Monday, July 15, 2024

ARGENTINA | 27-06-2024 20:51

Stories that caught our eye: June 20 to 27

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



For the second week running, the whereabouts of missing five-year-old Loan Danilo Peña were still unknown at press time with federal forces set to take control of the investigation. 



At press time the Chamber of Deputies was still debating whether to accept the amended Senate version of the ‘Ley de Bases’ omnibus bill and the fiscal package or to impose the original draft as approved by the lower house with income tax a key issue. The sweeping reform bill looked set to be approved wth protests outside Congress taking place peacefully. Prior to the session the leftist FIT (Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores) caucus rotated its representation with last year’s City mayoral candidate Vanina Biasi and Mónica Schlotthauer replacing last year’s presidential candidate Myriam Bregman and Romina del Plá. 



The Organisation of American States (OAS) summit in the Paraguayan capital of Asunción, which began on Wednesday evening and ended yesterday after this newspaper’s press time, was quickly overshadowed by the attempted coup d’état in Bolivia. After a considerable delay Argentina’s Foreign Ministry joined the rest of the hemisphere in issuing a communiqué “reaffirming the unrestricted defence of democracy in the region.” Even before the summit started, it sparked friction with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva calling for an apology from his Argentine colleague Javier Milei for the “nonsense” uttered against him while Argentina’s Foreign Ministry anticipated rejection of human rights resolutions incorporating gender and ethnic perspectives. But there was also an upside for Milei at the summit – senior US State Department official Brian Nichols representing Washington there said he saw “a whole bunch of opportunities” for Argentina under Milei, praising moves towards macro-economic stability and facilitating direct foreign investment.



The trial of the so-called “candy floss gang” – Fernando Sabag Montiel, Brenda Uliarte and Nicolás Carrizo – for the attempt to assassinate then Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in September 2022 began last Wednesday, quite possibly extending into next year.



President Javier Milei was on the road again immediately after honouring Flag Day in Rosario (where he rescheduled his frustrated Pacto de Mayo for Independence Day on July 9 in Tucumán, also extending the field of signatories from provincial governors to ex-presidents and representatives of Congress, the Supreme Court, the business world and organised labour). Milei’s first stop abroad was Madrid where he was awarded a municipal government decoration by the Spanish capital’s mayor Isabel Díaz Ayuso. Last weekend was spent in Germany, first on Saturday in Hamburg where he was awarded the Hayek Medal (followed last Monday by his nominating himself for a Nobel Prize for Economics like the Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek) and then onto Berlin for a cordial Sunday meeting with socialist German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. His European swing concluded on Monday in Prague where he picked up yet another prize from the Liberal Institute and spoke to the two Petrs governing the Czech Republic, President Pavel and Prime Minister Piala.



The ENACOM regulatory agency has deregulated the pricing of Internet, mobile telephones and cable television as from next month following publication of Resolution 13/2024 in the Official Gazette last Thursday with price caps prohibiting double-digit monthly increases now a thing of the past. Last April an emergency decree had already repealed the 2020 legislation declaring telecommunications a public service, even if it also recommended that the pricing be “fair and reasonable.” The deregulation comes at a time when a survey by the sector’s CABASE chamber shows around two-thirds of Argentine households (67.5 percent in the case of Internet and 65.3 percent in the case of cable televisión) to be cutting back on the costs of their connectivity.



Journalist Silvia Mercado, 64, has publicly blamed the loss of her accreditation to the Casa Rosada on a “discretionary and absolutely arbitrary decision” on the part of presidential chief-of-staff Karina Milei. After having covered government house for the last 10 years, Mercado told Radio 10: “The only accreditation which was not renewed was mine,” also pointing out the contradictions with the government’s libertarian philosophy. Although Mercado excluded Presidential Spokesperson Manuel Adorni from any blame for her ouster, two socialist deputies, Mónica Fein and Esteban Paulon, demanded an explanation from the latter, saying: “This arbitrary decision implies a grave restriction on the freedom of the press” and pointing to the “misogynistic character of the libertarian administration since the vast majority of the professionals attacked are women.” The La Nación and El Cronista journalist is among those who have raised presidential hackles in the past by casting doubt on the exact number and whereabouts of Milei’s cloned English mastiffs. Both FOPEA and Periodistas Argentinas press associations have publicly repudiated the exclusion. In possibly a parallel move to the disqualification of Mercado, the government launched a campaign on Thursday to make national matriculation certificates compulsory for journalists, harking back to a 1946 law of the first Peronist regime.



Veteran international journalist Pedro Brieger is the object of charges of sexual harassment from five different women which came to light last weekend. The quintet – three colleagues including Télam journalist  Agustina Kämpfer (an ex-partner of former vice-president Amado Boudou), a student and a secretary – denounce episodes between 1994 and 2019 with their charges echoed by the Periodistas Argentinas group. Thus former Télam journalist Cecilia Guardati tells that while covering the 2008 Tunisia visit of then-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Brieger asked her to bring up to his hotel room the tape of a meeting he had missed and when she arrived, she found Brieger “naked on his bed … and masturbating while he spoke to me” but at the time was afraid to take the matter any further. Only she and Kämpfer of the quintet initially identified themselves but on Tuesday a third journalist Leticia Martínez came out into the open saying: “We five girls are the tip of the iceberg.” Brieger assures that these and other accusations are completely unfounded.



The fallout from the acquittal of businessman Ángelo Calcaterra (a cousin of ex-president Mauricio Macri) has not ended with the controversial June 19 Federal Cassation Court ruling that the money he paid to Federal Planning Ministry officials during previous Kirchnerite presidencies was not bribery for public works contracts but electoral “campaign contributions.” The lawyers of no less than 11 businessmen in the same boat as Calcaterra are looking very closely at this ruling with a view to lodging a similar plea with the active encouragement of Justice Minister Mariano Cúneo Libarona, who in the past successfully defended Hugo Eurnekian of Corporación América over similar charges. The whole massive ‘cuadernos’ (“notebooks”) trial of Kirchnerite corruption (named after the detailed chronicling of bribe payments by former Federal Planning Ministry chauffeur Oscar Centeno) could be jeopardised if its business half collapses with only 10 working days as from the ruling to appeal to the Supreme Court.



The Coast Guard last weekend detected the presence of a huge iceberg off the coast of the Tierra del Fuego capital of Ushuaia, taking measures to ensure the safety of shipping.



On Tuesday evening the Argentine football squad finally broke down the resistance of Chile with a late Lautaro Martínez goal with two minutes to spare at a Group A match of the Copa América at Soldier Field in New Jersey, thus qualifying for the quarter-finals. The previous evening on the other side of the Hudson River thousands of Argentine fans gathered in Times Square to celebrate their idol Lionel Messi’s 37th birthday that day, shouting out typical football chants and singing the Qatar World Cup theme song ‘Muchachos.’

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