Carolina is
older. "It is so she can have an idea of what happened."
- But there could be much worse to record if the economy
does not improve and the grinding four-year recession continues. An 18
per cent unemployment rate and widespread apprehension over new economic
measures do little to help business.
- For Graciela Kripper, the prospect if business does not
improve is "too awful to think about". But her husband is a
dogged optimist, who believes understanding suppliers will see them through
the rough spots. The deadline to pay for current merchandise isn't until
March, which is also the month Argentina will confirm the president who
is to serve the last two years of Mr De la Rua's term. "I think we
will emerge from this OK, because you can always reach an understanding
among civilised people," he said.
- As if justifying his show of faith, his insurance company
called later in the day to confirm that they would cover the damage to
his shop front.