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ARGENTINA | 09-04-2022 00:04

What we learned this week: April 2 to 9

A selection of stories that caught our eye over the last seven days in Argentina.

 

ENERGY SOLUTIONS?

Argentina made a significant advance towards settling this year’s gas supplies when after three hours of meetings last Thursday President Alberto Fernández received from his Bolivian colleague Luis Arce assurances that the northern neighbour would “guarantee” the same levels of gas supplies as last winter while giving priority to Argentina if there is an increase in production – i.e. 14 million cubic metres of gas with the possibility of extra volumes up to 18 million during the winter months. The presidents further agreed “to advance in the analysis of the investment opportunities for YPFB in Vaca Muerta (shale)” while also signing a lithium agreement. Meanwhile Economy Minister Martín Guzmán flew to Brazil yesterday to ask the giant neighbour not to crowd out Argentina on the Bolivian gas market. Guzmán’s presence in Brazil included some back and forth with a critical Domestic Trade Secretary Roberto Feletti.

 

ARGENTINA BACKS UN VOTE

Argentina was one of the 93 countries in the United Nations General Assembly voting on Thursday to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council (currently chaired by Argentina) for having invaded Ukraine and committed war crimes with 24 UN members voting against (including Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua) and  58 others abstaining (including Brazil, Mexico and El Salvador). The shocking images of an apparent massacre in the Ukrainian city of Bucha were said to be a key catalyst in Argentina’s decision with Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski accusing Russia’s Vladimir Putin of “genocide.”

 

BORIC VISITS ARGENTINA

Chile’s youthful new president Gabriel Boric made Argentina his first state visit destination, spending three days here as from last Sunday. During that time he covered plenty of ground – not only meeting with his host President Alberto Fernández, dropping into Congress and attending a business forum but also paying his respects to human rights at the ESMA former concentration camp and browsing at bookshops among other activities, meeting up with the Chilean community here shortly before departure. An appeal for Latin American unity was the main theme of his visit. Boric also declared Chilean support for Argentine sovereignty claims to the Malvinas. 

 

PICKETERS, PLANS AND PESOS

City Hall last Tuesday announced that it would be pressing the national government to strip all social plan recipients blocking streets of their welfare benefits in order to find a solution to the numerous pickets complicating downtown traffic with municipal Security Minister Marcelo D’Alessandro holding a meeting with national Social Development Minister Juan Zabaleta to that effect. City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta said that he would be putting this proposal to the national government following social organisation activists camping across the Nueve de Julio thoroughfare for two days in the previous week, which the Mayor called “extortion, using women and children … They’re cowards.” Other opposition leaders charged the Nueve de Julio protest with costing 40 million pesos. After the meeting D’Alessandro said that Zabaleta agreed with him over removing welfare benefits from those guilty of “extortion,” praising the minister, while adding: "We must give the assistance which people need, we understand the critical situation of many people and the state must be present but in an organised and responsible form." The "picket culture" should not be the only way of addressing legitímate problems like poverty and inflation since it makes the city "unlivable," D’Alessandro added. 

 

COUNCIL OF MAGISTRATES REFORM

The Senate on Thursday approved an amended bill to reform the Council of Magistrates by a 37-33 vote. The bill now passes to the Chamber of Deputies where it faces uncertain prospects in an abbreviated Easter week. The input and presence of former Río Negro governor Alberto Weretlineck (whose amendments proposed a more federal representation, thus drawing the votes of three other inland senators) was crucial to passage.

 

URRIBARRI SENTENCED

Argentina's Ambassador to Israel and Cyprus Sergio Urribari resigned yesterday after being sentenced to eight years in prison for embezzlement dating back to his two-term spell as Entre Ríos governor (2007-2015). The five counts of embezzlement convicting him centred on the misallocation of US$9 million to pursue presidential ambitions. The conviction disqualifies him from holding public office in the future. Urribarri pleaded that the first instance ruling was “a clear example” of lawfare. President Fernández immediately accepted the resignation and has reportedly already started drawing up a list of possible replacements. Seven co-defendants, including two former provincial ministers, were also convicted while four were acquitted.

 

MARKET WATCH

The “blue” parallel dollar dipped down to a new low for this year, dropping to 196 pesos yesterday from the round figure of 200 pesos the previous Friday. The official exchange rate closed the week at 117.25 pesos, as quoted by Banco Nación yesterday, as against 116 pesos the previous Friday, translating into 194.19 pesos if the 65 percent surcharges for savers and tourists are included. The parallel but legal exchange rates of the CCL (contado con liquidación) and MEP (medio electrónico de pagos) hardly moved, closing at 189.50 and 190.36 pesos respectively from around 190 pesos the previous Friday. Country risk edged up to 1,727 points yesterday from 1,720 points at the end of the previous week. 

 

MALVINAS ANNIVERSARY

As from last Tuesday all public transport must show a logo reading “Las Islas Malvinas son argentinas,” as mandated by Transport Ministry resolution 31/2022 (published in the Official Gazette last Monday). Last Saturday (also his 63rd birthday), President Alberto Fernández affirmed Argentina’s sovereignty rights over the Malvinas on the 40th anniversary of the outbreak of the South Atlantic war with the words: “Honour our soldiers. Embarking in the islands was a decision taken behind the backs of the people. The Malvinas were, are and will be Argentine. We will never yield our claims.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson replied to Fernández via Twitter: “Today 40 years ago the Argentine military junta invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands,” thanking “all those who fought and died to liberate them.” Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner held a parallel commemoration which received the most comment for her ironic birthday present to the President, a book on the economic woes of the 1983-89 Raúl Alfonsín administration (which she was understood as subliminally comparing to the current economic team). Tens of thousands participated throughout Argentina in other ceremonies, vigils, marches and torch parades. Leftist activists marched on the British Embassy with the slogan: “We repudiate the British imperialistic aggression.”

 

AFA CHAOS (AGAIN)

An appeals court has ordered the AFA Argentine Football Association to place the Liga Profesional de Fútbol under trusteeship, calling for elections within 90 days after television tycoon and former San Lorenzo vice-president Marcelo Tinelli impugned the list of Argentinos Juniors president Cristian Malaspina, which was said to enjoy “enormous consensus.” Judge Camilo Almeida Pons entrusted AFA chief Claudio "Chiqui" Tapia with taking over the institution in the interim. Last Christmas Eve Tinelli denounced that an "institutional coup … plagued with irregularities" was being attempted.

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