Nearly thirty years ago, when I first visited Argentina during the Proceso military dictatorship, an apparently drunken policeman in the Patagonian town of Puerto San Julián insisted in telling me how much he loved Americans. In those grim days, any such attention from an official figure made you uncomfortable and, as it turned out, the policeman in question was heavily medicated - having shot himself in the foot the day before.
Fortunately, Argentina is a stable democracy now, but that doesn’t mean the country doesn’t shoot itself in the foot sometimes. Last week, interior minister Florencio Randazzo announced that the country would institute a “reciprocity fee” - similar to the one collected by neighboring Chile - on foreign visitors whose governments impose visa fees on Argentine citizens. This would mean, for instance, that US citizens entering Argentina would have to pay US$131 per person for the right to enter Argentina, while Canadians would pay even more. Australians and Mexican would pay less.
This is not unfair, of course. Not only do Argentines seeking tourist visas for the US need to pay the said fee, but they also have to provide bank statements and other supporting documentation to prove they have stable employment and resources for their trip, and that they will not overstay their welcome. An applicant from, say, the city of Ushuaia will have to fly four hours to Buenos Aires and back for a perfunctory personal interview at the U.S. consulate. It’s no surprise that Argentines (and other foreigners) resent the process, and many consider the new measure long overdue.
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