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February 19-25: What we learned this week

The pro-abortion and the labour protest, Diaz Gilligan's resignation and cocaine in Russia's Embassy.

Saturday 24 February, 2018
CGT chief drew an impressive turnout for Wednesday’s labour protest march.
CGT chief drew an impressive turnout for Wednesday’s labour protest march. Foto:AFP/ALBERTO RAGGIO

PAÑUELAZO FOR ABORTION LAW REFORM

Thousands of demonstrators staged a protest in front of the National Congress building on Monday as activists gathered to demand legal, free, and safe abortion in Argentina. The pañuelazo, featuring green bandanas, was led by the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe, and Free Abortion. The government estimates that between 370,000 and 522,000 abortions are performed every year, most of them illegal.

FRENCH UNREST PUTS MERCOSUR DEAL IN DOUBT

France’s biggest union offered a doomsday warning yesterday, claiming that over 20,000 farms in the country could go bankrupt if the European Union concludes a trade deal with the Mercosur. The long-trailed deal, which both sides have repeatedly claimed is close in recent months, still looks far off. On Wednesday, beef farmers across France demonstrated against the deal, which could see up to 99,000 tonnes of beef from the Mercosur bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay) entering Europe every year.

OUTRAGE AFTER UBA HOMOPHOBIC CLASS MATERIAL

University of Buenos Aires (UBA) medical students expressed outrage this week after homophobic course material was delivered as part of their study programme. The class referred to “homosexual crime,” “the psychopathic homosexual,” the “latent homosexual” and “the prostitute homosexual.” Professor Gloria Ganci has been suspended from her role.

MOYANO DELIVERS A LARGE CROWD, BUT LITTLE IMPACT

Despite the absence of most of the largest trade unions, former CGT chief Hugo Moyano drew an impressive turnout for Wednesday’s labour protest march, although the day after there was no visible impact. A general strike by the workers joining the protest would be the next step. Estimates of the turnout ranged from the 90,000 reported by City Hall to the 400,000 claimed by the organisers although splitting the difference, to around a quarter million would be a closer approximation to the truth perhaps. Only two major trade unions beyond the CTA umbrella – Moyano’s teamsters and Sergio Palazzo’s bank clerks (on strike the previous two days) – joined the march but the Kirchnerite opposition, leftist parties, smaller groupings and picket movements helped to push up the numbers. Moyano delivered the closing speech after briefer messages by CGT secretary-general Juan Carlos Schmid (whose colleagues Héctor Daer and Carlos Acuña both shunned the protest) , Palazzo, CTA leaders Hugo Yasky and Pablo Micheli and picket leader Esteban Castro (CTEP). Describing the march as a historic turning-point for the workers, Moyano devoted much of his speech to ridiculing the various corruption charges against him. Beyond widespread traffic jams downtown, the march proved less disruptive for the nation’s capital than most mass protests for two main reasons: firstly, none of the transport unions joined the protest (which also aided its turnout as well as the mobility of everybody else), secondly because neither of the two sides in the dispute were looking for trouble (with Moyano anxious to avoid further discredit). The marchers thus gathered and demobilised peacefully enough although Metrobus was cut along the 9 de Julio thoroughfare during the demonstration.

THE CURIOUS TALE OF COCAINE & RUSSIA’S EMBASSY

A former Russian diplomatic official and a City police officer have been arrested in connection with the seizure of a huge cocaine shipment discovered at the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires, following a yearlong investigation into an international drug ring. Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said the 389 kilogrammes of cocaine – worth over US$50 million in street value – were hidden inside luggage that was seized in December 2016. Russian-Argentine citizens Alexander Chikalo, who is suspected of being in charge of the logistics, and City police officer Ivan Blizniouk, a naturalised Russian, were arrested. The investigation began after Victor Koronelli, the Russian Ambassador to Argentina, and three members of the Russian federal security service, reported to Bullrich that they had suspicions about the diplomatic luggage found at a school that is annexed to the Embassy.

DÍAZ GILLIGAN RESIGNS

Government House deputy chief-of-staff Valentín Díaz Gilligan resigned at the start of last week, only a few working hours after he was exposed at the end of the previous week as having US$ 1.2 million in an undeclared offshore account in Andorra. Despite some government attempts to defend him over the weekend, both the Radicals and the Civic Coalition (the two main coalition allies of President Mauricio Macri’s centre-right party) called for his departure from the start while PRO quickly decided that it was not worth resisting the pressures on behalf of a secondary official, unlike some ministers recently under fire. The latter include Finance Minister Luis Caputo facing similar denunciations of undeclared offshore interests, as well as Labour Minister Jorge Triaca on different grounds. In a rather questionable piece of behaviour, after his resignation Díaz Gilligan reportedly sent messages to the journalist who broke the story in Spain’s El País.

AMIA: SUMMONS FOR EX-INTERPOL CHIEF

The summons of former Interpol chief Ronald Noble was requested on Thursday by lawyer Tomás Farini Duggan, who thus joins Eduardo Taiano, the prosecutor in the trial of the 2013 memorandum of understanding with Iran. A total of eight defendants headed by former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her foreign minister Héctor Timerman are accused of using the pact with Iran to cover up Tehran’s role in the 1994 terrorist bomb destruction of the AMIA Jewish community centre.

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