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ARGENTINA | 25-08-2023 10:07

Stories that caught our eye: August 18 to 25

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

 

WHOLE LOTTA LOOTING

The looting of supermarkets and other retail outlets was increasingly reported towards midweek and rapidly took over the political debate with conflicting accounts as to both the scale of the problem and the responsibility. There was no clear picture as to whether or not the trend was escalating at press time, but nationwide there were around 200 arrests, officials said.

 

MASSA GOES TO WASHINGTON

Economy Minister and Unión por la Patria presidential candidate Sergio Massa flew to the United States on Monday night with mission accomplished by Wednesday when the International Monetary Fund board of directors approved a remittance of US$7.5 billion, half of which will be immediately used to repay China, Qatar and the CAF (Corporación Andina de Fomento) regional bank for loans to meet an IMF deadline last month. While in Washington, Massa also met up with the multilateral lender’s Managing Director Kristilina Georgieva and various second-level US government officials.

 

BRICS BID HITS A WALL

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Johannesburg on Thursday unanimously approved the entry of Argentina as from next year but Juntos por el Cambio opposition presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich, speaking at the Council of Americas annual seminar the same day, said that if president, she would veto the initiative on the grounds of the current membership of Russia and the future membership of Iran. Ahead of the summit there was speculation that the PASO primary victory and possible presidency of libertarian Javier Milei (who has threatened to break off relations with China) might give BRICS members cold feet about accepting Argentina but the approval went ahead. The Alberto Fernández administration is especially keen on joining BRICS immediately in order to coax a loan out of the bloc’s New Development Bank.

 

COUNCIL OF THE AMERICAS

The annual symposium of the Council of the Americas was held on its traditional date of the third Thursday of August with this year’s edition starring the three leading presidential candidates to emerge from this month’s PASO primary. Both libertarian frontrunner Javier Milei and Juntos por el Cambio’s Patricia Bullrich were uncompromising in their rejection of the hot news of the same day – Argentina’s entry into BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Milei further described himself as a champion of free enterprise and rubbished the concept of social justice. Economy Minister and Unión por la Patria presidential candidate Sergio Massa, just back from Washington where he had wrapped up a fresh outlay from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), centred the blame for Argentina’s economic crisis on the debt with the IMF incurred by the previous Mauricio Macri administration.

 

RENT LAW APPROVED

In its first session in months, the Chamber of Deputies approved by a 125-112 vote amendments to the 2020 rental law reducing the contractual period from three to two years with updating every four months instead of 12. The three libertarian deputies insisting on repeal joined Unión por la Patria and the left along with two Peronist deputies outside the ruling coalition in rejecting the amendments.

 

JORGE MACRI PICKS RUNNING-MATE

Juntos por el Cambio City mayoral candidate Jorge Macri on Tuesday picked City Hall ministerial colleague Clara Muzzio (Public Spaces and Urban Hygiene) as his running-mate for the October 22 elections. In this month’s PASO primary, lawyer Muzzio had backed City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, who influenced heavily in her choice. There had been speculation that Macri might choose a Radical or some other member party of the opposition coalition as a gesture to the rival Juntos por el Cambio mayoral candidacy of Radical Senator Martín Lousteau, which only fell 1.5 percent short of Macri in the PASO primary while the name of City legislator Roberto García Moritán from the libertarian wing of Juntos por el Cambio was also floated but in the end Macri opted for gender and internal PRO balance. Muzzio’s name acquired social network prominence last year when she gave birth to her third child Benjamín, who suffers from Down’s syndrome.

 

TRADE BALANCE IN THE RED

This year’s balance of trade had already topped US$5 billion in July, a month when US$6.606 billion worth of goods were exported and US$6.71 billion imported, INDEC statistics bureau reported on Tuesday. The first seven months of the year have totalled US$39.53 billion of exports and US$44.67 billion for a deficit of US$5.14 billion as against a trade surplus of US$2.54 billion last year from exports of US$52.5 billion and imports of US$49.61 billion in the first seven months with the volume of trade down from US$101.76 billion to US$84.2 billion in that period. Analysts highlighted drought and currency restrictions as the main causes of the shrinkage of exports and imports respectively.

 

MASS CONSUMPTION SLUMPS

Already falling by 15.8 percent last month, mass consumption fell even more steeply 16.1 percent in the first week of this month. Mass consumption is 6.1 percent down for the year so far according to private studies. A 22 percent devaluation at the start of this month is not expected to improve matters with "prices adjusting rapidly to keep up,” according to Focus Market expert Damián Di Pace. Food and personal hygiene are reported as experiencing the heaviest cuts.

 

MERCEDES EX-MANAGER TRIAL

The Federal Cassation Court on Wednesday confirmed the trial of Juan Tasselkraut, the former production manager of the Argentine branch of Mercedes Benz carmakers, on charges of assisting in the illegal detention of at least two of the 18 Mercedes workers abducted during the 1976-83 military dictatorship (of whom 15 subsequently went missing while all were tortured at the Campo de Mayo detention centre). He was also charged with “persecution of the trade unions and the elimination of labour rights.” Tasselkraut had been acquitted in April, 2022, but the San Martín Federal Appeals Court overruled that decision and ordered his trial, which has now been confirmed.

 

HEAR THAT, MORTALS

Argentina has the best national anthem in the world, “a total masterpiece,” at least according to three high school students in the United States and as published by the newspaper Central Times. Their decision was disproportionately celebrated in the Argentine social networks.

 

TEVEZ TURNS RED

Carlos Tevez, who started his football career as a working-class hero and more recently has become a coach, last week switched clubs from Rosario Central (which shares the blue-and-yellow colours of his beloved Boca Juniors) to Independiente, a financially troubled yet huge club lying low in the table and thus giving Lanús Mayor (on leave) Néstor Grindetti added problems on top of trying to replace Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof in the October elections. Tevez brings with him a patchy record from Rosario where he won just six of 24 matches, drawing 11 and losing seven.

 

ALL EYES ON LAS MURCIELAGAS

Despite the recent failure in Oceania with first-round elimination, Argentine women joined the men last week in giving the country a World Cup when their team for the blind (known as las Murciélagas) beat Japan 2-1 in the final played in the English Midlands city of Birmingham. Both the goals (one of them a penalty) were scored by Córdoba’s Yohana Aguilar, who finished as the tournament’s top scorer with a total haul of 10. The team, coached by Gonzalo Abbas, finished top of its group (also including Austria, Germany and India) before beating Sweden 3-0 in the semi-finals.

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