Tuesday, June 18, 2024

ARGENTINA | 14-07-2023 10:03

Stories that caught our eye: July 7 to 14

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



The sixth month of the year ended with exactly six percent inflation, INDEC statistics bureau informed the nation on Thursday, working out to a 115.6 percent rise in the cost of living over the last 12 months and 50.7 percent up for the first half of this year. The government was quick to celebrate a June figure substantially lower than the 7.8 percent of April or the 8.4 percent of May. For once the key item of food and beverages was not to blame, being way below the monthly average at 4.1 percent. Instead the main culprits were communications (10.5 percent), health (8.6 percent) and housing (8.1 percent). Core inflation (excluding regulated and seasonal prices) was also above the general average at 6.5 percent while regulated prices were given as 7.2 percent. 



Economy Minister Sergio Massa and ANSES social security administration executive director Fernanda Raverta on Tuesday announced loans of up to 400,000 pesos for pensioners at an extremely generous interest rate of 29 percent amid three-digit annual inflation, repayable between two and four years. Raverta underlined “our empathy with Argentina’s pensioners,” pointing out that 92,000 new pensioners had been added this month alone thanks to moratoria, while presidential candidate Massa preferred to place his emphasis on how the loans could add dynamism to consumer spending and boost the economy. ANSES clarified, however, that the money could not be used to purchase foreign currency. Raverta detailed that ANSES offices would remain open on Saturdays to attend to this demand. The initiative is estimated to entail a monthly investment of 50 billion pesos.



The Senate remained stuck on only one session so far this election year (April 13) after an attempt to session last Wednesday foundered due to lack of quorum. The session had been called to vote on six bills with a judicial package in the forefront, including the continuation of judge Ana María Figueroa at the Criminal Cassation Federal Court when she passes her retirement age of 75 next month as well as tackling 47 judicial vacancies. Beyond the judicial front the agenda also included two bills to protect teen mothers already approved by the Chamber of Deputies and a bill to authorise the entry of foreign troops and the departure of the armed forces to participate in international joint military manoeuvres. The Juntos por el Cambio opposition caucus had served advance notice that it would not be accompanying any judicial initiatives, thus torpedoing quorum.



The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the mayoral candidacy of Jorge Macri was beyond its jurisdiction as corresponding to City courts which have already pronounced in his favour. The relatively brief seven-page ruling, approved by justices Carlos Rosenkrantz, Horacio Rosatti and Juan Carlos Maqueda with Ricardo Lorenzetti on leave, echoed the opinion of Attorney-General Eduardo Casal the previous week. Macri’s residential qualifications had been challenged by a prospective Frente de Izquierda y de Trabajadores-Unidad (FIT-U) mayoral rival Vanina Biasi on the grounds that the former Vicente López mayor lacked the five years of residence in the City of Buenos Aires prior to election day needed to run but until now the electoral courts have been satisfied with the childhood years of Tandil-born Macri in Belgrano as meeting this requirement.



The Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline, running 573 kilometres from the Vaca Muerta shale deposits to Salliqueló in Buenos Aires Province, was inaugurated last Sunday amid great fanfare and political crossfire at a ceremony designed to coincide with Argentina’s Independence Day and attended by President Alberto Fernández, Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Economy Minister Sergio Massa.



Three City Police officers (Gabriel Isassi, Fabián López and Juan José Nieva) were sentenced on Tuesday to life imprisonment for the homicide of Lucas González, 17, gunned down in Barracas in November, 2021. Six other policemen were also sentenced to prison terms of between four and eight years for covering up the crime while five more were acquitted. In their sentence the judges included racial discrimination as an aggravation of the homicide even though the defendants had insisted that the death of González was a case of mistaken identity with both the plain-clothes policemen and the group of youngsters including the slain teen mistaking each other for criminals (although it later emerged that the police had planted a toy pistol on the scene to lend more credence to their version).



At least 50 flights were delayed, stranding over 6,000 passengers for hours on the cusp of winter holidays as the result of a Tuesday strike by luggage handlers employed by Intercargo state company at Aeroparque, later extending to other airports around the country and creating uncertainty for the rest of the week. Nor did last week’s extremely rainy weather and a collapse of the Aerolíneas Argentinas computer system help. Most of the affected flights were domestic although some regional travel was also affected.



Jujuy’s social crisis, which erupted last month during passage of a controversial provincial constitutional reform, is far from over  with dozens of further arrests last week of those  participating in the protests including an unauthorised police invasion of the National University of Jujuy last Wednesday and the detention of a Frente de Izquierda PASO primary hopeful for Congress. The university invasion was too much for both outgoing Jujuy Governor Gerardo Morales and the Radical party which he chairs nationally with both releasing statements condemning  "an inadmissible abuse of power ... for which those responsible are already paying the consequences" (in the governor’s words). But human rights organisations included Morales in their criticisms when deploring "the criminalisation of social leaders and the indigenous." At least half of those arrested face serious charges like sedition and attempted murder.



Coalición Cívica-ARI leader and founder Elisa Carrió, now running for Parlasur on the ticket of City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, was taken ill on Wednesday while on the campaign trail in Santa Fe (which holds its PASO primary tomorrow) and was rushed to hospital where the diagnosis was “transitory cerebral ischaemia.” Carrió was in the province campaigning for her party’s gubernatorial hopeful Eduardo Maradona and was accompanied by Lucila Lehmann running for provincial deputy when stricken with chest pains. The veteran maverick was already out of hospital the following afternoon.



PRO City legislative hopeful Franco Rinaldi resigned his candidacy on Thursday night amid mounting pressure. He had sought to explain away controversial homophobic comments against journalist Mario Massaccesi dating from two years ago as an ironic “stand-up performance” and falling within the freedom of expression. Rinaldi further argued that it was impossible to accuse a handicapped person like himself of discrimination. These remarks led to the Radical wing of the Juntos por el Cambio opposition coalition insisting on the need to suspend his candidacy but Rinaldi was cautiously backed by PRO mayoral hopeful Jorge Macri, who ruled out any intention to discriminate but offered apologies to anybody who felt offended by this “exercise of the freedom of expression.” More video evidence was emerging at press time, including alleged anti-Semitism already condemned by DAIA Jewish associations umbrella and in the end, Rinaldi pulled out of the race.



The UN Human Rights Council voted 28-12 last Wednesday to condemn recent Koran-burning incidents but many countries in Europe and the Americas declined to back the resolution presented by Pakistan, fearing it encroached on free speech. Argentine Ambassador Federico Villegas chairing the Council shared the misgivings, voting in favour of the resolution but admitting: “We would have liked to have reached a text with more consensus and clarity.” Britain, the United States, France and Germany were among those voting against while Chile, Mexico and Paraguay were among those abstaining. All three BRICS members on the Council (China, India and South Africa) were among those backing the resolution.



The trial of former three-term Tucumán governor and ex-senator José Alperovich on nine counts of sexual abuse against his niece is scheduled to begin on February 5, 2024, a court defined on Wednesday, with outgoing Tucumán Peronist Governor Juan Manzur among the 81 witnesses summoned. If found guilty, the former provincial strongman could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.



Cumbia singer Elián Valenzuela, better known under his stage name of L-Gante, who was arrested more than five weeks ago on charges of briefly abducting a General Rodríguez municipal policeman and threatening him with a firearm, was granted house arrest on Tuesday and was taken on Thursday morning to the prosecutor’s office in General Rodríguez where he refused to testify. Since his arrest last month he has been further charged with stealing a mobile telephone and "aggravated cover-up."

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