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ARGENTINA | 01-09-2023 18:19

Stories that caught our eye: August 26 to September 1

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

 

MASSA MEASURES MESS

Economy Minister Sergio Massa last Sunday unveiled a batch of measures widely perceived as mainly aiming at boosting his electoral chances. They included ordering a 60,000-peso bonus to all workers in the private and public sectors with a monthly wage of under 400,000 pesos, a bonus of 37,000 pesos for retired people on the minimum pension over the next three months, a six-month tax exemption for the monotributista self-employed, price restraint agreements for a wide range of food and other products, a price freeze for fuels and medicines until November also blocking any increase in prepaid health scheme fees, boosters for the Potencia Trabajar (20,000 pesos) and Tarjeta Alimentar (between 10,000 and 23,000 pesos) and assistance for farmers (up five tons of fertilisers for drought emergency areas and 25 percent of the dollars to pay soy imports at the official exchange rate). In the course of the week most provincial governors baulked at paying the wage bonus while there was plenty of grumbling among private-sector employers and prepaid health schemes in particular.

 

BUDGET HIKED

The government amended the budget for the eighth time this year to the tune of 7.65 trillion pesos, thus increasing the fiscal deficit by over 37 percent to over nine trillion pesos, via the 677-page emergency decree 436/2023 published last Wednesday in the Official Gazette. The two leading items of expenditure (both in 13 digits) were pensions at 1.83 trillion pesos and debt service at 1,55 trillion pesos.

 

MELCONIAN ENTERS THE RING

Unveiling his “realistic, feasible and common sense” plan prepared by a team of 80 economists which was not a “leap in the dark,” economist Carlos Melconian was presented in Córdoba on Thursday by Juntos por el Cambio opposition presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich as her Economy minister. Speaking to around 1,000 businessmen and political leaders, Melconian said that Bullrich gave his plan, which he described as “disruptive but within the system, institutional,” the “political leadership” which was all that it needed. The private sector would be the “motor” of Argentina, he said. Most of the best-known Juntos por el Cambio economists attended but deputy Luciano Laspina, previously tipped to be minister, was missing.

 

SANTIAGO VERSUS SANTIAGO

Tension has arisen between Argentina and Chile over a territorial waters claim projecting into the Antarctic, prompting Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero to fire a complaint against a Chilean Navy map (published on August 23) allegedly encroaching on Argentine  jurisdiction. The area in question is a continental shelf sector of some 5,000 square kilometres to the south of the Drake Sea and the Cape Horn islands.  Argentina claims that the new map violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1984 Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Chile arising from Vatican mediation under the late Pope John Paul II but their demands for a correction had yet to receive a formal response from the Gabriel Boric administration in Santiago at press time.

 

BERNI ACCUSES MAYORS

Buenos Aires Province Security Minister Sergio Berni on Tuesday accused “many mayors” of Unión por la Patria of “assembling the lists for (libertarian Javier) Milei and taking good care of his ballots” also extending the charge to the Juntos por el Cambio opposition. But he did not think that these mayors would be so generous in the general elections on October 22.

 

PROSECUTOR DIES

High-profile federal prosecutor Federico Delgado, 54, died last weekend from a lung cancer which he had been fighting all year. A law and political science graduate of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), his postgraduate studies of international anti-corruption legislation set the tone for his subsequent career, which saw him taking on both sides of the political fence ranging from Kirchnerite Public Works Secretary José López (the dollar-laden bags chucked over a convent wall) to ex-president Mauricio Macri (the Panama Papers). His casebook included the 52-death Once rail tragedy of 2012 while he also found time to investigate the human rights violations committed by the First Army Corps during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

 

MILEI’S GIRLFRIEND SPEAKS

Actress and imitator Fátima Florez, whose romance with libertarían leader Javier Milei came to light soon after his PASO primary victory last month, started to give interviews about her new life last week, playing down the possibility of becoming first lady as a "tilinguería (foolishly affected)." Claiming to be very happy ("that’s reflected in the face"), Florez revealed that the new couple never talked about each other’s work when together. The actress knocked back any suggestion that accompanying a presidential candidate could interrupt her stage career with the response: "Viva la libertad, carajo!" She nevertheless insisted on the political neutrality of "Fátima artist and citizen." Florez further mentioned that the first meeting of the couple was when they shared the table on the television programme "Lunching with Mirtha Legrand." Finally, she expressed confidence that her separation from Norberto Marcos, her husband for 22 years, would not end up in a courtroom.

 

125 YEARS WITH THE RISING SUN

At a Tokyo summit to mark 125 years of a diplomatic relationship spanning three centuries since 1898, Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero last Tuesday met Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida with the accent on deepening trade and investment in sectors such as agriculture, energy and mining (with a special mention of lithium). Kishida further made a commitment to increase technological cooperation with Argentina. Around 70 Japanese companies currently operate in Argentina while bilateral trade between the two countries is almost US$2 billion with US$795 million in exports and US$1.2 billion in imports. Beyond the economic agenda the meeting also touched on rules-based multilateralism, democracy, the protection of human rights and peace-keeping. After the summit Cafiero took advantage of crossing the Pacific to visit South Korea.

 

SILVINA LUNA DIES

The actress and model Silvina Luna has died at the early age of 43 in the Italian Hospital, where she had been interned for the last 80 days with acute kidney problems due to alleged malpractice from cosmetic surgery, her lawyer Fernando Burlando confirmed last Thursday. Her passing caused deep grief and shock in the entertainment world, which had been offering both prayers and blood donations. The cosmetic surgeon in question, Aníbal Lotocki, has since been convicted to a prison term of four years for operations with adverse effects for various starlets.

 

PALERMO RAPE TRIAL

The trial of six youths accused of a gang rape in Palermo in early 2022 began last Monday and is expected to last all this month with seven hearings and some 30 witnesses. The accused face prison sentences of up to 20 years if convicted. Their defence lawyers are pressing for the “complete acquittal” of all six while their families insist on their innocence with the sister of one defendant dismissing the trial as “a show worthy of a Netflix series.”

 

PALERMO STABBING 

Stabbed in the chest on Wednesday night by criminals robbing his mobile telephone, civil engineer Mariano Barbieri, 42, managed to stagger into a Palermo ice cream parlour muttering: “I don’t want to die” and was rushed to Hospital Fernández where he expired shortly afterwards.

 

MARDEL MURDER

Two youths, Franco Rodríguez, 20, and Carlos Lugones, 21, both with criminal records, were found dead and wrapped in a sandbag in a Mar del Plata warehouse last Monday after a neighbour heard gunfire and called the police. The latter found spent cartridges, wine bottles and cocaine among other items at the scene of the crime. One of the youths was shot in the chest and the other stabbed in the back. A man and a woman were subsequently arrested, the former with a record of homicide as a juvenile delinquent while the latter carried 170,000 pesos in her backpack.

 

MARATHON EFFORT

Last weekend’s Buenos Aires marathon included among its highlights a new South American female record set by Mar del Plata’s Florencia Borelli and the participation for half of its 21-kilometre length of a wheelchair-bound ex-minister and ex-senator Esteban Bullrich, stricken with Amyotrophic Lateral Sceloris (ELA in its Spanish acronym), who was pushed by his friends around the course.

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