BÁEZ SOSA TRIAL, THREE YEARS ON
The trial of the rugby octet accused of bashing law student Fernando Báez Sosa to death in Villa Gesell three years ago last Wednesday continued in Dolores last week with the midweek anniversary an important parenthesis. The anniversary was the occasion of massive marches in both Dolores and Villa Gesell with an interdenominational religious service in the former and a mass in the latter. At the trial more of the eight defendants joined Luciano Pertossi, who had broken the conspiracy of silence late the previous week with a denial of participation, with Máximo Thomsen (suspected of delivering the fatal kick) denying the intention of killing anybody and Blas Cinalli and Pertossi both claiming that they had joined the tussle in order to help out their pals without understanding what it was about.
The Juntos por el Cambio opposition warmed up in midweek their criticisms of next week’s Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC in its Spanish acronym) Summit, fulminating against the presence of such “dictators” as Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro (who finally confirmed his attendance on Thursday) Cuba’s Miguel Díaz Canel and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, among the hemispheric presidents attending next Tuesday’s event. United States President Joe Biden turned down his invitation on Thursday, the same day Maduro confirmed his. PRO chair Patricia Bullrich and Ricardo López Murphy (a libertarían deputy within the mainstream opposition) were at the forefront of the vehement criticism with the latter perhaps the most vocal: "The inept and infamous government presided by Alberto Fernández has invited Maduro, Ortega and Díaz Canel to Argentina. My absolute repudiation of any entry of dictators into our fatherland. Their mere presence is an insult to democracy." Libertarian deputy José Luis Espert (Avanza Libertad-Buenos Aires Province) presented a bill in Congress repudiating the "international alliances with autocratic governments" of Kirchnerism, accusing the government of taking Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua as its models.
WELFARE BENEFIT SLASHING
Social Development, Victoria Tolosa Paz announced at a Monday press conference that 154,441 beneficiaries had failed to prove their right to a Plan Potencia Trabajo job assistance payment and would be suspended. They would have 60 days to appeal the decision before finally losing their rights but in the meantime will only be picking up half of the benefit as from next month. According to the minister, 89 percent of the beneficiaries or some 1.21 million people will be collecting as normal. An audit last year had detected over a quarter million cases of irregularities.
NISMAN ANNIVERSARY MARCH
There were marches downtown on Wednesday to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the death of AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman with opinions still strongly divided on whether it was suicide or murder. DAIA Jewish community association umbrella have no doubt that it was the latter and said as much in a Tuesday communiqué entitled “Eight years of impunity.”
WASHINGTON PUSHES BACK AGAINST COURT IMPEACHMENT
Washington’s State Department warned on Tuesday that it was "following the institutional situation" with the government’s bid to impeach the Supreme Court, calling for "democratic institutions and the separation of powers to be respected." Earlier Human Rights Watch had sounded the alert: "In Argentina the hostile rhetoric towards judges by the authorities, the delays in appointing judges and other high-level authorities and the corruption also present in the judiciary have progressively undermined the rule of law," adding that political crisis and economic difficulties have created a "challenging context" for improving human rights.
After the government recruited teamsters and picket organisations to enforce their Precios Justos price control programme by monitoring supermarket prices, City Hall responded on Tuesday with Cabinet Chief Felipe Miguel and brand-new Public Affairs Secretary Waldo Wolff announcing a 911 number to “denounce illegal price controls carried out by trade union bullies or pickets.” Coalición Cívica leader Elisa Carrió has denounced President Alberto Fernández, Economy Minister Sergio Massa and Trade Secretary Matías Tombolini over this initiative of mobilising militant price inspectors. On Wednesday INDEC statistics bureau reported triple-digit increases for the monthly earnings needed to avoid poverty and destitution last year with the cost of the corresponding family shopping-basket for a four-person household rising 100.3 and 103.8 percent to 152,515 and 67,187 pesos respectively. Both sums top the mínimum wage and pension of 61,593 and 60,124 pesos respectively.
BIGGER BANKNOTES, PLEASE
The need to print banknotes of higher denomination to keep pace with inflation is reportedly being “conversed” within the government, in line with the change of Mint helm (with Rodolfo Gabrielli departing at the turn of the year and Ángel Mario Elettore designated as his successor). According to the economist Nicolás Gadano, almost 1.42 billion 1,000-peso banknotes were printed last year, outstripping the Mint’s productive capacity (and apparently contributing to Gabrielli’s exit). Meanwhile Senator Beatriz Ávila (Juntos por el Cambio-Tucumán) has already submitted a bill for the printing of banknotes to the values of 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 pesos, recalling that in the last 50 years the Argentine currency has lost 13 zeros.
SUMMER HOLIDAY BOOM
The first half of the first month of this year has fulfilled every promise of a bumper vacation with millions of tourists on the move (foreign visitors alone are forecast to total 1.7 million throughout the summer with 300,000 already arriving from abroad). Hotels are reporting an occupancy of between 85 and 95 percent while Aerolíneas Argentinas transported over a million passengers between mid-December and mid-January. The Argentine Observatory of Tourism (OAT in its Spanish acronym) has listed the 20 top destinations as Mar del Plata, Partido de la Costa, Bariloche, Villa Gesell, Pinamar, Las Grutas, Carlos Paz, Merlo (San Luis), Colón, the Iguazú waterfalls, Mendoza, El Calafate, Salta, San Rafael, Federación, Puerto Madryn, Mina Clavero, San Martín de los Andes, Ushuaia and Gualeguaychú. Five of the first six destinations are seaside resorts but 12 of the 14 remaining are inland and six Patagonian.
LUCIO DUPUY TRIAL
After 18 days of hearings the trial of couple Magdalena Espósito Valenti and Abigail Páez for the slaying of the former’s five-year-old son Lucio Dupuy concluded on Tuesday with the sentence due on February 2. The prosecutor Verónica Ferrero is requesting life imprisonment while defence lawyer Pablo De Biasi is calling for acquittal of the mother on the grounds that only one person could be guilty.
JOB SATISFACTION IN RETREAT
No country in the region has lower job satisfaction than Argentina where over two-thirds of the employed were unhappy with their workplaces last year, well above the regional average of 56 percent, a survey by the Bumeran website portal has revealed. An even higher percentage of 71 percent said that they would like to change their job, leading the survey to conclude that the coronavirus pandemic has caused irreversible changes in the labour market, creating options leading people to seek work to their taste. Pay grievances have nevertheless receded with 61 percent unhappy with their pay as against 70 percent in 2021 and 63 percent in 2020, topped within the region by Chile (65 percent). In dollar terms Argentine wages were the lowest in the region last year at a monthly US$632 (when measured at the MEP exchange rate). The regional survey covered a sample of 8,204 workers, of whom 1,684 were Argentine.
PLANE CRASHES NEAR AND FAR
Five men stole a small aircraft from the Villa Angelina Aeroclub in Chaco on Wednesday but paid an excessively high price for their crime, proving unable to control the Cesna aircraft and crashing to their deaths in a nearby field seven kilometres away. One of the men fell out of the plane to an instant death while the other four were incinerated by the crash. The Aeroclub had suffered a similar theft late last year but in that incident the criminals managed to escape to Bolivia. These thefts are believed to be linked to drug-trafficking. In other aviation news the government is trying to repatríate the body of Jannet Palavecino, 57, the Neuquén hotel-owner and keen mountaineer who was one of the 72 perishing in last Sunday’s plane crash in Nepal (69 of the bodies had been recovered by midweek).