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ARGENTINA | 07-07-2023 12:44

Stories that caught our eye: July 1 to 8

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

 

SAN JUAN UPSET ENDS 20 YEARS OF PERONIST RULE

The opposition broke the Peronist domination of inland provinces last Sunday with the triumph of Radical deputy Marcelo Orrego in San Juan, thus ending 20 years of Peronist rule. City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta raced west the same night to celebrate the triumph of his ally in Juntos por el Cambio primary competition. Orrego took 49.35 percent of the vote while his three primary rivals carried the Juntos por el Cambio total up to 51.15 percent. Presumed Peronist frontrunner Rubén Uñac (replacing his brother, outgoing governor Sergio Uñac, whose re-election bid had been nixed by the Supreme Court) could not even win the Peronist primary, being trounced by ex-governor José Luis Gioja and mustering barely 17 percent out of a San Juan por Todos total of 44.26 percent. The libertarians (Frente Desarrollo y Libertad) flopped yet again with 3.78 percent of the vote for its three hopefuls while the leftist Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores-Unidad fared even worse with 0.79 percent. Turnout was just over 70 percent in purely gubernatorial voting since the legislative and municipal levels had already been defined last May 14.

 

IMF (IN MASSA’S FOREFRONT)

Deputy Economy Minister Gabriel Rubinstein and Ministry chief advisor Leonardo Madcur travelled to Washington last Monday for talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) following a payment to the IMF of US$2.7 billion at the other end of the weekend which the IMF has pledged to remit by the end of the month. The Economy Ministry continues to express optimism but no new developments were reported at press time.

 

DISPUTES AT MERCOSUR SUMMIT

The Mercosur Summit last Tuesday at the Iguazú waterfalls (where the frontiers of three of its four members – Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay – converge) ended on a frustrating note with the trade bloc split over Venezuela while Uruguay continues to talk about going its own way.  Paraguay and Uruguay both questioned the democratic nature of the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela while Argentina and Brazil take a more benevolent view. Brazil now takes over the pro-tempore presidency of Mercosur for the second half of this year.

 

PICKET PROTESTERS BLOCK STREETS

As from Tuesday members of social organisations were camping out in the city’s main thoroughfare of Avenida 9 de Julio in an indefinite protest outside the Social Development Ministry pushing for more generous welfare benefits. Downtown traffic was correspondingly chaotic, not helped by subway strikes in midweek. The pickets, who included a strong contingent led by Trotskyist Eduardo Belliboni, expressed harsh views of Economy Minister Sergio Massa, the government’s official “unity”  presidential candidate. The protests were not limited to downtown in the capital but extended to cities like Mar del Plata and Bahía Blanca, as well as several inland provinces. 

 

JUJUY STAYS ON BOIL

More than a fortnight after the riots against Jujuy’s constitutional reform, protests continue with 11 blockades maintained across the northern province. Provincial Security Minister Guillermo Corro reported that over 150 people had been indicted for causing damage totalling over one billion pesos, of whom five have already been convicted with fines ranging between 500,000 and two million pesos. At the end of last month national Justice Minister Martin Soria asked the Supreme Court to declare the provincial constitutional reform unconstitutional as restricting the right to protest. Outgoing Radical governor and vice-presidential hopeful Gerardo Morales accused the national government of trying to distract attention from the political scandal in Chaco.

 

FINAL CÓRDOBA VOTE FIGURES

Last Wednesday the provincial electoral court of Córdoba issued the official results of the June 25 provincial elections (disputed for several days by runner-up Senator Luis Juez), confirming Martín Llaryora of the Peronist Hacemos Unidos por Córdoba list as governor-elect by a margin of 3.3 percent (64,394 votes). The ruling party and the opposition Juntos por el Cambio will each have 33 seats in the new legislature with three seats for the Kirchnerite Creo en Córdoba de Todos and one each for the libertarians and the far left. Last Thursday the province celebrated the 450th anniversary of its foundation by Jerónimo Cabrera in 1573.       

 

ZELENSKYY SNUBBED?

The government has rejected the appeals of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for stronger Argentine support for his country, as expressed in a Wednesday Zoom with University of Buenos Aires (UBA) students, with presidential spokesman Gabriela Cerruti saying that “the president [Alberto Fernández] has condemned the Russian invasion every time he could.”

 

DECLARATION OF ENERGY INDEPENDENCE

Independence Day tomorrow will also include the inauguration of the Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline connecting the Vaca Muerta shale deposits to Buenos Aires Province in a ceremony to be reportedly attended by President Alberto Fernández, Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Economy Minister Sergio Massa, among others. The latter will reportedly be given pride of place in the ceremony as the government’s official presidential candidate. On Thursday at a campaign rally in Catamarca President Fernández praised Massa as “the future which Argentines deserve.”

 

LNG BILL IN CONGRESS

The bill to promote the production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) was presented to Congress on Tuesday afternoon by YPF president Pablo González. The bill seeks to provide a legal framework to reassure foreign companies pledging investments of some US$10 billion.

 

HOUSE ARREST CHALLENGED

The Federal Cassation Court has decided to review the house arrest of former intelligence agent Patricio Finnen, who is being tried not only for crimes against humanity during the 1976-1983 dictatorship but also complicity in the 1994 terrorist car-bomb destruction of the AMIA Jewish community centre. Finnen was arrested last year on charges of activities at the Automotores Orletti clandestine concentration camp during the dictatorship, specifically accused of nine homicides, three cases of baby-snatching and the torture of 29 political prisoners, as well as being involved in 112 homicides and 80 cases of torture. Finnen continued working in SIDE intelligence after the dictatorship, which is how he comes to be accused of covering up the AMIA attack.

 

DIBU DOES DHAKA

Mobbed by local fans, Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano ‘Dibu’ Martínez, a co-hero of Argentina’s World Cup triumph in Qatar last December, visited Bangladesh last Monday for a series of promotional and protocol events. The Aston Villa goalkeeper, awarded the Golden Glove by FIFA for his World Cup prowess, also met with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and compared notes with local cricket legend Mashrafe Mortaza, now an MP. The South Asian nation followed Argentina’s World Cup progress intensely via thousands of Bangladeshis working in Qatar. Last February the Argentine government reopened its Embassy in Dhaka after more than 40 years in a ceremony attended by Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero.

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