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ARGENTINA | 23-02-2019 11:12

Feb 18th-24th: What We Learned This Week

What has happened the last seven days?


Shots continue to be fired at Comodoro Py courthouse as internal rifts in the Judiciary become more explicit. Marcelo D’Alessio, the alleged DEA agent caught extorting businessmen in connection with the so-called “cuadernos” graft case supposedly on behalf of federal prosecutor Carlos Stornelli, testified. He told judge Alejo Ramos Padilla that Stornelli wasn’t involved, as the magistrate ordered his iPhones to be unlocked “voluntarily or by force.” Their contents will be key in piecing together whether D’Alessio was an establishment judicial extorter or a “deranged” outsider, as some have claimed. Meanwhile, Carolina Pochetti, widow of Néstor Kirchner’s late personal secretary Daniel Muñoz, was released from prison after sealing a plea bargain with judge Claudio Bonadio, giving up key details about overseas moneylaundering operations, while also accusing federal judge Luis Rodríguez of receiving a US$10- million bribe to let her stay out of jail. Pochetti’s plea bargain is related to Víctor Manzanares’ testimony. The ex-accountant of the Kirchners, whose lips have been sealed since being taken into custody in mid-2017, started spilling the beans to reduce his sentence, particularly after Pochetti incriminated him. He claimed Muñoz managed some US$130- 150 million in corruption money, spoke of specific operations and pointed to the Eskenazi family. In other news, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner saw the beginning of a trial against her postponed to May, while her former VP Amado Boudou returned to prison. Also, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Macri’s top spy, Gustavo Arribas, clearing him of alleged Lava Jato graft.


The Basic Food Basket (CBA) and the Total Basic Basket (CBT) both increased 3.7 percent in January of 2019, INDEC reported Friday. A household made up of of a married couple and three children in Greater Buenos Aires needed 11,124.85 pesos to cover the basic food goods included in the CBA and not be destitute this January. A household of the same size would need to earn 27,812.14 pesos to afford the CBT, including non-food goods and services like health, education, clothing, and transportation, and not fall below the poverty line.


In a key ruling, the Supreme Court has ordered the government to pay a debt of 15 billion pesos to the province of San Luis, dealing a blow to President Mauricio Macri’s aim of enforcing austerity and achieving fiscal balance this year. The situation could yet get worse too – Santa Fe province could be next in line, with decision a pending debt of 45 billion pesos waiting to be resolved. Tuesday’s ruling in favour of the western province of San Luis, which refers to a suit filed in 2015, was published by the Judicial Information Centre (CIJ). The case is related to longstanding litigation addressing what the regional governments perceive as undue retention of so-called “co-participation” taxes.


Two of Argentina’s most high-profile broadcast journalists must pay 600,000 pesos (US$15,000) in damages, after a court found the pair guilty of spreading false information about a former provincial agriculture minister. Jorge Lanata and Nicolás Wiñazki were found guilty of defaming former Chubut province Agriculture minister Norberto Yauhar in investigative reports aired on the Periodismo Para Todos programme in 2013, which claimed Yauhar was involved in a drug-trafficking scheme. The ruling applies equally to broadcaster Radio Mitre and production companies Artear and Ozono Producciones. Lanata and Wiñazki, who said he would appeal the ruling, will now have to pay damages. The broadcaster and production companies involved in the broadcast will, for their part, have to publish a clarification on their respective websites informing users for at least two days that they have been charged with spreading false information.


Coca-Cola bottler FEMSA, the Mexican firm responsible for bottling the famous soft drink and other beverages in Argentina, requested Wednesday that it be allowed to file crisis prevention proceedings, after a sharp nine-percent drop in sales last year. However, at press time, it was announced that union leaders had agreed to 32 dismissals instead of 75, averting the crisis.


Photojournalists who are members of ARGRA (Argentine Association of Photojournalists) performed a “camarazo” in front of the Congress in Buenos Aires yesterday, two days after photojournalists, Bernadino Avila of Pagina/12 and Juan Pablo Barrientos of Critica magazine, were arrested while covering a demonstration of a workers’ cooperative. The duo were later released after outcry.


Thousands of women demonstrated on Tuesday evening outside Congress in the first green “pañuelazo” of the year, to reiterate their call for legal, safe and free abortion in Argentina. Convened by the National Campaign for the Right of Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, the demonstration – which also took place in other cities across the country – brought together activists, leaders, politicians and political and social organisations. Protesters wore, waved and held up their famous green handkerchiefs and scarves, which symbolise the movement, as they chanted for lawmakers to liberalise existing abortion legislation. Campaigners yesterday called on the nation’s politicians to pick up the cause once again and push for a bill to liberalise existing abortion restrictions. “Today there is a social decriminalisation of abortion,” said Patricia Bustamante, 37, a member of the National Campaign. We had a positive result in [the chamber of] deputies, but unfortunately, in the national Senate, they are not responding to the people.”

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