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ARGENTINA | 30-09-2017 10:12

What we learned this week: Corruption, De Vido and poverty

Take a look at the most important news from the last seven days.

INDEC: POVERTY RATE FALLS TO 28.6 PERCENT

Poverty in Argentina fell to 28.6 percent in the first half of the year, a 1.7-percent drop compared to the 30.3 percent registered in the second half of 2016, the INDEC national statistics agency announced this week. That translates to a 7.8 million people who live below the poverty line in  Argentina, compared to some 8.2 million in the latter half of 2016.

INDEC’s report also showed that 6.1 percent of the population was considered as “destitute” in the first half of the year, meaning they couldn’t  afford food considered essential. The new figure is a major boost for President Mauricio Macri ahead of the upcoming midterms. In the first half  of 2016, the poverty level stood at 32.2 percent, according to INDEC.

The government began publishing poverty statistics a year ago for the first time since October 2013, after reforming the INDEC statistics bureau.  he former government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had said prevously the poverty rate was just five percent, a figure widely  dismissed by analysts as it was lower than in Germany. Macri also received a second boost from INDEC which said the economy grew by 4.9 percent in July this year, compared to the same month in 2016.


NEW JUDGE TAKES CONTROL OF MISSING MALDONADO CASE

Federal Judge Gustavo Lleral replaced judge Guido Otranto—who was pushed out—in charge of the case of the disappearance of Santiago  Maldonado this week. Judge Lleral met with Maldonado’s family members and Otranto, and asked the press and the public opinion for “time” to  familiarise himself with the details of the case. He said he would “fully devote” himself to the investigation. Santiago Maldonado has been missing for two months, and a huge gathering is expected on Sunday in Plaza de Mayo.


CFK: ‘UNDENIABLE’ THERE WAS GRAFT

Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner continued to shake off the cobwebs this week, giving two more interviews (with Spain’s El País and local TV station Crónica) in wake of her recent Q&A session with Infobae.

This week, she stuck to many of the same themes, but in her interview with the Spanish newspaper she made the notable concession that it was  “undeniable” that there was corruption during her administration. However, she qualified her statement by declaring that “you can’t say an entire  government was corrupt because of some officials” and claiming the same was true of “any government in the world.”

The former president and senatorial candidate for Buenos Aires province reiterated her alleged lack of desire to return to frontline politics  (circumstances had forced her to etc. etc.) and said she “respected the election’s results” but added that “people had been lied to.”


DE VIDO IN THE DOCK

On Wednesday, all eyes were on the Federal Courthouse of Comodoro Py as former Planning minister Julio De Vido sat in the dock at the  beginning of his trial for alleged crimes related to the Once train tragedy in February, 2012, in which 52 people were killed (51 adults plus an unborn child) and over 700 passengers were injured. As De Vido took a seat in the courtroom, family members held up signs demanding justice in the case, clearly visible through the pane of glass behind him. De Vido, a Victory Front (FpV) deputy and key figure in former president Cristina  Fernández de Kirchner’s administration, stands accused of being partly responsible for the tragedy, given his position in CFK’s government. Last  year, Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio, who was in charge of the case decided there was enough evidence to charge De Vido, on the grounds that  he must have been aware of the poor conditions of the railway system, due to his role in government. Some, however, have blamed the train’s  driver for not triggering the brakes.


THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...

Aformer Minister in the government of Carlos Menem who became an emblem for corruption, Maria Julia Alsogaray, passed away last Sunday at  74; she had been in charge of privatisations during the 1990s.

On Tuesday, “Pata” Medina, the longtime head of the La Plata UOCRA construction workers’ union was arrested on corruption and extortion  charge. After holing up a the union’s headquarters, he eventually gave himself in to police, meeting them while smoking a narguile pipe. And two  emblematic cases of Kirchnerite corruption were also sent to trial on Thursday. Jose Lopez, who famously got caught throwing duffle bags full  of crisp dollar bills into a nun’s convent, will face accusations of corruption.

Meanwhile, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner rock’n’roll-loving vice-president, Amado Boudou, is being sent to court for the accused illegal acquisition of 19 luxury vehicles.


THE POPE IS DEFINITELY NOT COMING

Will he? Won’t he? No, he won’t.... “Pope Francis has no plans to visit Argentina next year,” said an advisor yesterday. That settles that then, once and for all.

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