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ARGENTINA | 26-01-2019 11:30

Jan 21st-27th: What We Learned This Week

What has happened the last seven days?

MACRI BACKS CHALLENGER IN VENEZUELA

No sooner had Venezuelan National Assembly Speaker Juan Gerardo Guaidó proclaimed himself caretaker president on Wednesday than President Mauricio Macri joined an international bandwagon headed by the United States in recognising him, calling for the “reconstruction of democracy” in the crisis-ridden nation. But last week saw no smooth transition between a defiant President Nicolás Maduro (still supported by various countries including China, Russia, Mexico and Turkey) to Guaidó amid protest marches resulting in over 20 dead. Illustrating the depth of feeling in Argentina, a huge crowd of Venezuelans resident in Buenos Aires demonstrated at the Plaza Vaticano, with another march in Mar del Plata. (See Pages 4 & 5 )

LITTLE LOVE FOR DAVOS FORUM

Overshadowed by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s début at the event, Argentina’s low-profile delegation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland – headed by Economy Minister Nicolás Dujovne and Central Bank Governor Guido Sandleris – also kept a generally low profile at the élite gathering, perhaps mindful of having little to boast about with an economy which is expected to post a contraction of two percent for this year (as they admitted at a press conference). Despite the recession the Central Bank is in no hurry to lower interest rates with single-digit inflation remaining a distant goal. Dujovne met up with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde on Thursday.

ASSET RECOVERY DNU DRAWS ELECTORAL EYE

President Mauricio Macri kicked off the week on Monday by signing an emergency decree (DNU) for asset recovery from such illicit gains as corruption and drug-trafficking, thus bypassing Congress which has been processing a similar bill in the last two years (approved by both chambers but now back in the Lower House due to Senate amendments). The decree covers all illegal gains this century since it is retroactive for some 20 years while all such assets already recovered, estimated at almost US$600 million by officials, are to be auctioned. The announcement, viewed as aiming to inject Kirchnerite corruption into the electoral campaign as a focal point, was duly applauded by Macri’s coalition partners and rejected by the opposition. More neutral experts also expressed serious misgivings about whether it was constitutional.

MACRI MEETS VIDAL, CARRIÓ TO TALK TACTICS

President Mauricio Macri and Buenos Aires province Governor María Eugenia Vidal (separated this summer by their respective holiday choices of Patagonia and the Atlantic coast) held their first meeting of 2019 last Wednesday to inaugurate a road in Suipacha, northern BA province. The key question of the best timing for the Buenos Aires provincial elections still awaits definition but the two leaders agreed on polarisation against ex-president and opposition frontrunner Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as the central campaign concept, reports suggested. Thus Macri remarked that his administration had spent 40 percent less on public works than Fernández de Kirchner’s while building more roads. The next day Macri met up with a key coalition partner, Civic Coalition leader Elisa Carrió, at a favourable juncture with the anti-corruption crusader since this week he is in her good books after signing an emergency decree to recover the assets from illicit gains at the start of the week.

TRADE DEFICIT DOWN 54%

Argentina posted an annual trade deficit of US$3.28 billion last year (54 percent less than in 2017) despite a run of steadily increasing surpluses since September in the wake of devaluation. Experts expect this momentum to continue into this year with no drought or uncompetitive exchange rate to curb exports, projecting a trade surplus as high as US$7 billion.

THE PRICE OF POVERTY

The cost of the family shopping-basket for basic goods rose by 53 percent last year, INDEC statistics bureau announced on Wednesday, meaning that a family needs a monthly income of 24,865 pesos not to fall below the poverty line and 12,237 pesos to stay out of destitution.

STRIKER SALA FEARED DEAD

Argentine striker Emiliano Sala, 28, signed by Cardiff (the Premier League’s only Welsh team) from Nantes last week, is feared dead after the private plane he was travelling in disappeared over the English Channel near the Channel Islands. The fate of the plane’s pilot and Sala, who hails from northern Santa Fe province, is unknown, with search efforts now drawing to a close and no clues as to the plane’s whereabouts.

CHILD OF RAPED 12-YEAR-OLD DIES

Esperanza, the 703-gram baby born via caesarean section to a raped 12-year-old Jujuy girl in the 23rd week of her pregnancy, lived for just four days before dying in a local maternity hospital last Tuesday. The case has revived the abortion issue in a new light since the girl was denied her legal right to a more conventional interruption of her pregnancy by public pressure from local pro-life groups.

PRIZE-WINNERS

Argentina’s Mauro Colagreco last Monday became the world’s most successful chef when he won his third Michelin star for his restaurant “Mirazur” in Menton on the French Riviera. Colagreco, 42, who hails from the Buenos Aires provincial capital of La Plata, describes his secret as a fusion of his ItaloArgentine roots with French cuisine. Meanwhile, in Spain, Rosario-born writer Patricio Pron, 45, who has based in Madrid since 2008, has won Spain’s prestigious Alfaguara Prize for his novel Mañana tendremos otros nombres, which tackles love in the times of Tinder.

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