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ARGENTINA | 15-09-2023 14:36

Stories that caught our eye: September 7 to 15

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

 

MONTHLY INFLATION INTO DOUBLE DIGITS

Last month’s inflation was 12.4 percent, INDEC statistics bureau announced on Wednesday afternoon, taking annual inflation up to 124.4 percent with 80.2 percent for the first two-thirds of this year. The key item of food and beverages was a prime culprit at 15.6 percent while core inflation (excluding seasonal and regulated prices) was 13.8 percent. This entry into double-digit monthly territory, almost doubling July’s 6.3 percent, also marked the highest inflation so far this century.

 

MEGA TAX BREAK

In the month before the general elections, Economy Minister (and Unión por la Patria presidential candidate) Sergio Massa last Monday jacked up the income tax floor to monthly pay of 1.77 million pesos while announcing that he would send a bill to Congress to sustain the new levels as from next year. The move, announced to an approving trade union rally in Plaza de Mayo, will benefit over 600,000 people and limit income tax payment to some 90,000 people at an estimated fiscal cost of a trillion pesos. On Wednesday evening in the wake of the announcement of 12.4 percent inflation last month, Massa threw in a refund of the 21 percent IVA value-added tax on basic shopping-basket purchases up to a monthly 18,800 pesos.

 

BUDGET POSTPONED

The government has acceded to Javier Milei’s request to postpone submission of the 2024 Budget until after the elections, following a Thursday meeting between the libertarian leader, Congress Speaker Cecilia Moreau and Budget Committee chairman Carlos Heller. During the 40 years of democracy the budget has always been submitted to Congress on the statutory date of September 15 until now but the government considered Milei’s request “reasonable” in the current context. 

 

NEW CAMPAIGN HEADACHE

The government has announced that it will appeal the September 8 ruling of South Manhattan judge Loretta Preska declaring Argentina guilty of an erroneous expropriation of YPF state oil company in 2012 and obliging the country to negotiate a compensation sum of around US$16 billion with the Burford Capital fund. President Alberto Fernández has instructed Treasury Prosecutor Carlos Zannini to appeal the decision as from last Monday, presidential spokesperson Gabriela Cerruti announced via her social networks, adding: “We will keep defending energy sovereignty and our YPF state company against the vulture funds.” Preska’s ruling specified that it is the Argentine state and not YPF which must compensate Burford at an annual interest rate of eight percent when Central Bank reserves are heavily negative. The ruling is based on the government expropriating 51 percent of YPF shares via a Congress law in 2012 while not making any equivalent offer to the other shareholders in violation of company statutes. Burford Capital litigated the claims of one of those shareholders (Petersen Energía Inversora with 29 percent) after buying them for 15 million euros. Bernardo Saravia Frías, Zannini’s predecessor as Treasury prosecutor during the 2015-19 Mauricio Macri presidency, compared the ruling’s cost of US$16 billion with YPF’s market value of around US$5 billion, arguing that the officials responsible (current Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as then president and current Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof as then economy minister) should be sued for damages and malfeasance.

 

MONDINO’S MALVINAS MISSTEP

Criticisms poured down on Diana Mondino, Javier Milei’s choice for foreign minister, after she sparked a new Malvinas controversy by telling the British newspaper The Telegraph press that the rights of the islanders must be respected and “decisions can no longer be imposed” on them, also floating a “Hong Kong style” solution to the sovereignty dispute. The criticism crossed party lines with both Federico Pinedo, Mondino’s opposite number in Patricia Bullrich’s ranks, and Guillermo Carmona, the Foreign Ministry’s Malvinas secretary, joining in, as well as members of veteran organisations, dismissing Mondino’s proposals as unconstitutional among other objections.

 

ARACRE ABUSE ACCUSATION

Former chief presidential advisor Antonio Aracre was indicted for the sexual abuse of an adolescent after City police raided two flats belonging to the ex-official last Sunday afternoon and seized evidence, as well as security camera film footage. A preliminary analysis of Aracre’s BMW car found relevant biological tissue. While not detained, the indicted official is under a restraining order against approaching the youth or his partner. According to police sources, the charges were presented by the youth’s mother after signs of carnal access were found at a private clinic.

 

CONGRESS KILLER FOUND DEAD IN JAIL

Juan José Navarro Cádiz, 28, member of a gipsy gang convicted for the murder of Radical deputy Héctor Olivares in 2019, was found dead in his prison cell in Marcos Paz federal penitentiary last weekend. Olivares was gunned down from a passing car just outside Congress in the early morning hours of May 9, 2019, together with an aide Miguel Yadon. Extradited from Uruguay, Navarro Cádiz confessed to firing the fatal shots (which killed Yadon almost instantly while Olivares died three days later from a stomach wound) and was sentenced to 45 years in prison. According to the court investigation, the motive for the attack turned out to be neither political nor personal but random. The killer’s death has been defined as suicide but remains under investigation with the results of the autopsy to be divulged next week. Informed of the man’s death, his family was informed of his death and demonstrated outside Marcos Paz prison while unrest was reported in the gypsy community.

 

L-GANTE WALKS FREE

The “immediate release” of cumbia singer Elián Angel Valenzuela, better known as L-Gante, was ordered by judge Gabriel Castro on the eve of last weekend. The singer had been held for 100 days in a Quilmes jail accused of abducting and threatening General Rodríguez municipal policeman Gastón Torres on May 27 but since then L-Gante has been mounting a non-stop defence via his social networks.

 

MIRTHA BACK ON THE BOX

Mirtha Legrand, 96, last weekend announced her return to television Channel 13 next Friday with libertarian presidential Javier Milei and actress Fátima Florez (perhaps this year’s most topical romance who first met on her Almorzando con Mirtha Legrand programme) as her first guests. The programme will be called La Noche de Mirtha while Almorzando con Mirtha Legrand will continue in the hands of her grand-daughter Juana Viale, to whom Mirtha handed it during the pandemic after completing half a century with the programme in 2018.

 

THIS IS NOT A MESSI STORY

In World Cup qualifying play Argentina triumphed away against Bolivia 3-0 in the 3,600 metres altitude of La Paz on Tuesday while leaving superstar Lionel Messi on the bench. The Pumas were less fortunate in France last weekend, losing their first World Cup fixture 27-10 against England who were playing a man short for all but three minutes with all English points coming from the foot of George Ford.

 

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