Saturday, April 13, 2024

ARGENTINA | 13-05-2022 11:29

Stories that caught our eye over the past seven days: May 6 to 13

Notable news that drew our attention over the past week in Argentina.



Last month’s inflation was six percent and 23.1 percent so far this year with an annual inflation rate of 58 percent, INDEC statistics bureau announced on Thursday. President Alberto Fernández then in Paris was quick to blame the Ukraine war’s impact on food prices although food and beverages were slightly below average at 5.9 percent. The announcement came at a sensitive time with a massive federal march by leftist and picket demonstrators in full cry. Core inflation (excluding seasonal and regulated prices) was 6.7 percent while garments and footwear (9.9 percent), restaurants and hotels (7.3 percent) and health care (6.4 percent) were the main culprits. 



President Alberto Fernández spent most of last week in Europe, visiting Spain, Germany and France in that order and meeting with their heads of state and government (King Felipe VI and Premier Pedro Sánchez, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Emmanuel Macron respectively). The war in Ukraine was a central theme with Fernández talking up the opportunities for Argentina to replace the shortfalls of grain and energy from the war-torn nations. But any official agenda was replaced in most media coverage by presidential sideswipes at Vice-President (and acting president) Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.



Thousands of demonstrators from leftist groupings and social movements converged on the Plaza de Mayo last Thursday, creating havoc in downtown traffic for hours. The “federal march for work and wages and against hunger and poverty” starting out from four corners of the country coincided with the announcement of six percent inflation for April the same afternoon, which apparently fuelled the protest.



The state oil company YPF raised its fuel prices by an average nine percent nationwide at the start of the week with the increase for petrol and diesel for the year set to reach 50 percent by August. Private companies Axion and Shell had already hiked their prices before last weekend and YPF said that the increase was necessary in order not to spike demand towards their service stations, also justifying the move by pointing to rising refining and marketing costs and to “the sustained increase of international prices,” rising by up to 30 percent from March.



“Constructing common sense” and “anchoring expectations” with greater consensus were among the key phrases used by Economy Minister Martin Guzmán when addressing the AmCham Summit 2022 last Tuesday. He was speaking ahead of the public hearings on utility billing, the announcement of the April inflation and the start of the first quarterly review by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Among the 30 or so other speakers the opposition was represented by City Mayor  Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and by PRO chair Patricia Bullrich  (who made no effort to conceal  her presidential ambitions), while United States Ambassador Marc Stanley and Argentine Ambassador to Washington Jorge Argüello also spoke. Under the heading of “Construyamos un país Sustentable (Building a sustainable country),” the event drew a mostly business audience of around 1,000. 



Accused of misallocating municipal funds to the tune of 535 million pesos to cooperatives with the money ending up in Miami, Quilmes Mayor Mayra Mendoza said that the case was the price to be paid for "being different in politics" and that "I trust in the justice system to investigate and find out the  truth." The La Cámpora leader said she had been working with the cooperatives since 2008 and was thus sure that the accusations were utterly unfounded, blaming them on malicious media out to smear her and sabotage her work of “transforming Quilmes,” a mission which she would not stop.



 Juan Emilio Ameri, a Frente de Todos deputy for Salta until 20 months ago when he was rapidly ejected from his seat after a Zoom session of Congress during the coronavirus pandemic caught him kissing and fondling his girl-friend’s breasts, went on trial in a Salta court last Tuesday. The fact that he was not paying attention to a party colleague (Carlos Heller) who was speaking at that time was thought by some to compound the offence. 



Last weekend ex-president Mauricio Macri hosted the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Mario Vargas Llosa (in town for the 46th Book Fair) and the Spanish deputy Cayetana Alvarez de Toledo (Partido Popular) to a lunch with his 2019 running-mate Miguel Angel Pichetto also among the guests.



Former Vice-President Amado Boudou, sentenced in 2018 to 70 months imprisonment for corruption, made an appearance in the Senate last Tuesday as one of the guests for a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the gay marriage law. Boudou blasted the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to enthusiastic applause. “The issue cannot be the fiscal surplus, the printing of money or payment of the debt because those are tools, instruments – our objective without doubt is the greatness of the fatherland and the happiness of its people,” ran his economic analysis.



Two buses were on the receiving-end of 88 bullets on Tuesday night on the main highway to the coastal resort of Mar del Plata (Ruta 2). Miraculously nobody aboard the passenger coaches was wounded. Both shootings occurred in the vicinity of Castelli. In their testimony both drivers –Carlos Morgan (45) and Jorge Bonino (47) – blamed the attacks on rival bus companies. A passenger told reporters that most of the people aboard were sleeping at the time before being rudely awakened and that there was not the slightest attempt at robbery. 



Argentina is a world leader in at least one field – in the last two months it has twice broken the world record for drunken driving with 5.5 grams of alcohol in the blood in Necochea last March followed by 5.79 in Neuquén last Monday with the culprit escaping any serious injury but not arrest after reacting violently against the traffic police. Three grams of alcohol is estimated to incur a serious risk of coma.



Robert De Niro was in town last week to shoot Nada, the series of Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat also starring Luis Brandoni. City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta marked his presence by awarding him a plaque in recognition of his outstanding acting career. His week here reportedly included more than one steak lunch.

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