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ARGENTINA | 18-01-2020 12:49

Jan 12th-19th: What We Learned This Week

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

INFLATION AT 53.8%

Last month’s inflation weighed in at 3.7 percent, INDEC statistic bureau announced last Wednesday, for a final 2019 annual total of 53.8 percent – even worse than the 47.6 percent of 2018 and the highest annual inflation since 1991. The overall scenario is stagflation since negative growth has also worsened – from -2.5 percent in 2018 to the -3.1 percent forecast for last year.

 

ALBERTO ABROAD

President Alberto Fernández will be spending much of the last week of January abroad, heading to Israel for next Thursday’s International Holocaust Day (also the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp this year) while spending the last day of the month in Rome. There his encounter with Pope Francis could dovetail into early debt talks since International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva will be in the Italian capital soon after for a Vatican seminar on financial inclusion (which will also be attended by Economy Minister Martín Guzmán among others). As a result of these absences Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will be making brief returns to the presidency she occupied between 2007 and 2015.

 

OECD SNUB

The Donald Trump administration, which had previously favoured Argentina when governed by the Mauricio Macri presidency, now plans to give priority to Brazil’s bid to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Brazilian officials were informed in midweek when the OECD board in Paris was also notified.

 

NISMAN: FIVE YEARS ON

Today’s fifth anniversary of the death of the AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman will be marked by a rally near the central courthouse organised by the Juntos por el Cambio opposition coalition while tomorrow (out of respect for the Sabbath) his family and the DAIA Jewish associations umbrella will be honouring his memory with a more private ceremony at his grave in the Jewish Cemetery of La Tablada. On Thursday lower house Speaker Sergio Massa said that he “instinctively” disbelieved that Nisman’s death was suicide, opting for murder or induced suicide. (See Page 13). Yesterday AFI intelligence trustee Cristina Caamaño denounced that the AMIA declassified files were stored amid rubbish and broken glass.

 

PROVINCIAL PROBLEMS

At the start of the week Buenos Aires Governor Axel Kicillof pronounced his administration as incapable of meeting a debt payment of US$ 275 million by the scheduled date of January 26, asking for a rollover until May Day (which would require the assent of 75 percent of the creditor bondholders before next weekend). This announcement came after Economy Minister Martín Guzmán pulled the plug on national aid only two days after pledging it just before last weekend. Kicillof blamed his predecessor María Eugenia Vidal for the debt overhang although the specific debt in question was actually incurred by Peronist Governor Daniel Scioli in 2011.

 

IF PIGS (OR LAMBS?) COULD FLY

Recording a video of a lamb falling into the swimming-pool of his Punta del Este holiday home from a helicopter last Tuesday has so far proved a costly as well as dubious joke for businessman Federico Alvarez Castillo, with Jeep yesterday becoming the latest brand to disassociate itself from his Etiqueta Negra male fashion chain. Alvarez Castillo has reacted to the massive backlash by explaining that he downloaded the video in order to record an outrage against his family. The unfortunate animal was originally reported as a pig.

 

SECURITY ROW

National and provincial security ministers clashed early last week when Buenos Aires Province’s Sergio Berni defended Taser stun guns against Sabrina Frederic, bent on reversing the policies of her predecessor Patricia Bullrich including this innovation. Bullrich tried to intervene by taking sides with Berni but was told by the latter to stay out of it.

 

ROSARIO IN ROSADA

The bloodbath of 17 murders in Santa Fe province (mostly Rosario) already this year in the first half of this month prompted an emergency meeting in the Casa Rosada between Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero, Santa Fe Governor Omar Perotti, Security Minister Sabina Frederic and her provincial counterpart Marcelo Sain. Pumping 2,200 border guards and 700 Federal Police officers to aid the recently purged provincial police has so far failed to solve the problem.

 

HIGHWAY TOLL

Traffic accidents claimed a total of 6,627 lives last year, as compiled by the road safety NGO Luchemos por la Vida, for a daily death toll of 19. Nevertheless, these grim figures represent an improvement on the 2018 total of 7,274.

 

FOUR YEARS FOR SALA

The Jujuy provincial supreme court yesterday confirmed the conviction of social activist Milagro Sala, who is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence under house arrest. She has spent the last four years behind bars.

 

SHITTY SCANDAL

Two Argentines were among five foreigners expelled by Peru on Thursday for causing damage to the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu while Nahuel Gómez remains under arrest. The tourists reportedly helped themselves to a souvenir stone, thus causing a rock to fall with disastrous consequences for the Temple of the Sun. Another reportedly defecated.

 

PEPE’S POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

Reacting to news that thousands of Argentines would be crossing the River Plate to Uruguay (under centre-right rule as from March) to flee their new government, Uruguayan ex-president José Mujica acidly commented: “Instead of bringing over 100,000 shit-scared Argentines, we should worry more about our own people investing here (and not abroad).”

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