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ARGENTINA | 11-03-2022 16:00

What we learned this week: March 5 to 12

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

 

LOWER HOUSE OK FOR IMF DEAL

The Chamber of Deputies approved the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the small hours of yesterday with 202 votes in favour, 37 against (including former Frente de Todos caucus chief Máximo Kirchner showing up at the last minute) and 13 abstentions. With only around 80 ruling coalition deputies, the bill would never have enjoyed its comfortable majority without amendments to accommodate the Juntos por el Cambio opposition, basically limiting it to approval of the principle of rescheduling the debt to the IMF without the accompanying programme. Earlier yesterday there were violent demonstrations outside Congress against the agreement, with protesters hurling stones at the building breaking the window of Senate chief Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s office. At least one police officer was injured by a Molotov cocktail, according to reports.

 

INAUGURATION IN CHILE

President Alberto Fernández flew across the Andes yesterday in a lightning visit to attend the inauguration of Chile’s new president, Gabriel Boric, whom he regards as "a great ally in the region," accompanied by a largely female entourage. The Peronist leader arrived in Santiago before travelling on to Valparaíso. Aside from attending the inauguration, his plans included meeting up with his Peruvian colleague Pedro Castillo. Among the Latin American presidents attending the inauguration of Boric was Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic, who stopped by in Buenos Aires last Wednesday to sign agreements with Fernández, promising free merengue dance classes to all Argentine tourists visiting the Caribbean island nation.

 

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

Thousands of women filled city streets on International Women’s Day last Tuesday, marked by two massive marches due to the controversial IMF agreement dividing even feminist waters – one headed by the Ni Una Menos movement against femicide and gender violence (and also highlighting the recent gang rape in Palermo whose victim said on Thursday that if previously she was scared to go out, now it made her panic), accompanied by pro-government sectors and sticking to women’s issues, and another which insisted on including a repudiation of the IMF agreement. President Fernández marked the occasion with a rally in the Greater Buenos Aires district of José C. Paz alongside the local mayor Mario Ishii and some of the leading female lights of his administration (Women, Gender and Diversity Minister Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Legal and Technical Secretary Vilma Ibarra and the head of the INADI anti-discrimination institute Victoria Donda) as well as Mexican writer Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller. The president preceded the rally with a message via the social networks saying that March 8 was also an occasion for "we males" to reflect. Meanwhile the INDEC national statistics bureau accompanied International Women’s Day with a report showing gender equality to be still a distant horizon. The inequalities are especially pronounced among the retired where although almost three out of every five of those aged over 65 are female, 70 percent of the women in that age-group have less than 18 years of pension contributions. And even though 36.5 percent of women have completed higher education as against 27.9 percent of men, they generally have worse jobs with only 63.1 percent of women aged between 30 and 64 years employed as against 86.7 percent of men. International Women’s Day commemorates 129 women on strike for better pay perishing in a New York cotton workshop fire on March 8, 1908.

 

REVENUE-SHARING CLASH

Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ de Pedro attended a conciliatory hearing at the Supreme Court on Thursday over the federal revenue-sharing dispute between the national government and City Hall but failed to come to terms and were given 30 days by the Supreme Court to reach agreement with weekly reports on their progress. If City Hall and the national government fail to reach agreement by then, the Supreme Court will decide the issue. The dispute centres on the emergency decree issued by President Fernández 18 months ago in which he reduced the City’s federal revenue-sharing funds to the tune of 1.18 percent of the total pool, estimated by City Hall as 11 percent of its Budget or 122 billion pesos by the end of this year, in order to appease the pay grievances of the Buenos Aires provincial police. De Wado said that he was defending provincial interests and federalism, not the national government, against City privileges.

 

TRIPLE FRONTIER ACCORD

Argentina agreed with Paraguay and Brazil to intensify action against drug-trafficking, gun-running, contraband, human-trafficking and organised crime in general at a Tuesday meeting between police authorities of the three countries at the Paraguayan Supreme Court.

 

THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS 

There was a total of 127,009 deaths and 8,961,595 confirmed cases of coronavirus contagion at press time yesterday as against 126,624 deaths and 8,929,898 confirmed cases the previous Friday.

 

OFF THE RAILS

A night train heading for Bahía Blanca went off the rails near Olavarría early Tuesday with over 20 of its 479 passengers injured but no fatalities. The locomotive, which was running two hours late, went off the rails taking the first five wagons with it but the causes of the accident remain unclear. Only three of the injured had broken bones but one man took a bad knock on the head. The Buenos Aires-Bahía Blanca railway line will remain interrupted until tomorrow.

 

ALBISTUR FACES TRIAL

Former Media secretary Enrique ‘Pepe’ Albistur, a personal friend of Presidente Alberto Fernández and the husband of Frente de Todos deputy Victoria Tolosa Paz (who spearheaded the Kirchnerite list in Buenos Aires Province in last November’s midterms) was sent to trial by judge Gustavo Meirovich last Monday on charges of tax evasion in the form of withholding the social security contributions of his employees. Albistur was denounced by the AFIP tax bureau last year whereupon the businessman cancelled his fiscal liabilities. On this basis defence lawyers had already appealed the indictment ahead of it being ruled by Meirovich last Monday.

 

BANK SAFETY GOES OVERBOARD

Esteban Cervi suffered a freak situation last Tuesday when he went to his local branch of Banco Santander to close an account and ended up locked in the vault with the security boxes. Yet he was never in danger of breaking the 66-hour record set for such situations back in 2002 because of the advances in technology since then – after a few minutes of yelling and banging doors, Cervi could tweet for help, adding a selfie. But the most immediate results came from a 911 call to the police – "Excelente la Policía," commented the expat businessman, who also questioned the failure of security cameras to detect his presence.

 

ONE YEAR WITHOUT TEHUEL

It has now been a yfull ear since the disappearance of Tehuel de la Torre, the young transgender man who had gone to San Vicente, in the district of Alejandro Korn, to ask for a job as a waiter for an event to which he had been called. Since that day there has been no news of his whereabouts, though two people have already been arrested in the case: Luis Alberto Ramos, 37, and Óscar Montes, both accused of "aggravated homicide due to hatred of sexual orientation." The prosecutor's office says that it is "unlikely" that Tehuel will be found alive, but despite this indication, human rights organisations have requested that the case remains open and that the search continues. The missing person’s family maintains that Tehuel was abducted.

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