THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS
There were 3,118,134 confirmed cases of coronavirus contagion and 66,872 deaths at press time yesterday as against 2,977,652 cases and 63,865 deaths the previous Friday at the close of April. Last weekend there was traffic chaos when the Buenos Aires provincial police strictly enforcing the renewed restrictions took the temperature of all drivers passing into the province from the Federal Capital, thus causing huge tailbacks (this is set to be repeated tomorrow, according to Governor Axel Kiciloff). On Monday the protests against the suspension of classroom schooling spread to the province of Santa Fe. Wednesday saw the death toll soaring beyond the 600 mark for the first time to reach a record 663 although the White House initiative to suspend the patents on vaccines against Covid-19 permitted some optimism in the longer term.
SUPREME COURT RULES
The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ruled (with one abstention) that the mid-April emergency decree of President Alberto Fernández had violated the autonomy of Buenos Aires City by arrogating the right to regulate education with the suspension of classroom schooling. Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was quick to call the ruling an “institutional coup.”
GUZMÁN UNDER PRESSURE
Economy Minister Martín Guzmán spent a tense week starting on Monday with pressures from Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof, who called Energy Undersecretary Federico Basualdo whom Guzmán had unsuccessfully tried to dump “an excellent official” while one of Kicillof’s ministers called for the return of IFE emergency benefits, thus complicating Guzmán’s plans for a more balanced budget. On the economic front the minister could console himself with a slight deceleration of inflation and a 104.7 percent rise in April revenues as compared with the first full month of lockdown last year. Up to press time Guzmán was set to accompany President Fernández on next week’s tour of Europe seeking support for more favourable debt deals although a Senate bill to prevent the use of this year’s extraordinary special drawing rights from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to repay either the IMF or the Paris Club was not seen as helping the ministerial pitch abroad.
The Social Observatory of UCA Catholic University has calculated that last year’s pandemic would have seen 2020 close with 52 percent of the population below the poverty line and 25 percent destitute had it not been for state welfare assistance. Even so poverty rose for the third year running according to the UCA data – from 33.6 percent in 2018 and 39.8 percent in 2019 to 44.7 percent in 2020 (42 percent as measured by the INDEC national statistics bureau), with the quarantine imposed by the pandemic aggravating a decade of stagnation and recession.
BIDEN HAS A FAN: CFK
Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner abandoned her recent low profile somewhat last week to praise United States President Joe Biden’s economic policies while again calling for the trial of her 2013 memorandum of understanding with Iran to be quashed, this time with a six-minute video including tributes to her late Foreign minister Héctor Timerman “who died persecuted by this unjust case,” according to her lawyer Graciana Peñafort. In praising Biden’s ambitious multi-trillion plan to revive the US economy and job market, she highlighted the taxation of the richest one percent of the US population as part of the funding, as well as the “Buy American” programme and Biden’s critique of trickle-down theories together with the comment that "Wall Street did not build the United States."
BOUDOU AT UBA
Convicted former vice-president Amado Boudou duly gave his UBA Buenos Aires University class last Monday, blasting the courts and the media for their roles in instigating “lawfare.”
The “blue” dollar, the main parallel exchange rate, barely changed last week, inching up to 151 pesos yesterday as against 150 pesos the previous Friday, around 53 percent above the official exchange rate of 99 pesos as quoted by Banco Nación, which however remained well ahead at 163.35 pesos if the 65 percent surcharges for purchasers are added. Among the unofficial but legal alternative exchange rates the CCL moved up to 158 pesos as against 155. the previous Friday, while the MEP finished was also up at 154.40 pesos as against 152.19 pesos at the close of April. Country risk moved up to 1,574 points yesterday from 1,555 points the previous Friday.
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES
Jujuy’s first lady, María Eugenia Snopek de Morales, has been named to represent her province this year on the YPF board of directors without any known expertise in the energy field. She is the daughter of a previous Peronist governor (Guillermo Snopek Senior, who was killed in a car crash in early 1996 after only 11 weeks in office) as well as the sister of current Peronist Senator Guillermo Snopek Junior and has been married to current Jujuy Radical Governor Gerardo Morales since 2018 – the governor’s unresolved divorce prevented them from tying the knot in either a church or a registry office so they resorted to an indigenous ceremony.
Apart from the over 3,000 people dying of coronavirus in the course of last week, at least four well-known names departed this life (only one of them due to Covid-19), including national Health Services Superintendent Eugenio Zanarini, 71 – found dead from heart failure in his Caballito bed last Tuesday, despite having been one of the 70 beneficiaries of the controversial VIP vaccine scheme as a close friend of both the previous and current Health ministers, Ginés González García and Carla Vizzotti. Another famous name died on the same day at the same age – Rodolfo García, the veteran drummer of the group Almendra and briefly National Arts Director in 2014 during the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner presidency, succumbed to a stroke suffered in late April. Football coach Carlos Timoteo Griguol, 86, the historic trainer of Ferro Carril Oeste, River Plate, Rosario Central and Gimnasia Esgrima La Plata died last Thursday from pneumonia triggered by coronavirus. Last but not least, Alcira Argumedo, 80, the 2019 presidential hopeful for the Proyecto Sur party of the also late Fernando “Pino” Solanas (who fancied his chances of a seat in Congress to be better) who failed to clear the PASO primary threshold, died last weekend.
ANOTHER AFA SCANDAL
A group of Argentine female football players have denounced an AFA Argentine Football Association coach to FIFA’s Ethics Committee for sexual harassment via FIFPro (Federación Internacional de Futbolistas Profesionales), demanding his dismissal, with some of his alleged victims as young as 14.