Tuesday, October 15, 2019
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ARGENTINA | 31-08-2019 00:17

What we learned this week: August 24 to 30

Key stories from the last seven days in Argentina.

DOLLAR, RISK WATCH

The dollar closed the week yesterday at 61.50 pesos, sharply up from the previous Friday’s close of 57 pesos despite lavishing almost US$1.3 billion of Central Bank reserves during the week (including US$ 387 million yesterday alone to leave the reserves just above US$54 billion) to defend the currency. But last week’s surge in country risk was far more dramatic – from 1,809 to over 2,500 points. The problems started early in the week with Frente de Todos presidential candidate Alberto Fernández telling the International Monetary Fund mission arriving here last weekend that the latest tranches of IMF money had been used to finance capital flight. The new Finance Minister Hernán Lacunza then added fuel to the flames on Wednesday by announcing that only 15 percent of short-term local bonds would be paid on time with a further 25 percent in three months and the remaining 60 percent in six within a “reprofiling” of the debt – a move promptly defined as “selective default” by Standard & Poor’s. As the week closed, the banks were ordered to request permission from the Central Bank before making remittances abroad. (See Page 4 for full story)

MINIMUM WAGE ROW

After yesterday’s meeting of the tripartite Minimum Wage Council (representing government, business and labour) failed to reach agreement, the Mauricio Macri administration unilaterally fixed a 35-percent increase, taking the pay floor up to 16,875 pesos in three phases over the next two months from the current 12,500. The CGT union umbrella grouping had demanded 31,148 pesos in line with the cost of living. The Minimum Wage Council has not reached agreement since 2016.

BOUDOU ACQUITTED, BOUDOU CONVICTED

Former vice-president Amado Boudou was acquitted of alleged irregularities in the purchase of 19 upmarket cars on Thursday dating back to his time as economy minister, though he was handed a three-year suspended sentence for giving false data in the purchase of a vehicle in the 1990s. Speaking before the rulings were handed down, Boudou proclaimed his innocence and claimed he was being “used” by the government in order to allow them to “plunder the Argentine Republic.” Boudou is currently serving a 70-month prison sentence after being convicted over the illegal purchase of Ciccone money-printing company.

FABBRO GETS 14 YEARS

Footballer Jonathan Fabbro (who has played on both sides of Argentina’s great soccer divide between Boca Juniors and River Plate) was sentenced on Thursday to 14 years for the sexual abuse of his niece and goddaughter dating back to when the girl had first entered her teens. (See Page 15.)

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...

Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the bottom half of the victorious Frente de Todos presidential ticket in the PASO primaries three weekends ago, returned from eight days in Cuba yesterday to find herself still on trial for money-laundering via the misallocation of Santa Cruz public works contracts to the tune of 46 billion pesos to Kirchnerite tycoon Lázaro Báez, already in jail and now one of a dozen co-defendants. But the two-term ex-president will be the last of these to testify, ruled the court while confirming the trial.

INDEC TOWS PARTY LINE

INDEC chief Jorge Todesca responded to the admission of Frente de Todos presidential candidate Alberto Fernández that the statistics bureau was “working better now than in the final years of Cristina (Fernández de Kirchner, his running-mate)” by saying he doubted whether INDEC would retain its independence should the Fernández-Fernández ticket triumph in October, firmly endorsing President Mauricio Macri´s re-election.

MACRI: AUGUST INFLATION ABOVE 3%

President Mauricio Macri predicted on Tuesday that inflation in August will come in above three percent, after the peso’s sharp devaluation against the dollar earlier this month. “it’s going to be three-something in August. It’s not good, it’s very bad,” the president said at a farming sector event. “There are no words to describe what I know is happening to all Argentines [with inflation]. We have to solve it, that’s it. We can’t keep fooling ourselves,” he added.

COP IN CRITICAL CONDITION

City Police officer Karina Castillo was shot twice in the face in Mataderos on Monday night by two criminals who made off with her regulation firearm and bulletproof jacket and was hovering between life and death at press time.

MARTEL ON POLANSKI

Lucrecia Martel, the award-winning Argentine film director, screenwriter and producer presiding the jury at this year’s Venice Film Festival, admitted on Wednesday that she was “uncomfortable” with the inclusion of Roman Polanski’s latest film in this year’s edition of the world’s oldest film festival. The Polish-born director has been a fugitive from United States justice for over four decades after pleading guilty to statutory rape.

TWO TRIBES

A turbulent week brought a divided country out onto the streets on frequent occasions with the most important demonstrations being last Saturday’s mass rally in Plaza de Mayo in favour of embattled President Mauricio Macri (convoked by the social networks) and Wednesday’s even bigger social protest down most of Avenida 9 de Julio thoroughfare.

BRAUN V FERNÁNDEZ

Economic Policy Secretary Miguel Braun responded fiercely to the complaints of Frente de Todos presidential candidate Alberto Fernández to the International Monetary Fund mission in town that IMF money was being used to finance capital flight by saying that capital flight had doubled foreign debt under Kirchnerism despite the cepo currency curb while exports had collapsed.

FINAL RESULTS OF PASO COUNT

The final results of the August 11 PASO primaries confirmed the victory of the Alberto Fernández-Cristina Fernández de Kirchner with 12,204,770 votes (49.5 percent), a margin of more than four million votes over incumbent President Mauricio Macri with 8,121,416 (32.9 percent). In Buenos Aires Province the Frente de Todos gubernatorial ticket headed by Axel Kicillof won 4,812,684 votes as against 3,176,010 for incumbent Governor María Eugenia Vidal with similar percentages to the national level. (See full story on Page 9.)

AMAZON ASSISTANCE

Last Monday Security Minister Patricia Bullrich and Defence Minister Oscar Aguad announced that Argentina would contribute to fighting the jungle fires in Brazil and Bolivia, sending military units including helicopters and logistical experts.

BUENOS AIRES HALF-MARATHON

Around 20,000 people joined last Sunday’s Buenos Aires Semi-Marathon over 21 kilometres with Kenyan Bedan Karoki crossing the finishing line first.

GAMERS’ DAY

The world celebrated ‘International Gamers’ Day’ on Thursday withthe news that Argentina is the third-largest market in Latin America for video games, with 19 million players. Argentina projects spending on video games to reach 495 million pesos this year, up from 405 million spent in 2016. Spending increased steadily in recent years, according to the firm Newzoo, which monitors the gaming industry around the world. One of the keys to this increase in gaming is companies relaunching older games in a bid to attract older players, since many gamers who initially started playing in their youth are now older.

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