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ARGENTINA | 05-05-2018 09:49

April 30th - May 5th What we learned this week

From the Peso Slump and the debate for the public services prices to the release of the jail of Patricio Fontanet

PESO SLUMP

One topic dominated the agenda this week: the peso’s sharp dive against the dollar and the Central Bank’s repeated interventions. See the following pages for more.

2001: A ENDLESS ANALOGY

Commerce Secretary Miguel Braun this week defended the government’s economic policies, insisting that the country is “far away” from an economic crisis like the one it experienced in 2001. His comments come after former Economy minister under Carlos Menem, Domingo Cavallo, suggested that the government was walking an economic tight rope. Cavallo had warned: “A [situation similar to the crisis in] 2001 could happen in a few years if they continue with this exaggerated debt financing policy and they do not reduce the fiscal deficit.”

TARIFFS DEBATE

The opposition bill to roll back public service price increases continued to progress slowly in Congress even though it faced the hurdle of an adverse vote (22-23) in the Lower House Budget Committee. But in the three committees vetting the legislation there were 51 signatures in favour and 47 against as the other two committees cleared the bill, which now goes for debate to the House floor next week and faces a presidential veto if approved (as Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña has officially confirmed this week). The government argues that maintaining subsidies to moderate the steep increases in gas and other household bills would add 100 billion pesos to the budget deficit while opposition deputies estimate the fiscal cost at 7.5 billion.

NEXT STOP: JULIETA LANTERI

The latest station on Line H of the Subte subway system near the Law Faculty will be the first to bear a woman’s name – that of feminist and political activist Dr. Julieta Lanteri (1873-1932), who was chosen by civic vote on social media (78,247 votes). Decades before female suffrage was granted in 1947, she became the first woman in Latin America to vote in 1911 by taking advantage of a municipal ordinance enfranchising all commercial and professional tax-payers without specifying gender. She then went one better in 1919, becoming the first female candidate since the law of the time assumed that since women could not vote, there was no need to exclude them from running. However her Lower House bid only garnered one percent of the vote. Only the fifth woman doctor in the country, the Italian-born Lantieri was a lifelong feminist. In 1932 her life ended tragically when she was “accidentally” run over by a right-wing extremist David Klappenbach of the Civic Legion.

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION

Three Córdoba opposition legislators have presented documentation to the UIF moneylaundering unit showing that the transfer of a building complex in Puerto Madero served to launder the payment of U$S 36 million in bribes paid by major Brazilian construction firms including Odebrecht. The information comes from a list of 750 bribes drawn up by former Odebrecht middleman and current whistleblower Alberto Youssef. The transaction involved the Córdoba provincial government and President Mauricio Macri’s cousin Ángelo Calcaterra from the time he headed Iecsa SA, Odebrecht’s partner in the Sarmiento rail underpass project. Iecsa claims to have lost money in the deal. Meanwhile the Odebrecht graft net continues to close in on businessman Jorge “Corcho” Rodríguez with Federal Judge Sergio Torres banning him from leaving the country. Rodríguez denies ever committed any crimes during his years as an Odebrecht lobbyist.

CROMAÑON: FONTANET FREED ON PAROLE

Patricio Fontanet, ex-member of the rock band Callejeros was freed from jail on Wednesday, thus leaving nobody behind bars for the Cromañon disco blaze which claimed 194 lives at the close of 2004. Fontanet was released on parole after serving part of his seven-year sentence. A total of 14 defendants were convicted for the tragedy in 2009, including all six members of Callejeros (as well as the club management, two policemen and three City Hall officials). The disaster resulted in the impeachment and ouster of then mayor Aníbal Ibarra.

MAY DAY

Despite mounting social discontent, this year will go down as one of the quieter May Days with the traditional labour protests almost more attuned to the problems of Brazil than local grievances. While one CGT secretary-general (Héctor Daer) hosted former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff as the star guest of his event, another (Juan Carlos Schmid) travelled to Brazil to express solidarity with Rousseff’s imprisoned predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Rousseff, here to present the latter’s book La verdad vencerá (“The truth will triumph”) at CGT headquarters, claimed that Lula’s life was in danger.But there were also at least three other May Day marches – two by the left and one by pickets (which claimed a turnout of 150,000) – all blasting the socio-economic policies of the Mauricio Macri presidency.

COLDPLAY STAR PLANNING ANTIPOVERTY GIG

Chris Martin is planning to perform in Buenos Aires for an anti-poverty movement. The Coldplay frontman will be bringing the Global Citizen campaign against extreme poverty to another continent, sources close to the organisers said. Details are being worked out but the sources said that Global Citizen’s CEO, Hugh Evans, met Thursday with President Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires.

DUJOVNE MAKES DEFICIT VOW

Treasury Minister Nicolás Dujovne yesterday announced the government had altered its primary fiscal deficit target from 3.2 to 2.7 percent of GDP.

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