CRISTINA & THE COURTS
Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the main defendant in the Santa Cruz highway corruption trial (Causa Vialidad), last Tuesday gave her "last words" to the judges of TOF (Tribunal Oral Federal) 2, calling them “more than a tribunal of lawfare, a firing-squad.” For their part the judges announced that they would be delivering their verdict next Tuesday at the climax of a trial lasting 42 months (with interruptions for the coronavirus pandemic). Facing a possible prison sentence of 12 years and a permanent ban from public office, the ex-president accused the prosecutors Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola of “inventing things, lying and twisting the facts until finally on September 1 a man tried to kill me." She further asserted that the prosecutors had been unable to prove a single point in a trial “plagued with irregularities,” listing “20 lies.” All the public works in question had been approved by Congress, she insisted, also arguing: "The concentration of public works in local businessmen is a generalised phenomenon in the rest of the country." In a separate court development, the Federal Appeals Court judge Leopoldo Bruglia upheld María Eugenia Capuchetti as in charge of investigating the assassination attempt against the veep, turning back a challenge from the intended victim who was upset by the judge’s refusal to link Juntos por el Cambio deputy Gerardo Millman to the plot. Finally, at a Wednesday Cabinet meeting, Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ de Pedro sprang to the defence of the “persecuted” vice-president, accusing the judiciary of “prostituting itself” to the Juntos por el Cambio opposition because they could not stand “a politician who responds to the popular will in favour of a democratic, popular and inclusive system.”
Transport Minister Alexis Guerrera resigned last Wednesday due to ill health and was replaced by his deputy minister Diego Giuliano. Both officials are linked to Economy Minister Sergio Massa. In the Women, Gender & Diversity Ministry, Equality & Diversity Secretary (and virtual deputy minister) Marita Perceval – widely tipped to succeed Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta until the surprise choice of Ayelén Mazzina – resigned last Monday. Finally, Patricia Vaca Narvaja from a famous Montonero family was named on Monday to head the National Board for a Socio-Economic Council for dialogue between different sectors in the department headed by Strategic Affairs Secretary Mercedes Marcó del Pont, the AFIP tax bureau chief until last year. The ex-deputy for Córdoba and former Deputy Speaker of Congress is the sister of former Montoneros leader Fernando Vaca Narvaja and the aunt of Argentine Ambassador to China Sabino Vaca Narvaja.
On the eve of next week’s Mercosur summit in Montevideo, where President Alberto Fernández is due to assume the pro-tempore presidency of the trade bloc, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay have teamed up to deplore the host country Uruguay’s direct negotiations with Australia and New Zealand seeking bilateral trade agreements without consulting their regional partners, thus violating Mercosur statutes. The negotiations with Australia and New Zealand are viewed as a back-door attempt to enter the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), a rival trade bloc.
The new “dólar tarjeta” for non-resident foreign tourists finally kicked in yesterday, the Central Bank has announced. The scheme offers such tourists a preferential exchange rate on their credit card purchases based on the “dólar MEP (or Bolsa),” which was 316 pesos at the end of November as against an official exchange rate of 166 pesos, in a bid to dissuade them from exchanging their currency informally. Central Bank Governor Miguel Angel Pesce also said that the revived “soy dollar” relaunched on November 25 and giving exporters 230 pesos per dollar was going very well, remaining on target to bring US$3 billion into Central Bank reserves.
The government on Thursday evening finally authorised the purchase of a new Tango 01 aircraft for President Alberto Fernández, allocating US$22.23 million towards that end plus the old plane as part of the payment. Just over half the cost will be covered by a 10-year loan of US$12 million from the CAF (Corporación Andina de Fomento) regional bank. The move was reportedly hastened by the recent attack of erosive gastritis suffered by President Fernández at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.
PETROL PRICE CAP
Economy Minister Sergio Massa last weekend negotiated the entry of oil companies into the “Precios Justos” price control programme whereby they will respect the general four percent price increase cap (3.5 percent in March). Last month YPF and Shell raised their petrol and diesel prices by six percent on average while over the year fuel prices have increased 62 percent on average (52 percent for petrol and 74 percent for diesel).
THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS (NOT AGAIN!)
Following the third consecutive week of an uptick in cases of Covid-19 contagion (now over 3,000 weekly as against a peak figure of 900,000 during the last wave of Omicron) Health Minister Carla Vizzotti last Wednesday ruled out any cause for panic but recommended the use of face-masks and insisted on vaccination to reduce the risks, especially those aged over 50 and health workers. Vizzotti ruled out restrictions for now.
FIRST MPOX DEATH
Argentina had its first death from monkeypox (rebranded mpox by the World Health Organisation as the original name is considered "racist and stigmatising”) last month, the Health Ministry confirmed last Monday. The patient, aged 44, was admitted into intensive therapy in a City hospital on September 17 and died of septic shock on November 22. His condition was complicated by being HIV-positive and suffering from other infections. At the time of his death there were 895 cases in Argentina, 98.5 percent of them male. Worldwide there have been 53 deaths (32 of them in the Americas) with more than 86 percent of over 80,000 cases concentrated in 10 countries: United States, Brazil, Spain, France, Britain, Colombia, Germany, Peru, Mexico and Canada.
CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
The Supreme Court has confirmed three prison sentences for crimes against humanity at the clandestine detention centre known as Mansión Seré during the 1976-83 military dictatorship – life imprisonment for former Air Force brigadier-general Miguel Ángel Ossés and prison sentences of 25 years each for two policemen, the late Daniel Alfredo Scali and Héctor Oscar Seisdedos (also in the Air Force intelligence).
POLAR WAVE ACCIDENT
One person died and four were injured last Tuesday when a gigantic wave hit the Norwegian Antarctic cruiser Viking Polaris south of Cape Horn while it was heading back to Ushuaia, where it arrived on Wednesday afternoon. The cruiser was only launched this year and has a capacity of 378 passengers with a 256-strong crew.
CARNAGE IN ROSARIO
Two more deaths were added to Rosario’s grim death toll last weekend when two teenagers aged 14 and 15 leaning against a wall and chatting in the West Side of the city were gunned down by two passers-by. The police found 16 spent bullets on the scene of the crime.
An adolescent youth of 14 was found shot through the head last weekend near the Club de Amigos in Palermo last Sunday. The boy, who was taken in a coma to Ricardo Gutiérrez Hospital, had been missing since the previous Friday morning and in the small hours of Sunday the family reported receiving a telephone call demanding a ransom of 80,000 pesos for their kidnapped son. A Federal Police investigation suspected that the call came from opportunistic convicts in a Florencio Varela prison who had picked up the youth’s disappearance in the social networks and a suicide attempt is not ruled out.
ALBICELESTE GET GOING IN QATAR
Argentina’s splendid 2-0 midweek win over Poland taking them to the top of Group C and into the second round for today’s match against Australia was not the only World Cup action last week. The first-ever World Cup match between two British sides last Tuesday was the occasion for a watch party at the British Embassy residence hosted by Ambassador Kirsty Hayes whose Scottish birth (she held a Saint Andrew’s Day reception the next day) ensured neutrality between England and Wales. Fish and chips was the offer for one side and Welsh rarebit for the other with plenty of beer for both. And the football? A lively match (further enlivened by on-the-spot commentary from Juan Manuel ‘Bambino’ Pons) with England outclassing Wales 3-0, also advancing to the second round to play African champions Senegal tomorrow.
The 17th edition of the nude marathon at the Yatan Rumi nudist colony near the city of Tanti, Córdoba Province, has been announced for December 11. Runners may choose between three and six kilometres. Enjoy yourselves!