CHAPTER VIII — Free e-book.

ARGENTINA-CHILE

C’s lawyers had apparently talked to the Brazilian Ministry of the Economy, asking if time would be given to the company to pay the unpaid back taxes of CG.

Their answer? “Of course not! Payment had to be total and immediate”, was the answer of the Brazilian Government.

You see, C was perceived by Brasilia’s bureaucrats as “a deep pocket company” and not being a Brazilian entity, all unpaid taxes had to be paid cash.

Probably the directives of the bank, being Brazilian, had been capable of obtaining time to pay, “but not the gringos”.

I also found out in Buenos Aires, that C had sued the A family and they in turn had sued C and all people involved in the administration of CG on their behalf, (Including me of course).

I’d found out about the A’s lawsuit because a Court in Rio, through the Argentinian Exterior Relations Ministry, had sent me a request demanding my presence there to declare in a lawsuit.

The family had sued C and me as ex-President of CG.

The world was upside down!

Now “The ducks were shooting the hunters”, as the say goes.

I sent the request to Human Resources of C in the U.S., who instructed me not to do anything, and then I forgot about the whole affair.

Months later, I found out that C had negotiated and both lawsuits had been withdrawn.

The A family was in charge of CG again!

A fit CG now, healthy again, with almost no debts, without the heavy load of the Evangelic church, with an adequate, reduced headcount, etc.

The A family ought to be grateful!

We spent a lot of time in temporary quarters in Buenos Aires, as contrary to my belief it wasn’t easy to find a good apartment in the city.

To do so should be easier nowadays, as in the last years there had been a lot of new apartments built there, but not at that time, 1999, when there were a lot of houses available for rent, but not apartments.

We knew we would travel quite a lot, and not having small children to worry about, an apartment is better, as you close the door when travelling and that’s it, you don’t have to worry about security, gardening, swimming pools’ cleaning, or anything else, as you do in a house.

At the end, we rented a luxurious unfurnished apartment in Palermo, Buenos Aires, of 3 large bedrooms, spacious hall, private elevator, separated eating room, a lot of 24h security, well equipped gym, swimming pool, etc., in the same building where the ex-wife and daughters of the Argentinian idol, the ex-soccer player Diego Maradona lived, for a monthly rent which I considered very high.

However, after 3 months of intensive search, we had not found anything else!

In the operation of Argentina, I had a good team of people, headed by F D’A, who was and is a good manager who grew up with the operation, starting very young and having occupied positions in most departments.

FD’A knew most details about the Argentinian operation, and therefore I maintained my intervention to the minimum possible, as I didn’t want to interfere with the business unnecessarily.

I’ll never forget that it was there, in that office, where I was on September 11, 2001, the fateful day in which two kidnapped commercial airplanes crashed against, and exploded inside some floors, and eventually knocked down the Twin Towers of NYC.

I remember having thought — as many others — when the first plane crashed against one of the towers, that it was a case of a rare and lamentable accident, possibly caused by the extraordinary height of the tower which had been hit by the plane.

The contained anger against the builders of the hit tower turned to astonishment first, and rage against the Muslim kidnappers afterwards, as in the T.V. the news journalists began to say that it was a Muslim terrorist act.

I contemplated in agony , how people trapped in the high towers’ floors, preferred jumping out of the burning edifice, to die completely burned, and when the first tower went down, I felt an immense compassion and sadness for the horrible death of so many innocent people.

The collapse of the second tower caused a lesser impression on me, as I was already resigned!

All the same, I continue to think that nobody deserves that kind of death.

A few years before, I had visited the Twin Towers — as a tourist — with my wife Isabel, and I remember we had a coffee in a restaurant — “ Windows of the World” — located at the top of one of the towers.

I remember poking my head out and having felt dizzy heights, looking at people and the cars so small down there below.

I don’t even want to imagine what those people felt, trapped in the burning tower and unable to escape, impotent, facing imminent death, and at that enormous height!

In my new job I spent a lot of time in Chile and Perú, as we had to execute a plan in Santiago and Lima with the Chilean department store, F, with which C had signed a contract negotiated by ME (H.O. executive) and myself to sell A&H personal insurance to the store’s client base, holders of the store credit card CMR (Later a bank of the same name), in Chile, Peru, and Argentina, countries in which F had operations at the time (recently they operated in Colombia as well).

The idea was to offer by phone C’s insurance plan, designed together with the captive insurance broker of F, to the store’s customers holding the CMR card (of which the store, just in Chile had more than 1 million).

The first campaigns were executed successfully through a third- party call center (the S call center).

Later, the store requested we used a call center that F itself had built.

As a matter of principle, I argued against the idea, but the truth was that, provided we obtained at least the same results, it was indifferent to us to use one call center or the other.

Actually, we ran a test and obtained even a better response utilizing F’s call center, so we began to use, — and pay for its use — the store’s own call center.

F demanded payment of the services provided by their call center, at the same price we paid to other call centers. Although it could be said that that’s not a good, or ethical way to treat a partner, the reality is that we are talking about a Department Store, and they handle all suppliers that way.

For them, we were just suppliers of an item called ‘insurance’, contrary to us, they did not perceive us as anything more than that. Certainly, not as partners.

Quite curious the Chilean case. In August 1973, the then President Elect of Chile (Elected by popular vote), the leftist leader Salvador Allende named General Augusto Pinochet Commander in Chief of the Chilean Army.

Only one month later, in September 1973, Pinochet headed a military coup, which overthrew Allende and caused his death.

Legitimized seven years later by a plebiscite supposedly rigged, which also served to approve the 1980 Chilean Constitution (Designed by the Government itself); General Pinochet remained in power 17 years (During that time there were countless accusations of murder and torture of members of the opposition to the Regime, as well as thousands of cases of reported disappearances), until confident of his triumph, he lost a popular plebiscite of which he himself was the convener, which forced him to call forth a general election, which he also lost, stepping down of the Chilean Presidency in 1990, but conserving his military Rank as Commander in Chief of the Chilean army until his retirement in 1988.

In that same year General Pinochet, now a lifelong Chilean Senator according to his own Constitution (The 1980 Constitution was still in force), traveled to London where he was detained for numerous violations to the Human Rights committed during his mandate.

After fighting numerous legal battles, he returned to Chile in the year 2000, at age 85 and theoretically with his health deteriorated. Four years later, in 2004, at age 89 a Chilean judge found him apt to be submitted to Court.

At the time of his death, in 2006 at age 91, General Pinochet faced countless charges in Chile for violations to the Human Rights, and also charges for embezzlement of public funds, and tax evasion.

Allegedly, he accumulated a fortune of $ 28 million dollars during his mandate.

The 1980 Constitution, Pinochet’s Constitution as it is better known, is still in force, although the female President of Chile, recently elected (2015) by the Chileans, the popular leftist leader Michelle Bachelet, in her second mandate (she didn’t make any Constitution change during her first mandate) had promised in her campaign to call forth a Constitutional Assembly to promulgate a new Constitution that replaced the dictator’s one.

We now(2020) know that that promise was not fulfilled, as the 1980 Constitution remains in place, for the leftist salient President, Michelle Bachelet, decided to leave the difficult task of promulgating a new Constitution, to the recently elected new Chilean Government of the rightist President-elect, Sebastian Piñera.

With F, C maintained an unfriendly relationship, probably because the new Regional VP, my boss N A, of Hindu origin I believe, and very dark- skinned, whose previous job had always been as Systems manager but who now wanted to be “a business man”, never understood neither the account nor the business sector itself.

In effect, Mr. A for instance, asked me to organize a lunch with the authorities at F just to seat at the table and say nothing during the entire meal.

The last time he acted that way, the guys at F had said that it had been the last time they would accept a meeting with him.

Aiming to close the important account, ME and I had agreed to advance $1 million dollars to F as advanced commissions, with F committing to pay C every month at least 90% of the monthly commissions they had earned.

The advance was given as a proof that C knew how to handle that business, and to demonstrate our experience and know-how in obtaining the promised results (We were competing with AIG for the account).

It was one of the closing “tricks” that we had used before in the enormously successful SPD, of which both, M and I had been part under BT.

However, A never understood that (And B was not there anymore) and ordered many “audits” of the account without finding any wrongdoing.

There was a new batch of managers in high positions at C International at H.O. in the U.S., and there wasn’t anybody to whom I could resort. In effect, the likes of Hanway, McCarty, Pugatchenko, T, and other executives with street experience, were either, transferred or gone from the company. Even ME had been transferred to Asia.

Unfortunately, they had been substituted at H.O. — included the (Now deceased) President of C International — by illustrated bureaucrats with no experience on the international streets; bureaucrats that never had sold anything internationally, and therefore didn’t know how difficult it was to close an international account.

Nevertheless, soon F reached the $ 50 million dollar mark on sales.

We began the sales — with success — in Lima, Peru’s capital, where F also had operations.

Lima, a very old city, seemed to offer a lot to see, and to do a little bit of tourism.

However, I only was able to visit Lima three times before I was transferred again , and with almost no spare time available, I only had free time to buy some silver ornaments (The city is famous, since colonial times for its many artisan’s works on silver) before I was transferred again as I said, at the end of September 2001, this time to Miami, USA, where I’d lived before in 1993.

It is probable that the small minds at H.O.’s Human Resources had proceeded to transfer me to the USA, as my firing there would be easier and cheaper (Basilio had warned me about it, but I did not paid much attention to it), than if they fired me in one of the countries in which I’d rendered services before, for the firing there would be much more difficult and expensive, as to my nominal salary they would have to add, by law, the cost of all my expat benefits which they didn’t do in the USA. Not without a legal fight anyway, and I was not inclined to fight C over money issues.

What they didn’t know was that I was about to resign anyway, as I was tired of working with and for incompetents and ignorant.

However, I’m jumping ahead of my story. Please, allow me to finish my Argentinian experience.

In Buenos Aires I coincided with my friend Basilio Pugatchenko (RIP), who was the Country Manager for the big Argentinian operation of Liberty Mutual, another USA insurance company, which had entered several markets in Latin America guided by the also ex-C Jim McCarty, unfortunately already deceased.

With Basilio I played a lot of golf and drank the excellent Argentinian wines as never before, for Basilio was a big Ukrainian guy (but a USA citizen), a good friend, and a good drinker of wine.

Both of us were members of the Buenos Aires Golf Club (There I saw Tiger Woods in person and also other professional golfers, as in the year 2000, in the club we were members, was celebrated the World Cup of golf, with their presence).

I started to play golf in 1993, during my first stay in Miami (And thanks to BT, my boss at that time, (who made golf “compulsory” during our meetings,) and the sport accompanied me ever since in almost all weekends all along my life, until the accident in Panama in 2011.

Argentina is also known for the excellence of its thoroughbred racing horses, so I also enjoyed my ingrained passion for horse-racing and spent many afternoons in the good tracks (San Isidro and Palermo in Buenos Aires, and La Plata, in the city of the same name) of Argentina.

Basilio and I also became associated members of the Argentinian soccer team River Plate, but we went to their stadium (the Monumental stadium) only once in spite of having season tickets. The only time we went to watch a soccer game at the River’s stadium, River played against Boca Juniors and Boca’s supporters set the plastic seats of the stands they occupied on fire, to the point that the game had to be stopped for a long while and the firefighters called in.

Later, at the end of the night game, we couldn’t find any transportation back home, where we had left our cars, as there weren’t any taxis or buses available, so we had to walk for about an hour amid violent “barras bravas” (As the soccer’s hooligans are known in Argentina) in our return home.

Naturally enough, we never returned to that stadium, nor renewed our River’s membership.

As I already said, F D’A was — and he is — a good manager and my belief was that he had things pretty much under control.

I only got involved in the affairs of the office, if FD’A requested it or if I had to transmit some instructions or messages from H.O.

However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t follow what was happening in business there. Once I was going through a Collections report of the Argentinian operation, and noticed a considerable delay in the payments of an important client, the S. account, an Argentinian Travel Assistance Company to which we provided the Accident insurance policy that they offered — along with other benefits — to its cardholders.

The account had a captive broker represented by someone known as C, whom I considered a little more than a braggart. C had a big boat docked somewhere, probably in a tributary of the big river Rio de la Plata, to which he used to invite and lavish Cs managers.

For some reason, I never visited the boat, or attended C’s receptions.

Maybe a sixth sense was recommending me not to be friendly with someone that later I’d fight against, I don’t know. The fact is that they had not paid us for a considerable time and they already owed us $ 1 million dollars.

Actually, it was worse than that, for we continued to attend — and frequently to pay — all the claims presented by the clients of S.

Therefore, through Fernando, I sent C a message: or he re-started the payments, or we would have to collect the amount due through the Courts.

Furthermore, from that moment on, and until we received the payment of the pending premiums, we would not attend (Or would pay) any claim presented by their clients.

Of course, Chacho didn’t like that, but he didn’t pay us, either.

Therefore, we dropped the matter into the hands of our lawyers and took S. to Court.

Soon thereafter, I was transferred to Miami, hence I don’t know — and I didn’t ask — what happened to our lawsuit or if C — the most probable option — had arranged its withdrawal.

In fact, the matter was no longer into my hands.

THE ARGENTINIAN “CORRALITO” AND MIAMI AGAIN.

Already in Miami, I found out about the establishment of the sadly famous “Corralito” in Argentina.

Argentina went through a deep economic crisis, which generated its “default” or the non-payment of the Argentinian debt. The then Minister of the Economy, Domingo Cavallo, had to resign to avoid a bigger run in the country’s banks and the enormous “capital flight” that was devastating the economy.

There was a parity of the Argentinian Peso with the USA Dollar, in which nobody believed, imposed under the Government of Carlos Menem, and the population went in mass to their banks to withdraw their Pesos and convert them into Dollars, anticipating a big devaluation.

Cavallo then decreed the freezing (The “Corralito” as it was widely known the unpopular measure) of all accounts and term deposits denominated in Pesos (At the beginning, only 250 Pesos a week could be withdrawn from the accounts, later the amount was increased to 300 Pesos per week), while it was totally prohibited moving the accounts denominated in Dollars USA, and the official parity remained in place.

Therefore, everybody had to resort to the black market, where the Dollar first quoted at 1,40 Pesos, and a little later at almost 4 Pesos per Dollar.

Goodbye, parity!

The damage caused to the population costed his job to the then President Fernando de la Rua, who was eventually obliged to resign amid violent protests, as it was the case before with his Ministry of the Economy, Domingo Cavallo, author of the measure.

The “Corralito” didn’t affect me at all, as when it happened (December 2001) I was already in Miami. I had closed all my accounts in Argentina and arrived at Miami in September 2001, two months before the abusive “Corralito”, which was nothing but an authentic robbery to the Argentinian population, which believed in the much praised (By the successive Argentinian Governments) parity.

As it was said, every account denominated in Dollars was frozen, being prohibited to withdraw or make any payment from them, unless the owner of the account agreed to convert the Dollars to Pesos at the Exchange rate 1:1, or at parity (fake parity I’d say).

Eventually, under the provisional mandate of President Eduardo Duhalde, who succeeded Fernando de la Rua after three Presidents that lasted only a few days on the job, the total reimbursement of their balances was offered to the holders of accounts denominated in Pesos, but payable in Argentinian Government Bonds .

Even worse, Duhalde created what was known as the “Corralon”, by which all term deposits in Dollars were OBLIGATORILY converted to Pesos, at the Exchange rate of 1.60 Pesos per Dollar, when the Exchange rate on the streets was 3,60 Pesos per Dollar!

An authentic robbery to the Argentina’s population!

Some account holders introduced a lawsuit against their banks but, those fair legal actions, 10 years later (About to expire the cases), still awaited resolution in the extremely slow Argentinian Courts.

Translation: From the letter of D. Mario Vargas Llosa: My Translation of his letter from Spanish to English.

“Yes, I cry for you, Argentina”.

Photo:https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/0*LeL6JrForxVX-2C8.jpg

The great writer, 2010’s Literature Nobel Prize laureate, D. Mario Vargas Llosa.

Last month, my wife Isabel shared with me the open letter the distinguished writer D. Mario Vargas Llosa wrote in Spanish, referring to a theme (Argentina) very close to my heart, as I lived in Buenos Aires for two years, learned to love Argentina during my stay there, and shared completely D. Mario Vargas Llosa’s views about that country

For those reasons, and because I think that D. Mario, as usual, described Argentina’s current mess and its origins very accurately, I decided to translate and publish the translation of his letter in medium.com, as I think the subject will be of interest to English-only speakers as well:

Photo: https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/0*0tO8EkbUG5Ubg_QZ.jpg

Buenos Aires: 5 of May Avenue, and The Obelisk, emblems of Argentina’s capital.

Yes, I cry for you, Argentina”.

The first country in the world that completely eradicated illiteracy was not the United States, it was not France, it was Argentina, with an educational system that was an example for the entire world. That country, which was a vanguard country: How can it be the impoverished, chaotic, underdeveloped country of today?

What happened there?

Was the country invaded?

Were the Argentinians immersed in some sort of a very long, terrible, war?

No, the Argentinians did that to themselves. For half a century, they have always chosen the worst options for their country.

But, how can that be understood?

A country with educated people. Absolutely privileged, with just a few inhabitants populating a very large territory blessed with all-natural resources.

Why are not they the first country on Earth?

Why haven’t they got the living-standard of say, Sweden, of Switzerland?

Because the Argentinians did not want to.

They have elected instead to be poor.

They have followed shoddy “caudillos”, trash’s “saviors”, raving lunatics unhinged by their own hatred to anything different to their own craziness.

They have elected to live under dictatorships, inside the most atrocious form of mercantilism.

The Argentinians are obviously responsible for that.

For me is terrible what has occurred in Argentina.

The first time I went there, I was marveled.

A country of middle-class people with no poor, in the L.A.’s sense of poverty.

Photo: https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*e17l7JGpxl7uACuPo7A8zA.png

Ex-Presidents of Argentina. From the left, Raul Alfosin (1983–1989), Carlos Saul Menem (1989–1999), father of the parity of the 1:1 Peso with the USA $ (?), Fernando de la Rua (1999–2001), who was forcd to resign amid violent street protests against the infamous “Corralito”, an authentic robbery to the Argentinian population committed during his mandate. De la Rua was eventually substituted by various, extremely short-term, interim Presidents until Eduardo Duhalde ( Jan.2002-May 2003) assumed the Presidency designated by a Peronist Argentinian Congress. He later called for an election won by Nestor Kirchner (2003–2007), who was elected and, upon his death, finally replaced by his wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, (2007–2015). Please, notice that with the exception of ex-Presidents Alfosin, de la Rua, and President Macri of course, albeit he is not in the photo above, all the rest of ex-Presidents are Peronist. Cristina Kirchner — in spite of many pending corruption charges against her — is now Argentina’s new Vice President-elect, but it is said that she wasn’t sure of the effect the corruption scandals associated to her name would have on the voters, so she ran for the VP position instead, and decided to work for the Presidential candidature of Alberto Fernandez, a “friendly” old-time associate of her and her dead husband.

How a demonic couple like the Kitchener got ever elected?

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The Kitchener couple: Both Presidents of Argentina.

Such a diabolic couple, manipulators, populists to the extreme, evidently corrupt like the Kirchner, governing that country?

At least, one of them is not there anymore!

We hope that the one remaining is not able to continue sinking that, one-time, great country!

Nevertheless, judging by her infernal, very close relationship with the deranged, pariah, beast, troglodyte, from the dearest, now extinct, the Republic of Venezuela, everything appears to indicate that now “little Cristina” will get even closer to that scum, apprentice of dictator, who already had provided more than enough financing to her mandate, at the expense of the noble, but inexplicably inert Venezuelan people.

Once in Miami, we dedicated considerable time to look for a place to live in definitively.

We lived in temporary furnished residences, paid for by the company for 3 months, and still we were not able to find a place to live.

With Isabel dedicated full time to the search, I visited dozens of apartments first and houses later, until we found the adequate house to live in (Living in a house or in an apartment?, that was our dilemma and the main reason for our delay).

Eugenio is a disabled Economist (UCAB, Caracas), cursed a post-graduate Diploma in Marketing (Strathclyde University, Scotland, UK), and an MBA (England, UK).