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Argentine Currency Controls Have Ripple Effect

By CHRISTINE ARMARIO

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) â¿¿ Maxi Gonzalez and his family settled into a dinner of sirloin strip steaks and salads at the Maya Tapas and Grill along Miami Beach's famed Lincoln Road. It was the first night of their weeklong vacation from Argentina, and at a restaurant they planned to frequent nearly every day. The reason: Here they could pay in Argentine pesos.

Currency controls imposed by the Argentine government in November 2011 and tightened further last year have made it increasingly difficult for tourists like Gonzalez to gain access to foreign cash needed to travel. The measures are aimed at shoring up a weakening Argentine currency and keep capital from leaving the South American country.

Gonzalez was only able to convert the equivalent of $2,000 from Argentine pesos into U.S. dollars.

"That's not nearly enough for a large family like mine," said Gonzalez, a commercial textile entrepreneur with six children.

In the city some affectionately refer to as the capital of Latin America, the measures designed to keep dollars in Argentina and elevate the Argentine peso's sliding value are having a ripple effect.

Seeing a way to help some customers and attract others, Alejandro Maya, co-owner of Maya Tapas and Grill, decided to conduct an experiment: Accept payment in pesos at the official exchange rate.

"We saw a niche, a need, and we thought that the customers could benefit from this action," said Maya, whose restaurant caters to tourists from around Latin America and the world.

It's an unusual step, but Maya's family-run business is not the only one to have taken it. Some apartment rentals in Miami Beach are accepting pesos now as well. That's much to the relief of Argentine travelers like Gonzalez, who runs a farm near Buenos Aires and was recently in Miami with his wife and two daughters.

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