Thursday, April 18, 2024

ARGENTINA | 04-09-2021 10:05

What we learned this week: August 29 to September 4

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



Argentina reached 112,356 deaths and 5,199,919 confirmed cases of coronavirus contagion by press time yesterday as against 111,270 deaths and 5,167,733 cases the previous Friday. With the Delta variant still on the horizon vaccine retention was the main pandemic-related issue of the week. On Monday the Federal Appeals Court ordered criminal proceedings to be revived concerning last February’s so-called VIP vaccine scandal when various government officials and supporters jumped the queue.


Federal judge Sebstián Casanello on Wednesday decided to send the investigation of quarantine violations at the birthday party of Fabiola Yáñez in Olivos presidential residence last year to the San Isidro courtroom where the judge is Sandra Arroyo Salgado, the mother of the two daughters of widow of late AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman. Casanello ruled that since the presumed offences were committed beyond the Federal Capital, they fell outside his jurisdiction. Arroyo Salgado has yet to formally request the case. President Alberto Fernández is offering to donate half his salary for four months in reparation while other defendants are arguing that the quarantine was unconstitutional in the first place.



Corrientes Province's Radical Governor Gustavo Valdés was re-elected by a landslide last Sunday with over three-quarters of the vote as against 23.25 percent for his Frente de Todos rival Fabián Ríos.



María Eugenia Vidal, heading the Juntos por el Cambio slate in this city for Congress in this year’s midterms started a controversy in midweek when she affirmed that it was one thing to smoke a reefer in Palermo and quite another in a shantytown surrounded by drug dealers. Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof described his predecessor’s remark as "discriminatory" and perhaps the explanation of her return to the Federal Capital after governing Buenos Aires Province between 2015 and 2019 and leaving it with its debts doubled and in dollars, according to Kicillof.  


Lower House Speaker Sergio Massa yesterday hit out at ex-president Mauricio Macri for seeking the "destitution" of the government while appealing to him and then PASO primary winner Alberto Fernández to rescue his administration in 2019. Macri’s desperation cost the country US$14 billion in reserves in a "tragic week for Argentina," Massa claimed, also blaming dollar speculation on the failure of his centre-right government. Instead Argentina needed a "serious and responsible opposition for medium-term and long-range policies," the Speaker said, describing the government as open to dialogue.  



Buenos Aires provincial deputy María Eugenia Brizzi, was assaulted, robbed and beaten up by two motorcycle thieves while cycling in El Palomar (in the Greater Buenos Aires district of Morón) last Tuesday, prompting the Juntos por el Cambio legislator to comment ironically: “A whole lot of fun, not like Switzerland,” in reference to Security Minister Sabina Frederic’s controversial remark last weekend that “Switzerland is calmer but more boring.” Last February her mother was robbed while driving her car in the same neighbourhood, said Brizzi.



There was plenty of back and forth across the Andes last week after Chile ‘s extension of its continental platform, overlapping with Argentine South Atlantic claims, became known during the weekend. The Foreign Ministry asserts that the new limits violate the 1984 Beagle Channel Treaty.



Norberto Oyarbide, 70, the notorious federal judge who issued numerous controversial rulings favouring the Menem and Kirchner presidencies between 1994 and his retirement in 2016, including the instant acquittal of the presidential couple on illegal enrichment charges in 2009, died last month of Covid-19 after two months in intensive care.



The government extended the beef export cap halving sales abroad into this month and next when it expired last Tuesday with the Rural Society claiming that move had cost the country US$1.084 billion at all levels of production since implemented in mid-April, including the loss of US$59 million worth of wages for workers in meat-packing plants from less and shorter shifts. Apart from the currency losses, the country has suffered serious damage to its image from the breach of contracts.



State economic subsidies rose 78.9 percent in July to total over 671 billion pesos, ASAP (Asociación Argentina de Presupuesto y Administración Financiera Pública) revealed last Tuesday, or sixfold the primary fiscal deficit of 117.74 billion pesos. Heavier gas consumption in winter was a major factor in the increase, as well as the cost of increased fuel imports. Transport subsidies also increased by over 67 percent with far more commuting due to relaxation of pandemic restrictions. 


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday required from Argentina a "credíble and solid" macro-economic plan, also recommending the gradual dismantlement of capital controls currently limiting monthly dollar purchases to US$200. These recommendations were part of a global report covering 30 countries including Brazil and Mexico. Last week Argentina received US$4.335 billion in special drawing rights from the IMF.



Looking ahead to France assuming the rotating presidency of the European Union at the start of next year, French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that Paris opposition to the free trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur would remain unchanged, expressing special concern over issues of biodiversity (referring to doubts about Brazil’s commitment to environmental policies in the Amazon without expressing those doubts). Macron was speaking at the World Conservation Congress in Marseilles. The agreement in any case faces prolonged delays as it awaits parliamentary ratification in each of the EU’s 27 members.



The traditional food company giant Molino Cañuelas called in the receivers on Thursday “to protect its assets and jobs," asking for its debts totalling US$1.4 billion to be “reprofiled” and blaming repeated devaluations for its problems in servicing its investments.



The “blue” parallel dollar closed last week at 182 pesos or the same level as the previous Friday while dipping during the week as the official exchange rate (edging up to 103 pesos as against 102.75 pesos the previous week, as quoted by Banco Nación) again fractionally closed the gap, remaining below the “blue” even with the 65 percent surcharges for authorised purchases. But the Central Bank had to sell US$513 million of reserves to hold the greenback down. The CCL (contado con liquidación) and MEP (mercado electrónico de pagos) parallel but legal exchange rates both moved up, the former from 169.87 to 172.43 pesos and the latter from 170.21 to 172.1O pesos. Country risk, which at times topped 1,600 last month, fell below 1,500 to 1,493 points yesterday from 1,538 points the previous Friday, helped by the Buenos Aires provincial government announcing a bond swap agreement with 98 percent of its creditors last Monday. 



In the first eight months of this year 173 women have fallen victim to femicide, the Adriana Marisel Zambrano Observatory reported on Thursday, 40 percent in the last two months, leaving a total of 186 children motherless. Among these victims 11 had a restraining order in their favour (requested by 25) while 18 were former or serving policewomen and seven were pregnant. ln 24 of these cases the murder was accompanied by suicide.


The government on Thursday officially extended the deadline for buying tourist packages within the Previaje programme until September 15. Under this programme the state refunds half the cost of any tourist trip within Argentina between next November and February. Some 600,000 future tourists have already signed up for Previaje via the participation of 13,000 travel agencies. 


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