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ARGENTINA | 21-09-2019 12:41

Sept 16th-22nd: What We Learned This Week

What has happened the last week in Argentina?

CHUBUT CRISIS

Anationwide teacher strike to protest the deaths of two colleagues in Chubut last Tuesday emptied classes yesterday while the already acute tension in the Patagonian province (with no classes since July 22 due to pay arrears, among other public-sector stoppages) only escalated last week with violent incidents in the provincial capital of Rawson amid broken glass and police repression. Chubut Governor Mariano Arcioni reacted by sending a bill to the provincial assembly to double teacher pay but this did not equal his generosity towards himself since he had earlier submitted a bill to increase his own salary fivefold from 55,000 to over 300,000 pesos. Teachers María Cristina Aguilar, 55, and Jorgelina Ruiz Díaz, 52, died in a car crash last Tuesday afternoon when returning to Comodoro Rivadavia from a protest in Rawson. The national government said that it had transferred 1.227 billion pesos to Chubut this month but Arcioni denied receipt. (See Page 5).

JOBLESS RISE

Unemployment rose to 10.6 percent in the second quarter, the highest level since 2006, with worse to come in the wake of the crisis raging since midAugust. FOOD EMERGENCY Along dormant Congress returned to the news last week with the Senate unanimously approving on Wednesday the Food Emergency Law gaining lower house passage the previous week, while the next day the government submitted its debt profiling bill to Congress after some hesitation.

 

DOLLAR WATCH

The dollar climbed over 60 cents in the course of the week but only a cent yesterday, closing at 58.50 pesos in Banco Nación and an average of 59.08 in banks, still below the psychological 60-peso mark. Unofficially, rates ran to 68.58 pesos.

 

U-TURNS IN FASHION

The government kissed goodbye to at least two freezes in the course of last week – on the money supply and fuel prices. The latter was prompted by Monday’s 15 percent surge in world oil prices in the wake of drone attacks on Saudi Arabian refineries – on Wednesday the government authorised a four percent increase, thus ending a 90-day freeze after only 34 days. On the same day the Central Bank said it would be expanding the money supply by 2.5 percent by printing some 38 billion pesos, thus ending a 15-month freeze, as well as upping the Leliq interest floor from 58 to 78 percent. The effect on the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is relative since the freeze was more a self-imposed restriction by former Finance Minister Nicolás Dujovne than an IMF condition but at the same time the IMF agreement is leaking on various fronts.

 

POOR POLLS FOR PRO?

The latest opinion polls show City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta falling just short of an absolute majority and being forced into a run-off against Frente de Todos mayoral candidate Matías Lammens. But run-off simulations continue to favour the current mayor’s re-election by a margin of five percent or so. MARCHA DEL ‘#SÍSEPUEDE’ President Mauricio Macri has announced 30 daily ‘#SíSePuede’ (“Yes, we can,” more or less) marches for the last 30 days before the October 27 general elections, as from next Saturday (the first of which, in Barrancas de Belgrano he will attend personally). “We will hold 30 meetings in 30 cities to express, in peace and joy, who we are, how many we are, how much we want, what we want and how willing we are to fight for it,” Macri informed social networks, describing this initiative to regain momentum as “something that can tip the election.”

 

LAGARDE TALKS HERSELF UP

In her swan song Christine Lagarde (Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund until nine days ago) insisted that “without the IMF, Argentina’s situation would be very much worse” because nobody else was willing to finance the country while regretting that the “immense credit could not suffocate inflation.” The situation is “difficult and not over yet,” she added, without any word on the pending IMF tranche of US$ 5.4 billion scheduled for last weekend.

 

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...

Asecond trial for ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was ordered yesterday by Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio. This trial is based on the so-called “cuadernos” (named after an ex-chauffeur’s notebooks chronicling a decade of public works graft nationwide) while the first trial ordered last February is limited to Santa Cruz province (see Page 7 for full story). Meanwhile, a court (Tribunal Oral Federal 3) ordered the release of Kirchnerite tycoon Cristóbal López and his right-hand man Fabián de Souza in their trial for tax evasion to the tune of eight billion pesos but the release has yet to be authorised by the magistrate trying them, Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio.

 

13 YEARS, NO ANSWERS

Last Wednesday was the 13th anniversary of the disappearance of Jorge Julio López (a witness in the human rights trial of Miguel Etchecolatz, the second-in-command of the Buenos Aires provincial police during the 1976-83 military dictatorship) – an occasion marked by a massive march in the Buenos Aires provincial capital of La Plata, to which the courts reacted by announcing that they were cross-checking five million telephone calls potentially linked to the disappearance.

 

SCRUM IN JAPAN

The Rugby World Cup began yesterday in Japan with the host country defeating Russia 30-10 in the inaugural match while the Pumas were set to face France early this morning in a potentially decisive fixture for a quarter-final place.

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