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ARGENTINA | 02-07-2022 00:01

Stories that caught our eye: June 26 to July 1

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

 

ALBERTO GETS AROUND

The presidential week ranged from hobnobbing with G7 leaders in Bavaria at its start to a lightning visit to the hospital bed of jailed indigenous activist Milagro Sala in Jujuy in midweek. The G7 summit featured a clash with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who brushed aside the pressures of President Alberto Fernández for Malvinas sovereignty negotiations in a meeting lasting less than half an hour. Johnson proposed investing in Argentine grain output to counter global food shortages caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to which President Fernández retorted that it was “impossible to advance in the relationship without advancing in sovereignty discussions.” Addressing the G7 summit as a whole in two short speeches, President Fernández proposed lifting all “protectionist barriers” on food to alleviate worldwide hunger as well as peace talks to end the war in Ukraine while in his second speech he called for a new world order by changing "an economic system which generates poverty while permitting the accumulation of wealth by the few." In his Jujuy visit Wednesday President Fernández reproached the Supreme Court in impassioned terms for not resolving the case of an “unjustly detained” and “persecuted” Sala. Jujuy Radical Governor Gerardo Morales called the presidential visit “a lack of respect towards the people of Jujuy.”

 

NEW RESTRICTIONS

The Central Bank announced on Monday that "it was adapting the system of foreign trade payments to respond to the extraordinary need for (hard) currency to attend energy imports with the aim of sustaining economic grow … and avoiding speculative manoeuvres with imports." Restrictions already obliging some companies to seek dollars on other markets in order to import will now be applied to financing the import of items covered by Non-Automatic Licences and of services for the next quarter "in order to give foreign trade time to normalise." The PyMES small and medium-sized will be exempted up to 15 percent increase over last year and a cap of US$1 million. It was further announced that "tariffs on goods equivalent to those produced in the country would be extended with access to the market as from 180 days and 360 days in the case of luxuries." In the case of capital goods imports up to 80 percent may be paid in the port of origin while "complementarily the prefinancing of exports will be made easier to accelerate the entry of [hard] currency, especially for the grain complex, extending the obligation to exchange export earnings from five to 15 days." The new capital controls had at least one positive result in the very immediate term – on Wednesday the Central Bank was able to buy no less than US$583 million to diminish its dwindling reserves, the highest intake since late 2016. Country risk started the week above 2,500 points.

 

MARKET WATCH

Monday’s announcement of the new Central Bank import restrictions triggered the start of a turbulent week on money markets with the “blue” dollar immediately shooting beyond the 230-peso mark to a new record of 232 pesos, a record continually broken in later days with the “blue” already on the brink of 240 pesos in midweek. Country risk started the week already above 2,500 points.

 

DIESEL SHORTAGES 

The week started with diesel shortages already nationwide outside the province of Tierra del Fuego and supplies reported low or close to zero in 16 districts (including both Buenos Aires Province and City), according to a survey of 1,200 truck-drivers. Huge divergences in price were also reported. The shortages triggered various protests with the Mesa de Enlace association of farm groupings calling a farm strike for July 13 in midweek.

 

 

NORTH AMERICAN RECEPTIONS

Both the North American giants mark their national days in July (Canada Day yesterday and Independence Day in the United States on July 4) but both chose to celebrate them here in June – Canada last Tuesday in Teatro San Martín and the United States last Thursday at the Palacio Bosch embassy residence, maiden national day receptions for both Canada’s Reid Sirrs and US Ambassador Marc Stanley. Thursday’s US reception unfolded against a backdrop of a volatile parallel dollar here and the controversial Supreme Court vote on abortion stateside with the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine a concern for both North American countries with huge Ukrainian communities in each case.

 

LESSONS FROM ISRAEL

City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larret​a’s tour of Israel included a Tuesday meeting with that country’s president Isaac Herzog, pressing him to explain Israel’s economic transformation following runaway inflation four decades ago. Herzog replied: "The exit from inflation implied effort and austerity but also the conviction of society and political leaders that defeating it was possible," highlighting the construction of a coalition government with broad political support and consensus in the 1980s and the priority given by successive governments to the issue. The controversial Venezuelan aircraft with a partly Iranian crew currently grounded at Ezeiza airport was not absent from their conversation. Rodríguez Larreta also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, the most important in the world and headed by Argentine-born Dani Dayan. Finally, he met up with Eyal Sela, who will shortly be replacing Galit Ronen as the Israeli ambassador here.

 

A LONG LIFE ENDS

Paraguayan-born Casilda Benegas, the oldest person in the country until then, died last Tuesday at the age of 115 in the Atlantic resort of Mar del Plata where she had lived most of her life. She previously attracted media attention in the closing days of 2020 when she contracted Covid-19 and survived effortlessly, the second-oldest such recovery in the world at the age of 113 as well as being the fourth-oldest in the world to be vaccinated. The retirement home where she lived her last nine years reported her to be lucid until the end. She leaves behind her two children, eight grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

 

MOLINO REOPENS

The historic Confitería del Molino opposite Congress will reopen its doors to the public next Friday on the eve of its 106th anniversary following four years of restoration. The iconic five-storey art nouveau building complete with restaurants, cafés, an emblematic pastry shop, a rooftop bar and three floors of flats has a capacity of 8,000. The 1916 building was constructed according to the design of the famous Italian architect Francesco Gianotti (1881-1967) and has been closed since 1997. 

  

MIRTHA BECOMES A FREE AGENT

 Even in a week of financial turbulence, the departure last Monday of talk show hostesses Mirtha Legrand (95) and her granddaughter Juana Viale from Channel 13 was big news in many homes. TV América is their possible new media home. A sticking-point in negotiations was apparently that Mirtha did not feel up to regular appearances and opposed her granddaughter having a show of her own rather than covering her.

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