Friday, February 28, 2020

ARGENTINA | 16-03-2019 11:33

Mar 11th-17th: What We Learned This Week

What has happened the last seven days?


The shortest month of the year might well end up producing its highest rate of inflation after INDEC statistics bureau announced on Thursday that prices rose 3.8 percent in February. While recent inflation has often been blamed on steep catch-up increases for regulated prices (and the item “household expenses” including gas and electricity bills did indeed go up 6.4 percent), the 5.7 percent surge for food and beverages was especially alarming, including often doubled meat prices. Inflation over the last 12 months now reaches 51.3 percent (and 6.8 percent for 2019 before this month). Central Bank chief Guido Sandleris says the institution will take steps.


Economy Minister Nicolás Dujovne announced from Washington on Thursday that he had cleared the use of US$9.6 billion of International Monetary Fund (IMF) remittances to defend the currency in the last three quarters of the year at the rate of US$60 million a day. Dujovne made the announcement after meeting with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. A total of US$ 22.57 billion falls due this year out of the total package of US$ 56.1 billion negotiated last year.


On Wednesday 65 relatives of the 1982 war dead flew out to the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands to pay their respects to the tombs of 22 soldiers newly identified in the course of last year. This milestone event concluded by unfurling the Argentine flag in Darwin Cemetery with the permission of local authorities for the very first time (see Pages 8 and 9 for full story).


Naval studies have concluded that the submarine ARA San Juan imploded at a depth of 920 metres, Rear-Admiral David Burden informed a bicameral committee investigating the submarine’s disappearance 16 months ago. The Congress cross-chamber investigative committee was given one year to investigate the incident but requested an extension to July 31, which is yet to be approved.


Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner flew to Cuba early on Thursday morning to see her daughter Florencia who is grappling with undisclosed health problems on the Caribbean island. Florencia’s illness, said her mother, was a result of the “ferocious court persecution” of corruption charges, which have left the former first daughter’s health “devastated.” A few minutes after the ex-president headed out to Cuba via Panama, a tearful five-minute video hit the social networks with Fernández de Kirchner spelling out her daughter’s sufferings and saying that her only crime “was to be the daughter of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner.” The video mentions no other health problem than “stress” but Kirchnerite aide Eduardo Valdés added later that Florencia Kirchner was suffering from anorexia. The ex-president’s flight to Cuba came two days after Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio placed her on trial for the illegal possession of historic documents properly belonging in a museum, including the 1815-37 correspondence between independence heroes José de San Martín and Bernardo O’Higgins, in her Patagonian El Calafate residence. Bonadio slapped a 100,000-peso injunction on her assets over the charges carrying a prison sentence of up to three years.


The province of Córdoba will be holding its PASO primaries tomorrow with President Mauricio Macri’s Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition in tatters with its key leaders in the province – Lower House Radical caucus leader Mario Negri, City Mayor Ramón Mestre and Civic Front leader Luis Juez – all confirming separate candidacies for the May 12 provincial elections. (See story on Page 7)


Governor Omar Gutiérrez of the Neuquén Popular Movement provincial party gained re-election last Sunday with almost 40 percent of the vote as against 26 percent for the Peronist runner-up and ex-picket Ramón Rioseco and 15 percent for the nationally ruling Cambiemos coalition’s Héctor “Pechi” Quiroga, the Radical mayor of the provincial capital. But the United States Embassy here had its own spin on the result – “Cristina lost,” it tweeted. The Embassy later explained that its account had been hacked. (See Pages 7 and 11 for more).


The massive Expoagro farm show was held in San Nicolás (in the delta region of Buenos Aires province) last Tuesday and Wednesday. (See Page 6 for full story). In a 12-minute speech aimed squarely at its audience, President Mauricio Macri told those gathered that producers would deliver “a miracle” this year, with a record harvest anticipated, whilst apologising for the “bad tax” he introduced on crop exports worth four pesos per dollar.


Two veteran Peronists tossed their hats into the presidential ring on Thursday – former Buenos Aires province governor and 2015 runner-up Daniel Scioli and Senate Federal Peronist caucus leader Miguel Angel Pichetto.


State-owned airline Aerolíneas Argentinas has joined a raft of providers in grounding its Boeing 737 Max 8 planes after the recent plane crash in Ethiopia. Argentina’s flagship carrier said late Monday night it had ordered the suspension as it awaited the result of investigations into the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed Sunday south of Addis Ababa shortly after take-off, killing all 157 people onboard. Earlier Aerolíneas pilots had refused to fly the jet.


Two high-profile crime stories reignited debate on self-defence and gender violence this week. Last weekend, a woman in Greater Buenos Aires was arrested on suspicion of murdering her spouse of more than 20 years, reportedly stabbing him 185 times as she killed him. Paola Elvira Córdoba, 38, was arrested for the murder of Alberto Naiaretti, 46, her husband and father of four children, in José C. Paz, Greater Buenos Aires. Both the accused and members of her immediate family accused Naiaretti of previous acts of physical violence, threatening behaviour and of forcing Córdoba into prostitution against her will, with the alleged abuse reportedly spanning some 22 years. Meanwhile, the fiery debate about selfdefence was reignited last Saturday, as the country awoke to the news that a 16-year-old teenager had been shot dead, after being caught carrying out a robbery. The teenager, identified later as Yoel Zelaya, was attempting to rob the home of a doctor in Parque Chacabuco.


Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla duly appeared in Congress last Wednesday to explain to deputies the “para-state” spy ring he had denounced the previous week, speaking for 130 minutes. The judge did not exclude his audience from his charges, saying that the ring included deputies as well as government and court officials, journalists and intelligence agencies both at home and abroad – he threw out the names of Elisa Carrió and Paula Olivetto who both sit for Carrió’s Civic Coalition. The extortion charges against self-styled lawyer Marcelo D’Alessio (who enjoys the protection of President Mauricio Macri and Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, according to the judge) are but the tip of a much bigger iceberg, Ramos Padilla told the Lower House Freedom of Expression Committee. If the truth were known, Argentina’s relations with Uruguay, Venezuela, Iran, Israel and the United States would be jeopardised, the judge alleged, because the intelligence services of all these countries were involved – he specifically accused US intelligence of infiltrating Enarsa energy agency during the Kirchnerite presidencies. Wednesday’s committee proceedings were shunned by all Cambiemos government deputies. The judge has been summoned to appear in Congress again next Thursday, this time together with AFI intelligence chief Gustavo Arribas. On Wednesday, lawmakers from President Mauricio Macri’s Cambiemos coalition described Ramos Padilla’s appearance in Congress as “a game” and a “manoeuvre” to “derail” the so-called ‘cuadernos’ corruption investigation.


Motor-cycle thieves were back in the news last week – in San Justo, 30-year-old María Caccone was intercepted on Thursday by motorcycle thieves as she was entering a bank to deposit 40,000 pesos and shot dead as they snatched her handbag. Just two days previously President Mauricio Macri and Security Minister Patricia Bullrich expressed outrage over a far less serious crime from the same source – they deplored a judge’s release of a motorcycle thief less than 24 hours after grabbing a Rolex wrist-watch from two Greek tourists

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