Sunday, June 7, 2020

ARGENTINA | 20-04-2019 10:15

Apr. 15th-21st: What We Learned This Week

What has happened the last seven days?


Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal on Tuesday announced the successful conclusion of a collective bargaining agreement with teacher unions, thus winding up a 14-month saga of tense negotiations interrupted by no less than 27 strikes. “Teachers will not lose against inflation,” assured Vidal. The agreement pledges to update teacher pay on a quarterly basis to whatever level inflation reaches this year while also awarding a retroactive 15.6 percent increase to cover last year’s loss of purchasingpower. Starting pay for a teacher now moves up from 16,710 to 18,743 pesos. Agreement on those terms had actually been reached three weeks previously but was stalled by the unions insisting on the return of the pay docked for three strike days in March. The provincial government finally agreed on condition of recovering the lost classes for the province’s 4.5 million schoolchildren. Meanwhile Santa Fe province teachers agreed to a 15 percent pay increase with the option of a new round of collective bargaining if inflation overtakes that percentage. But deadlock persists with university lecturers, who have called a two-day strike while the national government has postponed collective bargaining in reaction.


Entre Ríos Peronist Governor Gustavo Bordet was the clear winner of last Sunday’s PASO primary in that province, netting 58.15 percent of the vote as against 33.65 percent for Radical Atilio Benedetti representing the national government (See Page 6 for more).


Last month’s inflation was 4.7 percent, INDEC statistics bureau announced on Tuesday, totalling 11.8 percent for the first quarter of this year (exactly the same percentage as awarded to pensions and family benefits). (More on Page 5)


The government on Wednesday morning announced a six-month price freeze on some 60 basic products with transport fares, highway tolls and utility bills frozen for the rest of the year (apart from second-quarter gas hikes of almost 30 percent with staggered billing), as well as consumer and small business credits. The announcement stressed that the price controls came following consultation with governors and the political leaders of the Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition, thus implying that the initiative for this departure from market orthodoxy had come from them. These measures aimed at taming inflation and reviving the economy were short-term protective “relief,” the government said.(More on Page 4)


The Federal Appeals Court on Tuesday overturned the trial of Techint CEO Paolo Rocca, ruling that there was nothing linking the bribes attributed to his company to its top man. Rocca had been indicted by Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio last November with a four-billion-peso lien slapped on his assets although he escaped being remanded in custody, as requested by prosecutors Carlos Stornelli and Carlos Rivolo. Like so many other companies, Techint had been named last August in the “cuadernos” (copybooks) of former Federal Planning Ministry chauffeur Oscar Centeno listing the bribes paid to that ministry. But while Rocca was let off the hook, such top names of the construction sector as Aldo Roggio and Carlos Wagner as well as Carolina Pochetti, the widow of former presidential private secretary Daniel Muñoz, saw their indictments confirmed on Wednesday while a 570-millionpeso injunction on the local branch of the scandal-ridden Brazilian company Odebrecht was approved. As for Centeno, he reappeared in public for the first time in eight months last Monday to deliver a fresh manuscript with new graft data to the Comodoro Py courthouses.


Deputy Gabriela Cerutti (Victory Front-City) said that she would press malfeasance charges against Anti-Corruption Office chief Laura Alonso for neglecting to pursue graft accusations against the government following a weekend television interview with journalist Luis Majul, in which the official said that she felt a certain “fatigue” with the multiple allegations against her, branding them both biased and personalised, while also arguing that her office lacked resources.


Only nine days after being extradited from Belize, meatpacking tycoon Alberto Samid was sentenced to four years in prison for tax evasion, as well as being required to pay the cost of bringing him back from the Caribbean, some 283,000 pesos. But Samid was spared also being obliged to pay the 23 million pesos of evaded taxes for which he was sentenced. Four other defendants (including his sister and his accountant) were also sentenced while four others were acquitted. Upon hearing the verdict, Samid threatened suicide.


The government is projecting a record harvest of 145 million tons with export earnings of US$28.1 billion (US$5.1 billion more than last year), according to data presented by Agro-industry Secretary Luis Miguel Etchevehere last Wednesday. In contrast to most of this century’s harvests heavily dominated by soy, maize is this year’s star turn with an estimated total of 55 million tons (of which 30 million will be exported, making Argentina the world’s second exporter of that grain). But soy (currently priced at US$60 per ton) still retains its lead with 55.9 million tons.


Alan García, 69, the two-term president of Peru (1985-90 and 2006-11) who shot himself on Wednesday when facing arrest on corruption charges, had his Argentine connections, both past and present. The regional fall-out from the Odebrecht scandal bringing him down has also been felt here. García was a graduate of La Plata University whose first lady at both his presidential inaugurations was Córdoba economist Pilar Nores. During the 13 CGT general strikes against the 1983-9 Raúl Alfonsín presidency a frequent slogan was “Dear fatherland, please give me a president like Alan García” in reference to his populist policies then (far more orthodox in his 2006-11 term).


Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’ cancelled her trip to Cuba at press time late last night, after her mother Ofelia Wilhelm passed away aged 89. Her mother had been receiving palliative care, after suffering from cancer for the last five years.

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