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ARGENTINA | 20-08-2022 14:50

What we learned this week: August 12 to 19

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

 

UTILITY BILLS UPPED

The government presented on Tuesday its new segmented scheme for electricity, gas and water billing. As from the end of this month the cost is to rise progressively alongside the partial withdrawal of subsidies through to January with hikes of 21 percent, 55 percent and 149 percent for gas, electricity and water respectively in the first stage in the case of the upper-income households losing their subsidies.

 

DUELLING PROTESTS

The CGT labour umbrella staged a massive march, its first during the current Frente de Todos administration, to demand that the government get a grip on inflation while also defending collective wage bargaining against schemes to suspend it for six months in favour of a fixed-sum bonus towards the end of the year. Although bad weather conspired against maximal turnout, there was still six-digit participation according to the organisers and the downtown traffic chaos was huge owing to the CGT converging around Congress while the left concentrated on Plaza de Mayo. Meanwhile the maximum wage is up for renewal as from next Monday.

 

ENVOY BLASTS OWN COURTS

Argentine ambassador in Venezuela Oscar Laborde last Tuesday denounced the court “hijacking” of the Venezuelan aircraft held at Ezeiza Airport since early June, echoing the complaints of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro that it responded to Washington pressures and hinting at a hidden agenda of sabotaging the relationship between two countries with progressive governments. Laborde n pointed out that no specific charges had been lodged against the 19 crew members (five of them Iranian) being held near Ezeiza even though on August 11 federal judge Federico Villena had granted the confiscation of the aircraft for presumed terrorist links at the August 2 request of a Florida court. Maduro’s complaints were echoed last Monday by his Nicaraguan colleague Daniel Ortega, who called for the immediate liberation of aircraft and crew.  

 

SALA RESPONDS TO ALLEGATIONS

Described as a “monster” by a former close aide during a weekend television interview with Jorge Lanata, imprisoned Túpac Amaru leader Milagro Sala responded by calling her accuser "another victim of Gerardo Morales" who had been paid off by the Jujuy Radical governor to divulge false information against her. Sala dismissed the statements of Mirta Rosa ‘Shakira’ Guerrero, a key aide for 26 years, as “all lies,” saying, for example, that if she did indeed have a cupboard with a false back to hide embezzled money, it would have come out in the three court raids on her house. The Túpac Amaru leader further claimed that she was being used as a distraction from everything wrong in Jujuy, including the governor’s shady deals with marijuana and lithium. Finally, she accused Lanata of being “a mercenary journalist.,” concluding: “We must find out how and where he lives and what his movements are” in what might be construed as a veiled threat.


 

FLAG GAFFE

Opposition leaders ribbed Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero mercilessly last week for greeting the new Swiss Ambassador Hans-Ruedi Bortis presenting his credentials with the Danish flag, demanding his resignation. Recalling the minister’s deficient English in the Middle East, Juntos por el Cambio deputy Ricardo López Murphy termed the error “an unacceptable lack of respect while fellow-deputies María Eugenia Vidal and Cristian Ritondo were also sarcastically critical.

 

CITY HALL GRABS CRANES

City Hall announced last Tuesday that it would be taking control of the crane service towing away illegally parked cars after repeated efforts since 2013 to update the monthly licence fee of 55,000 pesos (in a business worth around half a billion pesos a year) had foundered on court injunctions. The timing was reportedly determined by the aim of heading off the triumph of an opposition initiative to that effect due for debate in the City Legislature last Thursday.

 

DOUBLE AGENT UNMASKED

For over 40 years cashiered naval officer Alfredo Astiz was thought to be the only military dictatorship agent who had infiltrated the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in the early years of junta rule but research by Página/12 journalist and former Buenos Aires Herald staffer Luciana Bertoia has unearthed a Federal Police agent embedded in the Mothers under the code name of “Isabelita.” The information supplied by these two agents was used by a task force for the mass kidnap of a dozen persons as from December 8, 1977, including Mothers co-founder Azucena Villaflor and two French nuns. The existence of this second infiltrator had been mentioned as early as 1981 by ex-spy Luis Alberto Martínez. Isabelita’s enlistment in "A squad" with the aim of infiltrating the grouping "MADRES DE TERRORISTAS" is documented in secret police intelligence records which show her as working with them from 1976 to 1979. According to Martínez she won the confidence of the Mothers by expressing concern over the disappearance of a brother. During those years she was studying philosophy and literature at the University of Buenos Aires. The agent continued in intelligence work through to the Néstor Kirchner presidency in 2003, spying on such groupings as Todos por la Patria, which launched a sanguinary assault on the La Tablada army barracks in early 1989. This information reached us too close to our press time for more extensive details but we may be able to supply a fuller story in future editions.

 

ALBERTO ROEMMERS DIES

Pharmaceuticals tycoon Alberto Roemmers, one of the five richest men in Argentina, died last weekend in his 96th year, leaving a fortune of US$2.4 billion. His brand name accounts for half the medicaments sold in this country. Roemmers took charge of the firm six decades ago on the death of his German immigrant father, who founded the company in 1921.

 

SMOKE GETS IN YOUR NOSE

The first half of the week saw pungent smoke sweeping over the northern suburbs of Greater Buenos Aires, apparently stemming from the Paraná Delta. The problem was generally attributed to the traditional farming practice of burning scrubland to fertilise the soil but some suspected wetland clearances in the interests of real estate development.

 

BARBECUE QUEEN

Natalí Suárez Pardo, 39, from San Luis won the Campeonato Federal de Asado prize last Sunday among 24 finalists in an event drawing around half a million people – the first female winner ever. Her barbecuing skills have already taken her as far afield as Brazil, Chile and Ecuador. Despite such prowess her business is in fact a health food store.

 

NO SUBCONTINENTAL DERBY

Almost a year after the Brazil-Argentine qualifier for this year’s World Cup in Qatar should have been played, its suspension was officially confirmed on Tuesday by the Argentine Football Association (AFA) in consultation with its Brazilian counterpart and FIFA. AFA was fined 150,000 Swiss francs for its role in the interruption of the match last September 5 when it fielded four Premier League players despite the Covid-19 quarantine restrictions against them at the time, thus prompting Brazilian health authorities to invade the pitch and halt play.

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