Monday, March 4, 2024

ARGENTINA | 25-07-2022 17:15

Stories that caught our eye: July 16 to 23

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


Amid another volatile week on money markets with inflation on the rise and shrinking reserves, the government decided on Thursday to permit incoming foreign tourists to exchange up to US$5,000 at the MEP (mercado electrónico de pago) or “dólar bolsa” rate, more than double the official exchange but 12 pesos behind the “blue” dollar rate of 338 pesos on the day. In a meeting headed by the new Economy Minister Silvina Batakis, the government also decided to offer more flexibility to inputs essential to production.


Vice-President Cristina Kirchner kicked off the week with a scorching video against the Supreme Court, not only repeating previous accusations of political persecutions but also holding it responsible for economic crisis and social distress. The ex-president further claimed that the judicial system had already convicted her in advance in her upcoming corruption trials. The video had a “before and after” format – the “exemplary” tribunal nominated by her late husband Néstor Kirchner in 2003 and the current persecutors, dating the debacle from 2015 when the new President Mauricio Macri “decreed” the current Supreme Court Chief Justice Horacio Rosatti and Carlos Rosenkrantz (both eventually confirmed by the Senate). Predictably enough, the opposition reaction to her latest onslaught against the judiciary was strongly negative.


The 28th anniversary of the terrorist car-bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre was marked last Monday with the backdrop of the Venezuelan aircraft with a partly Iranian crew detained at Ezeiza Airport adding a new element to previous commemorations. AMIA President Amos Linetzky made a reference to “frontiers as permeable as they were 30 years ago” while deploring the continuing impunity. Unlike other ceremonies marking this attack or the 1992 terrorist bomb destruction of the Israeli Embassy, speakers were limited to members of the Jewish community.


President Alberto Fernández on Monday extended by decree the pension moratorium expiring today for women reaching the age of 60 until it is approved by both houses of Congress (it has already cleared the Senate).


The Mercosur summit was held in the Paraguayan capital of Asunción between Thursday and yesterday. The event started on the wrong foot because Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro shunned it from the start, as did President Gabriel Boric of Chile (an associate state together with Bolivia alongside full members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) while Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou is raising trade bloc hackles by advancing unilaterally towards a bilateral free trade agreement with China – Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero refused to meet with his Uruguayan counterpart Francisco Bustillo on Monday to express Argentine distaste for this initiative. President Alberto Fernández attended but with a cloud over next Tuesday’s White House visit after his prospective host United States President Joe Biden tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday.


The weekly picket protests snarling downtown traffic continue but now spread over two days – while anti-government social organisations such as the Trotskyist Polo Obrero in alliance with the MTE grouping under Juan Grabois chose to mark Día del Amigo (Friendship Day) last Wednesday with a march, the more pro-government pickets like Movimiento Evita stuck to Thursday. Floating “blood on the streets,” Grabois is calling for a basic universal salary of 15,000 pesos a month for over seven million people and a minimum wage of 100,000 pesos.


Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Chamber of Deputies Speaker Sergio Massa, who head the two houses of Congress, decided on Tuesday against any pay increase for deputies and senators unless they voted for one themselves. A hike of 69 percent had been widely expected in line with the percentage awarded to Congress employees on July 14. Deputies currently gross some 540,000 pesos with net earnings of almost 450,000 pesos plus travel and other expenses.


Argentina’s trade balance posted its first deficit in 18 months last month with exports of US$8.432 billion and imports of US$8.547 billion, INDEC statistics bureau reported on Wednesday.  Fuel imports totalling US$645 million accounted for the gap of US$115 billion.  


Senator Mariano Recalde (Frente de Todos-City) has presented a bill whereby any companies taking advantage of the law permitting them to lay off workers on three-quarters pay in times of crisis are obliged to share at least 10 percent of the profits with all workers once normal production resumes. While a profit-sharing clause was included in the 1994 Constitution, business critics and labour lawyers argue that this law might prompt companies to fire rather than suspend workers because the lost profits would cost them more than saving a quarter of the wage.


Absent during two years of the coronavirus pandemic, the Rural Society’s annual exhibition at its Palermo showgrounds made its return last Thursday after City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta cut the ribbons the previous day together with Rural Society President Nicolás Pino and Agriculture Secretary Matías Lestani among other farming leaders and authorities. Rodríguez Larreta urged the national government to release Argentina’s huge agricultural potential via macro-economic stability, clear ground rules, investment in infrastructure and going out into the world to open new markets while Pino called for fairer taxation. Wednesday also saw a prize bull to be the first of 2,500 animals to enter. There will be 400 exhibition stands and 200 lectures at the show which will run for just 10 days until the end of the month.


Delia Cecilia Giovanola, a founding member of the Grandmothers of the Plaza del Mayo, died last Monday at the age of 96, seven years after she was reunited with her grandson, Martín Ogando Montesano, snatched after being born in captivity during the 1976-83 military dictatorship. The reunion came too late for Martín, the 118th reclaimed grandchild, to know his elder sister, Virginia (who committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 39) after being brought up by her grandmother in her childhood. “A courageous woman has gone, an activist for memory, truth, justice and joy,” wrote the organisation founded in 1977 in tribute to Giovanola.


Violence in the chronic feuding between rival drug-trafficking gangs in Rosario only seems to be escalating with at least three people gunned down last Tuesday following no less than 139 murders in the first half of this year.

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