Wednesday, May 22, 2024

ARGENTINA | 26-05-2023 10:01

Stories that caught our eye: May 19 to 26

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



In weather more like the May 25 of 1810 giving birth to Argentine nationhood than the May 25 of 2003, when the late Néstor Kirchner was inaugurated president, Kirchnerism celebrated the 20th anniversary of the latter event with a 56-minute harangue from his widow, Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, herself a two-term president and the only speaker at the Plaza de Mayo rally. Earlier in the day the public holiday  was also accompanied by the traditional Te Deum mass in the downtown catedral  (attended by President Alberto Fernández, unlike the Plaza de Mayo rally) with Buenos Aires Cardinal-Archbishop Mario Poli using the homily to praise the virtues of consensus over confrontation.



Law and order returned as an electoral issue last week after a Buenos Aires provincial policeman gunning down a “motochorro” motorcycle thief was defended by opposition presidential hopeful and former Security minister Patricia Bullrich and by Buenos Aires Province Security Minister Sergio Berni while Interior Minister Eduardo “Wado” de Pedro harshly criticised the former. Berni considered the episode to be “legitimate self-defence” while Bullrich said: “If it had been the other way round, the motochorro would have walked free” in reference to the policeman being charged with aggravated homicide. Berni took a more complex view, comparing the case with the controversial slaying of a thief by the Buenos Aires provincial policeman Luis Chocobar in 2017 and granting the policeman the benefit of the doubt given that he had only seconds to react and the unpredictability of criminals if under the influence of drugs. De Pedro accused Bullrich of irresponsibly and illegitimately injecting crime issues into the campaign, adding that he did not recall her repudiating the assassination attempt against Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last September. The incident sparking the controversy occurred in the Greater Buenos Aires district of Moreno on Sunday night when off-duty sergeant Lucas Mallea was robbed of the motorcycle he was riding with his girl- friend by one Andrés Carbonel using a piece of tubing to simulate a firearm, with Mallea then proceeding to fire four bullets at the thief as he fled on the stolen motorcycle, fatally wounding him.



The Comisión Nacional de Valores (the Argentine equivalent of the Securities & Exchange Commission in the United States) on Tuesday moved to prevent speculators from profiting by buying dollars at the cheapest non-official rate – the Bolsa or MEP (medio electrónico de pagos) – and then selling them at one of the many other parallel rates by establishing a “parking” of at least 15 days between one transaction and the other. By thus discouraging such speculation, the Central Bank is hoping to slow the decline in its reserves, which have now dipped below US$33 billion.



Looking for the common touch to oust four-term mayor Fernando Espinoza seeking re-election in the Peronist stronghold of La Matanza, libertarian presidential aspirant Javier Milei confirmed the popular cumbia singer Adrián ‘El Dipy’ Martínez, 45, as his mayoral candidate in the largest Buenos Aires Province district (almost two million inhabitants). “La Matanza is the emblematic place of the political caste and the national decadence because of the politicians’ fault,” commented Milei, adding that candidates like Martínez could drive Kirchnerism into third place. Milei’s sister and campaign chief Karina told Perfil newspaper that her brother and ‘El Dipy’ liked to read economists of the Austrian school and then discuss them together but the mayoral hopeful declined to inform the newspaper of his proposals. Apart from Martínez the challenges to Espinoza will come from Movimiento Evita’s Patricia Cubría from within Frente de Todos and the Juntos por el Cambio mayoral hopefuls, the municipal councillor Eduardo ‘Lalo’ Creus and social leader Héctor ‘Toty’ Fores. But ‘El Dipy’ was not Milei’s only recruit last week – the libertarian cause was boosted by two economists prominent during the Carlos Menem presidency, Roque Fernández as its last Economy minister (1996-1999) and Carlos Rodríguez as its chief economic advisor.



City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta on Monday accused President Alberto Fernández of punching below the belt in linking him to the suicide of eminent heart surgeon and bypass pioneer René Favaloro in mid-2000. Fernández had said earlier that day:  “Please let us not hand over power to those who reduced pensions by 13 percent nor those managing PAMI (healthcare scheme for the elderly) when Favaloro committed suicide.” Rodríguez Larreta, who held a junior post in PAMI at the time, explained that he was then auditing its debts after years of alleged corruption during the 1989-1999 Carlos Menem presidency to verify possible fraudulent claims when Favaloro committed suicide, which “was an enormous loss for our science.”



Ex-president Mauricio Macri on Tuesday compared Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to Juan Román Riquelme (who effectively runs Boca Juniors football club despite only being its vice-president, much like the veep in the national government), saying: “Argentina suffers from an aggravated caudillismo leadership, which is also happening to Boca” while adding: “Boca has always represented what the country is undergoing.” The comment was made in the context of backing his ex-minister Andrés Ibarra’s bid to head Boca while confirming his own intention to accompany him on the future Board of Directors in an undefined capacity. Macri also forecast “the end of populism.” Ibarra’s platform is based on almost doubling the size of La Bombonera stadium in a project whose cost is estimated at US390 million. His rivals include the impresario Mario Pergolini.



The trade union combining the private-sector oil and gas workers of Río Negro, Neuquén and La Pampa last week began an indefinite strike last weekend to protest the lack of company and Labour Ministry response to an on-the-job accident in late April when 48-year-old worker Gustavo Riquelme lost an arm. Apart from the indifference to accident prevention, the union is also protesting the deplorable condition of the access routes to the shale deposits after a worker lost his life last month in a truck crash.



A papal visit here (also to include Brazil and Uruguay), perhaps even late this year, is increasingly on the cards with the details reportedly being pencilled in at the Vatican. The idea reportedly took root in the mind of Pope Francis following the numerous interviews with Argentine media on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his papacy last March but was never going to happen before the general election in order to avoid electoral manipulation and misunderstanding.



Corrientes radio journalist Griselda Blanco, 45 was found strangled at her home in the city of Curuzú Cuatiá last weekend. Her ex-partner was quickly arrested and charged with the femicide but her children insisted that the crime was linked to her work and the need to “silence” her investigative reporting. Shortly before her death, she had denounced medical malpractice at the local hospital and sexual harassment by the Corrientes provincial police. Her children also reported that she had received threats in the past and further complained that six provincial police officers had been allowed into the scene of the crime without any control.



Argentine-American mathematician Luis Caffarelli, 74, professor at the University of Texas and an expert in differential equations which can explain phenomena ranging from how water flows to population growth, was awarded the Abel Prize (worth around US$730,000) in the Norwegian capital of Oslo by King Harald himself last Tuesday.

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