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Argentina's Kirchner Is One Misstep Away From Calamity

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Hawkeye Pierce found himself in the middle of a minefield in one episode. Standing outside the minefield and holding a map showing where the explosives had been planted was his good friend and co-doctor, B. J. Honeycutt.

B. J. gave Hawkeye a few directions and then came to a terrible realization. The map was old, outdated and inaccurate.

While we can laugh at the antics of the doctors and nurses on the old U.S. sitcom, MASH, an almost identical scendario is playing out in South America's second largest country.

Buenos Aires investigative journalist, Jorge Lanata, has been covering politics in Argentina and his latest efforts have uncovered some disturbing things about the current administration. Articles in the Buenos Aires Herald also document misdeeds and corruption.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Argentina's president has found herself in the middle of an economic and political minefield and the map she is using has been proven to be outdated, inaccurate and explosive.

Being the stubborn, self-important leader she is, she refuses to acknowledge that the playbook she carries didn't work for Chavez, Pinochet, Castro and many other Latin America leaders whom she calls -- or has called -- friends.

Many restaraunts in Buenos Aires bear the mark of Kirchner's failed economic policies.

A 10 minute walk down four blocks of Nuevo de Julio and you can see dozens of eateries listing the menu on chalkboards out front.

With inflation at a runaway pace, it's easier, quicker and cheaper to erase yesterday's prices to reflect today's higher cost of eating than it is to constantly order new menus.

The largest mine in Kirchner's minefield currently is inflation. Pegged by independent economists at 25 percent, the government fairy tale says that it is actually just over 10 percent.

The 15 point spread is one of the signs of corruption that has led the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to censure Argentina.

"The Argentine [economy] can be characterized by [a level of] inflation, which no one recognizes," says Sergio Berensztein, an independent political analyst in Buenos Aires.

Along with recently freezing fuel and food prices, the government has outlawed the publication of independent estimates and prosecuted workers in the statistics service.

Argentina has a history of economic collapses, with the most recent one in 2001 when the country defaulted on $95 billion in debt which devalued the Argentine peso.

Argentines have tried to safeguard their savings by investing in assets such as apartments and automobiles in addition to U.S. dollars, which have become increasingly scarce with the rise of currency controls.

The controls are a weak, shallow and transparent attempt to keep U.S. dollars in the country.

The financial controls dictate that Argentines can only take out $100 U.S. dollars a day when they travel overseas. In addition to imposing a 20 percent surcharge on credit card sales outside the country, Argentine has set the official currency exchange at 5.15 pesos per dollar.

A healthy black market -- known as the "blue market" -- has developed and the unofficial exchange rate is now over nine pesos per dollar.

The growing gap betwen the official and unofficial rates are making buying merchandise cheaper in Argentina for those able to obtain dollars. The Argentine auto dealers' association recently reported that BMW sales grew by 160 percent from a year ago.