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ARGENTINA | 30-06-2018 10:33

June 25th-30th: What we learned this week

Hightlights of the last seven days.

ALBICELESTE PROVIDE WORLD CUP ECSTACY...

The Albiceleste’s faltering campaign in Russia was jumpstarted on Tuesday, when defender Marcos Rojo’s volleyed in a stunning finish four minutes from time in St Petersburg, clinching a vital 2-1 victory over Nigeria. Captain Lionel Messi’s first goal of the tournament got the national team off to a perfect start in the first half of the decisive Group D clash, but Victor Moses’s 51st minute penalty levelled the scores and left Jorge Sampaoli’s men heading for a humiliating group stage exit. Step forawrd Rojo. The Manchester United defender, who has spent much of the last year sidelined by injury, thundered home Gabriel Mercado’s cross with his weaker right foot, sparking wild celebrations back home, on the pitch in Russia and especially in the nearby stands, where Diego Maradona’s dramatics caught the collective gaze of the global TV cameras. The win sets up a tough yet winnable last 16 clash with France, who up until now have been as equally unimpressive as Argentina. The tournament is looking more open by the day, with Brazil now installed as favourites after the shock exit of Germany in the first round sparked high levels of schadenfreude. Spain, Portugal, Belgium, England and Uruguay are behind them in the betting.

... OTHERS PROVIDE WORLD CUP COCAINE

With all eyes on the pitch, some citizens are taking advantage of World Cup fervour in their own unique way. Buenos Aires province officials said last weekend that police had broken up an organisation that trafficked marijuana and cocaine – inside fake World Cup trophies. The socalled “Narcos de la Copa” took advantage of the global merchandising boom generated by the soccer tournament to move the drug without raising suspicions. Officials said 20 kilos of marijuana, 10 kilos of cocaine, 1,800 doses of crack-cocaine, and 400,000 pesos were seized. Four men and two women were arrested. In other news, the AFIP tax office said it would investigate Argentine football fans who travelled to Russia for the 2018 World Cup, to detectpotential tax evaders by cross checking fans’ income and spending data.

SHARES TAKE A TUMBLE, PESO CONTINUES SLIDE

Argentine shares crashed nearly nine percent on Wednesday, their worst performance since early 2014, as concerns about trade tensions between the United States and China prompted a worlwide exodus from emerging markets. The plunge took the Merval stock exchange index down to its lowest level since last November, erasing last week’s gains when shares surged after Argentina’s return to emerging from frontier market status. After a brief three-percent rise on Thursday, the Merval dropped again by 2.4 percent on Friday. Struggling to recover from a sustained run on the currency earlier this year before turning to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Argentina has been among the emerging markets most affected by the global “flight to quality” in the United States. The fall was also seen as a negative reaction to recent Central Bank actions to stabilise the peso, including raising statutory reserve requirements and lowering a cap on foreign currency holdings. The peso, meanwhile, continued to slump against the dollar, selling for 29.60 pesos on Friday afternoon.

ABORTION BILL GETS A DATE FOR SENATE VOTE

Advocates of legalised abortion are accusing the government of stalling Senate passage of the bill already approved in the Lower House earlier this month in the light of Vice-President Gabriela Michetti’s handling of procedure. Michetti is proposing that debate on the issue should not begin until August after the World Cup and the winter holidays are over. She is also insisting that the legislation should pass through four different commissions. Meanwhile, this controversial issue is creating divisions in ruling party ranks with deputy Silvia Lospennato openly criticising Senate provisional President Federico Pinedo, a staunch opponent of abortion. The fate of the bill in the Senate remains in the balance, though a date has been set for August 8. Opponents of abortion outnumber supporters by a couple of votes among the 60 of the 72 senators taking a stance but the dozen undecided are expected to tip the scales.

UK ARMS IMPORTS RESUME AFTER SIX-YEAR FREEZE

A six-year ban on UK arms sales to Argentina has been lifted following negotiations between London and Buenos Aires. The decision is part of an ongoing improvement in bilateral relations which culminated in a recent visit by UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. The ban had been in place since 2012 amid tensions between the UK and the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration.

STRIKE SHUTS DOWN NATION

Monday’s general strike brought the country to a halt like no other since the first years of the century during the 2001-2002 meltdown. Previous strikes enjoying the support of transport workers were highly successful for that reason but no other was backed across a more complete spectrum of trade unions.Nevertheless, a significant number of shops remained open throughout the day. Despite the strike’s impact the government headed by President Mauricio Macri said that it would not be meeting with CGT labour leaders and nor would it be considering any change in its economic strategy. Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña called it a political strike promoted by the opposition while railwayman Rubén ‘Pollo’ Sobrero said that “the struggle will continue until the government falls,” a threat not echoed by any other union leader. The government estimated the cost of a day lost to work at 28 billion pesos.

RELATIVES OF SAN JUAN’S CREW DEMAND ACTION OUTSIDE THE CASA ROSADA

Relatives of the 44 crewmembers who vanished with the ARA San Juan submarine on Thursday chained themselves to fences in front of the Casa Rosada to demand improved efforts to locate the vessel. They complain that the government has been too slow to contract a private company to continue the search for the vessel, which disappeared on November 15 in the South Atlantic.

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