Sunday, July 12, 2020

ARGENTINA | 10-03-2018 09:32

March 5-11: What we learned this week

From 8M, to CFK's pending trial, the teachers' strike and an unexpected royal visit.


International Women’s Day on Thursday was marked by a huge downtown “8M” march in which equal pay and the legalisation of abortion were foremost among the women’s rights being demanded (See Page 4). Regarding the latter, two days previously a bill to legalise the voluntary interruption of pregnancy was signed by 71 of the 257 deputies and submitted to Congress.


Classes could only begin normally in seven inland provinces (Corrientes, Mendoza, Misiones, Salta, San Juan, San Luis and Santiago del Estero) last week while Buenos Aires teachers remain locked in pay disputes, both City and province. CTERA teachers union staged a 48-hour strike on Monday and Tuesday with adherence ranging from 95 percent in provinces like Río Negro and Santa Fe (70 percent according to provincial authorities) to five percent in Mendoza, one of the provinces already with a settlement. In Buenos Aires province adherence was 85-90 percent on Monday and 80 percent on Tuesday according to teacher unions while the La Plata government announced the respective figures as 47 and 37 percent. Unions have rejected an offer of a 15-percent pay increase plus 6,000-peso attendance bonus. City teachers have been offered even less – 12 percent (plus three percent to compensate for last year’s shortfalls against inflation) and extra payments for further training and qualifications. Meanwhile seven of Argentina’s 23 provinces had yet to make teachers an offer or open negotiations.


Argentina had a rare royal visit this week – King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway were here between Tuesday and Thursday. They did not come alone, being accompanied by a 50-strong trade delegation – a memorandum of understanding between YPF and Norway’s Statoil was one of four MoUs signed. Tourism was another focal point. The first Norwegian low-cost direct flight to Buenos Aires left Gatwick on February 14, arriving here the next day.


On Monday, Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and 10 other defendants were committed to trial on charges that the 2013 memorandum of understanding with Iran during her 2007-15 presidency had the hidden agenda of masking Tehran’s responsibility for the 1994 AMIA Jewish community centre terrorist bomb attack, which left 85 dead and hundreds later. Two days later the Civic Union senator presented her first bill banning all officials from having offshore accounts on pain of being obliged to resign within five days. She had especially harsh words for Finance Minister Luis Caputo, unsurprisingly.


Mapuche leader Facundo Jones Huala, 31, is to be extradited to Chile, Federal Judge Gustavo Villanueva decided on Monday, thus sparking a minor riot outside the Bariloche courtroom which the police quelled with the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. There were 15 arrests. Jones Huala, who faces arson and sabotage charges in Chile, will remain in his Esquel jail while appealing his extradition to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Uruguayan Judge María Elena Maynard approved Wednesday the extradition of Argentine trade unionist Marcelo Balcedo and his wife across the River Plate on money-laundering charges. When police raided his Piriápolis mansion in January, they found US$500,000 in cash, firearms, expensive cars, jewels and even a private zoo while his security boxes in Uruguayan banks contained a further US$6 million.


Local newspaper Página/12 has become the first outlet in the world to be targeted by Poland’s controversial so-called “Holocaust law,” after a nationalist group known as the Polish League Against Defamation (RDI) filed a case aginst it, just hours after the legislation became law. The charge relates to an online article late last year about a 1941 massacre of 1,600 Polish Jews by anti-Semitic neighbours. Poland’s new law slaps prison terms of up to three years on anybody linking the Holocaust to the Polish state or people, arguing that Nazi Germany was primarily responsible for the genocide mostly committed at extermination camps on Polish territory.


Ex-general Reynaldo Benito Antonio Bignone, the last of the four presidents of the 1976- 83 military dictatorship, died on Wednesday at the age of 90. His 17-month presidency led tothe exit of a totally disgraced military regime in full retreat following its 1982 South Atlantic war defeat – so much so that the date of elections was brought ahead six months to October, 1983. Which still left time to shred ample evidence of crimes against humanity during the dictatorship but not enough to save Bignone from 10 subsequent convictions as from 2010 (relinquishing the presidency to the elected Raúl Alfonsín in 1983 spared him earlier prosecution), the last of them in 2016 for his role in Plan Condor.


President Mauricio Macri found himself on a collision course with one of his main constituencies when Production Minister Francisco Cabrera irked the business community by telling manufacturers to stop whining and start investing. An Argentine Industrial Union (UIA) representative retorted by saying that last year had been the worst in the last decade for manufacturing industry. A sensitive week for the UIA since its 2008-2010 president Juan Carlos Lascurain was arrested on Tuesday for pocketing 50 million pesos as an advance payment on a road connecting the Río Turbio coal-mine which was never built.


Donald Trump’s decision to apply higher tariffs on steel and aluminium imports has sent the Mauricio Macri government and local firms into overdrive (See Page 6 for more).

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