Poor Borges must be rolling over his grave at the Argentine ban on imported books!
The official lie claims that Resolution 453 is not a ban on books, just a ban on toxic lead ink. This way President Cristina Kirchner, an Evita wannabe, can claim to be saving untold Argentinians from the epidemic of ink-lead poisoning in the more literate First World. Of course there is no such peril, but that is irrelevant.
The Argentine book ban gives a new twist to the concept of digesting a book. If you want to protect the national health, why not simply instruct Argentinians to consume more vegetables instead of books? Then again, no official would dare suggest that the national addiction to red meat poses a health risk.
Word from on high says this ill-considered ban is already being reversed after thousands of readers expressed their outrage in FaceBook and Twitter. Readers who ordered books from Amazon, for example, are being forced to travel to the international airport outside Buenos Aires with written proof that these volumes do not contain ink with lead over 5 or 6 parts per thousand.
None of this has anything to do with promoting safety and health. If that were the motive, they'd do better to invest in soap and toilet paper in public restrooms rather than attempt to create panic about an invasion of foreign books.
The Argentinians can expect this kind of autocratic maneuver from President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who earned a master's in propaganda from studying idol Eva Peron. As Argentinians know, the Queen Cristina the Benevolent steered millions of tax dollars to buy out the commercial soccer channel "because the people have a right to watch soccer on TV." The former commercial ads have been replaced by spins about her noble and glorious reign. So naturally one has to suspect her administration's sudden tender concern about potential lead poisoning from turning pages with damp fingers in Harry Potter novels or scientific texts.
Anyone with their blinders off can see that the latest autocratic maneuver is just the latest in a series ill-disguised attempt to to fix the disaster she has made of the economy, as measured in the downward spiral of the Argentina peso. The foreign book ban is really about promoting Argentine publishers, reducing the trade balance, and stenching the flow of dollars from the country.
This is obvious from the comments by a chief apologist for the government's move, Juan Carlos Sacco, board member of the Argentine Industrial Union, UIA, the leading industrial advocacy group: "Argentina does not ban the import of books, the latest measures have been implemented to safeguard human health since handling books could entail dangers originated in the lead content of the inks with which they are published." [see footnote]
He nevertheless admitted that the resolution does have the intention of promoting printing of books in Argentina, reported Montevideo's MercoPress, which also added that the new regulation does not ban the use of high lead inks in domestically published books. (If you've ever seen the paint peeling from countless Argentinian walls, you would agree that a serious anti-lead project would start there, not with foreign educational materials!)
" 'In the last five years book imports totalled 140,00 tons equivalent to 550 million dollars. And in 2011 the misbalance was approximately 78% which represents a deficit of 125 million dollars,' ” said Sacco, according to MercoPress.
Personal note: I'm back in the U.S. enjoying unlimited access to English-language books at last, and unfortunately with less time to post. However any government attempts at limiting access to books or other information is something all of us should take seriously enough to stop and fight however we can. For more on bizarre attempts to stop the flow of books into Argentina, see my prior post about the customs agent who threatened not to hand over my Amazon order a few years ago: "The Ministry of Culture does not allow books in English into the country--unless they were published in a Spanish-speaking country." Thank goodness for my new Kindle!
Note: Is there a secret school that trains Argentine leaders in the art of self-deception as well as propaganda? How can anyone utter such ridiculous statements with a straight face? Sacco's comments remind me of one of members in the three-man junta that terrorized Argentina during the "Dirty War" that disappeared 30,000 citizens while canceling human rights. In response to President Carter's protest, one of them, perhaps General Videla, said, "How can anyone say there is no democracy here? There are three of us, and we take votes--and majority rules!"