THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS
At press time yesterday there was a total of 779,689 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 20,599 deaths, as compared to 691,235 cases and 15,208 deaths the previous Friday. While the global coronavirus death toll entered seven digits on Sunday (with the World Health Organisation forecasting that it could eventually double), a serious discrepancy emerged in Argentina’s data with Buenos Aires Province reporting some 3,500 more deaths (the result of updating) than entered into the national figures. Early in the week the death toll in some provinces like Córdoba and Tucumán started overtaking the Federal Capital. On Wednesday Argentina’s death toll moved it into the world’s top dozen countries, overtaking South Africa. On Thursday over 500 nurses marched in downtown Buenos Aires to press for better pay and working conditions, aiming their criticisms at City Hall rather than the national government.
SUPREME COURT DRAMA AWAITS
In a climate of high expectancy, the Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously decided to accept the per saltum appeals of judges Pablo Bertuzzi, Leopoldo Bruglia and Germán Castelli against the Senate vote transferring them from their current federal appeals court benches. Even if this decision only meant that the appeal would be considered rather than automatically upheld, the ruling was seen as a judicial and political setback for the government which had been counting on a lack of Supreme Court consensus to frustrate the ruling, especially for Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, widely seen as the main force behind the drive to dislodge the trio of judges involved in the definition of corruption trials against her. Predictably enough, the ruling was criticised by the government and hailed by the opposition. The next day the vice-president suffered a further setback when the Federal Criminal Cassation Court confirmed the corruption trials against her, as well as Julio De Vido (Federal Planning minister throughout her 20017-15 presidency) and various construction tycoons, by ruling her objections "inadmissible."
Economy Minister Martín Guzmán announced a raft of economic measures on Thursday aimed at boosting Central Bank reserves. Soy export duties will be reduced from 33 to 30 percent for the rest of the year in the hope of motivating farmers to cash their export dollars in that period. Export duties will also be reduced for beef, metals and industrial manufactures and eliminated altogether for finished products. The package also featured new saving instruments, including a dollar-linked bond, as well as housing and mortgage credits.
The parallel “blue” dollar closed the week at 149 pesos yesterday as against 145 pesos the previous Friday while the official Banco Nación exchange rate moved from 79.75 to 81.50 pesos in a slight acceleration of devaluation – or 134.50 pesos when the surcharges are added for savers lucky enough to purchase. There was little change in country risk, closing yesterday at 1,356 points as against 1,342 the previous Friday. But a Bloomberg report on Thursday warned that provincial debt would be a continued drain on Central Bank reserves with half the provinces in default, of whom only Mendoza has reached an agreement with creditors.
POVERTY RATE HITS 40.9%
INDEC on Wednesday reported over two Argentines out of every five below the poverty line (40.9 percent) in the first half of this year with specialists estimating a peak of 47 percent in the second quarter due to quarantine. The figures also showed a clear majority of children (56.3 percent of those aged under 14 or 6.1 million) in impoverished homes. Poverty thus afflicts 18.5 million people with 4.7 million destitute. President Alberto Fernández said that the figures would have been worse without state assistance.
NATIONS MOURNS QUINO’S PASSING
Cartoonist Joaquín Salvador Lavado, better known as Quino, the creator of Mafalda, died last Wednesday in his native Mendoza at the age of 88 after suffering a stroke earlier this month. His passing prompted numerous tributes at home and also abroad.
FACUNDO ASTUDILLO CASTRO AUTOPSY
The findings of the autopsy on Facundo Astudillo Castro were made public on Thursday with the conclusion that he drowned )in the marshland where his remains were found in mid-August (over 15 weeks after he went missing) with no evidence of homicide. But the youth’s mother Cristina Castro continues to hold the Buenos Aires provincial police responsible for his death.
COP KILLED NEAR MALBA
Federal Police Inspector Juan Pablo Roldán, 33, the head of the Mounted Police, was stabbed to death just outside the MALBA Latin American art museum in Palermo on Tuesday afternoon when he
intervened on behalf of local passers-by being threatened at knifepoint by an apparently deranged Rodrigo Facundo Roza, 51, only to receive four stab wounds himself (one of them in his heart which proved fatal), despite wearing a bulletproof vest and wounding the assailant in the leg with his regulation firearm.
Hundreds of firemen backed by hydrant aircraft were battling forest fires across a 20-kilometre front in the Córdoba hills as the week ended. The province is undergoing its driest winter in 65 years. Although Córdoba is the current focus of fire news, Entre Ríos has lost more acreage to flames in the course of the year while at least 10 provinces have thousands of hectares ablaze.
ABORTION CALL RENEWED
There was a protest outside Congress pushing for the legalisation of abortion last Monday although pandemic constraints led to most support being expressed via the social networks. “I ratify my commitment to legalising abortion, guaranteeing access to health services and effectively implementing integral sex education … since penalising abortion has failed as a policy with women dying from clandestine abortions,” tweeted President Alberto Fernández on Monday, but activists pointed out that after almost 10 months of presidency and seven months after pledging to legalise abortion in his state-of-the-nation speech to Congress nothing had happened. To renew the call, Amnesty International Argentina left tens of bouquet of plants used in clandestine abortion procedures at the gates of Congress.
Interpol on Tuesday issued an international red alert warrant for the arrest of golfer Angel Cabrera, 50, on charges of gender violence. The winner of the 2007 US Open and the 2009 Masters was last seen participating in an Ohio tournament in mid-August, since when he has vanished from sight. Cabrera was first accused of battering his partner Cecilia Torres Mana in late 2016 with the charges repeated in subsequent years. His lawyer said that Cabrera was not intentionally evading justice but was unable to fly home from the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic.