Argentina - Only Looters' Children
Are Getting Toys This Year
By Elizabeth Love in Buenos Aires
The Independent - London

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 shield.
"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 yesterday 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 currency 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 morning. What it lacks is customers. "In a normal Christmas season you wouldn't 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 customers ventured in and one of them left without buying anything. "Even my regular hobby clients have lost all purchasing power, they're broke too," 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.

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