Tuesday, February 20, 2024

ARGENTINA | 28-10-2022 14:01

Stories that caught our eye: October 21 to 28

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



The 2023 budget was approved by the lower house in the small hours of Wednesday by a comfortable majority of 180 of the 257 deputies with 22 voting against while 49 abstained. Dozens of new articles were tagged onto the original budget, which now goes to the Senate for final approval, many of them favouring trade union interests such as the teamsters and the union-run healthcare schemes. But two of the most controversial additions – applying income taxation throughout the judicial branch and allowing the government to up export duties – were rejected.



Last Monday students occupied the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires, calling for the resignation of headmistress Valeria Bergman. They complained about deficiencies in the ancient building, including a fan collapsing on the head of a student last October, and flawed management of the coronavirus pandemic. Bergman was also accused of handpicking teachers rather than selecting them for their skills on a competitive basis. On the same day City Hall confirmed that it would press charges against 366 parents of schoolchildren for instigating the occupation of over 15 public schools last month, suing them for over 50 million pesos. One of those parents, Andrea Prado, accused City Hall of illegal espionage.



Ex-president Mauricio Macri presented his second book Para Qué to some 1,500 of the party faithful at the Rural Society exhibition grounds last Monday. Taking constant swipes at the government, Macri affirmed: “We are the change or we are nothing.” The ex-president glossed over his own candidacy next year and, on the contrary, promoted electoral competition within the Juntos por el Cambio opposition coalition as an example towards a competitive society. Macri’s presentation included not only an account of his presidency but also his school days in Colegio Cardinal Newman, his brief business career, his 1991 kidnapping and his presidency of Boca Juniors, insisting that it was the tragedy of the 2004 Cromañón disco blaze which pushed him into politics (even though he ran for City mayor in 2003). The event was attended by City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, PRO chair Patricia Bullrich, his 2019 running-mate Miguel Ángel Pichetto and virtually all his ex-ministers, among others, but the Radical presence was minimal (deputies Mario Negri and Rodrigo de Laredo).



President Alberto Fernández last Monday congratulated Xi Jinping on his re-election to a further five years at the Chinese Communist Party helm: “Under the leadership of Xi, China has achieved notable advances in the eradication of poverty, scientific and technological innovation and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, which has enormously improved the living standards of the Chinese people as an example for countries worldwide.” Fernández thus joined a limited group of leaders headed by Russia’s Vladimir Putin with Belarus, South Sudan, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Hungary and Pakistan also greeting Xi. The congress was marred by Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao being unceremoniously ushered out last Saturday.



Over half a million people have qualified for the Refuerzo Alimentario (food booster) of 45,000 pesos for vulnerable adults lacking any income, pension or state assistance of any kind and will be picking up the first half as from November 14, Anses social security administration announced on Tuesday. Over 400 Anses offices nationwide set to work registering some 514,000 people last week.  



Vice-President Cristina Fernández Kirchner on Wednesday criticised the government for authorising a 13.8 percent  December  increase for prepaid health schemes, calling it "frankly unacceptable." Neither the double-digit monthly increase nor the triple-digit annual increase (114 percent or over 20 percent more than her own estímate of 2022 inflation) were justified, the ex-president insisted, echoing recent Kirchnerite voices calling for the redistribution of wealth and the recovery of the purchasing-power of wages.



The teamsters finally settled for a 107 percent pay hike and a bonus of 100,000 pesos on Thursday afternoon after their leader Hugo Moyano prefaced wage talks at the Labour Ministry on Wednesday afternoon with the threat of an all-out strike as from Monday if his union was not granted its demand of a 131 percent wage increase. Up until that point employers had been offering 84 percent.



Federal judge Julián Ercolini on Monday acquitted both Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and former Federal Planning Minister Julio De Vido in an offshoot of the Cuadernos (copybooks) case, removing the charges from the main trial. The highly specific accusation consisted of alleged illegal payments made by the heavy engineering firm Pescarmona at Feir's Park Hotel on May 29, 2008 and April 28, 2010. But not all the defendants escaped these charges – two former Federal Planning Ministry officials, including Roberto Baratta, and three businessmen were sent to trial by prosecutor Carlos Stornelli.



Former intelligence ace Antonio Horacio ‘Jaime’ Stiuso on Wednesday requested a resumption of his testimony in the case investigating the 2015 death of special AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman via a two-paragraph writ signed by himself and his lawyer Santiago Blanco Bermúdez, Stiuso last testified in the case 43 months ago but claimed that since then he had been tipped off as to relevant new leads by press leaks. The decision whether or not to accept the new testimony offered now depends on the prosecutor Eduardo Taiano. Since 2018 the courts have defined the death of Nisman as murder on the basis of Border Guard forensic work which has since come into question.



Economy Minister Sergio Massa hosted a bipartisan group of four United States senators at his Tigre home on Wednesday to discuss the exchange of tax information and energy issues. The group was headed by high-profile Senator Robert Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey) and accompanied by US Ambassador Marc Stanley. Argentine savings stashed away in the United States have been estimated to be as much as US$100 billion.



Communication and Press Undersecretary Marcelo Martín, who survived the departure of his boss Public Communication secretary Juan Pablo Biondi over a year ago in the wake of the midterm defeat, resigned on Monday. His exit was viewed as a gain for presidential spokesperson Gabriela Cerruti.



Boca Juniors clinched the First Division championship last Sunday with the invaluable assistance of their eternal rivals River Plate, who downed Racing, the only other team still in contention, with a 2-1 away win. Despite home advantage with over 50,000 fans cheering them on, Boca were held to a 2-2 draw by Independiente while Racing were ahead with little over 10 minutes left in their match thanks to a 56th minute penalty converted by Matías Rojas but two late goals by Colombian Miguel Borja gave the victory to Marcelo Gallardo’s team in his last match as River trainer although it needed a dramatic last-minute penalty save by Franco Armani to confirm the result. Boca’s 35th league title was exuberantly celebrated around the Obelisk later that evening.



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