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ARGENTINA | 10-06-2022 17:29

Stories that caught our eye: June 5 to 11

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

 

KULFAS DEPARTS CABINET

Former Productive Development minister Matías Kulfas, who formally resigned last Monday after being evicted from the Cabinet over the weekend, stuck to his guns last week, strongly criticising Vice-President Cristina Kirchner for mounting “unfair accusations” against him regarding the Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline. Kulfas accused Energy Department officials linked to Cristina Kirchner of placing obstacles in the way of Vaca Muerta shale. Meanwhile the Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline saga moved into court with federal judge Daniel Rafecas last Monday ordering an investigation of “presumed irregularities” favouring the multinational Techint in the award of the tender for the pipeline tubing. Rafecas summoned the two top officials who have already resigned in connection, Kulfas and former pipeline project manager Antonio Pronsanto, to testify next Monday. Meanwhile Juntos por el Cambio deputies Graciela Ocaña and Waldo Wolf have lodged malfeasance charges against IEASA state energy company Agustín Gerez, holding him responsible for the pipeline’s problems.   

 

ALBERTO IN LA-LA LAND

President Alberto Fernández flew to the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles last week with an extremely brief and cordial encounter with his host, United States President Joe Biden, while Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero took a harsher stance, criticising US sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela. Parallel to the summit, General Motors informed President Fernández of an investment of US$350 million in Argentina, expressing interest in the country’s lithium potential. Meanwhile Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the most important of the eight hemispheric leaders missing this summit, offered to sell to the Argentine government the de-luxe 80-seat Boeing Dreamliner 787-8 he is not using for US$110 million (its original price was US$218 million). Argentina’s budget only allows for US$30 million but AMLO said that he could accept that as an initial quota. 

 

WINDFALL TAX ON WAY?

President Alberto Fernández and  Economy Minister Martín Guzmán on Monday announced that they had sent a windfall tax to Congress to tap extraordinary profits arising from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The levy will impose an extra 15 percent this year on all companies with net profits of at least a billion pesos if they post double-digit profit margins this year or profitability at least 20 percent higher than last year. President Fernández argued that countries like Britain. Italy and the United States were debating similar measures to counter inequality and the concentration of wealth with the new tax redistributing extraordinary profits via the state.

 

PICKETERS CAUSE CHAOS

Downtown traffic was slammed to a halt all Thursday afternoon by a picket protest converging on the Nueve de Julio thoroughfare but causing widespread chaos over a broad radius. The demonstrators were pressing for improved soup kitchen and food plan assistance in the face of accelerating inflation.

 

SINGLE BALLOT BACKED

A united opposition on Wednesday secured lower house approval for a single ballot as already used in Córdoba by a 132-104 vote in the absence of Congress Speaker Sergio Massa (already flying out to the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles). But the bill still needs to clear a Frente de Todos majority in the Senate and faces a possible presidential veto. Only Juntos por el Cambio caucus chief Mario Negri (Radical-Córdoba), stricken with Covid, was missing from opposition ranks. All the nay votes came from Frente de Todos. The opposition criticised the current system for printing a billion ballots, of which only 47 million were used at all levels. Government deputies defended the system as not having distorted electoral results. 

 

SUPREME COURT BILL 

The Senate last Thursday presented a bill with the approval of 16 of Argentina’s 23 governors to expand the Supreme Court to 25 justices, including one for each province.

 

MONTONEROS CASE TO BE PROBED

The Federal Appeals Court last Thursday ordered the investigation into the 1976 bomb attack on the Federal Police canteen causing 24 deaths to be reopened as a crime against humanity after being closed on expiry of the statute of limitations. The attack was blamed at the time on the Montoneros guerrilla organisation and was followed just two days later by the slaughter of the Pallotine priests in Belgrano in apparent retaliation. 

 

MALVINAS FLIGHTS TO RESUME

Malvinas Antarctic and South Atlantic Secretary Guillermo Carmona announced last Tuesday that the flights from Punta Arenas in Chile to the Malvinas via Río Gallegos would be resumed, saying that they had been suspended unilaterally by Britain during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

QUESTIONABLE CULTURAL CENTRE

The far right has moved into the Buenos Aires provincial capital of La Plata in the form of opening the Kyle Rittenhouse cultural centre dedicated to opposing human rights movements and gender diversity in the name of protecting Western and Christian civilisation from a presumed crisis. The controversial anti-Communist cultural central has been predictably criticised by human rights organisations for promoting “denialism of the atrocities committed by the last civic-military dictatorship” but also drew unanimous repudiation from the La Plata municipal council with a centre-right Juntos por el Cambio majority. The new arrivals are accused of defacing Mothers of Plaza de Mayo murals. Kyle Rittenhouse is an Illinois youth who gunned down Black Lives Matter demonstrators in August, 2020, killing two of them, but was acquitted last year with his lawyers pleading "legitimate defence.”

 

ETCHEOLATZ GRANTED HOUSE ARREST 

Former Buenos Aires provincial police deputy Miguel Etchecolatz (93), the recipient of numerous life sentences for crimes against humanity during the 1976-83 military dictatorship, was granted house arrest last Wednesday.

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