A round-up of some of the most notable developments from the last seven days.
BOLIVIA REIGNITES THE GRIETA
President-elect Alberto Fernández not only repudiated the coup in Bolivia but roundly criticised his future United States colleague Donald Trump for his stance, saying “The United States has gone back decades” in reference to the White House communiqué “applauding” the Bolivian Army for “keeping its oath to protect the Constitution.”
“It’s disgraceful even to discuss” whether there was a coup d’état in Bolivia, said Fernández, also denying that there had been any Bolivian government manipulation of the October 20 elections and questioning any need for a coup if Evo Morales had agreed to call new elections. President Mauricio Macri’s former foreign minister Susana Malcorra also agreed that there could be no debate as to whether there was a coup in Bolivia.
A Peronist bill repudiating the “coup d’état in Bolivia” cleared both Houses of Congress on Wednesday although running into some opposition in the Senate where eight senators voted against and four abstained as opposed to 29 affirmative votes. In the lower house the entire Cambiemos caucus abstained except for PRO deputy Daniel Lipovetzky, who voted in favour. This abstention was viewed as a bid to cover up internal differences with many Radical deputies openly condemning the coup in other forums. Cambiemos caucus leader Mario Negri (RadicalCórdoba) would like to have seen a condemnation accompanied by a reference to electoral irregularities and the departing Bolivian president’s “greed for power” but Victory Front deputies refused.
NEW PROGRESSIVE ROCK?
The Grupo de Puebla (born just four months ago) held an unexpectedly eventful summit of 32 progressive leaders in this city over last weekend with the release of Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on the first day on the Friday while the conclusion last Sunday was quickly followed by the forced resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales. These events delivered mixed messages on the region but those present were confident of a progressive wave from top (Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador) to bottom (summit host Alberto Fernández) of Latin America with both leaders coming to office in the last year.
NO HOPE FOR A POPE IN 2020
Pope Francis will not be coming to Argentina next year, the pontiff himself informed the Río Gallegos diocese on Wednesday, explaining that his 2020 calendar was looking full. In a July interview Francis had said that he would be visiting his native land in the second half of the year and he had been expected for the 500th anniversary of the first mass on Argentine soil (held by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan at Puerto San Julián while circumnavigating the globe).
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT, THE PASTORAL AND THE PIQUERTEROS
The Church’s pastoral social work team last Wednesday met up with president-elect Alberto Fernández and several picket leaders (including Emilio Pérsico, Juan Carlos Alderete, Daniel Menéndez and Juan Grabois) to discuss the problems of millions of Argentines in need, especially hunger.
STAR POWER VS. HUNGER
Renewal Front deputy Daniel Arroyo, widely tipped to be the social welfare minister of Alberto Fernández, on Tuesday confirmed that entertainment personality Marcelo Tinelli would be working with the future government’s “Argentina against hunger” plan on a Council also including farmers, academics and trade unionists. Tinelli confirmed that he had had “many conversations with Alberto Fernández” on this topic and that he was keen on the idea. Arroyo did not rule out the participation of former economy minister and rival presidential candidate Roberto Lavagna.
The dollar closed the week yesterday at 62.93 pesos on average (62.50 in Banco Nación), 33 cents down from the previous Friday which was in turn nine cents lower than the first Friday of November. Unofficial exchange rates peaked at 75.91 pesos. But country risk refuses to fall, closing the week at 2,430 points.
DEFROSTING THE FREEZE
Fuel prices rose by an average of five percent on Thursday, after a 90-day freeze (already twice breached by increases of four and five percent) expired at midnight on Wednesday, but oil companies still complain of a 15-20 percent lag behind international prices (See Page 13).
INFLATION SLOWS (BUT NOT FOR LONG)
Inflation finally slowed down last month to 3.3 percent as against September’s 5.9 percent although still just topping 50 percent for the last 12 months and 42.2 percent for 2019 so far. But analysts, who had been expecting an October figure much closer to or even topping four percent, attributed the dip to a stable exchange rate and frozen petrol prices, continuing to forecast 55-57 percent by the end of the year with core inflation of almost 60 percent.
HELL FOR LEATHER
Argentina’s leather output has shrunk by more than 60 percent in the last four years with the closure of over 100 tanneries and the loss of some 3,500 jobs, plagued by rising costs and falling demand, the sector’s chamber pointed out on Tuesday. The chamber also lobbied against lowering Mercosur tariffs, as urged by Brazil, saying that imports (mostly from China) had risen from 23.4 to 62.9 million units since 2015.
P-P-P-PRETTY BIG PENGUIN
The skull of a giant penguin as tall as the average human being (1.7 metres!) and dating back 35 million years with a long and lethal beak has been found in the Antarctic, La Plata Museum researcher Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche announced on Wednesday.
Argentina’s national football team notched a 1-0 away win against Brazil in a friendly match yesterday thanks to an early goal from Lionel Messi.