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ARGENTINA | 04-05-2019 10:56

Apr. 29th - May 5th: What We Learned This Week

A quick round-up of some of the most important – and interesting – stories from the last seven days...

STRIKES, WORKERS WALK-OUTS AND SPLITS

Back-to-back strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday by rival labour groupings effectively prevented last week from star ting until Thursday. The stoppage was more complete on the Wednesday due to the transport strike called by the CATT umbrella of sector unions but the impact was relative since May Day was in any case a public holiday. Tuesday’s protest called by the two CTA umbrella groupings together with various trade unionists at odds with the CGT leadership (such as the Moyano clan) was more active with a mass rally in Plaza de Mayo featuring electorally loaded speeches against the government’s economic policies while social organisations installed soup kitchens across the country. Apart f rom bla st i ng President Mauricio Macri, some Plaza de Mayo speakers also criticised the CGT for not joining them. All the speakers were trade union leaders although several Greater Buenos Aires Peronist mayors were also present. Around 30 people were arrested in relatively minor incidents. There were also big rallies in Cordoba and Rosario. However many people went to work on Tuesday since transport was more or less running. At the rally teamster leader Pablo Moyano warned that further protests would be organised if there was no government response in 20 days but CATT have already called their next transport strike – for May 25 ( both a public holiday and a Saturday).

GOOD NEWS AT AFIP

The AFIP tax bureau broke a steady run of negative economic news on Thursday when it reported a 51.3 percent rise in revenue last month when compared to the previous April – the first time in five months that the tax haul has run only fractionally behind inflation. In comparison March revenues had only risen 37 percent yearon-year. Total April revenue in pesos was 357.36 billion. IVA value-added tax (directly reflecting the domestic market) rose 55 percent last month from the previous April in line with estimated inflation. AFIP chief Leandro Cuccioli attributed this rise despite slumping consumer sales to less tax evasion thanks to digital tracking.

SANTA FE PASOS

Last Sunday’s Santa Fe PASO primaries gave the most votes to former Socialist governor Antonio Bonfatti of the ruling Progressive Front (29.05 percent) but Peronism could also claim victory since the combined votes of its two candidates (Senator Omar Perotti and María Eugenia Bielsa) totalled almost 40 percent. But Santa Fe Radical Mayor José Corral representing President Mauricio Macri’s Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition trailed badly with 18.35 percent for Corral. Meanwhile the Rosario mayoral primary saw a historic change with the victory of Civic Coalition politician Pablo Jankin within the Progressive Front, thus ending 30 years of Socialist mayoralty. (See Page 6 for full story)

PAPAL HUDDLE

Pope Francis received 33 Argentine bishops in the Vatican on Thursday, expressing concern over both the rising unemployment and the polarised politics in his native country. The group (headed by La Plata Archbishop Víctor Fernández and including many inland spiritual heads) was the first batch of Argentina’s 100-plus bishops whom Francis plans to meet in the next few weeks to hear their reports on both the ecclesiastical situation in their dioceses and the socio-economic state of the country as a whole. The Vatican’s relations with the Mauricio Macri government have grown tenser in the last year due to both economic crisis and the introduction of an abortion bill in Congress.

SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Buenos Aires provincial assembly Speaker Manuel Mosca, the husband of national Senator Gladys González, last weekend requested a 60-day leave from his legislative duties as sexual abuse charges swirled around him. Instead of defending him, PRO party sources expressed no surprise but said that the charges had been a long time coming home – they also expressed confidence that this issue would not damage the re-election of Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal. Mosca was summoned yesterday to a meeting of the Cambiemos (Let’s Change) ruling coalition’s top brass over this potential Pandora’s box but no information was available at press time. The Speaker’s request is to be accepted or rejected on the House floor by next Thursday with the outcome in doubt. Kirchnerite legislators might logically be expected to cash in on this embarrassing scandal were it not for the fact that provincial senator Jorge “Loco” Romero, a La Cámpora militant, faces similar charges.

MEGATRIAL

The mega-trial for 323 cases of crimes against humanity during the 1976-83 military dictatorship (including the disappearance of 14 Mercedes Benz workers from their General Pacheco car plant) began in San Martín on Tuesday. (See Page 5 for full story). On Friday the trial of ex-general César Milani, Army chief-of-staff (2013-15) during the Cristina Kirchner presidency, went on trial for the 1977 abduction and torture of a man and his son in La Rioja, the scene of the crime (Also Page 5).

VENEZUELA RAGE

After reports of military unrest in Venezuela on Tuesday prompted worldwide reactions, five people were arrested and one injured here as supporters and critics of President Nicolás Maduro clashed outside the Venezuelan Embassy. The man injured held the police rather than supporters of the opposition responsible. Venezuelans now resident here with their Argentine sympathisers were the first on the scene in an initially peaceful protest but tension rose when groups of local Maduro backers chanting: “Coupmongers!” and “(Hugo) Chávez lives” started showing up.

DOLLAR WATCH

The dollar closed the week yesterday at 45.55 pesos, down from the previous day when it was just over 46 pesos (following a two-day interruption for strikes and the May Day public holiday) and even further down from the previous week’s closing figure of 46.80. The key to the dip was a change in Central Bank rules permitting greater discretion for currency market intervention (see Page 9).

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