Key stories from the last seven days.
ALBERTO’s OFF TO SUNNY, SUNNY, SPAIN
Presidential frontrunner Alberto Fernández spent last week in the Iberian Peninsula where he met the Spanish and Portuguese premiers, Pedro Sánchez and Antonio Costa respectively (both Socialists), addressed Spain’s Congress and huddled with several Spanish business leaders including Banco Santander CEO Ana Botín. The Frente de Todos candidate repeated assurances that Argentina would honour its foreign debt but other statements were more controversial – he questioned Argentine dependence on the US (while shifting implied rejection of the European-Mercosur agreement to the aim of improving it) and opined that there was little point in Argentina developing its oil if the multinationals were going to take it away.
IVANKA DOES JUJUY
Ivanka Trump on Thursday paid a flying visit to the northwestern province of Jujuy, where she breakfasted with Governor Gerardo Morales and Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie, before continuing her regional swing in Paraguay the same afternoon. Amid tight security mobilising some 2,500 members of the security force, she also found time for a brief protocol telephone conversation with President Mauricio Macri, who underlined the importance of ties with the United States. US President Donald Trump’s favourite daughter was here on a twin mission – primarily on behalf of the W-GDP ((Women’s Global Development and Prosperity) Initiative to empower entrepreneurial housewives in low-income households with micro-credits and special training but also the OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation) development assistance organisation, whose CEO David Bohigian accompanying Ivanka Trump announced the approval of US$400 million to finance expansion of the Corredor C Toll Road linking Buenos Aires to Chile via Mendoza. Following her arrival in the Jujuy provincial capital of San Salvador, Ivanka moved on to Purmamarca together with Morales and Faurie where she touched base and lunched with NGOs pursuing the W-GDP aims of gender equality and financial inclusion.
Even before markets opened on Monday, the government had restricted exchange rate freedom by issuing an emergency decree limiting monthly dollar purchases to US$ 10,000, followed by the requirement that grain exporters cash in their export dollars within five days. The currency controls did the trick as far as the dollar was concerned since the greenback closed the week sharply down at 56.01 pesos from 61.50 pesos the previous Friday – but also at the cost of Central Bank reserves sinking from US$ 54 to 51.37 billion while interest rates hit 85 percent. Yet outside markets were favourably impressed – country risk dipped to 2,059 points from over 2,500 the previous Friday.
BLOCKAGES AND DEMANDS
A mass demonstration voicing social grievances (including pressure for a national food emergency) blocked the 9 de Julio thoroughfare entirely, including Metrobus, for almost 24 hours in midweek, remaining all Wednesday night during the cold snap.They lifted their protest the next day with the promise to be back next week.
ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE
A woman visiting her boy-friend being held on attempted murder charges in Florencio Varela penitentiary in Greater Buenos Aires was caught smuggling marijuana-stuffed factura pastries to him.
PICHETTO LET OFF CHAIN
Outgoing Senator Miguel Angel Pichetto, President Mauricio Macri’s running-mate, explosively criticised a Peruvian nurse’s return to Argentina after being deported last February following completion of a four-year prison sentence for drug-trafficking. Pichetto said that Argentina was “sick” for allowing the return of Vanessa Gómez Cueva, also criticising international human rights groups for campaigning for her release. The groups argued that Gómez Cueva had trained as a nurse following her release and could be considered rehabilitated after serving out her full prison term, pleading for her to be allowed to rejoin her children living here. Pichetto’s outbursts were not confined to this case – he also hit out at the social movements blocking the 9 de Julio thoroughfare, accusing them of being a major chunk of Argentina’s bulging public debt as people “who do not work.”
Teachers staged a nationwide strike on Thursday in solidarity with their colleagues in the strife-ridden Patagonian province of Chubut who are only collecting fractions of their pay and whose road blockade in protest was subjected to a violent assault. Friday also saw a Subte shutdown for four hours in the City as part of a row over staffling levels on E-line stations.
REMEMBERING IAHCR VISIT
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) marked the 40th anniversary of its historic visit to Argentina in the midst of the bloody 1976-83 military dictatorship by sending a top-level delegation here yesterday (See Page 14 for a full report of the activites).
JUDGE ORDERS JABS FOR KIDS
In an unprecedented ruling a Mendoza family court judge ordered a married couple to have their two children vaccinated in compliance with the law. In recent years doubts about the safety of vaccination have spread worldwide due to spurious Internet campaigns.
Social leader Juan Grabois, who heads the pro-Kirchnerite CTEP picket grouping, last Wednesday expressed the need for land reform should the Alberto Fernández-Cristina Fernández de Kircher Frente de Todos presidential ticket triumph in next month’s elections (while also pointing out that this was his stance rather than theirs). He criticised both the soy pools of this century and the “Rural Society members” in the past as absentee landlords, insisting that it was “ridiculous” to have “an agrarian country without peasants” when millions of people now huddled in urban slums could be living on the land and proposing a 5,000-hectare cap on land ownership. The latter proposal would imply the expropriation of some 50,000 landholdings, thus prompting alarm in farming sectors and criticisms in government circles.