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ARGENTINA | 23-01-2021 09:26

What we learned this week: January 16 to 23

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

 

THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS

There were 1,853,830 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 46,575 deaths at press time yesterday as against 1,783,047 cases and 45,227 deaths the previous Friday. One of those fatalities was Juan Carlos Copes, 89 – the veteran tango performer who spread the fame of the dance worldwide – during last weekend. On Tuesday Health Minister Ginés González García said that the government’s vaccination plan was proceeding according to schedule with 51 million doses of vaccine against coronavirus already ensured. On the same day Andreani won the tender for the distribution of vaccines against competing bids from the Post Office and Kirchnerite tycoon Cristóbal López, signing a contract for 437.5 million pesos. Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof received his second Sputnik jab on Wednesday, followed by President Alberto Fernández having his first the next day after the ANMAT health authority cleared vaccination for those aged over 60. On Thursday City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta confirmed yet again that school classes would be commencing in his district on February 17, despite the opposition of teacher unions. 

 

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN FORMOSA

Two Formosa municipal councillors denouncing “overcrowding,” inhuman treatment and torture in local isolation centres for confirmed and suspected Covid-19 cases were arrested on Thursday and have called for the intervention of the national Human Rights Secretary. Gabriela Neme and Celeste Ruiz Díaz hold Peronist Governor Gildo Insfrán and his Government (Interior) Minister Jorge Abel González directly responsible for the human rights violations documented by a video from within the installations. Various human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, have expressed their support. "Today (yesterday) Education Minister Nicolás Trotta has come to talk about education and our schools are detention centres," complained Neme after she and Ruiz Díaz were detained for several hours accused of instigation, defying authority and violating quarantine before being released late Thursday. Ruiz Díaz said that their crime had been to oppose Insfrán. Neme, a trained lawyer, especially deplored the fact that not all the people forced into these centres had tested positive for Covid-19 with no benefit of the doubt extended. Civic Coalition leader Elisa Carrió considers the human rights violations serious enough to place Formosa under federal trusteeship, as well as taking the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH, in its Spanish acronym).

 

ALL CHANGE AT YPF

YPF president Guillermo Nielsen in midweek confirmed rumours from earlier in the week that he would be resigning with Pablo González, Santa Cruz Governor Alicia Kirchner’s lieutenant-governor in her first term and a Frente de Todos deputy since 2019, set to replace him. The latter is identified with Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner whereas Nielsen was personally recruited by President Alberto Fernández. YPF is in the midst of rescheduling its entire debt of some US$6.2 billion.

 

SAN JUAN QUAKE

An earthquake measuring 6.4 degrees on the Richter scale shook San Juan on Tuesday, just four days after the anniversary of the monster earthquake which killed some 10,000 people 77 Januarys ago and famously brought Juan and Eva Perón together for the first time at a charity relief event in Luna Park (exactly 77 years ago yesterday). President Alberto Fernández (who was nearby heading a conference of 10 northern governors in the La Rioja town of Chilecito) flew to the disaster zone and promised aid for the reconstruction of destroyed buildings. Meanwhile in Chilecito the northern governors unanimously asked President Fernández to skip the PASO primaries this year.

 

NISMAN REMEMBERED

The sixth anniversary of the death of special AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman last Monday was a subdued affair owing to the coronavirus pandemic with around 100 demonstrators (including two prominent PRO politicians, Patricia Bullrich, who chairs the opposition party, and deputy Waldo Wolff) demanding justice near the central courthouse while respecting social distancing.

 

PRIMARY FISCAL DEFICIT: 6.5%

Last year closed with a primary fiscal deficit of 6.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product, the highest so far this century thanks in large measure to the coronavirus pandemic, Economy Minister Martín Guzmán announced on Wednesday, adding that it would be shooting for 4.5 percent this year. 

 

MARKET WATCH

The parallel “blue” dollar dropped three pesos down from the previous Friday for the second week running to close at 156 pesos as against an official exchange rate of 91.75 pesos (plus a 65 percent surcharge for purchases by savers), according to Banco Nación. The unofficial but legal CCL and MEP exchange rates closed the week at 148.80 and 145.88 pesos respectively as against 146.29 and 145.39 pesos the previous Friday. But country risk dipped to close yesterday at 1,432 points as against 1,461 points the previous Friday.   

 

BULLRICH SALUTE

A video of former security minister Patricia Bullrich, who now chairs PRO centre-right party, being saluted by half-a-dozen policemen while presenting her latest book, Guerra sin cuartel, in the Atlantic resort of Villa Gesell has caused a minor uproar. Interviewed by the La Nación newspaper, Bullrich ruled out ex-president Mauricio Macri from the opposition lists of candidates for this year’s midterms on the grounds that a former president should not descend to deputy, while giving details of her meeting last weekend with Civic Coalition leader Elisa Carrió. 

 

MILAGRO SALA MARCH

Argentina’s social organisations marched downtown and in Jujuy last weekend calling for the release of Jujuy Túpac Amaru social activist Milagro Sala, 56, on the fifth anniversary of her arrest on various charges which the demonstrators attributed to "political persecution," dismissing the judicial system as "the rubbish-heap of democracy." Since late 2017 Sala has been serving house arrest after appealing to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The charges centre on the fraudulent misallocation of low-income housing funds between 2011 and 2015 but also include various counts of social violence. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on her appeal. 

 

PAMPURO PASSES AWAY

Former defence minister José Pampuro, 71, died on Thursday. Early in this century Pampuro was a key figure in steering the support of Buenos Aires Province Peronists away from 2002-2003 caretaker president Eduardo Duhalde towards his successor Néstor Kirchner.

 

DINO DISCOVERY

Scientists have unearthed massive, 98-million-year-old fossils in Neuquén they say may have belonged to the largest dinosaur ever discovered. The fossils belonged to a giant sauropod, the largest terrestrial creature ever to have lived. The massive fossils were discovered in 2012 but excavation work only began in 2015. 

 

LGBTQ+ ARTWORKS

The government has earmarked four million pesos for the purchase of the works produced by homosexual and transgender artists, Resolution 25/2021 published last Tuesday in the Official Gazette by Culture Minister Tristán Bauer announces. The four million pesos will take the form of eight prizes of half a million pesos each.

 

– TIMES/AGENCIES

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