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ARGENTINA | 24-02-2023 13:02

Stories that caught our eye: February 17 to 24

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

 

UKRAINE WAR ENTERS SECOND YEAR

Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero last Tuesday affirmed that the government observes “with much concern” the decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin to suspend his participation in the “New Start” bilateral nuclear disarmament agreement with the United States, underlining the “urgency of peace” and calling for “dialogue and negotiation.” Cafiero urged a rapid ceasefire and a halt to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began a year ago yesterday. Meanwhile the Ukrainian community (estimated at some 450,000 people including descendants) called for a protest march yesterday evening, starting at the corner of Santa Fe and Callao and marching seven blocks on the Russian Embassy in Rodríguez Peña to express their repudiation of the war.
 

MAYOR SEEKS PRESIDENCY

Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta formally launched his presidential candidacy on Thursday via a video with a centrist focus on ending the “grieta” political rift. 
 

PERONIST SENATE SPLIT

The Senate’s Peronist caucus, artificially split into two 10 months ago to grab an extra Council of Magistrates, is now fragmented into three as from midweek when four senators left Frente de Todos to join semi-independent Córdoba Peronist Alejandra Vigo to form a new Unidad Federal caucus for a more federal Peronism. The Frente de Todos inter-caucus had consisted of the two subdivisions Frente Nacional y Popular with 21 senators and Unidad Ciudana with 14 – now two senators from each subdivision (representing the provinces of Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Jujuy and San Luis) have left, leaving the inter-caucus with only 31 of the 72 senators and problems forming a quorum requiring 37 senators to control the Senate.


POLAR WITHOUT POLARISING

President Alberto Fernández marked Antarctic Sovereignty Day last Wednesday by travelling down to the White Continent to inaugurate three labs at Argentina’s Base Marambio scientific station (which has been running since 1969). He also used the occasion to deliver a nationwide broadcast concluding with the words: “From the ends of the world I come to you to speak of new beginnings, a tomorrow of peace and prosperity.” The trip had originally been planned for last year’s national day (May 25) but was frustrated by bad weather. Accompanied by four ministers, he thus became the fourth Argentine president to visit the Antarctic, following in the footsteps of Arturo Frondizi, Raúl Lastiri and Carlos Menem.
 

CROSSFIRES ACROSS COALITIONS

There were crossfires within both major coalitions last week with the alleged "ban" on the candidacy of Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (who turned 70 last Sunday) and taser stun guns respectively the points of contention for the ruling Frente de Todos and the opposition Juntos por el Cambio. On Monday Security Minister Aníbal Fernández overturned a government taboo on denial of the "ban" by insisting that nothing prevented the veep from running with the court sentence of corruption against her yet to be upheld and that this claim carried the hidden agenda of "banning the president." New Cabinet Chief Agustín Rossi was quick to contradict the heretical minister (“Of course she’s banned"), since her sentence would be rapidly upheld were she to declare her candidacy while even Social Development Minister Victoria Tolosa Paz, who is among the closest ministers to President Fernández, insisted on Fernández de Kirchner "being banned." But Rossi also assured his support for the incumbent president were he to compete in the PASO primaries. The opposition controversy centred on a predecessor of Aníbal Fernández in his portfolio. Current PRO chair Patricia Bullrich indirectly blamed City Hall for the death of policewoman Maribel Salazar, shot dead with her own firearm in the Subte underground on February 14, by saying that when Security minister in the Mauricio Macri presidency she had introduced Taser stun guns “without asking anybody’s permission.” City Hall Cabinet Chief Felipe Miguel blamed Customs obstruction, saying that the decision to import taser guns had been taken two years ago.

 

ANOTHER DINOSAUR IN RÍO NEGRO

Auditor-general Miguel Angel Pichetto (who was the Senate Majority Leader for 17 years before becoming then-president Mauricio Macri’s running-mate in 2019) stirred up a storm of controversy when he said: “The Women’s Ministry is in the hands of a girl who is a lesbian, they might have given it to a woman” when deploring Women, Gender & Diversity Minister Ayelén Mazzina’s alleged failure to repudiate the murder of five-year-old Lucio Dupuy by his mother and her female partner. President Alberto Fernández himself called Pichetto a “dinosaur” while Mazzina’s predecessor Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta defined him as “a serial discriminator … and part of that new right confronting majority agendas,” while defending the Ministry as lowering femicides by 13 percent. But an unrepentant Pichetto cheerfully owned up to being a “dinosaur.”   

 

FIRMENICH’S SANDINISTA PAYCHEQUE

Former Montonero guerrilla leader Mario Firmenich, 74, has been collecting a salary from the Daniel Ortega government, even though his employment infringes Nicaraguan law as not being a citizen of the Central American country, an article in Nicaragua Investiga has revealed, naming the sum of 133,710 córdobas (equivalent to US$3,735) as his monthly stipend as a planning advisor to the presidency. Meanwhile on Tuesday both Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero and presidential spokesperson Gabriela Cerruti voiced government willingness to grant Argentine citizenship to the 94 Nicaraguan opposition figures stripped of their nationality by the Ortega régime earlier this month, including former vice-president Sergio Ramírez.

 

ONCE TRAGEDY REMEMBERED

At 8.33am (the exact time of the disaster) last Wednesday the 11th anniversary of the train crash leaving 52 people dead and 789 injured was marked with a siren at the scene of the tragedy – Platform 1 of the Plaza Once station of the Sarmiento line. Each name of the 52 passengers who lost their lives was then read out with their families and friends standing by. Survivor Leonardo Sarmiento, who was rescued from the wreckage around noon that day, told Radio Rivadavia that it was an accident waiting to happen with commuters experiencing frequent problems previously. Sarmiento, who subsequently needed four or five operations, confirmed that he had still not received any state compensation.

 

BIRD FLU SCARE

Economy Minister Sergio Massa and Agriculture Secretary Juan José Bahillo on Tuesday met up with authorities of Senasa animal health service to evaluate new preventive measures against bird flu with at least eight cases already reported among wild birds in several provinces. Bird flu has already been declared a national health emergency.

 

THE OTHER SIDE

A total of 7,209 Argentines did the paperwork for residence in Uruguay last year, well below the record of 12,489 in the pandemic year of 2021. While only a couple of thousand Argentines annually sought to move to Uruguay in the previous decade, the change of government in late 2019 caused the number to leapfrog to 6,816 in 2020. Argentines now represent 41 percent of immigration to Uruguay, including over 10 percent of the population of Maldonado, the department containing Punta del Este (25,000 out of 220,000). 

 

LIFE EXPECTANCY

According to the Our World In Data publication, life expectancy in Argentina and Uruguay ranks 68th in the world at 75.4 years, topped in the region only by Chile (78.9 years) with Brazil not far behind with 72.8 years. Three tiny city-states (Monaco, Hong Kong and Macao, all above 85 years) top the rankings, followed by Japan, Australia and Switzerland (all in the 84-85 range) while 10 African countries have life expectancies below 60. Only 200 years ago no country aspired to a life expectancy beyond 40 years with almost everybody in extreme poverty with limited knowledge. This was followed by huge inequalities with a life expectancy of 72 years in Norway and 26 in Mali in 1950 whereas today the world average equals the 72 years of Norway back then.

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