Friday, May 24, 2024

ARGENTINA | 12-04-2024 22:07

Stories that caught our eye: April 5 to 12

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



Tuesday night already found President Javier Milei on his way to the United States for his third visit in the four months of his term so far. The following day he was honoured in Miami as an “International Ambassador of Light” by an orthodox Jewish community for his “tireless efforts on behalf of Israel and the global community.” Milei then met up yesterday in Austin with the tycoon Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and Space X, who will reportedly visit Argentina next March to deliver a masterclass in this city on the future of digital technology and artificial intelligence, as well as travelling north to check out the lithium in Salta with the possibility of constructing a “mega-factory” for the strategic metal. On the same day the government gave a wink to Musk in particular and the telecommunications sector in general with Decree 302/2024 freeing the market for Internet, telephones and cable television. Milei was accompanied on his US trip by a reduced delegation including presidential chief-of-staff Karina Milei, Argentine Ambassador to Washington Gerardo Werthein and rabbi Axel Wahnish, the prospective envoy to Israel.



Defence Minister Luis Petri was denounced before the United Nations on Monday by City Unión por la Patria legislator Victoria Montenegro for having ordered the unit investigating the crimes committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship to be dismantled. According to a government human rights official, 10 of the 13 researchers in ERyA (the abbreviated acronym of Equipos de Relevamiento y Análisis Documental de la Dirección Nacional de Derechos Humanos y Derecho Internacional Humanitario) were fired just before Easter. “The construction of a collective memory is essential in order to prevent crimes against humanity from being repeated,” insisted Montenegro, a daughter of missing parents. Apart from 17 ongoing trials, the identities of over 300 babies abducted and forcibly adopted during the dictatorship have yet to be restored. 



La Libertad Avanza Alberto ‘Bertie’ Benegas Lynch provoked a storm of criticism last weekend when he said that he did not believe in compulsory education as contradictory with liberty and a state invasion of family life. He also implied a defence of child labour when he said that a son could be more useful working alongside his father in a workshop instead of the “luxury” of being sent to school or university. These controversial statements were criticised across the political spectrum with former Culture minister Pablo Avelluto during the Mauricio Macri presidency deploring “the liberty to be ignorant” and pointing out that his father had to work from the age of eight while more than one critic reminded the deputy that he was rolling back the clock 140 years since free compulsory education dates back to Ley 1420 in 1884. Even within government ranks, Human Capital Minister Sandra Pettovello distanced herself from the “false solutions” of Benegas Lynch, commenting that “compulsory education was proposed in the context of humanist liberal thinking precisely in order to promote the freedom of children from adult tutelage” while admitting that it had often been perverted into indoctrination. On Monday the government announced via Decree 90/2024 that registration for its educational vouchers for the school of parental choice would be open until the end of this month for all families earning less than seven minimum wages.



This city was paralysed on Thursday by an almost total bus strike over wage differences which had been settled by the evening, ensuring buses for the next day. But hardly was one dispute settled when at almost the same time the CGT labour umbrella confirmed a general strike for May 9.



The government on Wednesday confirmed that its income tax bill (a bone of contention with many governors) would seek a floor of 1.8 million pesos for single workers and 2.3 million for those married with two children. A floor of 1.2 million pesos had originally been sought. Various previous deductions, including for overtime and midyear and Christmas bonuses, are to be eliminated.



Economy Minister Luis Caputo has absorbed the bulk of the now defunct Infrastructure Ministry into his portfolio, overhauling it in the process via Decree 293/2024 published in the Official Gazette last Monday in the Official Gazette. The departments of Housing, Public Works, Transport and Operating Concessions will now move into his orbit. At the same time Agriculture Secretary Fernando Vilella now finds his department renamed Bioeconomy with the number of its undersecretaries chopped from seven to four. On the same day Caputo accused prepaid health plans of “declaring war on the middle class” by more than doubling their fees already this year in order to compensate for the controls and freezes of previous years, vowing that the government would do “everything in its power to defend the middle class” (even if it was the same government which freed the market early in the Javier Milei libertarian presidency).




The Economy Ministry last Monday freed various products from the obligation to pass through the Customs “red channel” as part of its drive to lower prices. This move reducing costs and delays applies to 36 percent of the imports sent to that channel, representing around seven percent of all the merchandise entering Argentina. Textiles, footwear and domestic appliances will be among the main beneficiaries of this move which “seeks to eliminate a barrier to imports established by the previous Economy Ministry (under Sergio Massa),” according to the government.



The government has been retroactively upping electricity bills for Edesur and Edenor clients in the AMBA Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area as from February without official notification, it emerged last Tuesday. The irregularity could result in lawsuits.



Federal judge Julián Ercolini on Tuesday slapped a general injunction on the assets of ex-president Alberto Fernández in the case investigating the fraudulent allocation of state insurance contracts, as well as ruling that Javier Milei’s predecessor had forfeited his right to fiscal secrecy. Judge Ercolini applied similar treatment to other defendants. The corruption scandal centres on Decree 823/2021, which obliged all state agencies to contract their insurance exclusively from the company Nación Seguros SA, which paid out 3.4 billion pesos in commissions to a tiny circle including the broker Héctor Martínez Sosa, the husband of the ex-president’s secretary.



The new 10,000-peso and 20,000-peso banknotes will already be circulating next month, the Central Bank informed on Wednesday.



Justice Minister Mariano Cúneo Liberona on Thursday launched a programme to use “the new paradigms” of artificial intelligence in the judicial system.



With the 2024 Buenos Aires International Book Fair now only 10 days away, Argentine writer Selva Almada, who is also a Perfil columnist, has been shortlisted for the Book Prize, the fourth time in the last five years an Argentine has been nominated for the prestigious award.



Anglo-Argentine community stalwart Eric Campbell, president of the now defunct English Club when it celebrated its centenary in 1998, passed away recently in the British Hospital. More details were not available in time for this edition but a fuller obituary will be published in due course. 

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