Thursday, July 18, 2024

ARGENTINA | 08-09-2023 11:22

Stories that caught our eye: September 1 to 8

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


Victoria Villarruel, the running-mate of libertarian presidential candidate Javier Milei, last Monday held a tribute to the victims of guerrilla groups in the 1970s in a City Legislature ringed by police officers and fenced off against demonstrators from leftist parties and human rights organisations amid tight security. Speaking to some 300 people, Villarruel accused the government of “guaranteeing impunity.” One of the demonstrators chucked petrol at Lilia Lemoine, Milei’s makeup artist who is also a Congress candidate. The next day federal judge María Servini de Cubría confirmed that the attacks of those guerrilla organisations were not crimes against humanity and thus fall under the statute of limitations when ruling on a bid to revive a case involving the 1976 bomb attack on a Federal Police canteen which killed 24 policemen.


Slum priests last Tuesday chose a shantytown location in Barracas to hold a community mass to “exorcise” criticisms of Javier Milei against Pope Francis. Since first launching his presidential bid, the libertarian has criticised and insulted the Pope on various occasions, referring to Francis as “a malignant presence on Earth occupying the throne in the house of God” and accusing him of “pushing Communism,” further calling him “sinister” and an “imbecile.” Nevertheless, since winning the August 13 PASO primaries, he has toned down his language, saying that if he reaches the Presidency and the Pope visits Argentina, he would receive him “as befits a head of state” because he is “the spiritual leader of the vast majority of Argentines.” At the mass Father José María “Pepe” Di Paola took particular umbrage over Milei dismissing social justice as “the biggest aberration in Argentine politics.”


The controversial United States journalist Tucker Carlson arrived at Ezeiza Airport in midweek in order to interview libertarian PASO primary winner Javier Milei. Summarily fired by Fox News last May, the staunch defender of Donald Trump now runs his own alt-right, libertarian-conservative news show on ex-Twitter where he has already interviewed Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. A recent interview with a bartender purported to present former US president Barack Obama as a gay cokehead at a time when he was an Illinois state senator and a University of Chicago constitutional law professor.


The government chose the fifth day of this month to launch its fifth version of the soy dollar via Decree 443/2023, published in the Official Gazette last Tuesday. Applying to all who have traded abroad in the last 18 months and who cash their exports in the course of this month, this scheme differs from its predecessors in not offering a single exchange rate since 75 percent of the exports must be cashed at an official rate set at 365 pesos per dollar (as against 340 in last month’s version) while the remaining quarter can be exchanged at any rate on the market, which may double the official with monthly inflation now estimated to be moving into double digits. The Rural Society knocked this latest move as “not guaranteeing anything for farmers,” insisting on “a single exchange rate without restrictions or export duties” in policies beneficial to the entire sector.


La Libertad Avanza presidential candidate Javier Milei ratified his plans to dollarise the Argentine economy, insisting that the funds were there and forecasting a “market price" conversion rate of 730 pesos per dollar. But the International Monetary Fund was quick to question the proposal with its Western Hemisphere Department director Rodrigo Valdés (Chilean economy minister during the Michelle Bachelet presidency), saying it did not constitute "a sustainable fiscal policy" and deploring the failure to consult the IMF although also describing Ecuador's dollarisation as a success and recognising that the IMF could not trespass on a country’s sovereignty. Complaining of his pet idea being “deformed by false data” when addressing the ninth Latam Economic Forum in a downtown hotel last Wednesday, Milei further bashed the Central Bank while describing politicians as “not even normal human beings” and rubbishing Juntos por el Cambio economists with the remark: “It’s not my fault if they don’t know how to do their sums.” He further dismissed fears that dollarisation could lead to hyperinflation as "stupidity” insisting that Leliqs could be redeemed with the sale of government bonds, leaving US$30 billion to dollarise. Thanks to dollarisation, the 2025 midterms would give him a landslide majority, he forecast.


Juntos por el Cambio presidential Patricia Bullrich on Wednesday presented a detailed and wide-ranging platform of proposals with a bi-monetary system, tax cuts and state reform (including halving the Cabinet) high on the list but covering every detail of public life.


President Alberto Fernández headed out to India last Thursday to participate in his last G20 summit where he will spend most of the weekend before rushing to Chile to be in time for Monday’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Augusto Pinochet’s coup against socialist president Salvador Allende.


Paraguayan Foreign Minister Rubén Ramírez Lezcano on Thursday summoned Argentine Ambassador to Asunción Oscar Domingo Peppo, to protest against the retention of a oil tanker carrying 30 million litres of fuel to the Paraguayan capital for refusing to pay tolls for using the Hidrovía Paraguay-Paraná waterway. Since August Argentina has been charging for use of a waterway which Paraguay insists should be free for all Mercosur members. The Paraguayan Foreign Ministry has informed Brazil of the conflict, calling for an "urgent" solution.


Five days after the fatal stabbing of engineer Mariano Barbieri in Palermo, police arrested two suspects in the Villa 31 shantytown near Retiro on Monday with suspicion rapidly falling on one of them on the basis of security camera and eyewitness evidence, the latter coming from a man walking his dog at the time (10.45pm on August 30). Barbieri died in Fernández Hospital after being rushed there from an ice cream parlour to where he had staggered 300 metres following the attack in Plaza Sicilia. The murder caused an uproar in City Hall with City Mayor, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta firing his Justice and Security Minister Eugenio Burzaco two days later, replacing him with Gustavo Coria.


Last-minute state appointments continue as the Alberto Fernández administration enters its last three months tomorrow, everyday glances at the Official Gazette reveal with the Economy Ministry headed by Unión por la Patria presidential candidate Sergio Massa in the forefront, making 799 posts permanent last Monday. Other ministries have also swollen their ranks in smaller doses. 

Actress Silvina Luna was laid to rest in Chacarita cemetery last Wednesday in a funeral attended by numerous personalities from the entertainment world following a wake in Belgrano and that same evening hundreds of the mourners marched on the Vicente López house of plastic surgeon Aníbal Lotocki whose malpractice has been diagnosed as leading to her death, holding a candlelight protest. Silvina Luna, 43, died on the last day of August at the Italian Hospital from kidney and other health complications caused by a liquid injected by Lotocki. At least three other patients of the plastic surgeon have died recently and he already has a conviction awaiting confirmation.


Inter Miami’s 3-1 away win against defending league champions Los Ángeles FC last Sunday gave Lionel Messi the chance to shine in front of a star-studded stadium and make the acquaintance of some of the celebrities, ranging from other sports superstars like Magic Johnson (the home club’s co-owner) and LeBron James through Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle to numerous Hollywood glitterati such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Owen Wilson (who claimed Messi’s autograph saying he felt like “a kid at Christmas”), Edward Norton and Will Ferrell (another co-owner of LA FC). The musical world was also present in force with ex-Oasis singer Liam Gallagher and Selena Gomez perhaps the most famous names. Tickets for the match averaged US$690, as against US$110 prior to Messi’s arrival.


The range of numbers for DNI identity documents will soar from 59,999,999 to 70 million this month, the National Registry of Persons announced on Monday. The change is basically to accompany the extension of CUIL (Códigos Únicos de Identificación Laboral) and CUIT (Claves Únicas de Identificación Tributaria) to foreigners. In the near future all the newborn will thus receive DNI numbers superior to 70 million. The change dates back to December 6, 2019, in the last four days of the Mauricio Macri Presidency but only implemented now. Obtainable at Renaper (Registro Nacional de Personas) and civil registry offices, DNI cards are currently priced at 1,500 pesos. 

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