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ARGENTINA | 05-05-2023 16:37

Stories that caught our eye: April 30 to May 5

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

 

ALBERTO MEETS LULA

Following a lengthy meeting of over four hours between President Alberto Fernández and his Brazilian colleague Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brasilia last Tuesday, the two leaders announced progress towards a system of export credits in reales for Brazilian companies exporting to Argentina, financed by Brazil’s BNDES  development bank against Central Bank guarantees and future incremental exports from Argentina, thus easing Argentina’s monthly import bill by over US$1 billion (a similar system has also been implemented with China). Lula further promised to lobby with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) "to remove the knife from Argentina’s throat," as well as ask his BRICS (the acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) partners how they could "help out Argentina." 

 

INDEC’S BACK AND FORTH

The April inflation figure will be announced this coming Friday, as scheduled, INDEC national statistics bureau chief Marco Lavagna announced on Wednesday, shortly after postponing the announcement to May 15. Lavagna insisted that this postponement had been “misinterpreted” as a desire to avoid a negative impact on this weekend’s provincial elections, thus “casting suspicions on the integrity of INDEC’s technical teams” when the idea had been to avoid reporting statistical information in the midst of an electoral curfew but that the controversy had obliged him to reconsider. La Pampa, Salta, San Juan, Tierra del Fuego and Tucumán will all be holding provincial elections tomorrow.

 

RESERVES HIT NEW LOW

Central Bank reserves fell below the 35-billion mark on Thursday to US$34.13 billion, a seven-year low, after a US$750-million payment to the International Monetary Fund and with energy import bills still to pay. Net reserves are thus estimated by prívate economists to have fallen into negative territory. The slump came despite the entry of over US$99 million for the latest version of the “soy dollar,” the highest influx since April 24, for a total US$1.76 billion when the government  target had been US$5 billion, affected by both drought and the acceleration of inflation. The net decline of reserves so far this year is now reaching US$3.22 billion. Calls for devaluation are now louder than ever.

 

SOCIAL PLANS ON BLINK?

City Mayor and presidential hopeful Horacio Rodríguez Larreta announced on Tuesday  in Barracas that the social plans currently paid to some 10,000 beneficiaries in this city would in future be temporary pending obligatory retraining. “We have more plans all the time and poverty keeps going up so the conclusion is very clear: the plans don’t work,” he argued since they make people reluctant to take up formal employment and thus lose the benefit. City Hall will be offering training courses geared to the current demand for labour and those not attending at least 40 hours annually will lose their plan.
 

GENERAL CONTROVERSY

Ex-officers have rallied to the support of Retired General Rodrigo Soloaga, 75, a Malvinas war veterans cashiered from the Army on the instructions of Defence Minister Jorge Taiana for “justifying state terrorism.” On April 22 Soloaga had spoken out on behalf of "all cavalry officer comrades deprived of their freedom as a consequence of having done their duty in a difficult time for our country." The Forum of Retired Officers repudiated the expulsion in a statement beginning: “Rancour, hatred and vengeance are not good councillors,” also pointing to Soloaga’s Malvinas war record and his defence of the Raúl Alfonsín presidency against the 1989 ‘La Tablada’ terrorist attack before retiring in 2004 at the start of the Néstor Kirchner presidency.
 

MAY DAY RALLIES

May Day last Monday was marked by rallies held by social organisations and leftist parties where the dominant note was protest against the agreement with the International Monetary Fund and three-digit inflation with the labour reforms promised by various opposition presidential hopefuls  a further target. But the rallies were not numerous with perhaps the largest gathering some 4,000 people along the Avenida 9 de Julio thoroughfare under the slogan of "No to the IMF." While unemployment is a relatively low 6.3 percent, inflation has driven some 40 percent of the population below the poverty line. "We Argentine workers are part of the solution, not of the problem," proclaimed Rafael Klejzer of the Movimiento La Dignidad social organisation.
 

‘PLASTIC GIRL’ SNAPS BACK

Social Development Minister Victoria Tolosa Paz took umbrage at being called a “plastic girl” in a media article by Kirchnerite journalist Horacio Verbitsky, alleging that such comments only served to consolidate gender violence in Argentina and calling for a “never again to media and political violence against Argentine women.” Women Gender and Diversity Minister Ayelén Mazzina, Labour Minister Raquel ‘Kelly’ Olmos and even (despite sharing Verbitsky’s strong support for Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) Senator Juliana Di Tullio expressed their solidarity with the aggrieved minister.
 

MILEI PLUGS ORGANS FOR SALE

Libertarian deputy Javier Milei (La Libertad Avanza-City) last Wednesday stuck to his guns over the sale of organs as a "market solution " to the lack of donors, thus repeating a controversial proposal first made in mid-2022. The 350,000 people dying in Argentina could solve the problems of the 7,500 people awaiting transplants, he argued. Milei also had harsh words for almost all his potential rivals for the presidency except for PRO’s Patricia Bullrich, whom he defined as “a person who plays fair.” 

 

NO END TO CARNAGE IN ROSARIO

Wednesday night was especially violent in Rosario with no less than five fatal shootings in 24 hours, taking this year’s death toll up to 106.

 

MESSI WON’T ALWAYS HAVE PARIS

A two-week suspension of football superstar Lionel Messi for unauthorised tourist promotion of Saudi Arabia seems to have pushed his increasingly precarious relationship with Paris Saint-Germain over the brink although his father Jorge Messi had reportedly already told the French club that the World Cup champion would not be continuing his contract beyond its June 30 expiry. Messi’s Saudi Arabian jaunt had caused him to skip training, thus prompting the club to suspend him without pay.

 

INDEPENDIENTE INFLUENCER

Social media influencer Santiago Maratea has admitted that he would pocket five percent of the funds he has launched to raise the US$20 million owed by Independiente football club. "If we grossed the 8.8 billion sought, I would earn 400 million pesos. That’s crazy," commented Maratea while adding: "What I’m doing now with Independiente is work, mates." He did not say how much lawyers, accountants and other costs would subtract from the gross funds raised. By midweek Maratea had already raised 561,233,653 pesos.

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