THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS
There were 105,586 deaths and 4,919,408 confirmed cases of coronavirus by press time yesterday as against 103,359 deaths and 4,827,973 cases the previous Friday. On Tuesday there was a dramatic U-turn in the vaccination campaign when Health Minister Carla Vizzotti announced the purchase of 20 million doses of Pfizer vaccine, thus breaking eight months of deadlock in fluctuating negotiations – the minister said that those in the 12 to 7 age range belonging to risk groups would be the top priority here, starting as from this coming week. At the same time Vizzotti announced payment for the first 200,000 doses in a contract for 5.4 million shots of Cansino vaccine. Meanwhile in La Plata Buenos Aires Province Cabinet Chief Carlos Bianco confirmed that there would be classroom education throughout the province once the winter holidays end. But there was also bad news on the same day as Spain began imposing a 10-day quarantine on everybody entering from Argentina together with many other countries. On Friday, fears over the spread of the Delta variant swept Argentina, with outbreaks identified in Buenos Aires City and Córdoba Province.
The deadline for the registration of candidates for the September 12 PASO primaries duly expired last Saturday with the two main coalitions lining up Leandro Santoro and Victoria Tolosa Paz (Frente de Todos) and former Buenos Aires Province governor María Eugenia Vidal and City Deputy Mayor Diego Santilli (Juntos) in Buenos Aires City and Province respectively but the latter face Radical competition from Adolfo Rubinstein and Facundo Manes in BA City and Province respectively. Among other resignations (including Santilli and Tolosa Paz from the Social Policies Council), both the Defence and Social Development Ministries were vacated with the Santa Fe senatorial candidacy of Agustín Rossi while Daniel Arroyo will run for Congress in Buenos Aires Province.
Hurlingham Mayor Juan Zabaleta, 54, emerged in midweek as the future Social Development minister to replace Daniel Arroyo, who is to run for Congress in the midterms in a lowly 12th slot on the Frente de Todos list for Buenos Aires Province. A traditional Peronist who has recently resisted the advances of La Cámpora and Máximo Kirchner in the province, Zabaleta is also considered to be the closest to President Alberto Fernández among all the Greater Buenos Aires mayors.
PARTY IN PERU
President Alberto Fernández attended the inauguration of his new Peruvian colleague, leftist Pedro Castillo, in Lima on Wednesday and immediately went into quarantine upon his return from the Covid-stricken country. While in Lima Fernández balanced his alignment with Castillo by holding bilateral meetings with such centre-right regional colleagues as Iván Duque (Colombia) and Guillermo Lasso (Ecuador).
The Central Bank’s international currency reserves took a downward turn last week as the combined result of making the first down payment on Paris Club debt and the need to intervene in money markets on most days in order to prevent parallel exchange rates from moving any further ahead of the official. These combined factors drove reserves back below the mark of US$43 billion which it had topped at the end of last week. As from Monday Argentina started paying up a total of US$220 million to Paris Club members or almost half the US$430 million due to be paid by next March in order to avert default on a debt of US$2.4 billion.
On the rise for much of the month, the “blue” dollar lost ground last week, retreating to just over 180 pesos yesterday as against 185 pesos the previous Friday. With the official exchange rate staying put at 101.75 pesos (to which 65 percent surcharges must be added for authorised purchases) as quoted by Banco Nación, the gap between formal and informal exchange rates fell below 90 percent. The parallel but legal exchange rates, CCL (contado con liquidación) and MEP (mercado electrónico de pagos), both rose, from 169 to 169.31 and from 168 to 168.74 pesos respectively with the former under tighter control. Country risk inched up to 1,601 points yesterday as against 1,597 points the previous week.
Pop singer Chano (whose real name is Santiago Moreno Charpentier) remained in intensive therapy in Otamendi Hospital at press time yesterday after receiving a police bullet in the stomach at the start of the week following an emergency call from his mother Marina Charpentier requesting protection from the deranged attacks of her son. Rushed to hospital, Chano underwent an emergency operation removing his spleen, pancreas and part of a kidney but could be taken off artificial respiration in midweek. Toxicological studies revealed that the music star had recently consumed cannabis and cocaine. Despite having called for help alleging that she was being threatened at knifepoint, Marina Charpentier was bitterly critical of both the police and the hospital, accusing them of ganging up on a drug addict who was “only hurting himself” and who could have been stopped by firing a shot in the air. As a result, the police officer (a recent recruit) was under investigation to determine whether he really acted in self-defence while in society at large both advocates of stun guns and critics of trigger-happy police engaged in fierce debate.
INS AND OUTS OF OLIVOS
The social networks were buzzing last week with the revelation of the frequent visits of model and actress Sofía Pacchi to Olivos presidential residence, stretching into the small hours on the occasion of the birthday parties of President Alberto Fernández and First Lady Fabiola Yáñez at the peak of strict quarantine last year and thus resulting in court charges being lodged by libertarian militants. The government explained that Pacchi, who visited more than 60 times, is an Olivos employee as a personal secretary to the first lady and a protocol aide.