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ARGENTINA | 15-02-2020 10:59

Feb 3rd-16th: What We Learned This Week

News that caught our eye in the last seven days from Argentina.

RISE IN PENSIONS

All pensions will be increased by 2.3 percent this quarter plus a fixed sum of 1,500 pesos, President Alberto Fernández announced yesterday evening close to press time. This represents a 13 percent increase for minimum pensions and AUH family benefits, covering a total of 11.8 million persons. Fernández also presented a list of 170 medical remedies which will be free for pensioners. ANSES social security administration chief Alejandro Vanoli said that 86.8 percent of pensioners would be receiving a superior sum to the previous system thanks to the 5,000-peso bonus granted earlier this year.

 

IMF IN TOWN

An IMF mission team, headed by Western Hemisphere assistant director Julia Kozack and Luis Cubeddu, arrived in town on Wednesday to be immediately greeted by a hostile demonstration marching on Congress from the 9 de Julio thoroughfare and numbering 60,000 piquetero social activists and trade unionists, according to the organisers. The following day the mission started comparing notes with Economy Minister Martín Guzmán (busy in Congress the previous day). But ahead of their arrival Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had fired a petard from Cuba – she argued that the IMF owed Argentina a substantial haircut for violating its own rules in advancing such a large sum (US$57 billion granted and US$44 billion delivered) to finance capital flight, a diagnosis rejected by IMF spokesman Gerry Rice but ratified by the president.

 

GUZMÁN IN CONGRESS

Economy Minister Martín Guzmán made his promised report to Congress on the debt situation on Wednesday, informing them that no fiscal surplus was likely until 2023 which was thus the earliest date at which debt repayment could commence. Guzmán also argued that the International Monetary Fund should admit to sharing responsibility for the situation, making concessions in consequence.

 

NO BOND PAYMENT

The government failed to redeem the AF20 bond fully last Tuesday, making the totality of interest payments and also repaying all capital sums up to US$ 20,000 (accounting for 91.5 percent of bondholders) but “reprofiling” all remaining payments until September 30. The interest and partial capital payments cost the Treasury some 15.3 billion pesos. 

 

JANUARY INFLATION

Last month’s inflation was 2.3 percent, sharply down from December’s 3.7 percent, INDEC statistics bureau reported on Thursday, the lowest figure since last July but still only lagging Venezuela within the region. Annual inflation now dips fractionally from 53.8 to 52.9 percent. The figure considerably undershot the REM Central Bank estimate (a pool of independent forecasts compiled by the Central Bank) of 3.5 percent.

 

GALPERIN STEPS DOWN

Marcos Galperín, the founder of Mercado Libre (Argentina’s equivalent of Amazon), has resigned as its local CEO in favour of co-founder Juan Manuel de la Serna although he will continue to direct operations at regional level.

 

ALTERNATIVE CAPITALS

President Alberto Fernández has sent a bill to Congress designating 24 cities as “alternative capitals” for monthly Cabinet meetings with the purpose of “deepening decentralisation and federalism.” Apart from Formosa, none of these cities is a provincial capital and the list includes a city in the proximity of the Federal Capital – La Matanza – as well as the tourist centres of Bariloche and Mar del Plata.

 

BACK IN BRAZIL

Foreign Minister Felipe Solá broke the ice in Brazil on Wednesday with host President Jair Bolsonaro proclaiming himself open to a bilateral meeting with his new Argentine colleague Alberto Fernández despite ideological differences. According to the minister, a “soft and friendly breeze” now replaces the previous “gales.” There was also convergence over Venezuela with Solá and Bolsonaro agreeing that the “basic principle is democracy” after the minister explained that Argentina aimed for clean elections rather than the maintenance of the Nicolás Maduro government even if he also expressed discrepancies with Lima Group strategies. Solá also asked Brasilia for support with the IMF.

 

FIRST PIC OF FLORENCIA

Off the debt front, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last Tuesday posted a photograph of herself with her daughter Florencia in Cuba, giving an upbeat picture of her offspring’s health for the first time in several months and prompting speculation as to her return in the near future. Meanwhile her comments linking Mauricio Macri’s family to the Calabrian Mafia sparked a backlash from the Italian political world and charges of “racism” lodged with the Córdoba branch of the INADI Anti-Discrimination Institute.

 

ROSARIO KILLINGS

The first six weeks of this year have seen no less than 34 murders in the city of Rosario, including two women killed last Tuesday.

 

RUGBIERS REMANDED

The Villa Gesell Judge David Mancinelli, trying the case of the brutal killing of teenager Fernando Báez Sosa, ruled yesterday that eight of the 10 rugby players accused of his death would be remanded in custody facing charges of homicide with malice aforethought.

 

WICHI DEATHS

At least eight children have died in isolated and impoverished Wichi communities in Salta in recent days (mostly in the Tartagal region, as a result of malnutrition and contaminated drinking water.

 

GENDER DNI SWITCHES

On Thursday President Alberto Fernández delivered the 9,000th DNI based on change of gender to Isha (born Ignacio) Escribano of Pergamino.

 

CIA SPOOKS MALVINAS

A  Washington Post investigation has revealed that the CIA spied on Argentina during the 1982 South Atlantic conflict, passing information to the British authorities, among other covert operations in Latin America.

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