Buenos Aires Times

argentina KEY STORIES FROM THE LAST SEVEN DAYS

April 2nd-8th: What we learned this week

From Caputo's controversial message, to teachers strike and the russians leaving the submarine's search.

Saturday 7 April, 2018
"My daughters are 11 and 13 years old. Don't be too harsh on me :)". Foto:Télam/OSVALDO FANTON

CAPUTO HEARING AND THE PAPELITO

The abrupt end of Finance Minister Luis Caputo’s midweek interpellation in Congress tended to overshadow the preceding four hours in most media coverage. An uproar ensued when Caputo sent Kirchnerite deputy Gabriela Cerrutti a handwritten note asking her to lay off his daughters aged 11 and 13, whom she had claimed had been named directors of his Axis investment fund in a television programme some days ago. Cerrutti reacted explosively (magnifying the ministerial indiscretion to “gender violence” the following day) and Caputo stalked out, abruptly ending proceedings. But since the clash occurred just before lunchtime, most legislators did not seem to resent the arbitrary termination. Yet this petty incident stealing many headlines had nothing to do with the central purpose of Caputo’s Congress appearance, which was to explain his offshore interests to a bicameral committee. Various deputies also sought to grill him on more general questions of policy – thus former economy minister Axel Kicillof accused him of doubling Argentina’s foreign debt in just 18 months while the debt issue was also raised by deputies from other opposition parties and even a Radical from President Mauricio Macri’s ruling coalition. Caputo was generally evasive about his offshore interests – thus he denied “any commercial relationship with Noctua (Asset Management)” even though the Securities and Exchange Commission of the United States has confirmed him as a shareholder in the Princess International fund controlling Noctua. In general Caputo had trouble finding anything untoward about offshore funds, which he equated with security boxes in bank vaults.

COURT RULINGS OVER THE BORDER LEAVE LULA FACING TIME BEHIND BARS

The decision of Brazil’s Supreme Court to reject by a 6-5 vote ex-president Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva’s habeas corpus request, thus exposing him to imprisonment on a confirmed graft conviction, caused an impact far beyond the giant neighbour, also spilling over into Argentina where much of this year’s growth prospects depends on stability and growth in Brazil – now jeopardised by the exclusion of the opinion poll frontrunner from October’s elections. The former president was set a 24-hour deadline to hand himself over to police by Federal Judge Sergio Moro, who issued a warrant for his arrest in the wake of the top court’s decision.

HSBC WHISTLEBLOWER ARRESTED IN MADRID

Former HSBC computer programmer Hervé Falciani, whose whistleblowing on a global scale was also important in Argentine tax evasion probes, was arrested in Madrid on Wednesday at the request of Swiss authorities. In the latter country he has already been sentenced to five years in prison for violating banking secrecy. Argentines number just over 4,000 of the 130,000 HSBC clients exposed by Falciani as having secret accounts.

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION

A federal court ruled on Wednesday that Kirchnerite tycoon Lázaro Báez should remain in prison beyond the normal two years for pre-trial detention (a period that lapsed last week) due to the “evident complexity” of his case and the multiple charges against him. Meanwhile, AFIP tax bureau urged Oil Combustibles SA – the mainstay of the Indalo Group led by Cristóbal López and Fabián De Sousa – whose tax arrears run into 11 digits to declare bankruptcy. In other Kirchnerite corruption cases, former Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido and his energy secretary Daniel Cameron were ordered to trial in the Odebrecht corruption probe.

MACRI: ‘MALVINAS BELONG TO ARGENTINA’

President Mauricio Macri met Monday with relatives of the Argentine soldiers who died in combat during the 1982 war between Argentina and Great Britain over control over the Malvinas (Falklands) Islands. The meeting at the Olivos presidential palace was held on the 36th anniversary of the conflict. ““The islands belong to us”, the President reiterated.

INFLATION ESTIMATES WON’T PLEASE GOVERNMENT

For the first time this year an official inflation forecast is topping 20 percent – the Central Bank’s REM survey (the pooled average of the forecasts of private economic analysts) has raised its 2018 projection to 20.3 percent although core inflation remains below that threshold at 18.1 percent. The inflation prospects for this month are not optimistic with household gas bills going up 40 percent as from Easter Sunday.

ABUSE SCANDAL CLAIMS DEEPEN

Paedophilia bulked large in last week’s news on at least two fronts. In the football world a scandal starting in Independiente has spread to at least two more clubs (River Plate and Temperley) as witnesses continue to come forward and evidence starts to mount. By way of contrast evidence was in short supply at Mirtha Legrand’s televised Easter Saturday dinner where socialite/ journalist Natacha Jaitt accused a wide range of celebrities, including media figures and journalists, of being paedophiles (with and without AIDS) – neither on that occasion or in a Wednesday court appearance did she substantiate her charges.

BA PROVINCE TEACHERS STRIKE

Buenos Aires province’s teachers returned to the strike warpath on Thursday after rejecting the latest pay offer from Buenos Aires province Governor María Eugenia Vidal. In previous offers Vidal had offered an attendance bonus of 6,000 pesos and a training bonus of 3,000 pesos on top of a flat 15 percent increase (the government’s 2018 cap) – now she has added yet another annual bonus of 2,520 pesos for “didactic material.” These three bonuses would pump up the basic 15 percent to almost 18.5 percent in real terms but the teachers are holding out for at least 20 percent.

RUSSIANS LEAVE SAN JUAN SEARCH

On Tuesday, Russian vessel Yantar finally abandoned the search for the submarine ARA San Juan after four-anda-half months of intermittent effort. The search is now wholly dependent on local initiatives.

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