I learned about this situation rather randomly in summer 2012 (back then when it wasn't featured in Lonely Planet) in a small Bolivian border town where everyone and their grandmother was offering Argentine pesos at extraordinarily great rates - because here, just outside Cristina's realm, no-one could force them do follow the wishful official rate. So I ran to an ATM, withdrew what I could in Bolivianos, immediately bought peso with them and felt like I am robbing a whole country.
Not much time has passed and I learned that the "arbolitos" - the guys who stand (resembling little trees) on the Florida street in Buenos Aires in broad daylight shouting "cambio, cambio" to anyone who looks remotely interested - are in fact pretty straight up and fine people and that while technically illegal, buying from them is actually faster and easier than going to a bank and maybe even more reliable. The first time I went there, I was making jokes on facebook about my impeding arrest - and was acutally quite thrilled by the process - the last time it was more of a chore than anything, because I realized how mundane this activity actually is for the common argentinean.
This whole situation had an unexpected advantage for me (and anyone adventurous enough while on a business trip to Argentina, I'd guess) as my superiors kinda can't ask me to exchange money on a black market, so they have to reimburse all my expenses using the official exchange rate. This may seem like me ripping off my company, but it really was just my personal risk for my personal gain - if it turned out the money so obtained was counterfeited or if I had gotten robbed in the process, the loss would be on me, of course. Nothing bad ever happened, so this turned out to be a pretty nice source of income over the years.
Well, this party is officially over as of today as some dickhead called Mauricio Macri decided that if the people actually elected him president of Argentina, he should start running the country properly. Naturally, one of the first things he did was to end this charade and let people trade the peso freely. He announced this move yesterday in the evening - smartly waiting after the markets had closed - when the official exchange rate was around 9.8 pesos for a dollar. Immediately this morning, the peso plummeted to around 14.5, which was the black market value, followed by a rather unexpected strengthening to around 14 per dollar later in the day.
What does all of this mean? A couple of hundred, or maybe even thousand people who made up the black market are immediately out of business. I am no longer gonna make a crazy amount of money on every work trip to Argentina. But more importantly, ordinary Argentineans can now legally buy foreign currency, not having to rely with their savings on the ever-unreliable peso or the black market dealers. Even more importantly, the foreign trade of Argentina is going to finally reboot. The restrictions on capital movements accompanying the exchange regulations (lifted as well now) were critically constricting both export and import of goods - the last couple of years it was almost comically impossible to obtain anything not made locally in Argentina while the export was being murdered by the unrealistic price of the goods imposed by the artificially "strengthened peso".
The opposition is rambling about all the inflation this "devaluation of peso" is going to cause, but honestly, this is largely just a big steaming pile of crap. The black market rate was the foreign exchange rate for a long time for all practical uses and purposes. The pesos in people's pockets are not suddenly worth 40% less than before, because nobody was going to buy them for the inflated price anyway. The paper price of imported goods will be higher, but at least there will be actual good to buy, not just empty promises.
The future now seems a little unclear. When I am going to land in Buenos Aires on December 25, I am not quite sure how much my dollars will be worth, when and how much to exchange or whether it is the time to start using my credit card in the country after 4 years of hiatus after all. But in general, the future for the Argentineans is now that much brighter. Let's hope this is only the a start of a series of much needed profound changes in Argetinean economy.