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ARGENTINA | 10-02-2023 13:04

Stories that caught our eye: February 3 to 10

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



Last Monday the Dolores court sentenced to life imprisonment five of the eight youths accused of bashing law student Fernando Báez Sosa to death in Villa Gesell in the summer of 2020 while handing out 15-year sentences to the other three. The sentences are to be served in maximum security prisons. Both sides will appeal with the defence calling for lighter sentences and the prosecution demanding life imprisonment for all eight defendants. On the fringes of the trial Fernando Burlando, the lawyer for the plaintiff parents of the victim, took advantage of the intense publicity given to this case to confirm his Buenos Aires Province gubernatorial candidacy on Thursday.



Amid a new crime wave Santa Fe Governor Omar Perotti decided on Wednesday to fire Security Minister  Rubén Rimoldi, replacing him with Claudio Brilloni, a retired Border Guard commander who has been Public Security secretary for the past year. The purge was triggered by a blaze of gunfire against a Rosario municipal centre and the slaying of a well-known street artist with Rosario Mayor Pablo Javkin calling for "5,000 policemen trained to fight drug-trafficking now." Rimoldi was Perotti’s third Security minister since the governor took office in December, 2019.



An Argentine mission of 32 rescue workers, doctors and technical experts headed out to Turkey and Syria on Thursday night following Monday’s monster earthquake (7.8 on the Richter scale) which left at least  20,000 people dead, the Foreign Ministry announced. The rescue team will remain in the disaster area for at least 10 days with the hopes of finding survivors trapped in the rubble fading amid a bitterly cold winter.



The International Monetary Fund (IMF) sent out an advance mission last week within the framework of its fourth quarterly review of the refinancing agreement reached early last year, prior to a fresh remittance of US$5.4 billion. The mission, which will be crunching the numbers of the last quarter of 2022 when the objectives defined for that period were apparently met, will be followed by a return visit of Argentine authorities to Washington towards the end of the month. The IMF officials in town were set to meet up with the team of Economy Minister Sergio Massa although not necessarily the minister himself. This year’s targets include reducing the fiscal deficit from the current 2.5 percent of gross domestic product to 1.9 percent and ending this year with US$9.8 billion more in Central Bank reserves than at the end of 2021, an objective complicated by the drought.



Piqueteros have returned to the warpath, staging their first major nationwide protest of 2023 last Tuesday amid intense heat to protest the suspension of 154,441 Potenciar Trabajo plans. The protest was organised by the leftist pickets, who criticised the passivity of pro-government social organisations.



Instead of the usual annual increase of private school fees at the start of the scholastic year next month, Economy Minister Sergio Massa has moved to dilute the inflationary impact by limiting the March increase to 16.38 percent with monthly increases of 3.5 percent between April and June and four percent in July, negotiating an agreement to that effect (accompanied by the promise of more subsidies) with representatives of the sector last Tuesday. In another educational development, the Buenos Aires provincial government is moving to eliminate any repetition of secondary school years.



With his Cabinet Chief Juan Manzur poised to resign later this month to return to the political fray in his native Tucumán, President Alberto Fernández finally acceded to party pressures for an electoral panel of the collective Peronist leadership to convene on February 16. Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is not expected to attend but will send representatives.



According to the Mendoza provincial government, the 4,477 hectares in the Malargüe area ceded to the Mapuche community Lof Limay Kuref by Resolution 47/2023 published in the Official Gazette enclose dozens of wells of unconventional oil in the Vaca Muerta shale formation, including some of its first explorations. Mendoza Radical Governor Rodolfo Suarez accuses the national government of having the “political intention” of “harming” his province in thus jeopardising the multi-million YPF investments in the exploration and production of oil.



Former Catamarca Peronist governor Ramón Eduardo Saadi died in the small hours of Wednesday, just two days after turning 74. Heir of a political dynasty, Saadi ran the province between 1983 and 1991 except for the last eight months of the life of his father Vicente Leónides Saadi, succeeding him upon his death in mid-1988. But the scandalous 1990 murder of the teenager María Soledad Morales by youthful friends of his family and the ensuing marches of silence proved his undoing, leading to the province being placed under federal trusteeship in 1991. Saadi made three unsuccessful bids to return to the provincial helm (in 1991, 1995 and 1999) but was able to continue his political career in Congress in the next two decades as a two-term deputy (1991-1995 and 1999-2003) and senator (2003-9 following a previous 1987-8 term).



The Skyvan PA-51 used on December 12, 1977 for a death flight tossing three Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, the French nuns Alice Domon and Léonie Duquet and seven other prisoners into the sea was located in Arizona last month by the pilot Enrique Piñeyro and there are now plans to repatríate it to Argentina before Memory Day (the March 24 anniversary of the 1976 coup) for exhibition in the former ESMA Naval Mechanics School concentration camp. The aircraft, one of five Skyvans purchased by the Coast Guard in 1971 (two were destroyed in the 1982 South Atlantic war), is now used for parachute training. It was identified by the original serial number still on the chassis. The three Mothers included the organisation’s co-founder Azucena Villaflor. The remains of only five of the 12 victims, including all three Mothers and Duquet, have been found.



Some 150 leftist militants last weekend concluded their "Federal March for National Sovereignty" against the Patagonian Lago Escondido ranch owned by British billionaire Joe Lewis claiming "mission accomplished” and proclaiming themselves "true heroes" following several days of tension including violent clashes with locals. Some of the militants had threatened a hunger strike after reportedly running short of food.



A yellow alert was issued throughout the first half of last week for more than half the country (including this city and the surrounding province) due to extreme temperatures topping 38 degrees. The inland provinces  included in the alert were Neuquén, Formosa, Córdoba, La Rioja, San Juan, Río Negro, Chubut, Mendoza, San Luis and La Pampa with storm warnings issued for the latter three.



The highest peak in the Americas claimed its first victim of the year last weekend when Moi Oystein, a 62-year-old Norwegian mountaineer suffered a fatal heart attack when less than 1,000 metres short of the summit of Aconcagua (6,962 metres). He was quickly followed the next day by the United States Army veteran and real estate businessman John Michael Magness, 58, whose health failed him even closer to the summit. On Wednesday there was another American fatality – Ayn Vincent Day, aged only 39. All three deaths were apparently cases of extreme altitude sickness. The bodies were recovered for the corresponding autopsy. Aconcagua only returned to normal mountaineering activity last month following the coronavirus pandemic.



Banco Nación President Silvina Batakis (briefly Economy minister last year) has proposed minting a 10,000-peso banknote with the image of World Cup superstar Lionel Messi on both front and back.



Boca Juniors football club have protested a City court decision to close down a Bombonera stand for having been overcrowded in last weekend’s match against Atlético Tucumán as "unfair, discriminatory and untimely." 



Former AFIP tax bureau chief Ricardo Echegaray and former Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido, along with half a dozen other defendants, will stand trial on March 8 for the suitcase containing almost US$800,000 smuggled into Argentina by Venezuelan businessman Guido Antonini Wilson in 2007 after a court on Wednesday knocked back Echegaray’s request for the case to be dismissed on the grounds of the statute of limitations. The case revolves around the dollar-laden suitcase coming directly from late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for the illegal funding of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s eventually successful presidential campaign.

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