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ARGENTINA | 08-05-2024 23:55

Stories that caught our eye: May 1 to 8

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

 

GENERAL STRIKE

The CGT staged its second general strike in five months against the Javier Milei administration on Thursday but our press times (knocked back a day by that move) do not permit us to assess its scale or success.

 

MILEI AT THE MILKEN

Addressing some 5,600 people at the global conference of the Milken Institute in Los Angeles on Monday, President Javier Milei delivered a strident defence of capitalism, urging his big business audience to take full advantage of the “enormous” investment opportunities and turn Argentina into the “21 st-century Rome” and “the Mecca of the West.” Milei co-starred with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristilina Georgieva, former United States president Bill Clinton and tycoon Elon Musk, holding his second meeting in three weeks with the latter. The Milken Institute is named after Michael Milken, a Wall Street “greed is good” junk bond speculator. Just before heading north Milei made official the appointment of Gerardo Werthein as ambassador to Washington (already approved by the Senate last April 18) via Decree 379/2024.

 

MILEI ON THE BEEB

In an interview with the BBC last Monday President Javier Milei recognised the reality of British possession of the Malvinas and while “not renouncing our sovereignty,” he admitted that it could take “decades” to recover with “no instantaneous solution available” and Argentina “not looking for conflict.” Along these lines he refused to see the February visit of British Foreign Secretary David Cameron to the islands as a provocation, arguing that he had every right to tour a territory in the hands of his government. During the interview Milei described Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady” who governed Britain during the 1982 South Atlantic war, as “brilliant.” 

 

MONDINO’S CHINESE WHISPERS

Foreign Minister Diana Mondino, an economist rather than a diplomat by background, did not choose the most diplomatic way of telling her Chinese hosts what they wanted to hear when downplaying United States accusations of a military presence at Beijing’s space base in Neuquén. “Those investigating did not identify any military staff because since they are Chinese, they all look the same,” the minister said to Clarín newspaper. During her time in the People’s Republic before heading for Europe, Mondino met up with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and addressed potential business investors while Central Bank Governor Santiago Bausili accompanying her negotiated currency swap renewal.

 

HAMAS HOSTAGE SLAIN

Argentine-born ambulance driver and medical volunteer Lior Rudaeff, 61, has been dead for the last seven months, the Jewish News Agency confirmed last Tuesday. He was actually killed during the Hamas mass terrorist attack on Israel last October 7 and taken into the Gaza Strip as a dead hostage. Rudaeff, whose normal peacetime activity was driving a truck to transport kibbutz food, had been living in Israel since the age of eight and is survived by his father, who is close to his 89th birthday.

 

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S CHILDREN

The United States firm ViaGen Pets has provided details of the cloning of President Javier Milei’s “four-legged children” from his English mastiff Conan two years after the latter’s death in 2016 (the first year in which the US company founded by Ron Gillespie started cloning dogs). The five puppies cost the economist US$50,000 at the time and are named Conan, Murray, Milton, Robert and Lucas (after the economists Murray Rothbard, Milton Friedman and Robert Lucas) although only the latter four have ever been seen in public with the existence of “an unsociable Conan Junior” a minor mystery.

 

FIVE-DIGIT BANKNOTES IN CIRCULATION

The new 10,000-peso banknote carrying the portraits of Independence protagonists Manuel Belgrano and María Remedios del Valle began to circulate as from last Tuesday but the 20,000-peso banknotes bearing the image of liberal thinker Juan Bautista Alberdi will be held back until the last quarter of the year, the Central Bank has announced.

 

MERCADO PAGO ACCUSED OF MARKET ABUSE

Argentine banks last Monday denounced Mercado Pago, the digital wallet of the online purchase giant Mercado Libre, for “anti-competitive measures” in blocking credit card payments from other digital wallets in violation of Central Bank regulations. The charges were presented to the CNDC (Comisión Nacional de Defensa a la Competencia) anti-monopoly watchdog by Modo, a virtual wallet grouping the main banks operating in Argentina.

 

PRISONS IN SPOTLIGHT

Just before last weekend Security Minister Patricia Bullrich and City Mayor Jorge Macri announced a package of measures to relieve the “overpopulation” of those detained in City police precincts with the numbers growing from 60 in 2020 to over 2,000 (including 340 foreigners) today. Macri described it as also a problem of success since a pro-active City Police was arresting over 80 criminals daily. The measures include introducing 2,000 electronic anklets to facilitate the house arrest of the less dangerous while the deportation of foreign criminals will be accelerated. Some 20 percent of those held are convicts in the strict sense of already having been tried and sentenced, thus belonging more properly in prison (whose construction would be accelerated, Bullrich assured).

 

TÉLAM SHUTTERED INLAND

Early this month the government ordered the closure of the offices of all provincial correspondents of Télam state news agency. On the instructions of trustee Diego Martín Chaher, the correspondents in the cities of Resistencia, Bahía Blanca, La Plata, Paraná, Santa Rosa, Posadas, Viedma, Salta, Santa Fe, Rosario, Córdoba, Corrientes and Mendoza were told to shut up shop and take stock, making inventories and discontinuing rent contracts, etc. Ever since President Javier Milei announced the closure of the “agency of Kirchnerite propaganda” in his March 1 state-of-the-nation speech to open Congress, 780 jobs have been on the line with an offer of voluntary retirement expiring yesterday. Télam has cost the tax-payer over 16 billion pesos in the last three years alone, the government charged.

 

CAR REGISTRATION DOWNSIZED

The government announced early this month that it would be closing 40 percent of the almost 1,600 car registries operating in this country while cutting staff by 30 percent via voluntary and early retirement with the aim of “reducing costs and eliminating red tape.” The registration is to be reduced to a single licence, instead of various certificates.

 

LARRABURE HONOURED

Defence Minister Luis Petri last Monday paid tribute to the memory of Colonel Argentino del Valle Larrabure, abducted by ERP (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo) guerrillas in 1974 and slain by them the following year, by renaming the Villa María munitions plant in Córdoba  after him. Larrabure’s beatification leading to canonisation has been sought on the basis of his forgiveness of his enemies. “I have come to apologise for how democracy, some of whose leaders have demonised the armed forces, have forgotten this hero. I felt the need to be here to pay homage to Larrabure who as a good soldier gave his life for his fatherland,” said Petri in his speech.

 

LESBIANS TORCHED IN HATE CRIME

Two lesbian couples were the victims of an arson attack on a Barracas boarding-house in the small hours of Monday with Pamela Cobas, 52, failing to recover from her burns and dying the next day. The deadly Molotov cocktail attack was attributed to a co-tenant Justo Fernando Barrientos (68), motivated by an intense hatred of homosexuality, who is being held on charges of homicide and grievous injury.

 

CÉSAR MENOTTI, 1938-2024

César Luis Menotti, the football coach who led Argentina to its first World Cup back in 1978, died of stomach cancer last weekend at the age of 85.

 

THE CUP RANNETH OVER

Estudiantes de La Plata player Tiago Palacios, 23, overdid the celebrations of last Sunday’s League Cup triumph, crashing his van into a Buenos Aires service station on his return last Monday and slightly injuring two people after helping his team down an enormous bucket of fernet into the small hours of that day. The player was placed under arrest on charges of “culpably causing injuries” and “driving under the influence of alcohol.” Estudiantes clinched the cup in Santiago del Estero last Sunday by winning the final against Vélez Sarsfield on penalties (4-3) after tying 1-1 in regulation time. In other football news, the Security Ministry announced that 57 hooligans, including the notorious Rafael Di Zeo, will be indefinitely barred from entry into football matches.

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