Economy Minister Sergio Massa met up with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Director Kristalina Georgieva and United States Treasury Secretary in Washington on Monday, receiving strong endorsement for his policies and significant indications that the quarterly review of the targets for the second quarter of this year will meet with approval although “details” are still pending for a staff-level agreement, Georgieva told the minister. She also spoke of the “fragile economic and social situation in Argentina,” despite the positive view of Massa’s policies, such as his budget and subsidy cuts to lower the primary fiscal deficit to 2.5 percent of gross domestic product this year and 1.9 percent next, as well as the new incentives for farmers to boost Central Bank reserves. Massa was accompanied by both Central Bank governor Miguel Pesce and his predecessor, Banco Nación head Silvina Batakis, among others.
Last month’s inflation was seven percent, INDEC statistics bureau announced on Wednesday, higher than expected (a week previously City Hall had posted 6.2 percent for August). Inflation so far this year is thus 56.4 percent with annual inflation running at 78.5 percent, a level which will hit three digits by the end of the year according to the forecasts of many analysts. The leading culprits were garments (9.9 percent) and domestic appliances (8.4 percent) while the key item of food and beverages was 7.1 percent.
MORE ARRESTS, THREATS GALORE
The assassination attempt against Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner at the start of the month continued to be investigated with evidence pointing to Fernando Sabbag Montiel’s girl-friend Brenda Uliarte as the main instigator rather than the assailant himself while there were more arrests – Agustina Díaz on Tuesday (for an incriminating exchange of mobile telephone messages with Uliarte) and Nicolás Carrizo, the leader of an alleged candy floss racket on Wednesday. Apart from the Vice-President, President Alberto Fernández and his predecessor Mauricio Macri have been the recipients of death threats in the course of last week. Following a Monday telephone call from a La Plata woman assuring that she would be killing Cristina Kirchner, federal judge María Eugenia Capuchetti investigating the assassination attempt called for her bodyguards to be reinforced.
OPPOSITION VICTORY IN MARCOS JUÁREZ
The Juntos por el Cambio opposition last weekend celebrated municipal victory in the Córdoba town of Marcos Juárez, their electoral birthplace back in 2014, with PRO’s Sara Majorel taking 56.17 percent of the vote as against 37.44 percent for a united Peronist list headed by Verónica Crescente. The importance of the district was underlined by the visits of most of the top opposition guns, including ex-president Mauricio Macri and City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
AMBASSADOR TO ATTEND ROYAL FUNERAL
Argentine Ambassador to London Javier Figueroa will be the country’s only representative at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral next Monday since it clashes with the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York which will absorb the attentions of President Alberto Fernández (who will be heading out to the United States today to participate in the General Assembly before flying on to Houston to woo energy investments), as well as Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero. The heads of state of many other countries (including, among others, United States President Joe Biden and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro despite the proximity of elections, as well as many crowned heads) will be attending.
GROUNDED PLANE CREW FREED
The La Plata Federal Appeals Court on Monday authorised the release of 12 of the 19 Venezuelan and Iranian crew members of the Venezuelan Emtrasur cargo plane retained at Ezeiza International Airport, thus upholding the August 1 ruling of Lomas de Zamora federal judge Federico Villena which was rapidly appealed. But four Iranians and three Venezuelans continue to be prohibited from leaving Argentina, including the pilot Gholamreza Ghasemi Abbas, whom intelligence believes to be the main terrorist suspect.
HIGHWAY LEASES QUASHED
President Alberto Fernández marked 1,000 days in office on Wednesday by signing a decree ordering the Public Works Ministry to begin action to quash the contracts leasing the Northern and Western access routes to the capital as "absolutely distorted and causing enormous economic damage." For his part Public Works Minister Gabriel Katopodis maintained that the dollarised contracts were tailor-made by the preceding Mauricio Macri administration in 2018 on behalf of the concessionaires with "scandalous " highway tolls and exorbitant profits of an annual eight percent in dollar terms at the expense of state debts totalling US$813 million.
Libertarian deputy Javier Milei, former Economy Domingo Cavallo and former Central Bank governor Federico Sturzenegger teamed up last Monday in the Broadway Theatre to discuss inflation. Cavallo proposed as alternatives a rerun of his 1991 convertibilty, complete dollarisation of the economy or a bimonetary scheme with his own preference for the latter. Insisting that "politicians are not God," Milei argued that excluding both them and the "economists of the caste" was the beginning of a solution.
Mendoza Federal Police Chief Dino Rossignoli was arrested on Wednesday on suspicions of graft after over US$20,000 was found on his office desk. But that was not all – quantities of marijuana, luxury cars and more cash were seized in five subsequent raids.
In a 9/11 incident on a very minor scale the City Legislature revealed last Sunday that its computers had been hacked, instructing all within the system not to use their computers or wifi until the cyber-attack had been effectively blocked. Damage control measures were immediately implemented while investigators went to work. The cyber-attack also prompted creation of a “crisis committee” to evaluate and solve the problems of infrastructural vulnerability.
The 30 days of house arrest for Eduardo Miguel Prestofelippo, better known as the youtuber ‘El Presto,’ for the “discriminatory harassment of first lady Fabiola Yáñez in the social networks was confirmed by a court on Monday, accompanied by a restraining order forbidding him from coming within 200 metres of her in the next year during which 'El Presto' will also have to attend courses on gender violence and respect for women at the INADI anti-discrimination institute, as well as paying all costs. The sentence may be appealed to the City High Court of Justice. 'El Presto' was convicted for accusing the first lady of VIP prostitution in Facebook and Youtube with one of his videos addressed to the President in 2020 beginning: "If I one day were to publish nude photos of your woman in Twitter because she has them, that’s her past, I’d end up in jail."
ANOTHER FOOTBALL-RELATED DEATH
A 36-year-old football fan was shot dead in Tucumán during clashes between rival supporters of Club Atletico de San Martin on Monday night. The victim was shot in the neck from behind. Despite the tragic incident the match went ahead with San Martin winning 1-0 against Belgrano. Hooligan violence is estimated to have caused over 300 deaths since Argentine football became professional almost a century ago.
BOXER ACCAVALLO DIES AT 87
Former world flyweight boxing champion Horacio Accavallo died last Wednesday at the age of 87. Following in the footsteps of Pascual Pérez (world flyweight champion, 1954-60), Accavallo reigned from 1966 to 1968 when he retired after defending his title successfully three times with a record of 75 victories (34 knockouts) in a total of 83 bouts. He started amateur boxing at the age of 14 after a poverty-stricken shantytown childhood including scavenging in Greater Buenos Aires. The boxer suffered from Alzheimer’s in his last years.