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Argentie Bureaucracy is WatchingOur readers also write, believe it or not. This goes to prove that contrary to our detractor's opinions they do actually think. One of our readers (who shall forever remain anonymous - because even we can't identify him or her) provided us with a classic horror story of bureaucratic stupidity. In the beginning we thought it would be a good idea to print the story as-is, but then we thought better and decided that there was a lesson in there. Actually, several. And so we begin.


In the beginning

Argentina is famous for, among other things, being at the forefront of identifying, cataloguing and persecuting caring for their citizens. Formal cataloguing began at earnest in 1911 with the Law #8129 also called the "General Enrolling Law". It declared that all native and naturalized citizens of 18 years of age, whether residing in the country or abroad, must be "enrolled". The "enrolling" entity shall be the Civil Registry who was placed under the command and control of military authorities for this purpose. Military authorities being themselves dependent from the Ministry of War (yes, that was its real name). The enrolling consisted of taking personal identification data, a photograph and fingerprinting. With this information the citizen was provided with an ID Document (the Enrolling Notebook) which must be demanded by any and all authorities when necessary. The last address included in the Notebook will be the only one valid for the purposes of military laws. The Notebook will also record all military types of services rendered and dates on which those services were provided. Citizens avoiding enrolment will have to serve one extra year of conscription in addition to the mandatory one. That was pretty much it! You can see an example of this Enrolling Notebook below.

Argentine ID Docuemnts - Sample

Why do it?

Most revisionist historians (those trying very hard to bleach the stinking past) have agreed that this law had three purposes:

  1. Identification
  2. Registry of conscription (forced military service) fulfilment
  3. Vote enabler

Regarding identification, this was not necessary. There wasn't a general public demand or outrage because of lack of "formal" identification. Life was moving just fine without any such ID.

Regarding voting, the very same year the Law 8130 was also enacted requiring for the first time that people vote. Voting became an obligation. Knowing who voted and who did not was a priority for politicians, not people. It is true that up to that time political elections were decided by fraud, but Roque Sáenz Peña (the president who enacted this law) belonged to the Radical Party (center) and needed popular vote to stay in power. For that he needed to make sure people vote. Again, people were doing just fine with or without voting; it was because of politicians that voting became mandatory.

Regarding forced military service (i.e. conscription) again, people were doing just fine without it. The only ones who did not were the military. This "enrolment" law was written by the military and for the military. As we pointed out above, the only purpose of the law was to make sure that all able bodies were at the disposal of the military. Even the most severe penalties were… longer military service!

But why would Argentina need a large army? Good question. It so happens that contrary to popular belief, Argentine was very active militarily (i.e. aggressive) since its independence from Spain in 1810. Military conflicts and tensions include:

  • 1810 - 1818: War of independence against Spain (Latin America also secedes)
  • 1825 - 1928: Argentine-Brazil war for the control of Uruguay
  • 1836-1839: War of the Confederation. Chile and Argentina fought the Peru-Bolivia block
  • 1845: French and UK blockade of the River Plate
  • 1858: Territorial dispute with Chile
  • 1864 - 1870: War of the Triple Alliance. Argentine, Brazil and Uruguay decimate Paraguay
  • 1873: War of the Pacific: Argentina supports the war against Chile by Peru and Bolivia
  • 1874: Territorial dispute with Chile
  • 1872 - 1894: Conquest of the desert. Systematic genocide against indigenous populations "of the south"
  • 1881: Territorial dispute with Chile
  • 1896: Conscription was established
  • 1902: Territorial dispute with Chile

By then (1911) they were absolutely sure a larger army was a must. It could not have been otherwise since they have been on and off wars for the last 100 years! The main problem was, of course, that there was very easy to evade conscription without a systematic way to identify everybody. Hence the military need for a country-wide ID system.

This ID system was further enhanced by the work of the Argentine Juan Vucetich. He was a Police Officer who pioneered the use of fingerprinting techniques in criminal investigations. His work was later on copied by all police forces throughout the world. However, more importantly, his work was widely used as a means of identifying people in the Enrolment Notebook.

Since 1911 Argentine people can run but they can't hide. The government is everywhere.

Following the trail blazers

Passed this historical point, many other ID systems were introduced in Argentina, some of which can also be seen in the picture above. Oftentimes IDs overlapped each other making Argentine citizens probably the only people in the world with two, and sometimes even three, mandatory, contemporary, not-exclusive and completely different internal, pure ID documents. Such was the thirst for knowledge as to who you were, where were you and what were you doing. This trend has not stopped even today but it has continued to pervade all life in Argentina to the point that it is now impossible to make any meaningful economic transaction -such as the use of a credit card- or any government bureaucratic transaction without said ID. Furthermore, as the Argentine government continues its irrevocable march towards digitalization and consolidation of all their databases, every citizen will be tracked at all times. All financial transactions -regardless of size- are already tracked since a few years back. And we mean all of them. The conscription was finally "suspended" in 1994 but it still hangs as a Damocle's sword over the heads of all Argentines because it is in its Constitution! Worse. The ultimate decision of its implementation rests with the Executive (i.e. the President). Even with this suspension the thirst for knowledge by the Argentine government has increased exponentially aided and abetted by newer and faster IT technologies being enabled by the magic fiat money printing machine: the Central Bank.


In Argentina

Juana (let's call our reader Juana) is a person that was born in Argentina. She had family, friends, went to school and survived endless state and left terrorisms always framed by dictatorships military, public or otherwise. Eventually, she got fed-up and left. She made a better life for herself in a vastly different country. Yet, she never ceased to be Argentine in the heart. A few years back she was offered a position with a renowned corporation in Buenos Aires. Hoping that perhaps this time things would be different, she made the tragic mistake of agreeing to it. So she packed her belongings and went. In Buenos Aires the corporation ratified its offer, but there was a problem. She had to make a change of address in her ID document otherwise the corporation would be unable to offer her the position due to legal reasons.

So she went to the appropriate office and fulfilled all the bureaucratic requirements. She was told that her new document would be mailed to her address in Buenos Aires not later than 10 days… which in bureaucratese means at least twice that number. No, she could not retrieve her ID in any other way. The only way she would receive her new ID was by presenting the transaction receipt to the postal worker at her home. But there was a problem. The entire IT system generating the magic (and critical) receipt crashed (or in Argentine parlance "se cayo" -it dropped-). Bureaucrats were unable to generate it, restore it, copy it or anything otherwise. Not to worry. She was given 3 pieces of paper full of official stamps, signatures, tracking numbers, and other very official-looking pieces of information. She was assured without any doubt that this would be sufficient.

Of course, it wasn't. The postman absolutely refused to deliver the document. She was told that she needed to go in person to the Headquarters of the Argentine Postal Service to resolve the issue… but only after 3 days. Not to worry, everything will be OK. She was assured.

Of course, it wasn't. In the Headquarters of the Argentine Postal Service she was notified that the paperwork in her possession was worth exactly nothing. Without the exact magic receipt, they were unable to release the document (or more precisely, to attempt a second delivery). But, there was an alternate process she could attempt. A different magic bureaucratic procedure. Not to worry. Everything is going to be OK, she was told.

Of course, it wasn't. The employee (a different one than the one giving the assurances) was quite adamant that without the magic receipt, even this process could not be completed.

Meanwhile, for better or worse the corporation that was so eager to hire her received a notification from their headquarters freezing indefinitely all hires due to prevalent Argentine economic conditions.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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