Last Sunday’s midterm elections resulted in significant gains for the Mauricio Macri administration in both Houses of Congress, while falling short of an overall majority in either. The positive trends of the PASO primaries last August 13 were reinforced. On that occasion the Let’s Change (Cambiemos) coalition (which governed in only five of Argentina’s 23 provinces) made significant gains, winning in 10 of the 24 districts. But last Sunday Macri’s “yellow submarine” triumphed in 13, including Buenos Aires province (housing three voters out of every eight in the 33-million electorate) with ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner toppled by former Education Minister Esteban Bullrich in the senatorial race.
The net gain of three provinces actually included triumphs in five provinces: the two heavyweights of Buenos Aires and Santa Fe and the inland Peronist strongholds of Chaco, La Rioja and Salta. But Peronist candidates clawed back in La Pampa and San Luis (both exclusively governed by Peronism since the return of democracy in 1983) after resounding PASO defeats.
The 257 seats of the new Lower House break down into 107 seats for Let’s Change, 67 for Kirchnerism, 40 for other Peronists 21 for Sergio Massa’s Renewal Front and allies, three for the Leftist Workers Front and 19 others. Let’s Change advanced from 15 to 24 seats in the Senate as against 31 Peronists (including 10 Kirchnerites more inclined to follow Fernández de Kirchner and her new Civic Unity party) and 17 others in the 72-seat Senate.
THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...
Abumper edition this week for our irregular (yet quickly becoming regular) item, with former Planning minister Julio De Vido leading the way. The Kirchnerite heavyweight was arrested and jailed on corruption charges on Wednesday, the same day on which he lost his parliamentary immunity (see full story on Page 6). Following the decision of a divided Victory Front caucus to shun proceedings, De Vido’s fate was sealed and a rapid Lower House session unanimously voted to strip him of his immunity with only one of the 177 deputies present abstaining. A cluster of policemen and a large crowd then converged on De Vido’s Avenida Libertador flat, only to find that the ex-minister had already gone to Comodoro Py courthouse to turn himself in. However, De Vido was not the only protagonist of alleged Kirchnerite corruption in the legal firing-line. On Tuesday Judge Javier López Biscayart slapped a 250-million-peso injunction on former tycoon Lázaro Báez for issuing fake cheques in the name of h is Austral Construcciones company and tax evasion. Báez has already been in prison since last year on charges of money-laundering.
But injunctions were not limited to the Kirchnerite side of the political divide. On Wednesday Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado (the widow of late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman) imposed an eight-million-peso lien on the assets of Vicente López Mayor Jorge Macri within a probe into his purchase of a Miami flat. The US$403,000, via a Uruguayan loan used for the purchase, is suspected of forming part of the money-laundering exposed by last year’s Panama Papers scandal. President Mauricio Macri’s cousin insists that it is an old case invented by Kirchnerism.
GRANDMOTHERS TURN 40 WITH PERFECT PRESENT
The Grandmothers of the Plaza De Mayo received the perfect birthday present this week, the 125th recovered grandchild. As the organisation celebrated four decades since its founding at an event at the CCK on Wednesday, Grandmothers head Estela Barnes de Carlotto announced they had identified the daughter of Lucía Rosalinda Victoria Tartaglia, who was kidnapped on November 27, 1977. Gómez Centurión:
FROM CUSTOMS TO BANCO NACIÓN
A new storm has arisen in the controversial career of Juan José Gómez Centurión (a 1982 Malvinas war veteran who participated in the carapintada Army mutinyin 1987) when he was displaced last week as Customs chief to become the new vice-president of Banco Nación as from next Wednesday. Health reasons (a slow recovery from a duodenal ulcer) were given for Gómez Centurión’s exit but in mid-2016 he was suspended due to allegations of corruption, which were never substantiated. Furthermore, factional strife is reported among the higher echelons of Customs.
CFK BACK IN COURT
Buenos Aires province senator- elect Cristina Fernández de Kirchner appeared in court on Thursday as part of an investigation into accusations that her 2007-15 presidency covered up Iran’s alleged involvement in the 85-death terrorist bomb destruction of AMIA Jewish community centre in 1994. The accusations were made by the late special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, whose mysterious death in early 2015 on the eve of presenting these charges in Congress has now become the subject of an investigation pointing toward murder. Nisman was found dead in his apartment with a gunshot to his head. Following her court appearance the senator-elect (as from last Sunday) told reporters that she regarded the whole case as political persecution on the part of President Mauricio Macri and that she had told the Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio summoning her to his face that she did not expect justice from him.
For that reason she declined to testify, only presenting a written statement.
OP Investments, a United States fund, announced last Thursday the purchase of Indalo Group, owner of the television news channel C5N and the Ambito Financiero newspaper in the media world, as well as dozens of companies in other sectors, hitherto owned by Kirchnerite tycoon Cristóbal López. The firm is linked to Argentine financier Ignacio Jorge Rosner, the head of the Latin American Assets Management investment fund. Rosner has prior executive experience from various firms including the Clarín Group, and shares a Cardenal Newman secondary schooling with President Mauricio Macri.