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ARGENTINA | 21-07-2018 09:01

July 16th-22nd: What We Learned This Week

What has happened the last seven days?

INFLATION WOES

The INDEC national statistics bureau posted 3.7 percent inflation last month, a total of 16 percent for the first half of this year and the highest figure since May, 2017. This figure was all the more alarming because, unlike most previous inflationary peaks, it cannot be blamed on regulated or seasonal prices since core inflation (excluding such factors) was even higher at 4.1 percent. According to INDEC, the main culprits were transport (5.9 percent), food and beverages (5.4 percent), health (4.3 percent) and domestic appliances (four percent). This month’s inflation is expected to fall off to the 2.5-3 percent range although July is traditionally one of the worse months due to the winter holidays. This June figure only increases the pressures to re-open collective bargaining.

MACRI FRONTS UP

President Mauricio Macri confronted the financial crisis of the last three months with an upbeat speech and press conference at the Olivos presidential residence on Wednesday. The president pronounced the fight against inflation as “an absolute priority” for his government, forecasting that it would drop by more than 10 percent next year. He described the crisis as a passing “storm” which would not prevent growth next year. He also stressed the need to meet the fiscal deficit reduction targets agreed with the IMF, although he did not detail how. Macri was also vague about whether he would interrupt the phasing out soy export duties and defended the dismissal of 357 Télam workers as surplus to requirements. Meanwhile, the G20 responsibilities continue with this weekend’s summit of economy ministers and central bank chiefs.

AMIA: 24 YEARS ON

The 24th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre was marked on Wednesday with a ceremony including speeches deploring the impunity of presumed mastermind Iran. Organisation of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro was among the speakers at the event, which also included AMIA President Agustín Zbar and the parents of two of the 85 victims of the 1994 attack.There were also references to the “cruel death” of special AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman in 2015. Among those attending the ceremony were Vice-President Gabriela Michetti, Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña and ministers Pablo Avelluto (Culture), Patricia Bullrich (Security) and Carolina Stanley (Soial Development).

CAMPAIGN FINANCE SCANDAL

Buenos Aires province Governor María Eugenia Vidal, the most popular politician in the country according to opinion polls, has just undergone the first real scandal of her 30-month-old administration, forcing her to fire the new provincial General Accountant Fernanda Inza after only a week in office. Last year Inza was in charge of ruling party campaign finances for the November midterm elections and was thus held responsible for the hundreds of bogus donors exposed by the website El Destape. Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello has already summoned 50 of the people named to testify. On announcing Inza’s removal, Vidal also ordered an audit of all campaign finances and pledged that she would not accept any contributions for her implicitly admitted re-election drive next year which had not been through the banking system. But provincial Senate Kirchnerite caucus leader Teresa Garcìa held Vidal herself ultimately responsible for the scandal.

CFK: EVERYONE EXPECTS

Even her Peronist rivals are resigning themselves to the candidacy of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in next year’s presidential elections even though it is assumed that she will run for her Civic Unity front on a centre-left platform rather than under any Peronist label. Both Senate Federal Peronism caucus chief Miguel Angel Pichetto and Salta Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey, two leading moderate voices within the movement, made statements to that effect this week although they added that a CFK candidacy lent itself to polarisation and thus played into President Mauricio Macri’s hands.

KIOSCOS INTO E-COMMERCE

Argentina’s iconic kioscos will soon expand into e-commerce by offering a new slate of services including the receipt and delivery of online shopping purchases, credit and debit cards, ID documents, passports and paper mail. The new services were agreed upon at a meeting Thursday between the Labour Ministry and the sector’s union representatives. The nation’s newspaper and magazine stands are suffering a severe crisis as readers turn en masse to digital platforms. Their expansion into additional services is welcome news for unions, which have long been fighting for reforms to the sector.

SAMPAOLI GOES

National team coach Jorge Sampaoli’s five-year contract covering both the Russia and Qatar World Cups was abruptly terminated within hours of the French triumph in Moscow last Sunday. According to the letter of that contract its termination would have cost the AFA Argentine Football Association US$8.64 million but an agreement was finally reached on a compensation of more than US$1.5 million in seven instalments. No immediate successor is in line – speculation ranges from ex-coaches such as José Pekerman (who coached Colombia during the World Cup) or Alejandro Sabella to (extremely) wishful thinking options like Pep Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane.

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION (& INVESTIGATION)...

An agreement with Brazil to permit its citizens to testify in cases involving the graft-ridden Brazilian contractor Odebrecht is around the corner. A leading former executive from the firm, a potential whistleblower, is already due to testify on October 24. The bribery scandal has not prevented Odebrecht from suing the Argentine state for 1.5 billion pesos of outstanding public works payments, though on Friday that move was rejected by the Federal Appeals Court. Meanwhile, La Nación investigative journalist Hugo Alconada Mon was this week awarded the prestigious Maria Moors Cabot Prize by Columbia University (New York) for his exposés of various corruption cases including the Lava Jato scandal.

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