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ARGENTINA | 03-08-2019 09:16

July 29th-Aug 4th: What We Learned This Week

A pick of some of the stories making the headlines in the last seven days.

ECONOMIC BITS AND BOBS

The US Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the first time since 2008 this week in a move that aimed to get ahead of a potential slump and sustain continued growth. Chairman Jerome Powell specified that it was not the beginning of a series of cuts, sparking the Twitter-rage of President Trump who wanted more. The continent received some disappointing news with the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) lowering its growth rate projections for Latin America to a feeble growth rate of 0.5 percent from the 1.3 percent it projected in April. Standard and Poors also affirmed this week its “B” credit rating for Argentina, which saw the peso begin to slump against the dollar and forcing the Central Bank into action.

 

SANTIAGO MALDONADO’S BROTHER BLAMES STATE

Sergio Maldonado declared this week that “the State is responsible” for his late brother’s death, as the family marked the second anniversary of Santiago Maldonado’s death. Thousands took to the capital’s streets around the Plaza de Mayo, joined by human rights organisations and the late artisan’s family, to demand the Judiciary re-open the case and deliver the family justice. The case was investigated and ultimately closed by Judge Gustavo Lleral who concluded no forced disappearance had occurred, as Santiago’s body had remained in the cold waters of the Chubut River, where he had drowned. The family had asked demonstrators “not to get involved in provocations” during the march, and requested a peaceful demonstration. Maldonado disappeared in 2017 and his body was found 78 days later in the Chubut River. On Wednesday, Amnesty International added its voice to calls for the case to be re-examined.

 

LAVAGNA CARRIES THE CASE AGAINST THE CARRY TRADE

Consenso Federal presidential candidate Roberto Lavagna promised to crack down on what is known in the markets as the carry trade – the process of ‘arbitraging’ Argentine asseets with borrowed dollars – if elected president. The practice has exploded due to record high interest rates and a stable peso. Lavagna said he would limit speculative capital inflows, which he did as economy minister. Also this week, Consenso Federal got a boost from former Buenos Aires Province deputy Margarita Stolbizer who campaigned with Buenos Aires gubernatorial candidate, Eduardo Bucca.

 

SCALONI KEEPS HIS JOB

Argentina national team manager Lionel Scaloni signed a contract extension with Argentina on Tuesday to run until the end of the qualifying period for the 2022 World Cup. The 41-year-old was initially hired as interim coach of the Albiceleste last August and managed to secure a third place in this year’s Copa América in Brazil, where Líonel Messi saw a red card in the third-place match against Chile.

 

AGROINDUSTRY SECRETARIAT GETS AN UPGRADE TO MINISTRY

Returning the favour, President Mauricio Macri signed a decree this week that restored the current Agroindustry Secretariat to a full-blown Ministry. The Agroindustry Ministry was downgraded back in September 2018, when President Macri eliminated several ministries as part of an austerity drive. Yet, Macri looks to woo the all-important agricultural sector toward his electoral crusade. He is expected today in La Rual. Agroindustry Minister for Buenos Aires Province, Leonardo Sarquís, hailed the news as “good news” for the government and the sector.

 

EVERYONE HATES THE VOTING SYSTEM, APART FROM CAMBIEMOS

Authorities from the Consenso Federal said this week that Argentina’s electoral body should suspend the use of a vote-counting system produced by Venezuelan firm Smartmatic for the coming elections, as the party joined the Justicialist Party, Frente de Todos and José Luis Espert in expressing concerns over its security. The move came just a days before the National Electoral Chamber (CNE) was due to hold for a scheduled Council of National Parties (Consejo de los Partidos Nacionales) meeting, featuring representatives from all parties. A ruling this week conceded certain technical points and grant groups access to key information.

 

ALBERTO OPENS HIS MOUTH ON LELIQS, GETS SHUT DOWN

Outrage persisted throughout this week after Frente de Todos presidential pre-candidate Alberto Fernández insinuated he would stop paying interest on the Leliq, a short-term liquidity note issued by the Central Bank. One of Fernandez’s economic advisers immediately clarified the statement to Bloomberg, saying the Kirchnerite candidate meant he would demand lower interest rates for the Leliq, with as of Friday had a whopping interest rate of 61 percent. Backlash against the comments have continued, with pro-government partisans accusing Fernández of trying to trigger an increase in the dollar to hurt the government ahead of the elections, while others were left scratching their heads as to whether he meant money printing, defaulting or slashing rates. Economics, it seems, is not Alberto’s strong point.

 

SURPRISE! ARGENTINA LOVES WHATSAPP!

A poll released by marketresearch firm Ipsos discovered that WhatsApp is by and large the most influential brand in Argentina. Conducted annually and across 16 countries, this was the first year WhatsApp was included in the polling. To the non-surprise of the researchers, it promptly surged to number one, beating out brands like Google, Facebook and YouTube.

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