Saturday, February 29, 2020

ARGENTINA | 09-12-2017 12:22

What we learned this week

Key stories from the last seven days.


Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner headed a list of AMIA trial defendants whose arrest for “treason against the nation” was ordered on Thursday by Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio, although in at least a couple of cases (Fernández de Kirchner herself and Deputy Andrés “Cuervo” Larroque) congressional immunity would first have to be lifted for the arrests to take effect. Ailing former Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman was granted house arrest but former legal and technical secretary Carlos Zannini (in the small hours), picket leader Luis D’Elía and Islamic community middleman Jorge Khalil were all arrested on Thursday while Quebracho leader Fernando Esteche turned himself in later in the day. CFK then came out to defend herself.


Various increases in household utility bills and fuel pricing have combined to stoke up the inflation figure for this month and this year (at least two percent and almost 25 percent respectively). The surges in the billing of gas (45 percent on average) and electricity (19 percent with a further 12 percent in the pipeline for February) are in the forefront but fuels rose six percent last weekend. A similar percentage increase was also granted to prepaid health schemes. In an economy which moves on wheels (trucks account for 80 percent of freight transport) the effects of fuel price increases are multiple; farmers complain that with a litre of diesel rising from 16 to almost 20 pesos since midyear, food prices are bound to suffer.


After more than three weeks of wall-to-wall media coverage, the missing ARA San Juan submarine began to drop off the news agenda this week a little. Indeed, as arrest warrants were issued for Kirchnerites by the courts and former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner gave a press conference, for the first time Navy spokesman Captain Enrique Balbi’s daily press briefing was not televised live. With all eyes on Cristina and Congress, some reports online even said there were just three journalists there listening to him. The search, however, went on unsuccessfully. Speaking yesterday, Balbi reiterated how difficult the challenge was, describing the search as comparable to searching for a cigarette on a football pitch of “100 metres by 40 metres.” In another surprise revelation on Tuesday, Balbi told reporters Tuesday that the missing vessel had made eight outbound calls on November 15, but that none of them were considered “emergencies.” On Monday, Defence Minister Oscar Aguad revealed on primetime television that the San Juan had suffered a similar glitch to the one likely to have caused its disappearance, a “minor breakdown” which the Navy had scheduled for maintenance in 2018.


The brother, mother and sister-in-law of Santiago Maldonado met Wednesday with Pope Francis in the Vatican. A photo of the visit was released to the media. Maldonado’s family recently buried their son, who died after a Border Patrol raid on protestors near the the Chubut river.


In and out of jail since her arrest almost two years ago, Jujuy social activist Milagro Sala is to be restored to house arrest after the Supreme Court ruled by a four-to-one vote on Wednesday to respect an Inter-American Court of Human Rights Court recommendation to that effect. Sala had already been granted house arrest three months ago following intense lobbying by progressive and human rights groups but it was revoked by the Jujuy Appeals Court only six weeks later and she returned to jail in mid-October. But the Supreme Court stopped short of ordering her release – the Túpac Amaru leader continues to be remanded in custody pending trial on numerous charges of disturbing the provincial peace. Beyond the Sala case Wednesday’s decision marked a change in Argentine jurisprudence since it respected an Inter-American Court ruling for the first time this century. Beforehand, the so-called ‘Fontevecchia case’ of 2001 had barred hemispheric court intervention.

In that year the Inter-American Court had ruled that punishing Perfil for publishing a story on an unrecognised illegitimate child of expresident Carlos Menem violated the freedom of expression whereupon the Supreme Court (at that time packed by Menem when expanding it from five to nine justices) mandated that the hemispheric court’s decisions were in no way binding and could not override local rulings.


On Monday, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo presented the 126th grandchild reclaimed from forcible adoption during the 1976-83 military dictatorship. Beginning in 1977 as the baby of detained Montonero militants Violeta Ortolani and Edgardo Garnier, both of whom disappeared, the 126th grandchild (named Adriana but yet to be fully identified) is today a 40-year-old lawyer.


The government this week confirmed the results of the Red Cross exhumations of the 1982 Malvinas/Falklands war dead in Port Darwin cemetery, reporting that 88 of the 121 exhumed corpses had so far been identified and beginning the process of identifying the relatives of the fallen. The Red Cross assistance was originally requested in 2012 by thenpresident Cristina Fernández de Kirchner after Federal Judge Julián Ercolini ruled in favour of the families’ right to the truth.


The government’s labour and pension reforms triggered yet another mass demonstration on Wednesday in front of Congress organised by the CTA umbrella labour grouping, leftist groupings and picket movements but not the CGT, which lukewarmly endorses the legislation. The organisers anticipated that they would be demonstrating against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit tomorrow around the Obelisk.

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