Monday, May 27, 2024

ARGENTINA | 26-12-2020 10:49

What we learned this week: December 19 to 26

A collection of the stories that caught our eye this week in Argentina.



The lives lost to Covid-19 climbed from 41,534 to 42,314 between the end of last week and Christmas Eve while the confirmed cases of contagion rose from 1,524,372 to 1,563,865 in the same period. On Tuesday ANMAT (the Argentine equivalent of the Food & Drug Administration in the United States) extended its seal of approval to the Pfizer vaccine against coronavirus but its purchase continues to be negotiated, perhaps due to the price-tag. Similar approval was granted the following day to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine on the eve of its arrival in Argentina. On the same day all incoming flights were banned in reaction to recent outbreaks in Britain in particular. On Christmas Eve the Sputnik V vaccine duly arrived in Argentina aboard an Aerolíneas Argentinas flight amid great fanfare although former Anti-Corruption Office chief Laura Alonso dismissed the whole show as “pathetic.” President Alberto Fernández made a nation’s hopes being pinned on this vaccine very much the theme of a brief Christmas message. The Christmas message of Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was even shorter, reading: “This Christmas I want to send a strong hug to all Argentines. We deserve a moment of celebration after such a difficult year for everybody but let us celebrate responsibly and with the necessary precautions. I love you all.”


Senator Carlos Menem,90, suffered kidney failure requiring dialysis in hospital on Christmas Eve and is in an induced coma. The ex-president has been in Los Arcos Hospital since mid-month with a urinary tract infection, complicated by diabetes. Menem’s presence in the Senate next Tuesday to cast a certain vote against the legalisation of abortion now looks extremely improbable. 


The Senate is due to debate final approval of the government’s abortion bill next Tuesday with the odds slightly favouring legalisation but no outcome guaranteed.


Argentina’s trade surplus has fallen to its lowest level in 27 months, thus complicating access to the dollars so badly needed to restock dwindling international currency reserves. November’s surplus of US$271 million was also way below the forecast averaging US$1.1 billion made by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Imports rose 21 percent as against the previous November while exports shrank for the third month running to the lowest level since April at almost 26 percent less than the same month last year, INDEC statistics bureau reported. Speculation as to a devaluation thus continues. Delays in shipments due to strikes contributed to the fall in exports but the gap between the official and parallel exchange rates was judged to be the root cause of the adverse data. INDEC also reported October’s economic activity as 7.4 percent down on the same month last year, a milder downturn than earlier in this lockdown year but still negative. As always this year, hotels and restaurants led the way with a -54.5 percent plunge. 


The Federal Criminal Cassation Court has confirmed the 68-month prison sentence against former Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido for his responsibility in the 2012 Once rail disaster, convicted on fraudulent administration and malfeasance charges in October, 2018. Some legal experts see that ruling as freeing the Supreme Court from any obligation to intervene in De Vido’s case and if the justices do not admit any appeal, the ex-minister could be re-arrested although his age and health problems would make him a candidate for house arrest rather than prison. De Vido, 71, never served any of this sentence because he was then already remanded in custody in three other cases but he was granted house arrest last December and freed in March. 


The judges Leopoldo Bruglia and Pablo Bertuzzi have taken Argentina before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH in its Spanish acronym) over their upcoming removal from the Federal Appeals Court, which they consider a “violation of their rights … and legal security,” attributing it to “political motives,” despite their transfers during the Mauricio Macri presidency being referred back to the Senate by the Supreme Court after being provisionally confirmed by a per saltum presented in conjunction with federal judge Germán Castelli. The Senate, dominated by Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has already ordered the judges (all involved in trials against her) back to their original benches. “The motives could be various, without ruling out a vendetta, the quest for impunity or simply obtaining key posts within the judiciary,” the CIDH writ of Bruglia and Bertuzzi said. 


Carlos Telledín, the car dealer who supplied the van containing the car-bomb which destroyed the AMIA Jewish community centre in 1994 with the loss of 85 lives, was acquitted on Thursday by a court. The prosecutor had requested life imprisonment in his case and Telleldín had spent 10 of the last 26 years in prison.


The Argentine Ambassador to China, Luis María Kreckler, has been given the boot by President Alberto Fernández with the approval of Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, especially since Sabino Vaca Narvaja (the uncle of her grand-daughter Helena) has been angling for the post, while Foreign Minister Felipe Solá is also hostile to the envoy, reliable sources informed Perfil. Negative rumours about Kreckler’s allegedly extravagant lifestyle had been circulating in the last six weeks or so but now come to a head amid negotiations with the Chinese government for the CoronaVac vaccine against Covid-19. Despite Vaca Narvaja’s ambitions, Kreckler will be replaced for now by his deputy chief of mission Juan Navarro, a career diplomat, as is the departing envoy whose previous ambassadorial postings included such G20 countries as Brazil and Germany under different governments, as well as Switzerland.


Mauricio Pochettino, 48, the Argentine who managed Tottenham Hotspurs between 2014 and last year, is poised to coach Paris Saint Germain after the French champions fired their German manager Thomas Tuchel on Christmas Eve, despite a 4-0 victory over Strasbourg the previous day. Pochettino, who played a couple of seasons with PSG at the start of the century, has reached verbal consent on a contract running until 2023. His first big challenge will be a Champions League confrontation against the Barcelona of Lionel Messi in February.

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Michael Soltys

Michael Soltys

Michael Soltys, who first entered the Buenos Aires Herald in 1983, held various editorial posts at the newspaper from 1990 and was the lead writer of the publication’s editorials from 1987 until 2017.


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