Wednesday, February 21, 2024

ARGENTINA | 18-06-2021 23:08

What we learned this week: June 12 to 19

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



Deaths from coronavirus drew ever closer to the 90,000 mark with a total of 88,247 deaths along with 4,242,763 confirmed cases of contagion at press time yesterday as against 84,628 deaths and 4,093,090 cases the previous Friday. On Monday Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner broke a long silence over the pandemic at a La Plata hospital inauguration, calling for integrated healthcare and appealing to the opposition to stop politicising the vaccination issue. Throughout the week some 3.26 million schoolchildren in 74 of the 135 districts of Buenos Aires Province began returning to classrooms although the opposition complained that most of the other 61 containing over a million more schoolchildren were governed by them, including the major cities of Mar del Plata and Bahía Blanca. Dissident teacher unions meanwhile went on strike, demanding that the 150,000 teachers still not vaccinated be excused work. Suspension of the Aprender scholastic evaluation tests was a controversial related issue. 


Argentina was the only South American country to abstain in an Organisation of American States (OAS) vote on Tuesday against the arbitrary arrest of over a dozen opposition leaders in Nicaragua with Bolivia one of only three countries (including Nicaragua itself) to oppose the motion. 


Last month’s inflation was 3.3 percent, INDEC statistics bureau announced on Wednesday, down from April’s 4.1 percent and March’s 4.8 percent but heading close to an annual 50 percent instead of the 2021 budget forecast of 29 percent. Meanwhile Energy Secretary Darío Martínez sought to calm down expectations by confirming that there will be no further increases for electricity, gas or fuels (a sector which rose 3.5 percent last month) for the rest of this year.


 The “blue” dollar, the main parallel exchange rate, went on a minor rampage last week by the standards of a generally quiet year, up to 164 pesos yesterday from 158 pesos the previous Friday. This strong upward momentum for the dollar was despite the heavier demand for pesos with the payment of midyear bonuses approaching. The gap with the official exchange rate was thus 72 percent although the latter remained higher at 176.75 pesos if the 65 percent surcharges for purchasers are added. Among the unofficial but legal alternative exchange rates, the CCL inched up to 165 pesos from 164.75 pesos the previous Friday while the MEP progressed from 58.09 pesos the previous Friday to 160.20 pesos yesterday. Country risk rose significantly during the week from 1,469 points the previous Friday to 1,502 points yesterday, close to the level of a fortnight ago.


The Anti-Corruption Office (OA), led by Félix Crous, has denounced ex-president Mauricio Macri for embezzlement and possible money-laundering, as well as the “malicious omission” of almost half his assets in his blind trust upon entering the presidency. The case, which falls under federal judge María Servini de Cubría, could potentially see Macri sentenced to up to two years in prison and barred from public office for life.


The prestigious neurologist Facundo Manes met up with the Radical National Committee under party chairman Alfredo Cornejo on Wednesday amid a growing “Draft Manes” noise among opposition circles for his midterm candidacy. Manes left the door open. After the meeting Juntos por el Cambio lower house caucus chief Mario Negri (Radical-Córdoba) said: "It was a great dialogue." Governors Gerardo Morales (Jujuy) and Rodolfo Suárez (Mendoza) and Senator Martín Lousteau were present among others.


Last Tuesday Alberto Fernández skipped a highway inauguration in Pergamino out of fears of protests by irate farmers although government sources insisted that other priorities related to public health issues kept him in the national capital. The inauguration was instead headed by Ministers Gabriel Katopodis (Public Works) and Eduardo “Wado” De Pedro (Interior). President Fernández did travel to Salta to mark last Thursday’s bicentenary of the death of independence war gaucho hero Martín Miguel de Güemes and there he did receive protests from dozens of demonstrators (many without face-masks) telling him to "go away." Jujuy Radical Governor Gerardo Morales described the demonstrators as “annoyed gauchos.”


President Alberto Fernández and former Security minister Patricia Bullrich, who now chairs the PRO centre-right opposition party, held a legal mediation meeting yesterday but the President is going ahead with his slander lawsuit. No details of the confidential virtually held meeting were leaked to the press. President Fernández took Bullrich to court over accusations that the government had tried to gouge bribes out of a Pfizer vaccine contract.


Beef tycoon Alberto Samid had an anti-Semitic outburst last Monday, responding to Israeli complaints about the beef export ban with the retort: “The best thing that could happen to us is that the Jews don’t buy any more beef from us. The world does not want to sell them anything, they’re disastrous customers.” Some weeks ago Samid (currently under house arrest) took issue with the businessmen Marcos Galperín,   Gustavo Grobocopatel and Hugo Sigman, all of Jewish origin, saying: "The first two made all their money here and then went to live in Uruguay, the other rat is giving away our vaccines to gringos". While generally against selling meat to Jews, Samid ironically conceded that they might merit a suckling pig.


The nationwide cold snap including near-freezing temperatures in this city saw Córdoba’s first snowfall in 14 years last Tuesday with a white blanket similarly descending on parts of San Luis, La Rioja and Tucumán. The last time it snowed in Córdoba was also the last time it snowed in this city for the first time since 1917 – on the July 9 Independence Day of 2007. There were even lower temperatures in mountainous zones with La Quiaca on the Bolivian border 7.4 degrees below zero. 


Argentina were kicking off against Uruguay in the Copa América tournament in Brazil at press time yesterday, following a disappointing 1-1 draw against Chile on Monday. Superstar Lionel Messi gave Argentina the lead with a brilliant free kick in the 33rd minute but Chile equalised with a 57th minute penalty (taken by Arturo Vidal and converted on the rebound by Eduardo Vargas).  ​

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