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ARGENTINA | 21-05-2022 06:00

Stories that caught our eye: May 13 to 20

Stories that caught our eye over the last seven days in Argentina.

 

CENSUS... TO BE CONTINUED

The national census (due to be held in 2020 but delayed by the coronavirus pandemic) was duly held last Wednesday. Complaints by numerous households of having been skipped by the census-takers and the extension of the digital tally for a further week did not prevent the INDEC national statistics bureau from announcing a provisional population figure last Thursday – 47,327,407 Argentines, of which 52.83 percent are women, 47.05 percent are men and 0.12 percent who do not identify as either of the aforementioned.

 

OLIVOSGATE PAY-OFF

San Isidro Federal Prosecutor Fernando Domínguez last Monday approved the offer of a “conciliatory” payment by President Alberto Fernández and first lady Fabiola Yáñez to close the case against them for quarantine violation after celebrating the 39th birthday of the latter with a party in Olivos presidential residence at the height of lockdown in mid-2020. The reparations take the form of a payment of 1.6 million pesos by President Fernández and 1.4 million on the part of Yáñez, sums which will go to hospitals dedicated to the combat against Covid-19. The settlement now only awaits the final approval of San Isidro Federal Judge Lino Mirabelli.

 

ALBERTO JABBED BY SPUTNIK

Russian news agency Sputnik has criticised President Alberto Fernández for his repudiation of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, saying: ”The hypocrisy and treason of the Argentine President against [Vladimir] Putin knows no bounds,” in an article written in Spanish by Moscow-based journalist Javier Benítez, accusing him of a selective memory “after Russia has been Argentina’s mainstay supplying Sputnik V vaccines to combat the pandemic.” The text held Argentina especially responsible for Russia’s ouster from the United Nations Human Rights Council which it heads. The article questioned the president’s proposal to sell grain to Germany when coming from a country “with 37.3 percent of the population below the poverty line where several million have no access to food” while also offering Vaca Muerta shale via fracking after signing environmental commitments. Benítez backtracked on his statements the next day.

 

BA COPS PAY HIKE

Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof last Tuesday announced new pay hikes of 10 percent for the provincial police for the months of May and December, thus bringing the total increase for this year to 60 percent. Starting pay will reach 113,194 pesos by the end of the year when provincial police officers will be earning 155,000 pesos on average. Other provincial employees such as teachers, doctors and administrative staff are also in line for a 60 percent increase this year.

 

THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS

After reporting cases of coronavirus contagion to have almost doubled between the first and second week of May with 33,989 confirmed cases of contagion up to last weekend (although only 47 deaths, 33 of them in Buenos Aires Province), Health Minister Carla Vizzotti warned that a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic is arriving. Last weekend’s figures brought the cases of contagion up to a total of 9,135,308 with a death toll of 128,776. Cases have trebled since mid-April when the Health Ministry started issuing weekly instead of daily bulletins with 75,857 infected since then. Despite sounding the alarm, Vizzotti ruled out any possibility of a lockdown with only 300 people in intensive care, trusting in the strength of the health system, while medical expert Jorge Geffner confirmed the arrival of an “important curve” but also expressed confidence since five-sixths of the population were vaccinated at least twice with a nine-digit total of doses (100,541,379). This city and La Pampa had the highest rates of infection with a total of 12,906 new cases in the former, presumably reflecting a greater intensity of testing.

 

HEWLETT-PACKARD BRIBES

A press investigation has exposed corruption by at least four executives of the Argentine branch of the multinational Hewlett-Packard (HP), extorting bribes of between US$3 million and US$9 million between 2011 and 2017 from companies in order to maintain their position as official distributors of the products of the technological giant. The case is also under investigation in the United States. The evidence emerged from an HP 17-page internal audit report in 2018, which recommended the immediate dismissal of those involved.

 

BOOK FAIR RECORD

The 46th Book Fair closed last Monday with a record attendance of 1,324,500 over its 19 days, the most successful event in history following a two-year hiatus imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. The two previous bibliographic displays in 2018 and 2019 had both fallen just shy of 1.2 million visitors. Most of the authors presenting their works were local (including libertarian politician Javier Milei and Córdoba’s Camila Sosa Villada, the first trans writer to present a work at the fair) but Peruvian-born 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Mario Vargas Llosa and John Katzenbach from the United States also drew crowds. Major publishers averaged an increase of around 20 percent in sales with some smaller publishers more than doubling. The nine pavilions housed 358 stands displaying the books of 1,727 publishers and representing 40 countries. Next year’s Book Fair will be a full three weeks (April 25-May 15, 2023).

 

TAXI-DRIVER FROM ACCIDENT DIES

José Rogelio Parrondo, 74, the taxi-driver who ran over a French student outside the Botanical Gardens a fortnight ago when he suffered a stroke and lost control of his vehicle, died in Rivadavia Hospital last Tuesday. Exchange student Luana Bichet, 25, who hailed from Angoulême, died the day after the accident while her two friends accompanying her were also hit by the taxi and hospitalised but soon discharged. The tragedy was mentioned by French President Emmanuel Macron in his conversation with President Alberto Fernández then visiting Paris earlier this month.

 

VILLA CHARGED WITH RAPE

Colombian forward Sebastián Villa, 26, of Boca Juniors was indicted last Thursday for the rape of a young woman in a case presented by Lomas de Zamora prosecutor Vanesa González. The presumed victim assured that the footballer had tried to bribe her into silence with US$5,000. A restraining order was issued against Villa a few days ago. Villa had already been denounced for gender violence by his former girl-friend Daniela Cortés in 2020.
 

URUGUAY ARREST FOR LOLA MURDER

The Uruguayan police reported arresting on Thursday a prime suspect for the beach murder of vacationing Argentine adolescent of Lola Chomnalez, 14, in late 2014. The suspect, aged 39, has a criminal record with his DNA matching that found on the dead girl’s belongings.

 

JUDGE BOUNCED

Santa Fe magistrate Rodolfo Mingarini was unanimously removed from the bench by an impeachment jury last Wednesday for his "unsuitability and lack of gender perspective" after freeing a rapist on the grounds that he had had the consideration to use a condom, among 10 other controversial decisions (including releasing a man who had burned his partner with boiling water). Mingarini has no right of appeal.

 

ST. LARRABURE?

The Vatican has given the green light to proceed with the investigations with a view to the canonisation of Colonel Argentino del Valle Larrabure (1932-1975) as a martyr at the hands of the ERP (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo) far left guerrilla grouping in 1975 following a captivity of over a year, military chaplain Santiago Olivera told the newspaper La Prensa on Tuesday. The move runs into the obstacle of Argentine courts refusing to define his slaying as a crime against humanity although their ruling has been appealed to the Supreme Court. His son Arturo argues that Larrabure’s pardon of his captors qualifies him for sainthood.

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