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ARGENTINA | 08-07-2022 09:51

Stories that caught our eye: July 1 to 8

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

 

GUZMÁN WALKS, BATAKIS COMES IN

Economy Minister Martín Guzmán resigned on Saturday with his replacement Silvina Batakis (replacement Provinces Secretary at the Interior Ministry) announced on Sunday after various names came and went before swearing into office on Monday. Later that day President Alberto Fernández and Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner dined together at Olivos presidential residence, their first encounter in over a month, but failed to make any progress towards a broader overhaul of the Frente de Todos administration, centring on Congress Speaker Sergio Massa as the new Cabinet chief. Their relations have been tense ever since the government’s midterm defeat last month.

 

IMMEDIATE CRACKDOWN ON TOURISM

Soon after the new Economy Minister Silvina Batakis questioned the use of dollars to finance tourism, the Central Bank quickly moved on Thursday to prohibit duty-free dollar purchases in installments. Tourist packages had already been subjected to similar restrictions late last year while door-to-door purchases of products from abroad were added last Monday, all restrictions confirmed last Thursday. Despite these restrictions the Central Bank has been obliged to sell off hundreds of millions of dollars so far this month. Batakis hit out at tourist dollar spending by affirming: “The right to travel collides with the right to a job.”

 

PICKETERS MAKE THEMSELVES HEARD

Pickets clustered around the Obelisk last Thursday to press for a meeting with the new Economy Minister Silvina Batakis on income policy along with a request for the expansion of the Potenciar Trabajo job creation scheme, making it universal.  The request was accompanied by criticisms of Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for her recent expressions of hostility towards social organisations with a promise of further downtown disruption next Thursday. Polo Obrero leader Eduardo Belliboni blasted Batakis as the  “continuation” of the economic and social policies of her predecessor Martín Guzmán, pointing to her renewed commitment to the agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
 

THE WEEK IN CORRUPTION…

The Federal Criminal Cassation Court on Wednesday confirmed house rrest for Kirchnerite tycoon Lázaro Báez, rejecting a defence appeal for his release. The court pointed out that quite apart from his conviction for money-laundering, he had a concomitant prison sentence of 12 years in the case of public works graft even though that conviction has not been confirmed with Báez being transferred to house arrest upon expiry of the statute of limitations. The judges also stressed that Báez had the economic means to leave the country. Judge Mariano Borinsky voted against the decision as a “judicial excess.” The construction magnate has been detained for the last six years.

 

ILLEGAL ESPIONAGE CASE

The Federal Criminal Cassation Court (consisting of judges Gustavo Hornos, Mariano Borinsky and Javier Carbajo) on Tuesday ruled against Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s accusation of an illicit association as behind illegal espionage under the Mauricio Macri administration without dismissing evidence of snooping on her Instituto Patria think tank and even City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta among others.

 

ISLAND BAN

The Falkland Island Government on the Islas Malvinas has prohibited entry into the South Sandwich Islands (a remote South Atlantic archipelago also claimed by Argentina) in order to protect its ecosystems and wildlife. A zone of over 3,800 square kilometres also including territorial waters thus becomes a no-go area. The environmental protection order was signed by outgoing governor Nigel Philips.

 

FAREWELL CACHO

Iconic radio announcer Jorge 'Cacho' Fontana (whose real name was Norberto Palese) died last Tuesday at the age of 90, only one day after his ex-wife Liliana Caldini (70).   

 

FRIENDS WILL BE FRIENDS

Mariano Hormaechea, the mayor of Goya in Corrientes, was harshly criticised in the social networks when he announced a bonus of 6,000 pesos for municipal employees to celebrate Friendship Day coming up on July 20. Hormaechea defended his decision as a disguised wage supplement boosting the local economy of the province’s second-largest city.

 

BOCA AND RIVER, PLENTY OF NOTHING

A tense week on the economic and political fronts also proved disastrous in the sports arena with the country’s two most popular teams, Boca Juniors and River Plate, knocked out of the Libertadores Cup by São Paulo’s Corinthians and Vélez Sársfield respectively. The trauma was worse for Boca who lost their coach Sebastián Battaglia, at odds with club vice-president and idol Román Riquelme, in the process. Ricardo Gareca, currently the coach of Peru who failed to make it to the Qatar World Cup, is the favourite to replace Battaglia but Aldovisi coach Martín Palermo, the top-scoring striker in Boca history, is also tipped. 

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