Tuesday, February 20, 2024

ARGENTINA | 11-09-2021 15:22

What we learned this week: September 4 to 11

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



Argentina reached 113,282 deaths and 5,221,809 confirmed cases of coronavirus contagion by press time yesterday as against 112,356 deaths and 5,199,919 cases the previous Friday. Last weekend Mendoza’s Francisco Gabrielli airport was cleared for the entry of passengers from abroad with the daily entrance cap nationwide raised from 1,700 to 2,300. On Monday the government defined its digital vaccination credential Mi Argentina for international use as a health passport by those travelling abroad. On Wednesday the first 100,620 doses of Pfizer vaccine arrived in Argentina aboard Flight AA991 of American Airlines, to be greeted by Health Minister Carla Vizzotti who spoke of a third dose for health workers starting in November. The Leloir Institute announced promising results from tests with rats for Argentina’s own vaccine CoroVaxG.3. On Thursday both this city and La Pampa topped half their populations inoculated with a double dose of vaccine against Covid-19.



Ahead of tomorrow’s PASO primary voting the various candidates gradually went closing their campaigns during the week starting with libertarian Javier Milei on Monday (his Buenos Aires Province partner José Luis Espert did so on Wednesday with a motorcade outside Olivos presidential residence). Frente de Todos closed its campaign for Buenos Aires Province (which it considers by far the most important) in Mar del Plata with criticisms of the opposition more than proposals. Also midweek closures for Juntos por el Cambio standard bearer María Eugenia Vidal (on her 48th birthday) in this city and Radical hopeful Facundo Manes in Buenos Aires Province with criticisms of the government. The remaining contenders closed their campaigns on Thursday, including Diego Santilli, the mainstream opposition candidate in Buenos Aires Province – all other rallies were overshadowed by the national closure of the Frente de Todos campaign, dominated by a fiery hour-long speech from Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. 

Starlet and Congress hopeful Cinthia Fernández (no known relationship to either the President or Vice-President) on Wednesday added further spice to a campaign already enlivened by the leading Buenos Aires Province Frente de Todos candidate Victoria Tolosa Paz boasting about Peronist sexual activity being more prolific – her campaign for the Unite ticket in this City took the form of singing Tita Merello’s tango classic ‘Se dice de mí’ in front of Congress while dancing in scanty underwear. Those shocked by the image can be thankful that at least she had some underwear – a decade ago she caused a television scandal in the Marcelo Tinelli programme Bailando para un sueño by parting company with the bottom half of her bikini, displaying her pudenda, while much more recently she uploaded onto the social networks a nude photo of herself with the caption: “What is more serious? Seeing me without clothes or these politicians taking away your clothes?” Fernández is campaigning on feminist issues with a special emphasis on alimony.


With the signature of AFIP chief Mercedes Marcó Del Pont, the tax bureau has dropped all charges against businessmen Cristóbal López and Fabián De Sousa for tax evasion to the tune of eight billion pesos on the part of their firm Oil Combustibles on the grounds that they were victims of "political persecution" and "abuse of authority" by the 2015-9 Mauricio Macri presidency. Former AFIP chief Ricardo Echegaray also stands to gain from his successor’s decision. De Sousa commented that now it is Macri who should be facing charges. Meanwhile the Civic Coalition wing of the Juntos por el Cambio opposition coalition said that it would denounce President Alberto Fernández for being a "lobbyist" of López and De Sousa, both reportedly former legal clients of the president (who refuses to divulge the list) as well as advisor of the Grupo Indalo belonging to López.



Last Thursday’s return of football spectators for the World Cup qualifier against Bolivia in River Plate’s Monumental stadium was a success with Argentina winning 3-0 thanks to a Lionel Messi hat-trick but the same cannot be said for last weekend’s continental derby against Brazil – the match that never was, or only for five minutes before Brazilian health inspectors invaded the Corinthians pitch in São Paulo to demand the withdrawal of three Premier League players in the Argentine squad violating Brazilian quarantine norms. The controversial suspension predictably led to a massive uproar and a major sporting scandal extending beyond this continent.



Uruguay shook up Mercosur on Tuesday when President Luis Lacalle Pou announced that his country would be going ahead with the negotiation of a free=trade agreement with China with or without the rest of the trade bloc.


The “blue” parallel dollar closed last week at 185 pesos, up from 182 pesos the previous week but down from a midweek peak of 187 pesos – a volatility typical of a pre-electoral week. The official exchange rate inched up from 103 to 103.25 pesos, as quoted by Banco Nación), or 170.36 pesos with the 65 percent surcharges for authorised purchases. But the Central Bank has had to sell over US$750 million of reserves so far this month to hold the greenback down. The CCL (contado con liquidación) and MEP (Mercado electrónico de pagos) parallel but legal exchange rates both retreated from 172.43 to 170.65 pesos and from 172.1O to 170.78 pesos respectively. Country risk, which had been falling in the last two weeks, also proved sensitive to pre-electoral volatility, closing yesterday in a range between 1,520 and 15,28 points as against 1,493 points the previous Friday.


President Alberto Fernández is off to a worse start on the price front than any of his predecessors in this century with an inflation of 87.4 percent in the first 21 months of his administration as against 47.5 percent for Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (now his vice-president) and 67.1 percent for Mauricio Macri in the same period, the Fundación Libertad y Progreso think tank reported on Wednesday. The data for CFK’s time in office are based on independent consultants since the official figures of INDEC statistics bureau were already notoriously fiddled in that period (2007-2009). Pointing out that the 2021 Budget estimate of 29 percent had already been overtaken in July, the report also highlighted that while inflation is falling between months, it continues to rise as an annual figure since that is measured against the 36.1 percent of 2020 when pandemic restrictions froze the economy. The Foundation also stressed that the key “food and beverages” item is rising above the general average. 


Protected witness Carlos Argüelles, 46, who had been the right-hand man of drug ring leader Esteban Alvarado against whom he ended up testifying, was gunned down in front of his wife and children at his service station in Rosario last Monday. At least 10 people have been murdered in Rosario so far this month.



Father Nicolás Parma was sentenced last Wednesday to 17 years in prison after being found guilty of the sexual abuse of two seminarians in the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz, two months after the founder of his congregation had been sentenced for the same offence in Salta.

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