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ARGENTINA | 27-04-2019 10:44

Apr. 22nd-28th: What We Learned This Week

What has happened the last seven days?

FINANCIAL TURMOIL

The dollar closed an exceptionally hectic week on 46.90 pesos after topping 47 pesos at times and retreating to just above 45 pesos yesterday morning. Country risk was 967 points at press time after reaching four digits during the week. (See full story on Page 4)

MAURICIO AND EVO MEET

Despite their ideological differences, Presidents Mauricio Macri and Evo Morales reached agreement at the start of the week in various areas of the bilateral relations between Argentina and Bolivia, including the sale of military aircraft, gas exports until 2026 (although differences persist), trade deals, the exchange of health services, frontier controls against drug-trafficking and scientific co-operation – Macri even offered his Bolivian visitor a share in the bid for the 2030 World Cup. Yet there was no obvious empathy between the two leaders in their brief joint statement lasting less than 10 minutes. Morales devoted more time to joining the present and past Kirchnerite mayors of La Matanza, Verónica Magario and Fernando Espinoza, at a rally. But at least he touched base with Macri whereas in last year’s visit he had shunned him altogether, spending all his time with the Bolivian community.

HORACIO SALA DIES

Horacia Sala, 58, died early yesterday of a heart attack just three months after his son Emiliano, the footballer who was the victim of an English Channel air crash – tragedy following upon tragedy.

VIGILANTE ACQUITTED

On Thursday Paraguayan-born doctor Lino Villar Cataldo, 64, was acquitted on homicide charges (after gunning down Ricardo Krabler in 2016 while attempting to steal his car) and was received yesterday by Security Minister Patricia Bullrich. A San Martín court ruled that the doctor acted in self-defence but the prosecution argued that firing six shots at a criminal not directly confronting him and only carrying an unloaded gun exceeded that plea. But Villar Cataldo’s defence successfully contended that the doctor had no way of knowing that the gun was unloaded and his life not in danger.

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...

Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio on Thursday added five new counts of graft to the existing charges against ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner while at the start of the week it was confirmed that the senator would be going on trial as from May 21 after the Federal Cassation Court decided not to combine the cases concerning Santa Cruz public works corruption and money-laundering involving the Kirchner family’s Patagonian hotel chain. As a result the former case does not share the postponement of the latter (caused by the death of one of the judges) but goes ahead as scheduled next month. All the while the ex-president was in Cuba visiting her daughter Florencia undergoing medical treatment there. Soon after her return she will be presenting her new book Sinceramente at the Book Fair on May 9. Bonadio’s five new counts were based on fresh evidence allegedly detailing cash deliveries both to the Olivos presidential residence and Kirchner’s Recoleta flat during her presidency.

FARIÑA REAPPEARS

Key corruption trial witness Leonardo Fariña, an accountant who once worked with jailed Kirchnerite tycoon Lázaro Báez, last week backtracked on his accusations, saying that they had been “scripted” as was the case with all other business whistle-blowers, according to his lawyer Giselle Robles, although in a later television interview Fariña denied this denial and parted company with Robles.

CAMPAIGN ENTRIES Two former Buenos Aires Province Peronist governors – Felipe Solá (2002-7) and Daniel Scioli (2007-15), the runner-up against President Mauricio Macri – threw their hats into the presidential ring last week. Meanwhile, persistent dark horse Roberto Lavagna did not follow suit but he has found campaign offices in this city.

CARRIÓ’S AT IT AGAIN

No stranger to controversy, maverick Cambiemos deputy Elisa Carrió (Civic Coalition-City) opened up a new front this week when she said: “Thank God [José Manuel] De la Sota died!” in reference to the three-term Peronist governor who perished in a car accident seven months ago. Carrió tried to explain that her outburst was prompted by the scale drugtrafficking has allegedly reached in Córdoba but it was massively repudiated by fellow-politicians, with deputy Victoria Donda saying that she was ashamed to share Congress with her.

VIDAL’S MEASURES

Exactly one week after the national government’s Easter “relief” package, Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal announced her own version, including credit support for small- and medium-sized companies (PyMEs), supermarket discounts, better mortgage terms and a utility bill freeze, which she described as “accompanying the measures of the national government.” The measures include a 50-percent discount on supermarket purchases up to 2,000 pesos on the last two Wednesdays of the month, financed by the provincial bank, as well as legislation to ensure more competition among retail outlets. It was especially important to help the PyMEs since they account for 80 percent of employment, Vidal said.

SANTA FE HEADS TO THE POLLS

Voters in Santa Fe province, a key electoral battle ground in Argentina, will head to the polls on Sunday to vote in a primaries race that will determine the final slate of candidates for governor, lieutenantgovernor, as well as provincial and local lawmakers. Among the parties contesting the June 16 vote, only the Peronist party is using this Sunday’s PASO primaries contest to determine its final candidate for governor. The ruling Progressive Front and the national government’s Cambiemos coalition candidate face no internal competition. For the Progressive Front, exgovernor Antonio Bonfatti led a recent poll with 29.5 percent. Peronist candidates Omar Perotti and María Eugenia Bielsa follow him with 27.7 and 19.1 percent respectively, with Cambiemos’ José Corral (a Radical) on 18.2 percent.

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