Monday, July 15, 2024

ARGENTINA | 20-06-2024 05:17

Stories that caught our eye: June 12 to 19

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



Former Tucumán three-term governor and senator José Alperovich was sentenced on Tuesday to 16 years in prison for the rape and sexual abuse of his former private secretary, as well as disqualified from holding public office. Alperovich, 69, was found guilty of six counts of rape, three counts of sexual abuse and two counts of attempted sexual abuse, all occurring between 2017 and 2018. The prosecution had requested 22 years. After handing down the sentence, Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla ordered that Alperovich be remanded in custody until his conviction is confirmed by a higher court. The charges were first pressed in November 2019.



A staff report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last Monday deepened its forecast of an Argentine economic  slump this year to 3.5 percent from 2.75 percent in the previous report while also lowering its projection of inflation to 140 percent by the end of the year due to a recovery in the demand for pesos. Despite the gloomier growth forecast, the IMF saw the recession bottoming out in some sectors and hailed the announcement of positive interest rates in real terms but also said that the crawling peg devaluation of a monthly two percent needed to be "adjusted" now that inflation has been brought down. The IMF also spoke of  "the authorities remaining committed to ending all capital controls and exchange rate restrictions, beginning with the greatest distorsions, including the elimination of the preferential export scheme (80 percent at the official exchange rate and 20 percent at the market rate) and the PAIS tax by the end of 2024" but the Economy Ministry declined to confirm that any of the above was being contemplated in any immediate future.  



President Javier Milei started the week at the G7 summit in Italy joshing with host premier Giorgia Meloni and hugging Pope Francis while yesterday found him in Madrid receiving the Spanish capital’s International Medal from its Mayor Isabel Díaz Ayuso to add to the Order of Liberty decoration received from Ukrainian President Volodomyr  Zelenskyy at the international Ukraine peace summit in Geneva while on his way back from Italy – all travels which come after Milei became the Argentine president with the most air miles in the first six months in office. Milei’s Geneva presence nevertheless incurred the wrath of Moscow, which conveyed its “profound disappointment” over this “hostile action” via Russian Ambassador Dmitry Feoktistov, who further conveyed his alarm over the possibility of Argentine tanks being sent to Ukraine via Germany. Upon his return on Tuesday to honour Flag Day in Rosario on Thursday before flying to Spain, Milei made various comments on his Cabinet, ratifying Foreign Minister Diana Mondino in her post, confirmed the creation of a ministry centred on deregulation for Federico Sturzenegger ("one of the most brilliant economists on the planet") and warmly defended Economy Minister Luis Caputo. Nor would he be "letting go of the hand" of Human Capital Minister Sandra Pettovello, recently "under attack."



Security Minister Patricia Bullrich flew last weekend to El Salvador in order to learn more about its anti-crime model with a view to exporting it to Argentina. Meetings with President Nayib Bukele and her local counterpart Gustavo Villatoro and visits to the CECOT (Centro de Confinamiento del Terrorismo) massive maximum security prison, the biggest in the Americas, and the ANSP (Academia Nacional de Seguridad Pública) police academy were highlights of her visit. CECOT for the confinement of gang members and “highly dangerous” criminals, an innovation of Bukele widely commented abroad, especially drew her interest as something she would like to see in Argentina. Bullrich praised El Salvador and Bukele for passing from  "150,000 murders to being one of the safest countries in the world."



The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Austrian Volker Türk, warned on Wednesday that "the recent measures proposed and adopted (by the Javier Milei government) , run the risk of undermining the protection of human rights" in Argentina while addressing the sessions of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Türk was not so much talking about security policies as the anti-picket protocols as Milei’s "chainsaw," remarking that public spending cuts "affect in particular those most on the outside of the system." He further pointed to other measures hurting fundamental rights such as the closure of state institutions dedicated "to women’s rights and access to justice." Türk urged the Argentine authorities "to place human rights at the centre of their formulation of policies in order to construct a more inclusive society." The UN High Commissioner nevertheless expressed far greater concern about the violence in Mexico with reference to its recent bloodstained elections.



The main novelty from presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni’s daily press conference last Tuesday was the announcement that he himself was the new boss of state media, while insisting that they would all be privatised or closed down despite being taken off the list of sale in the course of Senate approval of the ‘Ley de Bases’ omnibus bill. Losing their autonomy, "they will pass over to depend on Communications, an area for which I am responsible," he pointed out. The official further explained: “The Cabinet chief, who has charge of public companies has taken the decision to restructure (Télam state news agency, Radio y Televisión Argentina y Contenidos Públicos) The plan remains the same – to close down  Télam. For the public media we depend on the decision of Congress but our decision is for all public companies to be privatised.” At his Wednesday press conference Adorni had nothing spectacular to announce but said that the late Néstor Kirchner, the last Argentine president to achieve a fiscal surplus, would be proud of Javier Milei. But this more amiable reference to Néstor Kirchner did not prevent Energy Secretary Eduardo Rodríguez Chirillo from complaining about the debt of US$11 million left by the previous government on the works for the Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline. 



After a stiff warning from Chilean President Gabriel Boric in person about the solar panels of an Argentine military base erroneously placed three metres on his side of the Tierra del Fuego border, the government confirmed on Monday that the error would be corrected as from the next day. The base had been recently inaugurated by the Argentine Navy last April 26. Some Chilean parliamentarians had proposed the removal of the solar panels without awaiting the Argentine response but Boric resisted escalating the tension.



Father’s Day festivities at the 4th Air Force Brigade in Mendoza ran out of hand when images of servicemen dancing with underdressed women went viral on social networks, leading to stern disciplinary action. “We sent four senior non-commissioned officers into compulsory retirement and applied severe punishments to the other three,” said Defence Minister Luis Petri (himself a native of Mendoza) in statements to the press. As civilians the women were exempt from military discipline.



The whereabouts of Loan Peña, the four-year-old boy who went missing in Corrientes Province on June 13, remained unknown at press time but three people including his uncle were arrested on Tuesday. 

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