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ARGENTINA | 16-06-2018 11:35

Jun 11th-17th: What we learned this week

Top stories from the last seven days.

HISTORY BEFORE OUR OWN EYES

In a historic decision, the Lower House approved a bill to legalise abortion on Thursday by a 129-125 vote with one abstention in the 257-seat chamber following a marathon debate of almost 23 hours. While just a week ago, many remained sceptical about the bill’s chances of passing both chambers, most pundits now forecast a favourable Senate passage, with the leaders of the three biggest caucuses all in support. Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was against such legislation during her own time in office, will support the bill too, she says. At the start of the debate that began Wednesday, defeat by two votes seemed to be on the cards. But a handful of deputies (including all three La Pampa Peronists) switched sides, thus permitting the final victory. The emotions produced by the bill were evident both inside and outside Congress, with tens of thousands of demonstrators holding overnight vigils outside the building right up until the vote. Emotional speeches by lawmakers – including one in particular by PRO legislator Silvia Lospennato – spread acorss social media, as thousands followed the debate on live streaming. As the vote’s final tally became clear, pro-choice campaigners erupted in celebration.

POPE HONOURS SLAIN ARGENTINE BISHOP

Pope Francis has cleared the way for the beatification of Enrique Angelelli, an Argentine bishop who was assassinated during the country’s military dictatorship in 1976.The status allows Angelelli to be beatified — the first step toward sainthood — without having a miracle attributed to his intercession. A miracle still would be needed for canonisation. The move comes after the Vatican said last month it would elevate another martyred prelate to sainthood, Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, paying the pathway to sainthood for other slain Latin American bishops.

ALL CHANGE AT THE CENTRAL BANK

In a dramatic economic reshuffle, Finance Minister Luis Caputo was appointed the new chief of the Central Bank late Thursday night, replacing Federico Struzenegger. The government said Sturzenegger had “today presented his resignation to President Mauricio Macri at a meeting” at the Olivos presidential residence The government said Caputo, 53, would replace him at the helm of the institution, with the Finance Ministry’s functions set to come under the wing of Treasury Minister Nicolás Dujovne. Caputo’s appointment will need to be confirmed by the Senate. Earlier in the week, the Finance Ministry has announced that half the first tranche from the stand-by agreement will be used to defend the peso – i.e. US$ 7.5 billion. The announcement came a few days after the Central Bank withdrew its offer to sell US$5 billion for 25 pesos each in a vain effort to keep the greenback down. Despite the Finance Ministry’s announcement the dollar rose half a peso on Wednesday to almost 27 pesos.

INFLATION: 2.1% IN MAY

Inflation reached 2.1 percent in May, the INDEC national statistics bureau revealed on Thursday, just as the peso rose to a new record against the dollar. The figure means that inflation in the first five months of 2018 so far has totalled 11.9 percent. The cumulative total for the last 12 months now stands at 26.3 percent. According to the bureau, core inflation – which excludes regulated and seasonal prices – hit 2.7 percent in May, the highest value so far in 2018.

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...

The trial against former Public Works secretary José López, who was famously caught trying to hide US$9 million at a Catholic monastery in 2016, began Monday in Buenos Aires. López is accused of unlawful enrichment of money funnelled out of public works contracts during his time as an official in the administrations of former presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Prosecutors allege that the money López threw over the fence on June 14, 2016, into the Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Fatima monastery, is tied to his and his colleagues’ illegal financial activity. Over 200 witnesses are scheduled to give testimony in the trial. López has been jailed at the Ezeiza Federal Penitentiary since his arrest in 2016. A total of seven defendants are on trial for money-laundering and embezzlement, including the wife of López and the nun Sister Inés (aged 80). Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas is trying the case.

STRIKE ACTION(S)

Union kingpin Hugo Moyano helped to lead a strike on Thursday by teamsters, who descended on the Plaza de Mayo to demand wage increases that take inflation into account. The truck-drivers union, led by Pablo Moyano (his son) is seeking a wage increase of 27 percent, compared to the offer on the table of 15 percent. The massive CGT umbrella union grouping stayed out of it, though it has called a general strike for Monday, June 25, in rejection of President Mauricio Macri’s decision to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for financial assistance worth US$50 billion. The Moyano-led strike – which affected fuel, waste collection, mail and logistics. In addition, teachers from the public sector and state employees, aligned in the two wings of the Central de Trabajadores Argentinos (CTA), made their owne 24-hour strikes and joined the march in the Plaza de Mayo. This protest “is for the world and the IMF, to see that the government does not have the support or the commitment of society for an adjustment plan,” said professor Hugo Yasky, leader of one of the two sectors of the CTA.

THE WORLD CUP IS HERE!

The World Cup kicked off in Russia on Thursday, with the hosts thrashing a dreadful Saudi Arabia side 5-0. Yesterday, two games that looked destined to be heading for 0-0 draws were changed by dramatic late goals, before Spain and Portugal treated the globe to a thrilling 3-3 draw featuring a Cristiano Ronaldo hattrick. Today, it’s Argentina’s turn against Iceland. Vamos!

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