Sunday, April 5, 2020

ARGENTINA | 13-01-2018 10:50

What we learned this week: Timerman, Boudou and a heatwave

Key stories from the last seven days.


Union graft scandals continued to mushroom last week with the Thursday arrest of Humberto Montero, who heads the Bahía Blanca branch of the UOCRA construction workers union – the fourth trade union leader to be detained under the Mauricio Macri presidency. At Montero’s home police found a whopping five million pesos and US$100,000 in cash, as well as a pistol. The money is believed to come from the extortion of construction companies. The Bahía Blanca branch of UOCRA has been the scene of violent incidents during the five years since Montero took over the helm. Meanwhile, two stepchildren of teamster leader Hugo Moyano, namely Juan Manuel Noriega Zulet and Valeria Salerno, have been accused of money-laundering to the tune of US$1.1 million. Moyano himself remains out of the immediate firing-line for now (even though his management of Independiente soccer club and OCA courier company have also triggered suspicions of money-laundering). The former CGT leader celebrated his 74th birthday on Tuesday by inaugurationg the Antártida union hospital in Caballito – while Macri did not interrupt his Patagonian holidays to accept his invitation, the event was unexpectedly attended by Labour Minister Jorge Triaca, thus partially defusing tension with the government.


If you managed to cope with the heat without complaining, well done (we didn’t). The sweltering temperatures, however, weren’t just limited to the City – on Thursday, the National Meteorological Service (SMN) issued an “orange alert” to 12 areas across the country, including regions in Mendoza and La Pampa, warning the elderly, children and pregnant women to stay out of the sun. Keep yourself hydrated, people!


Almost a year after last February’s controversial Post Office debt pardon, a new conflict of interest problem emerged this week for President Mauricio Macri with the sale of six wind farms in Chubut. These wind farms were tendered to the Macri Group via Spain’s Isolux Corsán in the first eight months of his presidency and then resold last October (five of the six to China’s Goldwind) for US$73 million with US$48 million accruing to the Macri Group and US$25 million to Isolux. Lawmaker Rodolfo Tailhade (Victory Front-Buenos Aires province) has denounced Macri for conflict of interest, undue influence and inside-trading. According to the Perfil newspaper, whose investigative journalist Emilia Delfino broke the story, Energy Minister Juan José Aranguren objected to the deal but his doubts were rapidly overridden. Meanwhile last year’s Post Office scandal resurfaced in the form of that company (owned by the Macri Group) featuring in a list of firms whose fines for informal employment were reduced. For more, see our local news section.


Vice-President Gabriela Michetti spent a busy Wednesday in Israel, meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at teatime in Tel Aviv, after a morning visit to the Knesset in Jerusalem where she conversed with Speaker Yuli Edelstein. The next legs of her official visit, which is primarily aimed at promoting trade and investment, take her to Italy and Switzerland before returning home next Thursday.


Former vice-president Amado Boudou will await trial from the comfort of his own home, after the courts investigating alleged corruption this week granted him house arrest. He faces a number of charges in several parallel investigations into his activities as former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Economy minister and VP. After being granted release from Ezeiza prison by the court investing money laundering and illegal enrichment, Boudou’s lawyer had to request a similar ruling from the court investigating his alleged involvement in the falsification of receipts, which was subsequently granted on Friday.


Starting last weekend, there was fierce protests in Mar del Plata  against the presence of Miguel Etchecolatz, 88, who was second-in-command of the Buenos Aires provincial police during the 1976- 83 military dictatorship. Etchecolatz is currently serving six life sentences for crimes against humanity, which were recently commuted to house arrest in the Atlantic resort town. In the eyes of the protesters and human rights activists, Etchecolatz is persona non grata in Mar del Plata and they made sure their feelings were heard loud and clear.


Former foreign minister Héctor Timerman headed out on Tuesday morning for cancer treatment at Mount Sinai hospital in New York, only to learn at Ezeiza Airport that his United States visa had been blocked due to his being on trial and under house arrest over the 2013 treaty with Iran. The next day, Federal Judge Sergio Torres lifted the detention order for “extraordinary humanitarian reasons,” while the government said that it would intercede with the US State Department on his behalf.


While world news prominently features “Me too” and “Time’s up” reactions to the abuse of women, a reverse case is currently the hottest news in Argentina. Nineteen-year-old Nahir Galarza gunned down her boyfriend with two bullets from her policemen father’s regulation firearm at the close of last year in Gualeguaychú, Entre Ríos province. Apart from the case itself, massive media attention has been lavished on such details as her Instagram feed, her beach photos and her alleged demands for a personal trainer in prison. Perhaps the most serious of this month’s silly season news and the media, it seems, can’t get enough of the case.

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