In a week of intense media buzz about government infighting, the Cabinet held its first meeting in six months on Wednesday with Cabinet Chief Juan Manzur warning: "These are the policies and anybody who does not like them should leave." President Alberto Fernández, who did not attend the meeting, has repeatedly ruled out any Cabinet changes despite ultra-Kirchnerite criticisms of some of his ministers, especially Economy Minister Martín Guzmán. The meeting, which lasted almost two hours, was attended by 16 of the 20 ministers, including Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro (the La Cámpora leader considered the Cabinet member closest to Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) who showed up over an hour late. The backdrop to the Cabinet meeting included La Cámpora leader and Buenos Aires provincial minister Andrés ‘Cuervo’ Larroque saying the previous day: “This government is ours” and accusing President Fernández of seeking to break up the Frente de Todos coalition with his “operations” against Fernández de Kirchner. According to Larroque, ministers like Guzmán, Claudio Moroni (Labour) and Matías Kulfas (Production) are ensuring the defeat of Frente de Todos in next year’s elections.
In a special session the Chamber of Deputies voted 132-114 to set in motion a bill to install a single ballot by forming the corresponding committees. The voting largely followed party lines with the opposition (who called for the session) in favour and government deputies against. The same session also approved with comfortable majorities three bills legalising medical cannabis, creating new housing investment incentives and updating AIDS legislation, the price brokered by Congress Speaker Sergio Massa for allowing the session to go ahead.
In a week when Argentina’s future prospects were complicated by the Federal Reserve raising interest rates against rising inflation in the United States on Wednesday, prompting fears of a “flight to quality” from emerging markets, the “blue” parallel dollar closed yesterday barely a peso up from the previous Friday’s 200 pesos. The official exchange rate, which had decelerated in recent weeks, speeded up, moving from 119.75 to 121.25 pesos, as quoted by Banco Nación, or a round 200 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) exchange rates both hovered around 208 pesos yesterday after both converged on 206 pesos at the close of the previous week. Country risk barely moved, closing yesterday at 1,788 points as against 1,789 points the previous Friday.
In his capacity as pro-tempore head of the CELAC (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños) regional grouping, President Alberto Fernández last Tuesday appealed to the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on June 6-10 not to exclude Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, arguing: “United we are stronger.” A State Department official had earlier announced that “Cuba, Nicaragua and the régime of Nicolás Maduro” were not expected at the Summit for not respecting the democratic charter of the Americas and none of these three presidents have received an invitation. The invitation of Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader recognised as carektaker president by Washington, has yet to be confirmed.
BRITISH AMBASSADOR VISITS LA CUMBRE
Continuing her mission to visit as much of Argentina as her schedule allows, British Ambassador Kirsty Hayes paid a visit to La Cumbre in the Sierras de Córdoba mountain range on Thursday, where she was welcomed with open arms by members of the local community. Invited to the area by the Anglo-Argentine Community of La Cumbre, Ambassador Hayes visited the Instituto San Pablo, where she was received by authorities from the college and pupils and participated in a tree-planting ceremony. Among the dignitaries in attendance were Mayor Ruben Justo Ovelar and local Secretary for Coordination and Community Relations, Pablo Alicio. The envoy’s visit, which was described as warm and informal by locals, also took in a visit to the famed Reydon Hotel, a British-style bed and breakfast that dates back a full century and is a self-declared “piece of Britain in Argentina.” Ambassador Hayes also found time to share a conversation with Córdoba resident Frances Evans, the first British subject to be born in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II.
BRIBES BY MERCADOLIBRE
Three Buenos Aires provincial policemen have been bounced from the force for extorting a bribe of 3,000 pesos from a motorist in Don Torcuato, it was reported on Monday, allegedly via MercadoLibre. The victim is a friend of the family of Buenos Aires Province Security Minister Sergio Berni, who referred to the incident as "a sinister, corrupt and cruel mechanism" with four or five similar episodes reported daily.
MEXICO SEEKS ABC LITHIUM
Mexico is seeking a “mutually beneficial” alliance with Argentina, Bolivia and Chile to share experiences related to the exploitation of lithium, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at his daily press conference last Tuesday, adding that he had already discussed the idea with Bolivian President Luis Arce. López Obrador nationalised Mexico’s own lithium industry (still in its infancy) last month, granting the state exclusive rights over the metal, as has Bolivia, whereas lithium mining is in private hands in Argentina and Chile. The ABC countries comprise three of the world’s four leading producers of lithium, also known as "white gold" and essential for new technologies and the future electric car industry.
President Alberto Fernández announced last Monday that he would be sending a bill to Congress to extend maternity leave from 90 to 126 days and paternity leave from the current two days to 15 with cases of adoption entitled to 90 days for each parent. Leave would be covered by social security and not the employer to the tune of a minimum wage.
Thousands of marchers marked May Day last Sunday in two separate events rallying supporters of both the Frente de Todos government and the leftist (mostly Trotkyist) opposition demanding an "immediate wage increase" in the words of Partido Obrero deputy Nicolás del Caño. The CGT umbrella labour grouping and ultra-Kirchnerite groupings both decided against staging any march.
FACCyR (Federación de Argentina de Cartoneros, Carreros y Recicladores) grouping workers recycling rubbish on Thursday denounced that their demonstration had been “violently” repressed by City Police with at least 13 arrests, insisting that their protest to demand improved pay and conditions had been peaceful.
Eight cases of acute childhood hepatitis have been diagnosed in the local chapter of a global outbreak beginning in Britain and prompting the World Health Organisation to sound the alert worldwide with at least four deaths reported.
The iconic No. 10 shirt worn by the late Diego Maradona at the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals (when he scored with the “hand of God” against England, followed by what has officially been judged to be the best goal of the 20th century) was auctioned by Sotheby’s for a record figure of almost US$9 million last Wednesday, topping an Argentine offer of over US$5 million.
Former Argentine national taekwondo team trainer Carlos Filippa, 67, was sentenced last Tuesday to a prison term of four years for distributing photos and videos of explicit sex with underage teenagers. Filippa was already serving a prison sentence of eight years for the sexual abuse of a pupil aged 15