MORE IMF MOOLAH
At press time on Friday, the International Monetary Fund greenlighted another US$5.4 billion, bringing total loans extended to Argentina to date to US$44.1 billion. The same day, Treasury Secretary Nicolás Dujovne announced a fiscal surplus of 30.2 billion pesos in the first six months of 2019, a stark turnaround from a 105.8-billion-peso deficit during the same period last year. The figures even went beyond what the International Monetary Fund expected, 20 billion pesos beyond to be exact. “This is the first time in eight years that the non-financial national public sector has a first semester with a financial surplus,” Dujovne gleefully told reporters. “The Argentine government has consistently demonstrated its commitment to fiscal discipline and has well-exceeded its fiscal targets for March and June,” said acting-IMF chief David Lipton.
ROCKER JAILED FOR SEXUAL ABUSE
Rock star Cristian Aldana, from the band El Otro Yo, was found guilty Friday of sexually abusing teenage girls and sentenced to 22 years in prison. It was an emotional day in court for Aldana´s accusers, present in a Buenos Aires court as the verdict was handed down, the first for sexual assault in the history of Argentine rock music. Aldana not only maintained his innocence throughout the trial, but sought to portray it as a punitive, unfounded persecution. Before the verdict, Aldana appeared in court with a sign reading “Without defence, there is no trial.” Found guilty on four of seven counts, Aldana was accused by seven former fans of seducing them when they were all between the ages of 13 and 18.
The 25th anniversary of the AMIA bombing remains a pervasive political issue, even seeping its way into the 2019 elections. On Wednesday, presidential candidate Alberto Fernández testified before federal judge Claudio Bonadio about past statements regarding his running mate’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner controversial 2013 Memorandum of Understanding with Iran. The following day, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich announced the government would designate Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group and political party long accused of carrying out the 1994 attack, as an official terrorist organisation with intent to carry out attacks in Argentina, a move that will no doubt cheer US President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will attend next week’s remembrance ceremony on Pasteur Street.
LAWYERS, GUNS AND MONEY
Criminal charges just keep coming in Argentina’s largest ever gun-running bust. US federal prosecutors in Florida charged another individual, Cristian Germán Barrera, with attempting to smuggle thousands of AR-15 rifle parts to Argentina. Two others have been charged in the case. US Department of Homeland Security Investigations officials say the probe led to the seizure of 52 AR-15 assault rifles, 189 other long weapons, 156 handguns, 30,000 rounds of ammunition and US$110,000 in cash. Argentine authorities arrested several other suspects.
Mud-slinging between 2019 candidates kept up this week as President Macri´s Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change) launched its campaign on Wednesday. With what is sure to be a frequent line of attack, Macri slammed former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her allies as anti-democratic and isolationist, saying “we’re making a choice about how Argentina should be, if it will be democratic or authoritarian, if it will be open or closed to the world.” Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal portrayed her opponent, Kirchnerite Axel Kicillof, as out-of-touch with the rest of the province. “In these elections, we’re choosing whether we return to the past, even if in the present we’re seeing new faces,” Governor Vidal said.
THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...
Anti-corruption politician and activist Margarita Stolbizer lodged yet another criminal complaint against former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Monday. Stolbizer’s complaint alleges the Kirchner family business El Retorno, a hotel in the affluent southern city of San Carlos de Bariloche, was obtained with money originating from the Kirchner family’s alleged illicit business operations. The hotel was acquired using “funds from [the Kirchners’] illegal activities”, Stolbizer and her lawyer Silvina Martínez allege, in a complaint obtained by Perfil.com. The facility, which closed in 2014, was administered by the accountant Osvaldo ‘Bochi’ Sanfelice.
‘A MINOR EVENT’
Argentina’s Independence Day parade in the capital on Tuesday sadly featured one of the country’s most infamous former military officers, Aldo Rico. Defence Minister Oscar Aguad on Wednesday downplayed Rico’s presence along Libertador Avenue, describing his leadership of a group of rogue officers in a failed 1987 uprising against then-president Raúl Alfonsín as “a minor event” in the country’s history. Rico’s group was known as the Carapintadas, or “painted faces,” in reference to the camouflage they used. His attendance at the event on Tuesday (during which he was applauded) surprised many and prompted a wave of criticism online, where observers questioned why a man who had attempted to oust a democratically-elected government, not for the first time, was allowed to participate in such an event. “The criticisms are of no interest to me”, Rico told Perfil, expressing that his “greatest pride” was having led the Carapintadas in 1987.
PLANES, CLAIMS AND MYSTERY
Guatemala surprisingly backed out of a deal to purchase two Argentine-made Pampa III combat jets this week almost as quickly as Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales made it. After agreeing to the US$28 million deal last week in a state visit, he almost immediately backed out after arriving home. The reason why depends on who you ask: Guatemalan officials said they suspended the deal because it wasn’t approved by the legislature, but there’s another side to the story. The local arm of the NGO Transparency International has called for Morales and his defence minister to be investigated for potential fraud.