The Foreign Book (Borges)

President Cristina Kirchner, like her husband Néstor before her, plays with the rules of Argentina’s international trade like a Machiavellian puppeteer pulling the nationalist strings.

All of this week the Argentine literati pondered the true motives for government’s new restrictions on the import of foreign books. Was it really just the application of regulations in Resolution 453/2010 to “protect the population from high levels of lead in the ink” in foreign books, as the Secretariat of Domestic Commerce announced? Or was something more sinister afoot?

A domestic manufacturer of print products and member of the Argentine Industrial Union, Juan Carlos Sacco, welcomed the measure. He explained that “if you wet your finger with your tongue to turn a page, that can be very serious for human health”.

Ordinary Argentines may need to employ the expensive services of a customs broker to clear their small parcels of fiction from Amazon. Jude Webber, a Latin America correspondent of the Financial Times in London, reported this complaint: “Why should a scientist in Tucumán who subscribes to the journal Nature have to travel, every month, 1,200 km to pick up his copy in Ezeiza Airport?”