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ARGENTINA | 26-04-2024 20:21

Stories that caught our eye: April 19 to 26

A selection of stories that caught our eye over the last seven days in Argentina.

 

MASS MARCH FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

Up to half a million people (the official count was 150,000) marched downtown last Tuesday to protest the cuts in public spending on universities with similar rallies in Argentina’s main cities. The demonstration was by no means limited to the academic sector with trade unions, picket organisations, human rights activists and such political leaders as Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof, last year’s Peronist presidential candidate Sergio Massa and even UCR Senator Martín Lousteau (the latter group rubbished by presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni as “almost a ghost train”) pitching in. President Javier Milei saw the demonstration as “riding a noble cause to defend caste interests.” The mass protest was anticipated days previously in Washington by an Argentine scientist who is a public university graduate in chemistry – she confronted Economy Minister Luis Caputo at a shopping centre, telling him: “Continue enjoying the money which is not yours, criminal.”

 

MILEI DIXIT, NATIONWIDE BROADCAST

Tuesday’s mass march to defend public universities was preceded the previous evening by a nationwide broadcast by President Javier Milei to celebrate “the first financial and fiscal surplus since 2008.” Milei claimed that this “historic” achievement came primarily from genuine public spending cuts rather than using inflation to that end (thus he stated that the erosion of pensions amounted to only 0.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product, one of several data which would not resist fact-checking). Flanked by senior members of his economic team, Milei assured the country that “the era of state presence [Estado presente] has ended” and that future growth would be up to the private sector, defiantly criticising sceptics.

 

MILEI DIXIT, TAKE TWO

President Javier Milei was in feisty mood at the annual dinner of the Fundación Libertad at Parque Norte on Wednesday night (also attended by ex-president Mauricio Macri, Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou, Spanish ex-premier José María Aznar  and members of his Cabinet among others), telling his opponents: "Ditch the ‘Ley de Bases’ [‘omnibus’ law], we’ll push it through anyway despite the politicians." The day after this defiant outburst, the law cleared committee stage after various concessions (including the removal of Banco Nación from the list of state entities to be privatised) and will be debated on the lower house floor between next Monday and Tuesday with a view to approval by midweek. The speech, entitled “Money, prices, monetary policy and inflation,” confounded expectations that the President might be more moderate after Tuesday’s mass march in defence of state university education with frequent barbs against fellow-economists (including Carlos Melconian) and opposition politicians. Unlike his monotone nationwide broadcast on Monday, Milei closed his fiery speech with his habitual "Viva la libertad, carajo!"

 

IRANIAN MINISTER WANTED

Argentina last Tuesday called on Interpol to arrest Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi (who was on a tour of Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the time), long wanted by local courts after being identified as one of the suspected masterminds of the terrorist car-bomb attack on the AMIA Jewish community centre in 1994, which caused 85 deaths. While not the first warrant for Vahidi’s arrest with the aim of extraditing him to Argentina, it is the first issued by the government of President Javier Milei.

 

CRISTINA BACK IN LIMELIGHT

Former two-term president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will end a prolonged absence from public view today with her presence at the inauguration of the microstadium Presidente Néstor Kirchner in Quilmes together with local Mayor Mayra Mendoza. The day was chosen to mark the anniversary of the 2003 election which carried her late husband to the presidency. The ex-vice-president partially anticipated her speech today when she said that it would be “a good opportunity to reflect … on this experiment of anarcho-capitalism and the useless suffering to which the Argentine people is being submitted.”

 

SHOW BOAT TO CHINA

Foreign Minister Diana Mondino will be spending the last three days of this month in China before moving to Europe (France, Belgium and Portugal) for the first week of May in a bid to boost trade, promote exports, attract productive investments and add fresh momentum to the reinsertion of Argentina in the world. Mondino’s Chinese swing will take her to the cities of Shanghai and Beijing. Accompanied by a large business delegation representing diverse, mostly export-oriented sectors, she will be meeting with potential investors in addition to her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, as well as attending trade promotion events. Her main activity in Paris will be participating in the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a global group which Argentina aspires to join since the change of government. The conclave will include a bilateral meeting with OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann. In Brussels Mondino’s main objective will be to advance the negotiations for the free trade agreement between Mercosur and the European Union. Portugal is probably her least ambitious stop but she has been granted audiences with both the president and prime minister of the Iberian country, as well as her local counterpart.

 

SISTER PROMOTED

Just before last weekend President Javier Milei promoted his Press Secretary Eduardo Serenellini, presidential chief-of-staff (and sister) Karina Milei and Legal and Technical Secretary Dante Javier Herrara Bravo to ministerial rank – granting them more funds, despite there not being any more money (apparently).

 

INCAA SHUTTERED

President Javier Milei last weekend ordered INCAA (Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales) film institute to close its doors prior to the relocation of its staff and the reassignment of their tasks (with their overtime already suspended). The move came with the 25th BAFICI (Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente) film festival running until tomorrow already underway.

 

EXXX-DEPUTY SENTENCED

Ex-deputy Juan Emilio Ameri (Frente de Todos-Salta) was sentenced by a federal court last Monday to a month in prison followed by two years of probation for creating a public disturbance after he was surprised kissing the breasts of his partner during the virtual transmission of a Congress session in September, 2020 (due to the Covid-19 pandemic). His excuse at the time was that his partner had recently undergone an operation for breast implants and that they wanted to test the results but he was promptly expelled from Congress. During the trial prosecutor Eduardo Taiano called for a prison sentence of four months and the defence for his acquittal, arguing that the ex-deputy had already paid for his error with his expulsion. The final sentence will probably include some form of disqualification from future public office.

 

APOLOGY ACCEPTED

President Javier Milei finally accepted last Monday the apologies of C5N journalist Pablo Duggan for calling him a Nazi, almost three years after the insult, discontinuing the million-peso lawsuit he had lodged at the time. Duggan admitted that the loose use of the word “Nazi” banalised the Holocaust.

 

VINTAGE BEAUTY

Alejandra Rodríguez (pictured), 60, took the first step towards participating in the worldwide Miss Universe beauty contest in Mexico this September when she won the Buenos Aires provincial chapter of the competition last Tuesday. But first she must be elected over the winners of other provinces in the Miss Universo Argentina contest to be held on May 25 in this city.

 

SPORTS ROUND-UP

Boca Juniors beat River Plate 3-2 in last Sunday’s super-derby (with all three winning goals scored by Uruguayans) while on Tuesday Independiente trainer Carlos Tevez (with a past as a Boca idol) was hospitalised with chest pains. On Thursday the transmission of the matches of Argentina’s national football team was switched from TV Pública state television to Telefe channel.

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