KNOCKED FOR SIX
The first inflation figure of the year saw 2023 off to a bad start with the INDEC national statistics bureau announcing on Tuesday that the cost of living had risen six percent in January, marking a regress from the previous two months when inflation had been just under and just over five percent respectively. Annual inflation is now running at 98.8 percent. The main culprits were recreation and culture (nine percent), heavily influenced by the tourism of a summer holiday month, with eight percent for both housing, water, electricity and fuels and communications, both items reflecting the updating of regulated prices, and the key segment of food and beverages (6.8 percent) with a seasonal surge in the price of fruit and vegetables. Core inflation (omitting seasonal and regulated prices) was 5.4 percent, slightly below most forecasts for this month. Saint Valentine’s Day (on the same day INDEC announced January inflation) did not help the trend for this month with flowers going up 120 percent in price and three-digit increases in other items to mark the day such as confectionery and romantic dining out.
The government on Wednesday slapped a billion-peso fine on the electricity utility Edesur for recent power cuts with rumours mounting that it will be placed under state trusteeship. For now there will be an audit by the University of Buenos Aires. Last year the utility’s Italian Entel shareholders confirmed their intention of pulling out.
LA PAMPA SETS BALL ROLLING
La Pampa kicked off the electoral year with PASO primary voting last Sunday. The lack of Frente de Todos participation with nobody contesting the re-election bid of Governor Sergio Ziliotto made for a low turnout with less than 13 percent of the 293,800 citizens casting their ballots. While some town halls were disputed in other lists, these votes were mostly concentrated in the Juntos por el Cambio opposition camp as the only contested primary among the six lists presented with Radical gubernatorial hopeful Martín Berhongaray defeating his PRO rival Martín Maquieyra by 56.28 percent of the vote to 43.72 percent (14,855 votes to 11,520 with 95 percent of the 777 voting precincts counted). Berhongaray now goes on to challenge Governor Ziliotto in the May 14 provincial elections.
ROSSI NEW MINISTERIAL CHIEF
AFI intelligence chief Agustín Rossi, 63, swore in as Cabinet chief on Wednesday afternoon, the 20th man (no female ever picked) to hold the post since its creation by the 1994 constitutional reform and the third of the current administration. He replaced Juan Manzur, who returned to his native Tucumán to contest the May 14 provincial elections as the running-mate of incumbent Governor Osvaldo Jaldo. Rossi had already clinched the appointment in the previous week but his inauguration had to await his return from holidays in the United States, flying in from Atlanta. Juan Manuel Olmos stays on as Deputy Cabinet chief. Ana Clara Alberdi, Rossi’s second-in-command at AFI, was strongly tipped to replace him at the helm of the intelligence agency but there had been no confirmation at this page’s press time.
A policewoman was fatally wounded last Tuesday morning at the Retiro subway station of C line when she offered an apparently heat-struck man a glass of water, to which he responded by grabbing her service weapon and firing four shots at her. Hit by two of them, Maribel Salazar, a 36-year-old mother of two, was rushed by helicopter to Churruca Hospital where she died around an hour later at noon. Her assailant Oscar Gustavo Valdez, 29, a Paraguayan resident of the Villa 31 shantytown neighbourhood with a criminal record for gender violence and resisting authority, fled the scene but was apprehended nearby outside the Sheraton Hotel. A subway employee was also wounded, prompting his colleagues to call a strike. Opposition leaders used the tragedy to renew their calls for police officers to be equipped with Taser guns.
BIRD FLU EMERGENCY
Argentina has declared a health emergency for bird flu after detecting the virus in wild geese in Jujuy, Agriculture Secretary Juan José Buhillo announced on Thursday while also unveiling new measures to assist cattle-ranching. Uruguay has made a similar announcement on the basis of swans in their case.
NEW JOB FOR DONDA
Victoria Donda, who resigned at the end of last year as the trustee of the INADI anti-discrimination institute (or was fired according to some versions) due to differences with President Alberto Fernández, was given a new job last Monday by the Buenos Aires provincial administration of Axel Kicillof. Her new post carries the grandiloquent title of Undersecretary for the Analysis and Monitoring of Strategic Policies, which she described as “a huge responsibility.” She has also been named to the board of directors of the Buenos Aires Provincial Bank’s foundation.
VEEP’S COURTROOM WEEK
Good news and bad news for Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (who turns 70 tomorrow) on the judicial front last week. The good news was the City Federal Appeals Court’s decision to order judge María Eugenia Capuchetti (constantly challenged by the veep) to accept as “reasonable” the request of Cristina Kirchner’s lawyers to investigate the mobile telephones of Gerardo Milman’s female advisors, thus keeping the spotlight on the PRO deputy for suspected advance knowledge of the September 1 attempt on the Vice-President’s life. Capuchetti had previously resisted the request. The bad news consisted of federal judge Julián Ercolini sending to trial a new tranche of the so-called “Cuadernos" (notebooks) probe of Kirchnerite corruption involving hitherto excluded ex-officials and businessmen (including the businessman Armando Loson, the former Federal Planning Ministry official Roberto Baratta and former Cabinet chief Juan Manuel Abal Medina). The Federal Appeals Court had earlier rejected the challenge of Loson alleging hundreds of calligraphic irregularities in the copybooks of former Federal Planning Ministry official Oscar Centeno listing graft payments, the origin of this case. Loson’s challenge rejected by the Federal Appeals Court had been backed by the prosecutor Carlos Stornelli. The businessman also insisted that the money he had paid to the Federal Planning Ministry had not been graft but contributions to Kirchnerite election campaigns.
SOUTH ATLANTIC FIGHTERS
For the first time since 1996 an Argentine government has deployed fighters facing the disputed Malvinas islands, transferring three IA-63 Pampa III combat aircraft from Tandil to the Santa Cruz provincial capital of Río Gallegos in order to "contribute to the defence of national sovereignty, " Defence Minister Jorge Taiana announced on Thursday.
ARGENTINA, 1985 WINS AGAIN
The film Argentina, 1985, directed by Santiago Mitre, last weekend won the Goya Prize as the best Ibero-American film of the past year in Sevilla. With neither Mitre nor lead actor Ricardo Darín present, the award was picked up the actor Peter Lanzani (who plays assistant prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo). The film has already won a Golden Globe in Hollywood and now moves on looking for an Oscar.