Thursday, December 2, 2021

ARGENTINA | 25-05-2019 11:47

May 20th-26th: What We Learned This Week

What has happened the last seven days?


Three days after tossing her hat into the vice-presidential ring, Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner began the first of the various corruption trials against her. Seated in the last row of the dock, the ex-president heard out the charges of massive public works funds misallocation in Santa Cruz province in silence, afterwards asking to be exempted from any further courtroom appearances until the trial’s conclusion in order to avoid security hassles. Allies outside the court said she was being persecuted. Throughout the court session she avoided any exchange of words or glances with her codefendants (including former Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido and tycoon Lázaro Báez, the recipient of 46 billion pesos worth of public works contracts). (More on Page 4)


Carlos Stornelli, the federal prosecutor in key corruption trials against ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was declared in contempt of court this week by an appeals court confirming Dolores Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla’s ruling to that effect for defying repeated summonses with even Laura Alonso (the former PRO deputy handpicked by Macri to head the Anti-Corruption Office) saying yesterday that he should appear in Ramos Padilla’s courtroom to testify in the case of an alleged spy ring although she also urged the judge to pursue the case with “professionalism, not militancy.” Earlier in the week there was an uproar over a mobile telephone link between Security Minister Patricia Bullrich and Marcelo D’Alessio (the man first denouncing the espionage ring), denied by the minister.


Early last weekend ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner potentially turned this year´s election race upside down with a political bombshell when she announced via Twitter that she would running under her former Cabinet chief Alberto Fernández on the Unidad Ciudadana presidential ticket. “I have asked Alberto Fernández to head the ticket,” her announcement began in an unprecedented case of the bottom half of the presidential slate nominating the top. “I belong to a generation which never sought a place in party lists but rather a place in history,” her message, signed “Sinceramente, Cristina” (the title of her recent bestseller) also said. Once more it befell Kirchnerism “to govern an Argentina in ruins with its people again impoverished,” the message continued, while disavowing any intention to “return to the past or repeat what we did between 2003 and 2015.” Presidential hopefuls Agustín Rossi and Felipe Solá immediately dropped out of the race in the light of the message but other Peronists are still running for now.


Non-Kirchnerite Peronist leaders huddled in midweek but presidential dark horse Roberto Lavagna was a conspicuous absentee, holding out for a broader consensus. Those present sought to compensate for his absence by inviting 2015 Peronist presidential candidate Daniel Scioli (a two-term former governor of Buenos Aires province) and television impresario Marcelo Tinelli to join their primary.


Last Sunday La Pampa Peronists not only renewed their unbroken grip on the province since 1983 but also seized the provincial capital of Santa Rosa from Radical hands. Peronist Sergio Ziliotto fell just short of an absolute majority with 49.93 percent of the vote as against 30.17 percent for Radical Daniel Kroneberger among an electorate of just over 280,000 voters in 840 voting-precincts. Although well behind, Kroneberger’s performance was far from being the worst by a member of President Mauricio Macri´s Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition in this year’s provincial voting. Outgoing Santa Rosa Radical Mayor Leandro Altolaguirre blamed his defeat at the hands of La Cámpora militant Luciano Di Nápoli entirely on the national government rather than his own municipal stewardship. San Juan and Misiones vote tomorrow.


A week of political upheavals had little direct impact on currency markets with the dollar closing yesterday at 46.06 pesos, eight cents down from the previous Friday and 20 cents down from the previous day. But country risk moved past the 900-point level to close the week at 919.


Last Wednesday City Hall began a ban on plastic straws, which will be available upon request only at catering outlets for the next six months but then totally banned.


Four Buenos Aires provincial police officers have been charged with culpable homicide after chasing a car which crashed in the small hours of Tuesday in Miguel del Monte, killing four of the five youths inside, with three of their colleagues also accused of covering up the excess. The tragedy prompted a mass march in Plaza de Mayo yesterday evening, following furious protests outside the police station in the immediate neighbourhood. At least one of the dead youths was wounded with a police bullet. A total of 13 police officers have already been detained.


Today’s 25 de Mayo public holiday (celebrating the birth of Argentine nationhood in 1810) will be marked by both the traditional festivities (including the usually fiery Te Deum in the downtown Cathedral held by Buenos Aires Cardinal-Archbishop Mario Poli) and more recently organised events such as the Merlo rally to launch the presidential ticket of former Cabinet chief Alberto Fernández and ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. What the day will not include is a transport strike – it was called off by transport unions at almost the last minute yesterday.


Video footage of two homeless people in Mataderos being doused in fuel and set on fire (filmed by the assailants, who have yet to be identified) has shocked many members of the general public. Although badly burned, both victims survived the attack, which reportedly took place three weeks ago.

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