Top stories from the past week.
PRIESTS GIVEN 40-YEAR SENTENCES
A Mendoza court on Monday sentenced two priests to sentences of 42 and 45 years and a former gardener to 18 years on 25 counts of sexually abusing deaf-mute minors at the Instituto Antonio Próvolo school (see Page 8 for a full report from Mendoza). In related news, Monsignor Gustavo Zanchetta, the former bishop of Orán, presented himself on Wednesday to the court of that Salta city to respond to sexual abuse charges after an Interpol warrant was issued. Zanchetta had been a Vatican financial advisor since resigning from the diocese on “health grounds” in 2016.
Two girls aged 12 were killed and scores more were injured on a school trip to Mundo Marino in San Clemente when their bus crashed near Lezama on the main highway to Mar del Plata in circumstances which have yet to be clarified.
EVO’S KIDS HIT THE CITY
The children of ousted Bolivian president Evo Morales arrived in Argentina last weekend after being granted a safe conduct by the caretaker government in La Paz.
ALPEROVICH REQUESTS LEAVE
Tucumán Peronist Senator and ex-governor José Alperovich on Wednesday requested leave without pay to respond to charges of sexual abuse lodged against him by a relative and former aide. The Senate unhesitatingly assented to his request.
Former Army Chief-of-Staff César Milani was acquitted yesterday by a Tucumán court on charges concerning the disappearance of conscript Alberto Ledo in the first year of the 1976- 1983 military dictatorship. “This is not justice, this is impunity, a mockery,” commented Graciela Ledo, mother of the missing soldier. However the court sentenced Milani’s commanding officer at the time, then Army Captain Esteban Sanguinetti, to 14 years although they will be served in house arrest due to his age.
55% MORE BEHIND BARS
The Argentina’s prison population has risen 55 percent in the last years to reach 63,094 persons detained in federal penitentiaries and Buenos Aires Province jails (around 69 percent of the total), a report by the University of Tres de Febrero has revealed.
PROTESTING IN THE STREET
Various marches and protests last week, starting with a rally against gender violence on Monday. On Thursday Kirchnerite supporters demonstrated outside Comodoro Py courthouses in favour of a “Christmas without political prisoners” in reference to ex-officials of the three Kirchner presidencies detained on graft charges. There were also the usual picket marches, especially during the latter half of the week, with the rapid implementation of food emergency measures against hunger the most insistent demand by the Barrios de Pie social organisation.
The official exchange rate closed the week at 62.90 pesos per greenback (identical to the previous Friday) but the “blue” dollar moved up to 69.25 pesos from 67.50 the week before. The US$200 cap on monthly dollar purchases continues to crimp the market. Country risk was fractionally up at 2,266 from 2,250 the previous Friday.
ALBERTO SAYS NO TO 11 BILL
President-elect Alberto Fernández said on Tuesday that he would not request from the International Monetary Fund the last US$11 billion of the US$57-billion package negotiated by outgoing President Mauricio Macri in mid-2018, also reiterating that he had every intention of repaying Argentina’s foreign debt without a haircut but not until a return to growth provided the means to pay it. Meanwhile the Macri administration released a report to show that 83 percent of the money already disbursed by the IMF had gone on debt service, not on capital flight as claimed by Fernández.
BRAZIL GETS A LITTLE WARMER
Despite previous brinkmanship by Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro administration over leaving Mercosur in the wake of Argentina’s change of government, Brazilian Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said on Tuesday that he had “no problem” with president-elect Alberto Fernández. The Frente de Todos leader later responded in kind, hailing a “pragmatic” approach.
CABINET NAMED ON DECEMBER 6 Lively speculation as to the future Cabinet of presidentelect Alberto Fernández (supposedly to be formalised next Friday) continued throughout the week with various twists and turns as to the future ministers and the powers behind the throne but there were at least two confirmations. Firstly, 2015 presidential runner-up Daniel Scioli was named future ambassador to Brazil. Secondly, Marco Lavagna (who failed to keep his lower house seat last month) will head INDEC statistics bureau while Fernández continues to press Lavagna’s father Roberto (a distant third in last month’s presidential voting) to head his future socio-economic council.
TELEFÓNICA SALE? Telefónica intends to sell its Argentine assets among other subsidiaries, its president José María Alvarez Pallete announced in Madrid on Wednesday, but the move also has a broader regional and global context. All companies throughout Latin America are to be sold off in order to concentrate on Brazil.