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ARGENTINA | 14-04-2023 10:54

Stories that caught our eye: April 6 to 13

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

 

PRO ALSO HAS ITS CONS

Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, a leading PRO presidential hopeful, opened up the week with a major controversy amid opposition ranks when he decided to hold the Federal Capital elections on the same day as the nationwide PASO primaries (August 13) with a duel ballot system in a strategy openly questioned by ex-president Mauricio Macri along with most PRO party leaders (although not the other parties in the Juntos por el Cambio coalition). Rodríguez Larreta’s decision was coherent with the electoral code as passed by the City Legislature in 2018 but this was ignored by Macri in the following year’s general elections since he needed the Federal Capital coattails for his re-election bid. The dual system will take the form of a single electronic ballot for municipal voting (already used in the 2015 mayoral elections) and the traditional paper ballots at national level. The timing of this controversial move was forced by the 2018 law obliging the date of PASO voting to be defined 120 days beforehand. 

 

CROSSING THE LINE

Journalists Laura Di Marco and Viviana Canosa blundered into a controversy last Sunday when on a La Nación+ televisión programme they asserted that Florencia Kirchner was suffering a “galloping anorexia due to a lack of maternal care.” Numerous colleagues, extending to the fervidly anti-Kirchnerite Jorge Lanata, criticised this unprofessional diagnosis, as did others. President Alberto Fernández was in the forefront of the critics, accusing the journalists of abusing Easter Sunday to deliver “hate speech” and implying that the mother (his Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) was more the victim than the daughter. Di Marco initially stuck to her guns but finally apologised in midweek while insisting that the health of presidential families was a matter of public interest. 

 

DROUGHT DOOM AND GLOOM

While local forecasts of the drought damage to grain harvests are dire enough, they are undershooting the impact, according to the United States government’s Agriculture Department. Their latest report predicts a soy harvest of 27 million tons along with 37 million for maize as against respective figures of 33 and 40 million tons only a month ago with soy flour and oil exports also down in more or less equivalent proportions. By way of contrast estimates of the Brazilian soy harvest have inched up from 153 to 154 million tons over the past month while the giant neighbour has also displaced Argentina as the world’s leading soymeal exporter for the first time in history. 

 

FUEL PRICE RESTRAINTS

Major fuel suppliers in Argentina have agreed to extend their price control agreement with the government for another five months with a four percent monthly cap until August, officials said Wednesday. The main oil and energy companies active in Argentina – YPF, PanAmerican Energy, Raizen (Shell) and Trafigura – all signed up. The move came just before yesterday’s announcement of March inflation. 

 

CITY HALL MOVES ON RENTS

City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta on Thursday urged the repeal of current national rental legislation “which does not solve any problem while worsening them all,” proposing three programmes with a battery of measures to replace it. These measures include credits and tax breaks towards the conclusion of rent contracts, assistance with security deposits for tenants and reforms to place vacant housing on the market. Rodríguez Larreta described the situation as "the biggest housing crisis in 30 years."

 

TAX-FREE PERKS

Around 600,000 workers stand to benefit from a consensus reached between Economy Minister Sergio Massa and CGT trade union umbrella leaders to exempt from income taxation various bonuses and perks beyond the basic wage agreed in collective bargaining. The improvement in take-home pay could be as high as 16 percent, according to Economy Ministry sources. The newly tax-exempt ítems include productivity bonuses, travelling expenses and overtime.

 

SENATE BACKS LUCIO’S LAW

With the unanimous vote of the 65 senators present, the Senate on Thursday approved the so-called “Ley Lucio,” establishing a programme of compulsory and permanent training in the prevention and early detection of violence against children, applying to all officials, social workers, doctors, judges, etc. involved with children. The law is named after Lucio Dupuy, the five-year-old brutally murdered by his mother and her partner (both sentenced to life imprisonment) in the La Pampa provincial capital of Santa Rosa in late 2021. 

 

GRANDMOTHERS SPEAK OUT

Following on from the 41st anniversary of the outbreak of the South Atlantic war early this month, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo have asked the Supreme Court to call public hearings in order to define whether or not to continue the cases of the combatant soldiers tortured during that conflict, depending on whether the statute of limitations applies as crimes against humanity (as upheld by the Comodoro Rivadavia Federal Appeals Court but overruled by the Federal Criminal Cassation Court). The Grandmothers presented themselves to express their opinion via an “Amicus Curiae” status, based on their “experience accumulated during the process of judging the crimes of the dictatorship.” Over 100 conscripts claim to have been tortured while occupying the Malvinas Islands in 1982 with 95 ex-officers denounced. In a separate development involving the Grandmothers, their president Estela Barnes de Carlotto testified on Tuesday to the Congress committee impeaching the Supreme Court that its ruling granting military dictatorship repressors two days off their final sentence for every day of pre-trial detention exceeding two years “opened the doors of liberty to genocides.”

 

BUMPER EASTER TOURISM

While year-on-year monetary comparisons of tourist spending can be complex with three-digit inflation, comparing the numbers of tourists is straightforward enough and this points to a bumper Easter week this year – some 2.65 million people travelling around the country or 1.5 percent more than the previous Easter. The outlay was nevertheless calculated by the CAME (Confederación Argentina de la Mediana Empresa) retailers grouping whose total of almost 96 billion pesos was estimated as an 18 percent increase in real terms, thus suggesting steep price increases. Acute traffic congestion was reported on both the Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning preceding the long weekend.

 

BLOOD IN THE STREETS

Security Minister Aníbal Fernández on Thursday warned that there would be "deaths and streets drenched with blood" should an "insane" right win the upcoming elections, making it clear that his remarks extended at least as much to the La Libertad Avanza of the libertarian Javier Milei as to the mainstream opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio where he singled out PRO chair Patricia Bullrich for particular criticism. "What they are proposing can only be carried out with repression," insisted Fernández. The minister also reaffirmed his faith in his presidential namesake Alberto Fernández as the man to lead the country while defending the PASO primaries as an antidote to handpicked leaders. Fernández also did not rule out the electoral aspirations of Argentine Ambassador to Brazil Daniel Scioli.

 

ALTO PALERMO CRASH

Early on Easter Sunday a bus-driver in his first fortnight on the job crashed into a heap of building materials just opposite the upmarket Alto Palermo Shopping centre, thus causing injuries (none serious) to 14 of his passengers while others sought to lynch him. The driver, who subsequently tested positive for cocaine, confessed to having dozed off but some passengers aboard the 39 line bus insisted that he had been using his mobile telephone minutes before the accident at 7.40am. The damaged bus had to be removed by crane.

 

INDEPENDENT OF DOMAN

Journalist Fabián Doman shook up the sports world on Tuesday by resigning from the presidency of Independiente football club, just six months after claiming the post in spectacular fashion when he ousted the powerful Moyano trade union dynasty in club elections. Doman squarely gave economic reasons for his resignation, pointing to miniscule merchandising revenues when measured against the club’s multi-million debts. Lanús Mayor Néstor Grindetti is his interim replacement.

 

ROGER HAILS LEO

Following a year in which he lifted the World Cup, Lionel Messi has been named to TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2023 with Roger Federer penning a special tribute.

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