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The middle classes were begging for food in the street

The elegant woman at the front door wore a fur coat and coiffed hair -- but she was not calling to invite her neighbours to a dinner party. This was Buenos Aires 2001 and Elsa Gutman -- a member of the once burgeoning middle class -- was knocking to see if the occupants of a nearby house needed any DIY or plumbing repairs.

Peddling her husband's handyman skills -- he had lost his job in a bank the previous year -- was the only way for this former teacher to pay her bills and survive: a predicament once thought impossible for urbane elite of the city known as 'the Paris of South America'.

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