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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Argentine's adventure turns to exile
Anti-government demonstrator bleeding after being hit by a thrown glass
Argentines are divided over the way ahead
In the latest of a series of personal testimonies on Argentina's crisis, Alexis Gruber, a 30-year-old Argentine accountant working for an international firm in Glasgow, tells BBC News Online of his doubts over returning to work in his home country.

"I came to this country to take a Masters degree in accountancy, for fun and to have an experience of living abroad.

"My idea was to go back to Argentina with the knowledge gained, but now I can't, I really can't.

"When the situation exploded in December, I was in a way expecting this - it's like when you read the Bible and you know that Jesus dies at the end, it was something like this - my country ended up in ruins.

"The news about Argentina affected me a lot: I was feeling sad, with long periods of stress as I was personally very alone at that time.

'Inevitable self-destruction'

"It was especially difficult for me to see my country going towards an inevitable self-destruction, and the feeling of impotence for not being able to see any way out of this situation.

Nobody knows how to fix it. Every person you ask in Argentina, they have their own view

"I have a friend who lives in London who really has this dilemma, who wants to do something for his country. But I think it's not valid that one person can make a change in my country."

E-mail misery

Although Alexis worries about his family and friends, the crisis has opened up a distance between him and friends back home which makes his life more lonely.

"They feel that I'm safe in the UK, that I made it and sometimes they try - I won't say they use me - but what happens is they express all their frustrations, they give me an account of all the difficulties they are having.

"But I am struggling here - I am really struggling to have a life here, to make a place (for myself) here, to make friends."

At one point, he even asked friends not to unburden themselves to him.

Friends divided

About a month ago, his isolation was eased after he met a dozen fellow Argentines at a film show in Glasgow.

Argentines queue for the banks to reopen for the first time in a week
Bank queues last for hours

They're a mixed bunch - a couple of research physicists, a graphic designer, a tango teacher, a computer scientist. Often, they try to avoid talking about events at home but never succeed for long.

"We talk about what has happened to Argentine society, why this has happened, why in the UK you have a prosperous society and we can't have a minimally prosperous society."

Stale arguments

Argentines are divided between those who identify with the United States and those who look towards Latin American governments and developing countries, he says.

"Nobody knows how to fix it. Every person you ask in Argentina, they have their own view.

"I don't know whether to blame the United States, or just cronyism in the government. Just mismanagement is a lot to blame."

His family has not suffered as badly as some though the peso's devaluation coupled with the limits on bank withdrawals means one close relative has lost the money he was saving to study abroad.

"If he gets 20% of that money, he would be very lucky."

The memory of past crisis led many of his friends and relatives take precautions.

Painful choice

"Many people have their savings abroad because with the banks in Argentina you just don't know what is going to happen."

But rising unemployment is biting. "One friend lost his job in December, just three weeks before getting married and he has a six month old boy.

"Many of my friends have unstable jobs.

"Now I feel I'm an economic exile. The social disintegration and grim and uncertain future for my country does not give me any option but to consider staying in the UK permanently.

"It's a very difficult decision and I know that many people may consider my position as selfish and unpatriotic.

But if there is no future for me in Argentina, what else can I do?

'Don't come home!'

Even family have unwittingly underscored how betrayed and pessimistic many Argentines feel.

"My father and his wife came to visit London when I was already employed. She told me 'Please don't go back to Argentina - if you go on holiday, go to Madrid. But don't come to Argentina! It is so depressing what is happening.'

"I was speechless...very sad. In a normal country this wouldn't happen."

See also:

15 Jan 02 | Business
Why Argentines take sleeping pills
06 Feb 02 | Business
Tales of Argentina's plight
29 Apr 02 | Business
Chaos as Argentine banks re-open
27 Apr 02 | Business
Argentines swap pesos for 'Evitas'
26 Apr 02 | Business
Argentina cash squeeze tightens
26 Apr 02 | Business
Trade negotiator takes the helm
26 Apr 02 | Business
Argentina gets new economy chief
25 Apr 02 | Business
Argentina tightens banking freeze
25 Apr 02 | Americas
Argentina takes steps to end crisis
24 Apr 02 | Business
Economy chief loses the plot
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