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ARGENTINA | 06-04-2019 10:16

April 1st-7th: What We Learned This Week

What has happened in the last seven days?

NO SURPRISE AS MASSA THROWS HIS HAT INTO THE RING

Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa, who finished a strong third in 2015 with over 21 percent of the vote, last Tuesday used the patriotic April 2 date to throw his hat into the presidential ring in the form of presenting himself as a hopeful within “alternative Peronism” for the PASO primaries, thus steering clear of ex-president Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (even if his hour-long speech reserved its criticisms for the Mauricio Macri administration). Massa was less specific about his policies than his strategy, even though he presented a 10-point platform consisting of little more than vague commitments in favour of “growth, development and inclusive prosperity” while against “poverty and inequality.” The next day former economy minister and presidential dark horse Roberto Lavagna (whose name has often been linked to Massa as both offering a third way between Macri and Kirchnerism) specified that the two leaders have “different projects” since his is based on consensus.

A WHOLE LOTTA VOTING GOING ON

A whole of lot of voting going on with PASO primaries in San Juan last Sunday while tomorrow the Patagonian provinces of Río Negro and Chubut will be holding final provincial elections and PASO respectively. (See Pages 6 and 7 for full story)

TENSION IN CAMBIEMOS COALITION

Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña and Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio used Tuesday’s public holiday to announce that they would be huddling with Radical governors next Monday in an attempt to placate rising tensions within the ruling Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition. Governors Alfredo Cornejo (Mendoza) and Gustavo Valdés (Corrientes) are expected to attend although the third (Jujuy’s Gerardo Morales) is in doubt since he is currently abroad. It is hoped that floating the possibility of a Radical running-mate for President Mauricio Macri’s re-election bid in October might break the ice. Speculation was rife this week as to who will be VP candidate.

IMF GIVES THE NOD

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday afternoon handed the troubled Mauricio Macri administration a massive lifeline when it approved a tranche of US$10.87 billion for remittance next week. But it also expressed disappointment over recent revenue and inflation figures, pressing for more austerity, although expressing optimism that the crisis had bottomed out. The dollar reacted by climbing almost half a peso to close the week at 44.86 pesos on local money markets. Approval came despite a government request on Wednesday for a waiver on the grounds that faltering revenue figures early in the year complicated upholding its commitment for “zero deficit” this year in the immediate future. Nevertheless the Economy Ministry downplayed the request as a “formality” and a temporary blip.

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...

D-Day for being declared in contempt of court came and went for Florencia Kirchner last Thursday when the 5th Federal Oral Court (T0F 5) gave her until next Tuesday to show up or present more complete clinical records. Earlier in the week she had been given a new deadline of April 15 in another case investigating charges of money-laundering at the Kirchner family’s Hotesur Patagonian hotel chain (the TOF 5 trial is looking into the Los Sauces hotel specifically). Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s daughter has offered to send more complete records from Cuba but insists on continuing her treatment for stress there.

VIDAL SEALS A DEAL WITH TEACHERS IN BA PROVINCE

At the start of a turbulent week for social protest, peace was secured on at least one longstanding front when teacher unions accepted the latest offer from the Buenos Aires provincial government – to update their pay to inflation on a quarterly basis this year while awarding them a 15.6 percent backdated increase for the loss of purchasing-power during 2018. While satisfied on the pay front, teacher unions said that they would be pressing for all disciplinary proceedings against strikers to be dropped.

DETENTIONS AT THE AIRPORT

The arrest of two Chilean architects attending the International Spanish Language Congress in Córdoba – accused of being anarchists and terrorists after a complex device was left behind in their hotel room – was not an isolated episode this week. On Monday Pakistan’s Futsal team was deported from Ezeiza international airport irport as a “security risk” due to the failure of the Argentine Embassy in Islamabad to pass on their visas. Then on Wednesday Colombian cyclist Mariana Pajón, an Olympic gold medallist, denounced that her country’s team had been detained at Mendoza Airport while en route to a cycling event in San Juan starting yesterday before the Argentine Cycling Federation intervened in their favour.

SUSPENDED PROSECUTOR REQUESTS PLEA BARGAIN

The scandal surrounding an alleged illegal espionage network with deep roots in Argentina’s Judiciary appeared to calm this week. However, the case is set to drag on for some time to come. A prosecutor in the city of Mercedes in Buenos Aires province, who was suspended for alleged involvement in the underground spy ring, on Thursday requested the court grant him a plea bargain. Meanwhile, in Congress the country’s top spy chiefs addressed a closed-door hearing that addressed allegations spies in their agency were involved in the network. Juan Ignacio Bidone, federal prosecutor for the Mercedes jurisdiction, was summoned to appear in court Wednesday for having allegedly “provided access to sensitive information to people who are being investigated for being part of a criminal organisation.”

POPE WARNS OF ‘FAKE NEWS’

Internet-based “fake news” is fomenting prejudice and hatred, Pope Francis said on Tuesday, warning our culture “has lost its sense of truth and bends the facts to suit particular interests.” He issued the stark warning in a letter. “There are huge economic interests operating in the digital world, capable of exercising forms of control as subtle as they are invasive, creating mechanisms for the manipulation of consciences and of the democratic process,” the pontiff wrote.

CAMPSITE 9 DE JULIO

A nationwide protest saw downtown traffic snarled for much of Thursday, as combined splinters of both the CGT and CTA umbrella labour groupings teamed up with picket and social organisations in a massive march to repudiate the Mauricio Macri administration’s economic model. Unlike in most protests, Metrobus was interrupted while leftist and picket groups sought to block the Nueve de Julio thoroughfare until deep into the night – some of them even attempted to camp out for the night.

FINALLY, A CONGRESS SESSION (KIND OF)

Parallel to Thursday’s protest march, opposition deputies achieved quorum to session in Congress (the first of this year) where they sought to approve omnibus legislation to freeze utility bills and exempt pensioners from income taxation among almost 80 initiatives amid bitter criticism of government policies. But they lacked the necessary two-thirds majority to vote this unscheduled legislation on the Lower House floor. In another headline moment, Renewal Front lawmaker Cecilia Moreau disgraced herself by yelling “Shut up faggot!” (“Callate maricon!”) at a fellowdeputy.

FOOTBALL: THE NOT-SO BEAUTIFUL GAME

In last week’s off-the-pitch football news, 128 hooligan fans of Boca Juniors (including the notorious Rafael Di Zeo) were given a four-year ban from football stadiums while Daniel Passarella, the captain of Argentina’s 1978 World Cup winners, went on trial for fraud while president of River Plate between 2009 and 2013. Passarella’s presidency was also blemished by a humiliating relegation in 2011.

PRIEST JAILED

Defrocked priest Marcelino Moya was yesterday sentenced to 17 years imprisonment for abusing five boys aged between 12 and 15 in the 1992-97 period although he will remain free until the sentence is confirmed. Moya’s criminal record dates back to the year he was ordained a priest. The news once again draws attention to a shameful issue for the Catholic Church and its leader, Pope Francis.

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