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Facebook drives trading in Argentina's barter clubs

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11th-Jul-2018       
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Reuters, San Miguel, Argentina :
At an abandoned train station in Buenos Aires' working-class suburb of San Miguel, hundreds of Argentines gather with bags of clothes, rice, flour and sugar to trade.
Most are women, some accompanied by children. A cardboard sign with their names scrawled in black marker hangs from strings around their necks. They walk slowly around the old concrete platform yelling out the names of people they had agreed to trade within a forum on Face book.
They are the face of a resurgent but little-reported phenomenon in the suburbs surrounding the Argentine capital - barter clubs.
The clubs have tens of thousands of members and are attracting hundreds more every week. They have become an unofficial economic indicator, showing the toll that soaring inflation and high unemployment are exacting on South America's second-biggest economy.
The barter clubs have surfaced before, during Argentina's 2001-2002 economic crisis and in the 2009 global financial meltdown. In between those crises they never completely went away, but today the clubs operate differently. Many members are part of Facebook groups where they arrange trades before exchanging goods in person at places like the railway station.
Membership in the clubs has been soaring in recent months as poor Argentines, many of whom have lost their jobs or work off-the-books, struggle to find the cash to make ends meet. They are one sign that progress made by President Mauricio Macri last year in reducing poverty is beginning to reverse.
The country's inflation rate is running at above 25 per cent, and the currency has lost more than 30 per cent of its value this year in a financial crisis that economists say will likely trigger a recession.

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