Saturday, September 30, 2023

ARGENTINA | 04-11-2022 15:19

Stories that caught our eye: October 28 to November 4

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



Presidente Alberto Fernández travelled to São Paulo the day after his future Brazilian colleague Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s narrow run-off victory last Sunday to congratulate him. Lula, whose goodwill towards Argentina was expressed on election night by wearing a cap reading "CFK 2023," returned the gesture by promising to visit Argentina before his inauguration. The two leaders highlighted continental unity with Fernández adding that Lula could give Argentina a short cut into the BRICS gourping. The president was accompanied by Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero and Argentine Ambassador to Brazil Daniel Scioli.



Starting Friday, foreign tourists not resident in this country will have access to an exchange rate similar to the MEP (Medio Electrónico de Pagos) for their credit and debit card purchases in Argentina, an exchange rate around 90 percent superior to the official used until now. The Economy Ministry thus seeks to cash in the dollars of incoming tourists, which until now have been exchanged informally, hoping to add a billion or more dollars to faltering Central Bank reserves in the rest of the year. Until now only 15 percent of the quarter billion passing monthly through the tourist industry has gone through the formal sector.



The number of suspected would-be assassins of Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in detention was reduced to three in the course of last week when the Federal Appeals Court last Monday first ordered the release of Agustina Díaz, a confidante of prime suspect Brenda Uliarte. But at the same time the tribunal confirmed the trial of the leader of the so-called “candy floss gang,” Nicolás Gabriel Carrizo, while Uliarte and Fernando Andrés Sabag Montiel, the direct author of the assassination attempt, continue to be held. The judges further recommended that the investigation should not stop at this trio but be deepened, also covering “security agencies and personnel in charge of guarding the safety of Cristina Fernández.” In related news, four members of the Revolución Federal right-wing group were indicted on Thursday. Federal Jjudge Marcelo Martínez de Giorgi today charged four members – the group's leader, Jonathan Morel, and Leonardo Franco Sosa, Gastón Ezequiel Ángel Guerra and Sabrina Basile – with spreading violent messages and escrache protests with the “main aim of imposing the group's own ideas and combating those of others through fear.” The judge ordered the seizure of assets totalling nine million pesos but the accused will not be remanded in custody after a federal court on Wednesday ruled that they were not flight-risks nor potential hindrances to the investigation. President Alberto Fernández had strongly criticised that ruling, while alleging that the group"was financed by over 13 million pesos from the firm Caputo Hermanos SA belonging to the former finance minister and Central Bank governor under Mauricio Macri, Luis Caputo."



Interim Attorney-General Eduardo Casal has called the Supreme Court to reopen the investigation into the allegedly fraudulent purchases of dollar futures during the 2007-2015 presidency of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, placing the current vice-president and Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof (in his capacity as Economy minister between 2013 and 2015) on trial, among others. All defendants were acquitted 18 months ago.



The murder of wealthy businessman Andrés Blaquier, 62, on the Panamerican highway last weekend by motorcycle thieves after his BMW motorbike sparked controversy last week with calls for the resignation of Buenos Aires Province Security Minister Sergio Berni while Berni hit back by complaining: "We cannot stand judges who let murderers go," also calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be lowered. Blaquier belonged to the traditional family of the Grupo Ledesma agricultural dynasty originating in Jujuy whose fortune has been estimated by Forbes magazine at US$490 million.



In a paper presented in Chile last weekend the International Monetary Fund urged Argentina to adopt a clearer and more restrictive plan to halt inflation although they continue to project economic growth of four percent while dipping subsequently in an adverse global context. They expect growth in the Latin American and Caribbean region as a whole to slow down to 1.7 percent next year with drastic falls in commodity prices while stagflation will breed social discontent. While inflation is worst in Argentina, it is also reaching double digits in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru despite “the rapid response of the monetary authorities of the region to raise interest rates much more promptly than in other economies.” At the presentation IMF official Nigel Chalk expressed optimism that Argentina could reduce its inflation to the 60 percent forecast in the 2023 Budget. The IMF further urged the protection of the most vulnerable.



In a Monday interview with Roberto Navarro (El Destape) Economy Minister Sergio Massa expressed agreement with Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s criticisms of the fee increases for prepaid health schemes as "frankly unacceptable" while anticipating a new programme of price controls for food and other items of mass consumption over the next four months as from December. Massa also ratified his position in favour of scrapping next year’s PASO primaries. Trade Secretary Matías Tombolini said that the price controls would include reviewing company profits in accordance with the vice-president's proposals.



Already on frosty terms with Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, PRO chair Patricia Bullich pegged up Juntos por el Cambio opposition infighting a further notch last weekend when she told City Cabinet Chief Felipe Miguel that she would “smash his face in” for calling her “functional to Kirchnerism.” Tensions continued throughout the week, with the mayor both acknowledging them and attempting to lower the temperature.



The prosecutor in charge of the case has requested that nurse Brenda Agüero be remanded in custody as they continue investigating the worrying deaths of at least 11 healthy newborn babies at a Córdoba maternity hospital in the second quarter of this year. This week it emerged that Agüero repeatedly searched online for information about fatal doses of potassium and insulin, substances that were injected into the infants soon after their birth. Alongside the nurse, who was arrested 11 weeks ago, two hospital directors and former Córdoba provincial health minister Diego Cardozo also face trial on negligence charges.



A Brazilian tourist has died after being crushed by a falling slab of ice in a cave on the outskirts of the southern city of Ushuaia, judicial sources said Thursday. The accident occurred on Wednesday afternoon at around 4pm when a group of visitors entered the so-called Jimbo Cave ("Cueva de Jimbo") in Valle de Andorra, a natural formation located in an area of glaciers where access is prohibited due to the instability of rocks and ice fragments. The tragedy was recorded by one of the tourists on video, which was later showed by many local media outlets.



Patronato, the local team of the Entre Ríos provincial capital of Paraná, passed from humiliation to glory in just a fortnight – relegated to Argentina’s second tier in mid-October, they lifted the Copa Argentina in Mendoza last Sunday when they beat Talleres de Córdoba 1-0 thanks to a streaky tackle-cum-lob. Patronato eliminated both River Plate and Boca Juniors en route to the final.

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