Wednesday, April 1, 2020

ARGENTINA | 14-10-2017 13:25

What we learned this week: the Messiah, CFK, Bono and Santiago Maldonado

Key stories from the last seven days.

ARGENTINA HAILS ITS MESSIAH. Leo Messi gave the nation a night to saviour on Tuesday, as he almost singlehandedly dragged the Argentine national team into the World Cup qualifying spots, sealing the Albiceleste’s place at Russia 2018.

The national team has been far from inspiring of late, failing to score enough goals and recording a series of dull draws capped by disappointing performances. But in Quito on Tuesday, Messi led from the front, hitting a hat-trick to seal a priceless 3-1 victory over Ecuador.

Once criticised by some in the local press for failing to reach the heights of his club form and an alleged lack of passion, the Barcelona superstar secured his place in Argentine folklore with his awe-inspiring performance, prompting comparisons to the national team’s other famous number 10. The nation breathed a huge sigh of relief as the third goal was lobbed in and qualification was assured.

Now, how much are tickets to Russia?

CFK HOLDS A PRESS CONFERENCE! AND MORE... An eventful week for senatorial candidate and former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner began with her summons to testify as an indicted witness in the case investigating the secret Iran pact accusations of the late special prosecutor Alberto Nisman against her and others. The next day saw her break new ground by giving a press conference (a forum shunned throughout the eight years of her 2007-15 presidency), before returning intensely to the campaign trail in Greater Buenos Aires during the rest of the week.

The ex-head of state’s court summons is for October 26, by which time she will have been elected senator for Buenos Aires province with almost absolute certainty on the previous Sunday and thus enjoy parliamentary immunity. Others of those indicted on charges of allegedly covering up the Iranian role in the 1994 terrorist bomb destruction of the AMIA Jewish community centre have been summoned beforehand (including former Foreign minister Héctor Timerman on October 17). The trial is in the hands of Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio, the magistrate seen as most hostile to Fernández de Kirchner.

Much of Tuesday’s press conference (at the offices of her own political foundation Instituto Patria) was devoted to rubbishing these charges and claims of political persecution, adding that she would formally complain to the United Nations. Otherwise she was unsurprisingly fiercely critical of the Mauricio Macri administration, accusing the government of destroying democracy and individual freedoms on this occasion (although she questionably claimed that poverty in today’s Argentina could be as high as 95 percent). There were seven questions in total (four from local media and the others international).

GOOD OMEN FOR MACRI? President Mauricio Macri received a good omen last Sunday, when his ruling Let’s Change (Cambiemos) coalition secured a victory in the gubernational election in Corrientes province, building momentum ahead of next weekend’s misterms. Gustavo Valdés, a Radical running under the ‘Encuentro por Corrientes (ECo) + Cambiemos’ banner, saw off Peronist (Frente Corrientes Podemos Más) candidate Carlos Espínola, taking 54 percent of the vote and winning outright. The UCR has held the governorship for more than a decade.

MENEM GETS THE NOD TO RUN. The back and forth of court rulings and appeals for and against La Rioja Senator Carlos Menem’s right to run for re-election finally ended this week when the Supreme Court ruled in his favour. The case hinged on the finality of Menem’s convictions for gun-running to Croatia and Ecuador in 1991 and 1995 respectively during the Peronist’s 1989-99 presidency.

ANOTHER TRIAL FOR DISGRACED ETCHECOLATZ. Former BA provincial police deputy chief Miguel Etchecolatz faces yet another trial for crimes against humanity, along with seven other ex-policemen and the former colonel of a tank regiment. They are charged with the illegal arrest and torture of 125 victims in La Matanza and Monte Grande, four of whom died as a result. Etchecolatz and former Army officer Federico Miniucci were also charged with homicide.

BONO ASKS MACRI ABOUT SANTIAGO MALDONADO. U2 and their famous frontman Bono once again displayed their awareness of and ability to adapt to local circumstances this week, when the band delayed its set at the La Plata stadium and put up four huge TV screens around the stadium to let fans catch Argentina’s crucial World Cup qualifying match against Ecuador before rocking out.

But Bono drew more attention and created a series of headlines thanks to his brief intervention into local politics. The frontman once again illustrated his pulling power with heads of state, with Mauricio Macri making time at the Casa Rosada for a brief one-on-one with the singer- cum-philanthropist. While the Irishman wasn’t exactly warm with the president, if the brief footage of the event that emerged is to be believed, he was happy to record a video for the president’s Twitter account hailing the “great” meeting they had, which he said addressed topics like the G20, education and poverty.

However, it was Bono’s questions about missing artisan Santiago Maldonado that raised the most attention. Highlighting his position as a member for Amnesty International, the U2 frontman, who has a history ofactivism, quizzed Macri over the efforts to find the missing 28-year-old who has been missing for over two months. Bono left saying he was convinced the president was taking the search “seriously.”

Members of Maldonado’s fans were in attendance at the La Plata shows and the U2 singer wrote them a personal letter saying he hoped “the show can help the ache of grief you must be feeling.” It closed with the simple phrase: “Never give up.”

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