Here is a historical breakdown of why Argentina is where it is (summary: it has absolutely nothing to do with Shell):
- Starting with Nestor Kirchner (Christina Kirchner's husband), there were a ton of social programs started that basically bankrupted the already bankrupt country
- In order to keep funding said programs, Argentina decides it doesn't want to pay it's foreign debts anymore, especially to the US. Argentina claimed that they had already paid back well beyond the original loan amounts. Simply put, they didn't like the terms of the loans and decided to threaten defaulting. The IMF threatened to put them on credit blacklist which drove their borrowing interest rates up even higher. In the end they restructured their debt, but like all spending problems, it is never the math that causes massive debt, but behavior.
- Fast forward to about a year or two ago. Christina Kirchner keeps spending on social programs with no way to pay for them and is facing massive devaluation of the Argentine Peso. Investors and individuals start buying up dollars and euros before the peso collapses. Kirchner bans the exchange of foreign currencies in Argentina.
-Fast foward to a couple of weeks ago. Argentine economists fear a massive bubble is building over the artificially propped up peso and convince Kirchner and politicians to open up foreign exchanges before the bubble gets so big that its collapse will crater the country like it did in 2001. You can read more about that incident's culmination here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D...
- As a result of foreign exchanges opening up the bubble pops and the peso loses 15% of its value in less than 12 hours.
-Foreign companies that operate in dollars or euros have to raise prices. Commodities tied to dollars or euros are always the first to rise. Oil is probably the most exposed to this as all Oil selling countries have to sell Oil in dollars.
-After a week of rapid inflation, Shell raises it's prices, and...drumroll...SO DO ALL OTHER GAS STATIONS TIED TO IMPORTED OIL.
It bothers me that people are always so quick to crucify companies (in this case oil companies) just because it is the popular thing to do. Those dirtbag Politicians in Argentina are no different than the dirtbag politicians we have here in the US. Their arguments consist of blaming anyone but themselves for domestic policy disasters. Just like Bush blamed Terrorists, Obama blamed Bush, and whoever comes next will blame Obama. Down there, they just say "Those damned European/American money grubbing corporations are doing this to us!" Sadly, like here in the US, the people there buy it hook line and sinker.
Sources - Reading the news, living in Argentina for a few years (2003 - 2005), and having a basic understanding of macro economics and currency valuations.