Buenos Aires Times

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Jan 7th-13th: What We Learned This Week

What has happened the last seven days?

Saturday 12 January, 2019
The first protest of 2019.
The first protest of 2019. Foto:AP/ /NATACHA PISARENKO

GOVERNMENT PUTS SECURITY ON THE AGENDA

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich on Monday announced that the government would be sending to Congress a bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 15 and continued to defend the proposal throughout the week despite criticism from various sides. Bullrich, who reportedly favoured lowering the age to 14, and other officials called the move “a debt to society.” The minister described the juvenile contribution to crime as “important” and would become increasingly so while remaining unpunished. Human rights organisations and the Church criticised the initiative, while opposition politicians accused the government of trying to imitate the rhetoric of new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

SCIOLI MAKES HEADLINES – FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS

Gisela Berger, the partner of former Buenos Aires province governor Daniel Scioli, seemed to derail his plans to launch his presidential candidacy this weekend when last Wednesday she suddenly went viral to accuse him of “psychic violence” and threatening her, although she stopped short of saying that he had issued death threats. Earlier the model had caused problems for Scioli when she had accused him of pressuring her to abort their daughter Francesca, now 15 months old. Scioli spent the week skiing in the exclusive French Alpine resort of Courchevel and there were conflicting reports as to whether he would go ahead with tomorrow’s proposed campaign launch in Mar del Plata.

FIRST PROTEST OF 2019?

A torchlight march against recent utility bill hikes organised by trade unions, the left and picket organisations was held downtown on Thursday evening, drawing large crowds.

HUGE RISE IN DIVORCES

The number of divorces in this city rose by a startling 41 percent, boosted by the new Civil Code. Contrary to “seven-year itch” notions or any assumption that today’s young are more averse to permanent relationships, the increase was sharpest among marriages of more than 20 years – almost 70 percent.

HANTAVIRUS EPIDEMIC

The Hantavirus epidemic hitting the Patagonian province of Chubut since early December has already claimed nine lives with dozens of other suspected cases (of whom at least 24 have been confirmed) undergoing quarantine in local hospitals. The outbreak is considered especially worrying because the ages of the latest three fatalities (16, 30 and 31) do not fall into the very young or very old age brackets considered most vulnerable. All public events in western Chubut (the epicentre of the outbreak) have been cancelled and locals are expressing alarm as to the “devastating” consequences for tourism at the height of the summer holiday season, fearing a repeat of the 1996 epidemic in El Bolsón (Río Negro) with a final death toll of 15.

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...

The ongoing investigation into Kirchnerite corruption by Judge Julián Ercolini has turned up more money-laundering to the tune of US$160 million via fake invoices by key whistleblower Ernesto Clarens, who now awaits a new summons, it was reported this week. Elsewhere, the Chaco provincial Federal Appeals Court on Tuesday upheld the judicial warrant calling for Radical deputy Aida Ayala to be remanded in custody facing charges of irregularities in awarding a garbage collection contract while mayor of Resistencia, Chaco’s provincial capital. Her parliamentary privileges prevent the order from taking effect but Ayala said on Thursday that she would not take refuge in them.

CAMPAIGN CASH QUESTIONS

The Fundación Formar formerly headed by current Transport Minister Guillermo Dietrich contributed 2.7 million pesos to Mauricio Macri’s 2015 presidential campaign, according to Noticias magazine. Even without the potential conflict of interest, the legal status of foundations prohibits them from making contributions to political campaigns, reports said.

YPF CUTS FUEL PRICES

The state oil company YPF last Monday announced that it would be cutting fuel prices by up to 3.2 percent, the second reduction in five weeks. In the course of the week its example was followed by other players such as Shell and Axion.

MACRI VERSUS MADURO

Both President Mauricio Macri and Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie repudiated Thursday’s swearing-in of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro this week, describing it as a “mockery of democracy” after the Organisation of American States (OAS) approved the resolution declaring Maduro’s second term “illegitimate.”

DE LA RÚA STILL IN HOSPITAL

Ex-president Fernando de la Rúa, 81, in hospital since New Year’s Day, remained in serious condition last week although a Thursday bulletin from his Pilar hospital expressed cautious optimism, describing the patient as “evolving slowly but favourably.” However, other details from the report were more worrying. Every attempt to take him off his iron lung this week had failed, leading doctors to supplement artificial respiration with a tracheotomy. Upon entering hospital at the start of this year, De la Rúa was immediately subjected to coronary angioplasty with a stent inserted into his heart, remaining in intensive care ever since.

SYMBOLIC VISIT FOR MACRI

President Mauricio Macri all but continued his Patagonian holiday last week in La Angostura (near Bariloche) but paid brief visits to Neuquén (where he discussed the conditions to be offered Vaca Muerta shale investors with Governor Omar Gutiérrez) and Calafate in Santa Cruz, long the residence of his predecessor and main political rival Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

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