For workers, the change in boss was a wake-up call that marked the beginning of the end. In María Eva’s words:
In ‘97, it was reported to us that this part was going to be sold, that the Bauen Tower was going to be divided from the Bauen Suite.1 They offered us severance money that was far less than what we were due. I said that I was going to think about it, and they answered me that I had until tomorrow, and that if I wanted to file suit against them, I might win after five or six years, and ’if you were going to be paid, you would be paid in installments.’ I consulted with my husband (who was working at Polytechnics, which also belonged to Iurcovich) and we decided to sign up to file suit. But they made me sign before a scribe where I accepted all the proposed terms. Others made arrangements through the union. This served to give me more knowledge of our rights. I began to realize that doing my job in the best way was no guarantee of keeping it, that we could end up on the street at any time, that we were just numbers to them, we weren’t people.
In the midst of the economic recession the country was going through, things got harder for the business in Solari’s hands, and the prices of the rooms dropped from 120 dollars to around 70.2 Things were not going as expected, and Menem and Cavallo’s convertibility model was winding down.
December 7, 1998, the BAUEN was selected by the Alliance between Radical Civic Unity and FREPASO to proclaim the presidential slate of Fernando de la Rúa and Carlos “Chacho” Álvarez, which would ultimately win the election in 1999. In those days, the hotel was also the site of meetings between a number of hierarchs in the Justicialista Party of Buenos Aires, who frequented its facilities so often they ended up becoming known as the Bauen Group.3 Meanwhile, Solari contributed a few worker dismissals from the hotel to the unemployment statistics, and also reduced the hotel to the category of four stars. As if this was not enough, he began to accumulate debt for ABL to the GCBA, which, in 2005, was estimated at five million pesos. The decline was conspicuous.
For the business owners in the hotel sector, the summer of 1999 was the worst in ten years. The devaluation of the real stopped the flow of Brazilian tourists to Buenos Aires, and even factoring in that January and February are considered the low season in the city, it was still expected to be an unusually difficult year.4
- The Bauen hotel we refer to in this book was also known as the Bauen Tower, a marketing name the Iurkoviches used to distinguish it from the Bauen Suite, the fantasy name for the hotel they still maintain on Callao avenue. [Translator’s note: since the publication of this book, the Bauen Suite has closed permanently.]↩
- Santiago O’Donnell, ob. cit.↩
- In the group Bauen there were leaders like Felipe Solá, Alberto Pierri and Luis Barrionuevo. For example, see: “Duhalde begins to put together her list, and the ‘Bauen Group’ hardens its position,” in El día, 1 February 1999. Recovered from https://www.eldia.com/nota/1999-2-1-el-duhaldismo-comienza-a-armar-su-lista-y-el-grupo-bauen-endurece-posiciones↩
- Silvina Heguy, “Hotels of the Capital: the worst summer in 10 years,” in daily Clarín, 21 February 1999. Recovered from https://www.clarin.com/economia/hoteles-capital-peor-verano-10-anos_0_SkanEClRYx.html↩