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ARGENTINA | 20-10-2023 14:54

What we learned this week: October 13 to 20

A selection of the stories – and one story in particular – that caught our eye this week.

 

IN CASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW

Argentina will be holding general elections tomorrow to elect a new president, 130 deputies, 24 senators and three governors among other posts. The five presidential candidates are (in alphabetical order): Myriam Bregman (Frente de Izquierda), Patricia Bullrich (Juntos por el Cambio), Sergio Massa (Unión por la Patria), Javier Milei (La Libertad Avanza) and Juan Schiaretti  (Hacemos por Nuestro País). The eight provinces choosing new senators are Buenos Aires, Formosa, Jujuy, La Rioja, Misiones, San Juan, San Luis and Santa Cruz. Buenos Aires Province is also one of the three provinces holding provincial elections along with Catamarca and Entre Ríos (all other provinces held their elections earlier in the year except for Corrientes and Santiago del Estero whose polls are in 2025). Last but not least, this city will be electing a new mayor among other authorities. 

 

CLOSING RALLIES

The two main coalitions opted for multiple closing rallies last week while libertarian Javier Milei went for a single event (Movistar Arena on Wednesday evening). Economy Minister Sergio Massa opted for a triple closure, the biggest on Peronist Loyalty Day last Tuesday in Arsenal stadium in Sarandí, followed the next day by support for Unión por la Patria City mayoral candidate Leandro Santoro in Luna Park with a nationwide streaming from his bunker the plan for Thursday. Juntos por el Cambio presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich also made a triple play with closing appearances in Belgrano on Monday, Mendoza on Tuesday and Lomas de Zamora on Thursday. Among the other candidates, leftist Myriam Bregman picked the Buenos Aires provincial capital of La Plata for her closing rally while outgoing Córdoba Governor Juan Schiaretti predictably chose his native city. The veda electoral curfew inhibits us from transmitting any of the speeches at these rallies since they were almost totally party propaganda.   

 

SENATOR DIES ON ELECTION EVE

Senator Matías Rodríguez (Frente de Todos-Tierra del Fuego), 41, was found dead in his Ushuaia home last Wednesday. Suicide is suspected with police sources pointing to a gunshot as the cause of death while ruling out any criminal entry but the case is still under investigation. Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Tierra del Fuego Governor Gustavo Melella were among the first to express their grief over the La Cámpora militant’s abrupt end. Tierra del Fuego is not one of the eight provinces electing senators tomorrow. 

 

ALBERTO IN CHINA

President Alberto Fernández announced from China on Wednesday morning an agreement to expand use of the currency swap by US$6.5 billion, following a 40-minute meeting in Beijing with his host colleague Xi Jinping. Fernández praised Chinese generosity, saying that he had asked for US$5 billion and had been given 47 billion yuan or some US$6.5 billion, calling this “a great relief for Argentina, signifying reserves entering the country.” Later that day Fernández concluded his participation in the III Forum of the Belt and Road Initiative, where he hailed China as “a key partner” and greeted Russian President Vladimir Putin. Argentina’s trade gap with China in the first eight months of the year was over US$6 billion, a deficit eased by the currency swaps.

 

SUBSIDY WAIVER

Transport Minister Diego Giuliano on Monday challenged those against bus and train fare subsidies to waive them, announcing the creation of a mechanism for that purpose at a press conference. Those opting against subsidies would have to pay 700 pesos for a bus ride and 1,100 for a train journey, he said, as against under 73 pesos and under 53 pesos respectively in this metropolis at present although fares are higher inland. The minister insisted that these subsidies are not an expense upsetting fiscal balance but a “social investment dynamising” the economy. Opposition presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich criticised the move but Economy Minister Sergio Massa defended his colleague. 

 

CURRENCY CRACKDOWN

Throughout the last week before tomorrow’s general election the government was active to keep a lid on the exchange rate, which had hit four digits earlier in the month. On Tuesday the CNV (Comisión Nacional de Valores or Argentina’s equivalent of the Securities & Exchange Commission) limited the operations in CEDEARs, certificates which may be purchased locally in pesos by foreign companies and which are leading vehicles for CCL (Contado con Liquidación) transactions exchanging between dollars and pesos via bonds. A new norm now requires presentation of a sworn statement prior to a CEDEAR operation as a measure of "extraordinary and transitional character." Then on Thursday the UIF (Unidad de Información Financiera) money-laundering watchdog called for the immediate arrest of Ivo Esteban ‘El Croata’ Rojnica, head of the Nimbus Group financial house, presenting itself as a plaintiff. Rojnica has already been forbidden to leave the country. 

 

CHURCH CALL FOR CONSENSUS

The Argentine Synod’s National Committee for Justice and Peace on Tuesday asked political candidates for “a political, social and economic agreement for governance” in keeping with 40 years of restored democracy, pointing out that “nobody saves themselves on their own.” In a statement possibly aimed at libertarian candidates, the committee said: “There is no true liberty without fraternity, social justice and peace,” calling for a peaceful vote on Sunday. Their open letter, published on social networks and entitled “Voting for Justice and Peace,” defined politics as “the most precious form of charity because it seeks the common good.”

 

CARLOTTO ON HAMAS HOSTAGES

Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo president Estela Barnes de Carlotto on Wednesday expressed solidarity with the mothers of the hostages taken by Hamas to the Gaza Strip by Hamas in their October 7 attack on Israel, saying: “I want to accompany all those mothers who are suffering at this moment because they do not know where their children and families are,” urging them to have faith and hope to face what she called an “infamous war.” Several Argentines are among the missing, causing Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero to be in constant touch with Israeli authorities.

 

RENT LAW UP AND RUNNING

The new rent law, approved by Congress earlier this month, was promulgated last Tuesday via Decree 533/2023, published in the Official Gazette. The reform maintains the duration of contracts as three years but they are now to be updated every six months instead of annually. Rents are to be based on the increase of wages or prices during that period, whichever is lower. Rents in dollars, a practice on the rise in recent months, is now banned, as are property evaluations. Finally, the rental income from up to two properties is exempted from monotributo taxation while landlords may deduct 10 percent of the annual sum of the contract from income tax.

 

OPTIONAL PATERNITY?

Lilia Lemoine, a La Libertad Avanza candidate for Congress, carried the libertarian philosophy to one extreme when she said on Tuesday that her first bill as a deputy would be to make paternity optional for men if trapped into a relationship by a partner’s pregnancy not of their volition.

 

BANDIT FOR SALE

The Bandido 90, the yacht in which former Buenos Aires Province Cabinet chief Martín Insaurralde and the model Sofía Clerici went sailing out of Marbella last month, thus sparking a major scandal, is now for sale for US$4.95 million, as posted by James Edition website last Wednesday. The vessel was described as “in perfect condition for long-distance cruises ... three decks ... steel hull, aluminium structure ... truly notable space ... a garage for an auxiliary boat and toys,” among other selling-points. 

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