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ARGENTINA | 27-10-2023 14:12

Stories that caught our eye: October 20 to 27

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

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

No clear winner emerged from the first round of presidential voting in last Sunday’s general elections with Argentina’s next leader to be defined by a November 19 run-off between Economy Minister Sergio Massa (Unión por la Patria) and libertarian deputy Javier Milei (La Libertad Avanza). The runoff pair shared all 23 provinces with Massa winning in 13 and Milei in 10 (including Córdoba, Santa Fe and Mendoza) while Patricia Bullrich running for Juntos por el Cambio only triumphed in the Federal Capital. Their respective percentages were 36.68 percent for Massa, 29.99 percent for Milei and 23.84 percent for Bullrich while outgoing Córdoba Governor Juan Schiaretti (Hacemos por Nuestro País) polled 6.92 percent, almost doubling his PASO primary tally, with Myriam Bregman (Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajadores) in last place with 2.7 percent. In a turnout of 77.65 percent (over 27.1 million voters) Massa gained almost three million votes from his PASO total while Bullrich dropped almost 630,000. In Buenos Aires City PRO’s Jorge Macri came within inches of the absolute majority needed to clinch first-round mayoral election with 49.61 percent, prompting Unión por la Patria candidate Leandro Santoro to back out of the run-off on Tuesday. Peronist Governors Axel Kicillof (Buenos Aires) and Raúl Jalil (Catamarca) were both comfortably re-elected but the ruling coalition lost Entre Ríos to former Interior minister Rogelio Frigerio. Finally, the future Congress will consist of 108 deputies (-10) and 34 senators for Unión por la Patria, 93 deputies (-25) and 24 senators for Juntos por el Cambio and La Libertad Avanza 37 deputies (+34) and eight senators with 19 deputies and six senators representing other forces – Juntos por el Cambio could only retain two of the 11 Senate seats it was defending.

 

OPPOSITION CRISIS

Less than 48 hours the wings of the Juntos por el Cambio opposition coalition were already clashing over its run-off strategy with eliminated presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich and ex-president Mauricio Macri urging alliance with libertarian Javier Milei, a course rejected by all other coalition leaders, especially the Radicals. The rift thus carried Juntos por el Cambio to the brink of total collapse.

 

BARRIONUEVO DISOWNS MILEI

Veteran trade unionist Luis Barrionuevo pulled out of his alliance with La Libertad Avanza presidential candidate Javier Milei on Thursday, saying that he could not stomach his midweek agreement with Bullrich and Macri, which had left him "profoundly indignant and disenchanted” after his hopes of a new vision to inspire youth. "My loyalty to worker welfare is absolute," insisted Barrionuevo while recognising the need for labour reforms. The libertarian leader’s reaction was to proclaim his future run-off rival Economy Minister Sergio Massa “the king of castes” and the "dream candidate of the establishment," referring to businessmen living off state contracts.

 

CRISTINA DISOWNS ALBERTO

Voting at the other end of the country in Santa Cruz around lunchtime last Sunday, Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was at pains to distance herself from the Alberto Fernández administration, complaining that the President never listened to her and pointing out that her differences with him are “public and well-known.” She singled out the renewal of the debt programme with the International Monetary Fund, first contracted in 2018 by the Mauricio Macri Presidency, as the key to inflation and most other problems.  Nor did she display any hurry to return to the national capital to join Unión por la Patria presidential candidate Sergio Massa’s victory celebrations on election night.

 

SWIFTIES RUBBISH MILEI

In the aftermath of last Sunday’s general elections, fans of the United States singer Taylor Swift called for a vote against libertarian run-off candidate Javier Milei on the grounds of his “hate speech and xenophobia,” equating him with the former US president Donald Trump. Their statement further questioned Milei’s party for demoting the human rights violations of the 1976-1983 military dictatorship to “excesses” and for opposing feminism and gay marriage, among other issues, quoting Taylor Swift as saying: “Cheers to the resistance!" There were also harsh words for Milei’s running-mate Victoria Villarruel. Swift will be performing here to sold-out audiences between November 9 and 11 at River Plate’s Monumental stadium.

 

POLICE BUSY IN NORDELTA

Between the money-changer Ivo ‘El Croata’ Rojnica and the model Sofía Clerici, the police seized over US$1.5 million during court-ordered raids in the upmarket Tigre neighbourhood of Nordelta on Tuesday. Some US$980,000 were found in Rojnica’s safe and US$569,911 in Clerici’s Nordelta home. Rojnica was also arrested together with the businessman Federico Pulenta and the financier Agustín Estrada Palomeque as part of an investigation into money-laundering linked to drug-trafficking and Mexico’s Sinoloa Cartel stretching back five years and initiated by the FBI in the United States. The UIF (Unidad de Información Financiera) money-laundering watchdog had requested the arrest of the owner of the Nimbus bureau de change in the previous week. As for Clerici, numerous valuables and luxurious items (including seven Louis Vuitton handbags) were found apart from the greenbacks in the raid ordered in the light of her yachting trip to Marbella last month with former Buenos Aires Province Cabinet chief Martín Insaurralde, which has since become a major scandal.

 

BACK TO GROWTH IN AUGUST

The economy grew 1.3 percent in August as compared to the previous month, the INDEC national statistics bureau reported on Tuesday, while the year-on-year growth rate was 0.3 percent as against a contraction of 2.2 percent estimated by private economic consultants. August was the month of outsider Javier Milei’s upset PASO primary win, which triggered an 18 percent devaluation and 12.4 percent inflation for that month, the worst in three decades. Argentina’s gross domestic product slumped 2.8 percent in the second quarter, the steepest decline since the peak of the pandemic in early 2020. A record drought wiping out US$20 billion worth of farm exports took a heavy toll. Economists surveyed by the Central Bank see GDP declining 2.8 percent this year and contracting again in 2024.

 

PEPÍN ON VERGE OF EXTRADITION

The Supreme Court of Uruguay last Monday unanimously turned down a new appeal of Fabián ‘Pepín’ Rodríguez Simón, a former legal advisor of the 2015-19 Mauricio Macri administration, to be granted refugee status on the grounds of political persecution, thus taking him closer to extradition. Rodríguez Simón had previously applied for political asylum on similar grounds, leading the Uruguayan justices to conclude in their 60-page ruling that it was basically the same case which had already been denied. The Macri advisor had been accused of attempting extortion at the expense of Grupo Indalo owners Fabián De Sousa and Cristóbal López, prompting him to cross the River Plate in late 2020 in order to escape the “persecution,” for which he held Vice-President Cristina Kirchner responsible. Federal judge María Servini de Cubría issued an international warrant for his arrest in May, 2021, considering his presumed crimes to be of “grave institutional importance.”

 

GANG RAPE ON TRIAL

During the trial of the Palermo gang rape a year ago today, which began in late August, the defendant Ángel Pascual Ramos insisted that he was "very respectful of women" and that the carnal relations with the plaintiff were with her consent. Six men aged between 21 and 25 are accused of raping the woman who has since turned 22.

 

ROCK STAR DIES

Heavy metal bass guitarist Ricardo Iorio, 61, died of a heart attack last Tuesday while being rushed to hospital in the southern Buenos Aires Province town of Coronel Suárez more famous for polo, his rural haven in recent years. Only 10 days previously he had done a gig in Rosario with Almafuerte, his group since 1995. He leaves two daughters by his late wife Ana Mourin, who committed suicide in 2001. Since then Iorio had veered to far right and even pro-military stances.

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