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ARGENTINA | 18-07-2020 09:20

What we learned this week: July 11 to July 18

The most important stories that caught our attention during the last seven days.

 

THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS

At press time yesterday there was a total of 119,301 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 2,178 deaths, as compared to 94,060 cases and 1,774 deaths the previous Friday, in a week which saw the number of infected reach six digits last Sunday and the threshold of 2,000 fatalities crossed on Wednesday with a record 82 deaths. The last week of strict quarantine for the AMBA metropolitan area ending yesterday saw continued consultations between City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof in which they agreed to mutually accepted differences in criterion regarding their highly differing districts. At the start of the week ex-president Mauricio Macri’s visit to Paraguay wearing his FIFA Foundation president’s hat (apparently) in the midst of quarantine sparked criticism. On Tuesday the fishing trawler Echizen Maru docked at Ushuaia after five weeks out at sea with 57 out of its crew of 61 testing positive for coronavirus while in this city a woman of 101 was discharged from hospital after battling Covid-19 for five weeks. On the same day the threshold of 2,000 deaths was crossed, Buenos Aires Province reached four digits (1,006 of the 2,050 deaths) with AMBA accounting for 86 percent of all deaths while nine provinces have yet to report any fatal victims. The numbers continued to rise during the week again, and on Wednesday, officials announced the highest daily totals of the pandemic to date: 4,250 new infections and 82 deaths. Huddles between officials and experts took place on Wednesday and Thursday before the details for a “new phase” of the quarantine were unveiled yesterday, just as the Health Ministry announced a new daily record of confirmed cases: 4,518.

 

INFLATION IN JUNE: 2.2%

Last month’s inflation was 2.2 percent, INDEC statistics bureau reported on Wednesday, making for a total of 13.6 percent in the first half of this year and 42.8 percent for the last 12 months. Core inflation weighed in at 2.3 percent despite only one percent for the key item of food and beverages with public service pricing frozen or regulated. Garments and footwear (6.6 percent) was the leading culprit. Economic analysts were divided as to whether this rise from the 1.5 percent plateau maintained in April and May was due to the emergence of most inland provinces from total lockdown or to some trillion pesos being printed so far this year. Most of these analysts had been forecasting just under two percent for June.

 

CANICOBA CORRAL TO RESIGN

Federal judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral confirmed on Monday that he would be ending a long and controversial judicial career when he reaches the statutory age limit of 75 this coming July 29 – a timely retirement since it will permit him a monthly pension of 330,000 pesos before the reform of judicial and diplomatic pensions comes into effect. 

 

HOLOCAUST MEMORY BILL 

A group of deputies on Wednesday (July 15) presented a bill authored by PRO’s Waldo Wolff to declare that date as the “Day of Remembrance against Impunity for War Criminals, Crimes against Humanity and Remembrance of their Victims.” When presenting the bill, Wolff explained his choice of date as the first day that Adolf Eichmann arrived to live in Argentina (July 15, 1950) since the prime purpose of the bill is to repudiate this country having granted shelter to Nazi war criminals, who entered through the front door, with official facilities and help from the Red Cross, while Jewish immigrants had to hide their identity. Other big names among Nazi war criminals whose escape routes led them to or through Argentina included Klaus Barbie, Josef Mengele and Erich Priebke, pointed out Ariel Gelblung, the Latin American Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is sponsoring the bill.

 

OPPOSITION DIALOGUE

Presidente Alberto Fernández on Monday held a videoconference session with Juntos por el Cambio opposition deputies and senators (boycotted by the Civic Coalition wing of that coalition), demanding "respect" and "serious dialogue" from them following their reactions politicising the murder of Fabián Gutiérrez (the former secretary of his vice-president Cristina Kirchner) and urging priority for the coronavirus pandemic. The 90-minute virtual encounter had an agenda of five topics: quarantine, incomes policy, the tax moratorium, sovereign debt under local law and post-pandemic reconstruction. The videoconference continued afterwards with smaller opposition parties. Following the session Radical Senator Martín Lousteau regretted the absence of self-criticism on both sides with the set agenda largely ignored while his fellow-Radical lower house whip Mario Negri said that the meeting had left a “bittersweet” taste. The session also provoked friendly fire from Mothers of Plaza de Mayo leader Hebe de Bonafini, who the next day wrote an open letter to the President declaring herself “aggrieved over his sitting down to a table with those who looted the country.”

VENEZUELA ROW

Following a tense interview with President Alberto Fernández on Wednesday, journalist Víctor Hugo Morales expressed his disappointment and annoyance over government acceptance of the United Nations report on human rights violations in Venezuela while adding its own condemnation, calling for Argentina to turn its back on the Lima Group. At the same time former 678 panellist Cynthia García called on the President to explain himself over how he could back a call for free elections in Venezuela. Fernández defended himself against any switch in policy, saying Argentina continued to defend the legitimacy of Venezuela’s government but was committed to defending human rights anywhere in the world, favouring a “negotiated and inclusive” political solution. Fernández also rejected the economic sanctions applied by the United States.

 

MARKETS

A new Central Bank crackdown on legal dollar purchases pushed the parallel “blue” exchange rate up to 130 pesos from 126 the previous Friday while the creeping devaluation of the official exchange rate continued with the Banco Nación quotation reaching 75.25 pesos from 74.50 a week ago. Country risk barely moved, inching up to 2,344 points from 2,337 the previous Friday. 

 

MENEM TO RE-MARRY

Just turned 90 this month, Senator Carlos Menem (Argentina’s president between 1989 and 1999) announced on Thursday that he would be remarrying his first wife Zulema Yoma, 77, next week while in a bizarre kind of double wedding his second wife Chilean Cecilia Bolocco, whom he married in 2001 and divorced in 2007, confirmed her forthcoming wedding with Chilean businessman José Patricio Daire. Menem first married Zulema in 1966 before virtually throwing her out of Government House in 1990. 

POLICE BRUTALITY

The Buenos Aires provincial police came under the spotlight last week after two La Matanza policemen were arrested last weekend for gunning down motorcyclist Lucas Nahuel Verón on his 18th birthday, while the mother of missing youth Facundo Astudillo Castro insistently holds the police responsible for his alleged disappearance in the Bahía Blanca area.

 

DECADE OF MARRIAGE EQUALITY 

The 10th anniversary of Congress approval of the bill permitting gay marriage was marked last Wednesday with over 20,000 same-sex weddings in the decade since then.

 

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