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ARGENTINA | 08-06-2019 12:26

June 2nd-8th: What We Learned This Week

Stories that caught our eye in the last seven days.

GLACIER RULING

The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously upheld the glacier protection law, turning down an appeal by Canada’s Barrick Gold backed by the San Juan provincial government. The mining sector reacted with dismay to the ruling, warning that at least 40 development projects would now enter the freezer. The Supreme Court justices said that they could find nothing in the law to declare it unconstitutional, also arguing the need to protect the nation’s fresh water reserves. Argentina has almost 17,000 glaciers.

INDUSTRIAL SLUMP

No end in sight for recession as industrial output slumped 8.8 percent in April for the 12th month running and construction 7.5 percent for the 8th, INDEC statistics bureau announced on Wednesday.

DOLLAR WATCH

The dollar stayed put last week amid feverish speculation and multiple provincial voting, moving up just two cents to 46.12 pesos. Meanwhile country risk was significantly down from last week’s four-digit levels, closing yesterday at 947 points.

RAÚL MONETA DIES

Banker Raúl Moneta finally succumbed to cancer last Thursday at the age of 74. Rarely in the news directly, he was often a moving force behind them. Moneta was widely suspected of turning banking into a synonym for money-laundering, a talent he allegedly placed at the disposal of Carlos Menem. During the Kirchner years (2003-15) he reportedly assisted Jorge Brito as well as bankrolling Daniel Haddad’s media acquisitions.

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...

As from Thursday ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner found herself facing a new trial for public works corruption, ordered by Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio, who demanded that the vice-presidential hopeful be remanded in custody, also slapping an 11-billion-peso lien on her assets. Fernández de Kirchner, 66, is also accused of receiving bribes in exchange for highway toll concessions. A federal appeals court must now confirm the trial and set a date before it can go ahead. The vice-presidential candidate potentially faces a total of 13 such trials, of which the first (under Federal Judge Julián Ercolini for Santa Cruz public works corruption) began last May 21. This is not the first time that Bonadio has ordered Fernández de Kirchner to go to jail but the call is a dead letter since the Buenos Aires Province senator (since 2017) enjoys parliamentary immunity. In six of her 13 trials her preventive arrest has been requested. Fernández de Kirchner is far from the only defendant in this mega-trial with a total of 156 businessmen and ex-officials (including former Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido) in the dock.

ALBERTO FERNÁNDEZ HEALTH SCARE

Presidential hopeful Alberto Fernández was discharged from hospital last Thursday after starting the week in Sanatorio Otamendi with a suspected pulmonary thromboisis. The former Cabinet chief’s self-diagnosis was conflicting. Immediately after discharge he downplayed the health scare, saying that the condition was not new but dated back more than a decade and always under control via anti-coagulants with his entry into hospital a pre-campaign precaution. Fernández told reporters that he felt fine “to the joy of some and the sorrow of others” and would be returning to work but later in the day melodramatically announced that he had been “on the brink of death.” His return to work began by saying that as from December 10 (the date of the presidential inauguration) he would be meeting IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde for “a very serious discussion ... of IMF errors” after she had recognised on Wednesday that the Fund’s officials had underestimated the “incredibly complicated situation” of the Argentine economy.

LAVAGNA FORMALLY IN RACE

Presidential dark horse Roberto Lavagna finally took the plunge last Wednesday, officially launching his Consensus 19 candidacy. After various hints throughout the year, Lavagna tossed his hat into the presidential ring as early as May 20 while also hedging it over such points as obtaining prior consensus and PASO primary participation. One candidate not taking the plunge is Sergio Massa – still undecided whether to go it alone with his Renewal Front or challenge the Alberto Fernández/Cristina Fernández ticket within a pan-Peronist primary. He has until next Wednesday’s June 12 deadline to decide. The clock is ticking...

NI UNA MENOS

Tens of thousands again took to the streets on Monday to demand an end to gender violence.

BOLSONARO IN BA

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro paid a flying visit on Thursday, when he endorsed his host colleague Mauricio Macri´s re-election bid and floated a common “peso real” currency for the two countries. (See stories on Pages 4 & 5.)

INCUMBENTS STAY ON TOP

I ncumbent provincial governments continued this year’s unbroken run of success in last Sunday’s voting. The most humiliating result for the Mauricio Macri administration was in Misiones – not just because of the 73.11 percent landslide for the locally ruling Renewal Concord Front, thus making current Lieutenant-Governor Oscar Herrera Ahuad the new governor, but also because this time out the Cambiemos loser was PRO national party chairman Senator Humberto Schiavoni with a disastrous 17.38 percent, barely half the vote of the Radicals representing Macri in the previous elections. San Juan Peronist Governor Sergio Uñac was re-elected with 55.84 percent (slightly below his PASO performance of 58.15 percent) in a highly polarised race as against 33.87 percent for Marcelo Orrego’s Con Vos list backing the national government. None of the six other candidates (three leftists and three local politicians) reached four percent. But at least the trend favouring incumbent governments smiled on Cambiemos in the provincial midterms of Radical-ruled Corrientes with four of the five senate seats at stake and 11 of the 15 deputies in a 60 percent landslide. Elsewhere, Tucumán, Entre Ríos, Jujuy and Chubut all elect their next governor tomorrow together with a PASO primary taking place in Mendoza.

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