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ARGENTINA | 26-01-2024 18:34

Stories that caught our eye: January 19 to 26

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

 

OMNIBUS BILL STILL ON BLINK

The government’s massive omnibus reform bill will not go to the House floor before next Tuesday although it managed to clinch the majority opinion in plenary committee sessions in the small hours of Wednesday. The 55 votes in favour, however, included 34 accompanied by dissent from allied moderate opposition deputies, to whom concessions were made earlier in the week to the tune of reducing the bill’s articles from an original 664 to 523 but this did not head off continually tense negotiations over such issues as pensions and export duties. On Wednesday the government sent a bill to Congress to lower the income tax floor drastically, thus adding some 800,000 tax-payers and improving provincial finances via federal revenue-sharing. 

 

CGT STRIKE

Wednesday’s general strike by the CGT was accompanied by a massive protest rally outside Congress (attended by anything from 40,000 to 600,000 people according to the two sides). To make the latter possible, the transport stoppage was limited to evening hours, which dented the impact of the strike but the time of year during the summer holidays also made for little movement in the city.  

 

UMA PUTS CRIME BACK IN SPOTLIGHT

One crime more than others drew attention last week when the nine-year-old daughter of one of Security Minister Patricia Bullrich’s police bodyguards was killed in Lomas de Zamora last Monday morning in a bid to steal the family car. Eduardo Aguilera’s daughter Umma was fatally wounded in the neck when the assailants fired two shots through the rear window despite the girl’s parents (both police officers) offering no resistance. Bullrich rushed to Churruca Hospital where she said that arrests were "imminent" and at least four arrests (with the second being the suspected killer) duly followed during the week, including two close to press time. The minister expressed "a special interest in putting the Federal Police on the job" while voicing hopes that the Buenos Aires provincial police could "work better preventively."

 

PLANS GIVEN THE CHAINSAW

The Human Capital Ministry announced last weekend that 27,208 Potenciar Trabajo and Potenciar Empleo plans would be suspended after the verification of data had revealed inconsistencies, thus "saving the state the incorrect outlay of two billion pesos." The purged beneficiaries were found to be collecting pensions or unemployment benefits or registered as self-employed among other irregularities. Following an initial crackdown scrapping 4,588 benefits late last year, 159,919 fell in line for similar treatment as from January 8 on the basis of information collected by the previous administration, some of whom had travelled abroad (including over 29,000 boarding flights), thus saving a monthly 12 billion pesos.

 

HEALTH PURGE

Six weeks into the Javier Milei presidency, the government bounced its original choices to head the SSS (Superintendencia de Servicios de Salud) health services watchdog, replacing Enrique Chiantore and Nicolás Striglio (the former linked to Security Minister Patricia Bullrich) with Gabriel Oriolo and Claudio Stivelman, according to Decree 83/2024 as published in the Official Gazette. Oriolo was until now the systems and processes manager of OSDE prepaid health scheme. The ousted officials were reportedly not up to speed with the steep increases in healthcare schemes resulting from the deregulation policies of President Milei and Economy Minister Luis Caputo.

 

LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF PROPERTY

If last year was the 40th anniversary of the return of democracy, 2024 has been decreed "the year of the defence of life, liberty and property," a designation to be used in all official documents of the national government, according to Decree 55/2024 published in the Official Gazette on Tuesday and signed by President Javier Milei and Cabinet Chief Nicolás Posse. The text points to a libertarian refoundation of the country by saying that the government "has proposed reforms in the name of the May Revolution of 1810 with the spirit of restoring the socio-economic order based on the liberal doctrine enshrined in the 1853 Constitution." Further to the first item to be defended, presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni said on Thursday that Milei intended to repeal the legalisation of abortion before the end of his term.

 

MELONI LIONISES MILEI

Looking forward to President Javier Milei’s visit to Rome next month, Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni praised him last Tuesday as "a showman, but also a very serious person." Taking pride in being the first European leader to congratulate Milei on his runoff triumph last November, the Italian premier enthused: "He is surely a fascinating personality … with extraordinary passion." Back in November Milei had issued a communiqué reading: "Argentina is a nation with whom we are linked by profound historical and cultural ties and where the largest community of Italians abroad lives. Rome and Buenos Aires share common values which define our foreign policy actions in the current international context," a reference to the right-wing ideology she shares with Argentina’s new president.

 

OUR MAN IN SANTIAGO

Jorge Faurie, a lifelong diplomat who was the foreign minister of the Mauricio Macri administration between 2017 and 2019, will replace Rafael Bielsa as the Argentine ambassador to Chile, the government confirmed last Tuesday. Until now he has been the protocol chief of the Javier Milei government, a post he also held in the 1989-1999 Carlos Menem Presidency, while his track record includes no less than 11 years as ambassador to Portugal (2002-2013). Meanwhile the ambassadorial appointments of Gerardo Werthein (United States), rabbi Axel Wahnish (Israel), Mariano Caucino (India), Ian Sielecki (France), Daniel Scioli (continuing in Brazil) and Guillermo Nielsen (Paraguay) all await Senate confirmation.

 

SAVING ON SUBE

The Transport Secretariat on Monday reminded the public that as from April 1 there will be no differential fares for passengers not using a duly registered SUBE transport card. As from February a minimum bus fare of 270 pesos is proposed, which would be 121.50 pesos for those qualifying for the tarifa social (pensioners, social welfare recipients, etc.) and 430 pesos for those with no SUBE at all while train tickets start from 130 pesos for registered SUBE holders, doubling in the absence of the card. SUBE cards may be registered via the web page www.argentina.gob.ar/sube or the App SUBE or by going to one of the 56 SUBE attention centres. Registration (which consists of entering the SUBE card number with a four-digit code) also permits recovery in the event of robbery or loss. SUBE cards may now go 307.68 pesos in the red before becoming invalid, i.e. four times the minimum bus fare, which went up to 76.92 from 52.96 pesos in mid-January.

 

CABEZAS ANNIVERSARY

Thursday was the 27th anniversary of the slaying of Noticias magazine news photographer José Luis Cabezas, whose body was found in a burnt-out car outside Pinamar with two bullets through his head after taking unsolicited photographs of postal tycoon Alfredo Yabrán, who committed suicide the following year.

 

PLAZA MOTHER DIES AT 97

A survivor of both Auschwitz and the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, Schejne María Laskier de Rus, more widely known as Sara Rus, an active member of the Madres of Plaza de Mayo, Línea Fundadora, finally died last Wednesday at the advanced age of 97. Two of her pet phrases were "I fight so as not to forget" and "There is no stronger grief than when they take a child away from you" after her nuclear physicist son Daniel (born on July 24, 1950) went missing in 1977. Born in the Polish textile town of Lodz in 1927, she spent World War II under Nazi occupation in slave labour in first a hat and then an aircraft factory and finally at Auschwitz. Arriving in Argentina with her mother and future husband Bernardo Rus in 1948, they were deported to Paraguay as illegal immigrants until her husband’s letter to Eva Perón aroused the pity of the first lady, who arranged their papers. In 2009 Sara was awarded the Azucena Villaflor prize by the national government and declared an illustrious citizen of the City of Buenos Aires the following year. "We never wanted vengeance, only justice," she always said. 

 

CITY HALL OFFICIAL FOUND DEAD

The lifeless body of City Housing Institute chief Carlos Pedrini was found dead at his home in Buenos Aires on Tuesday afternoon, a day after it emerged he had been accused of sexual abuse. Pedrini, 48, was the head of the IVC (Instituto de la Vivienda de la Ciudad) body that forms part of the Buenos Aires City government. The dead man presented signs of having hanged himself with the initial hypothesis of the investigation pointing to suicide. Pedrini was suffering from thyroid cancer and underwent surgery with successful results, but his health had recently declined, local media reported. The City Hall official had been denounced for sexual abuse just a day prior to his death. The allegations concern two women – local media said his niece is one of the complainants and her friend is the other.

 

PHEW WHAT A SCORCHER!

This summer week has seen hotter temperatures in Patagonia than in much of the country with yellow and orange alerts issued. Bariloche started the week with 36.4 °C on Monday morning in its hottest January since 1961.

 

GHOST TOWN GUARDIAN DIES

Pablo Novak, 93, the last inhabitant of Villa Epecuén, the coastal resort which disappeared under seven metres of water in 1985 flooding, died last Monday after serving as custodian of its ruins telling visitors its sad story for almost four decades. Founded in 1921, the resort was receiving 25,000 tourists every summer in the 1970s with 6,000 hotel rooms (five times its population) and 250 shops before the 1985 floods converted it into a ghost town.

 

A SKY-BLUE DEVIL?

Manchester City last Thursday clinched the purchase of striker Claudio “Diablito” Echeverri (18) from River Plate for a reported 12.5 million pounds sterling to play alongside Julián Alvarez in a contract running until 2028 although they will only exercise their option as from next year.

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