NO KEEPING COUNCIL
Once the deadline for restoring the Council of Magistrates to its original 1998 format expired on Monday, there were continuous twists and turns throughout the week. First the Supreme Court brushed aside the challenge to its authority by Paraná federal judge Daniel Alonso ruling against the admission of parliamentary representatives with Chief Justice Horacio Rosatti setting the expanded Council in motion under himself as its new head while Kirchnerite leaders spluttered against an “institutional coup.” Then on Tuesday evening Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner found a sui generis way of breaking the deadlock by splitting up her own Frente de Todos caucus to create a new second minority with Río Negro’s Martín Doñate of the brand-new Unidad Ciudadana eventually emerging as the fourth senatorial representative (with three of the quartet Kirchnerite) – the opposition’s turn to protest. The Council was completed by Wednesday with Congress Speaker Sergio Massa following a more conventional procedure, accepting the opposition proposal of deputy Roxana Reyes (Radical-Santa Cruz) as the lower house representative although Frente de Todos caucus chief Germán Martínez said he would legally challenge this choice, while the four new representatives for lawyers, magistrates and academics (all women to improve gender balance) were sworn in. On Thursday Fernández de Kirchner proposed expanding the Supreme Court to nine justices and the friction continued through to yesterday.
At a Monday press conference President Alberto Fernández and Economy Minister Martín Guzmán announced a bonus of 18,000 pesos over two months to the informally employed, the lowest categories of self-employed and those in domestic service, as well as a single payment of 12,000 pesos for the retired with less than twice the minimum pension, a package totalling 200 billion pesos and reaching 13 million people. The bonus is to be financed by a windfall tax, which still awaits full details and approval by a gridlocked Congress – Guzmán limited himself on Monday to saying that it would only apply to companies with annual profits of over a billion pesos, 3.2 percent of the total according to his data. But viewing themselves as the main beneficiaries of the Ukraine war, farmers have called a downtown tractor protest against the new levy for today.
The “blue” parallel dollar shot up eight pesos in the course of last week, closing yesterday at 203 pesos after fetching 195 pesos on Maundy Thursday. The official exchange rate moved up from 118 to 119.50 pesos, as quoted by Banco Nación, or 197 pesos if the 65 percent surcharges for savers and tourists are included. The parallel but legal CCL (contado con liquidación) and MEP (medio electrónico de pago) were both in the 205-206 pesos range after having closed Easter week at 191.33 and 190.36 pesos respectively. Country risk had fallen below 1,700 points the previous week at 1,689 points but steamed back past it to close yesterday at 1,730 points.
The Organisation of American States (OAS) voted on Thursday to suspend Russia as a permanent observer until it ceases hostilities against Ukraine with Argentina one of eight countries abstaining, including the other two Latin American heavyweights Brazil and Mexico. There were 25 votes in favour with Nicaragua absent. Argentina pointed out that Britain was also an observer and nobody was proposing their suspension, despite being an unwelcome presence in the region.
On a lecture tour of Georgetown University in Washington DC, ex- president Mauricio Macri was highly critical of his successors, saying: “When you print money like in Argentina, the result is the inflation out of control which we have” and responding to questions about his own candidacy by saying: “My only concern is to consolidate the unity of Juntos por el Cambio, clarify our aims for returning to power and commit ourselves to doing what has to be done to bring the country forward.” Asserting that the United States retained its faith in Argentina despite its complicated present, he said: “They know we can return to the path we had between 2015 and 2019 and they are awaiting that.” He also criticised foreign policy with Venezuela and Russia, concluding that “Populism is very dangerous.”
LASSO IN TOWN
President Guillermo Lasso stopped by on Monday with the most newsworthy element his guarded response to the proposal of host President Alberto Fernández to restore full diplomatic relations with Venezuela. Otherwise the main theme was regional unity with Lasso also plugging local Toyota executives for investments in his own country and congratulating his “very brave” host on having a son this month. Argentina runs a comfortable trade surplus with Ecuador with over US$504 million in exports as against US$313 million in imports.
ALPEROVICH IN COURT
Former Tucumán governor and senator José Alperovich appeared before judge Osvaldo Rappa on Wednesday and somewhat predictably denied having sexually abused his niece between 2017 and 2019. Rappa now has 10 days to decide whether to place him on trial. The prosecutors admitted that the case could be complicated by the inevitable lack of witnesses. Alperovich’s bid to have the case tried in Tucumán has already been turned down by the Supreme Court.
‘THANK YOU, MARCELO’
Dumped as the coach of Leeds United last February after four years following a prolonged losing streak in the Premier League to which he restored the club, Marcelo Bielsa, 66, was the recipient of a moving message from grateful fans published in La Capital of Rosario (his birthplace) last Saturday under the headline "Thank you Marcelo" with the text translated into Spanish. "You gave us so much more than football.You guided us through a pandemic … you showed us that integrity and decency matter," read parts of the message by the fans, who paid for the advertising space.
WOMEN’S POLO CROWN
Argentina's women’s polo team convincingly defeated their United States rivals 6-2 in an eight-chukker final last Saturday to win the first Women’s Polo World Cup on home ground at the Campo Argentino de Polo in Buenos Aires. Their youngest player was also the best with 16-year-old Catalina Lavinia scoring a hat-trick. England completed the podium by topping Italy with a last-minute goal. The first Women’s Polo World Cup began on April 9.
Puma rugby great Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 38, the last active player of the team that finished third at the 2007 World Cup, announced his retirement on Thursday. Flanker Leguizamon played in four World Cups, won 87 caps and scored 13 tries during his playing career. In other rugby news, Argentina won their first World Series Sevens tournament in over 13 years beating Fiji 29-10 in the Vancouver final, while on Thursday Scotland announced a July tour of Argentina in which they will play the Pumas three times with all the test matches played in northwestern stadiums.