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ARGENTINA | 14-06-2024 11:54

Stories that caught our eye: June 7 to 14

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

 

OMNIBUS SQUEEZES THROUGH

The ‘Ley de Bases’ omnibus bill was approved late on Wednesday night by the deciding vote of Vice-President Victoria Villarruel (with President Javier Milei delaying his departure to Italy in order to keep her from having to move into the acting presidency) after the senators tied 36-36 with the opposition limited to the 33 Unión por la Patria senators, two Santa Cruz senators and Radical party chairman Martín Lousteau. Such key elements as the delegation of legislative powers and an amended RIGI major investor incentive scheme were approved, as was the fiscal package (minus income tax), but various privatisations (including Aerolíneas Argentinas, defended on the same day in the Vatican by trade unionists displaying banners in the presence of Pope Francis) were dumped. During the debate there was violence outside Congress with extremists throwing stones and Molotov cocktails setting two vehicles ablaze while a heavy police presence responded with tear gas affecting five deputies among others. The amended bill now returns to the Chamber of Deputies for the final legislative stage, likely on June 27.

 

INFLATION PLUNGES

Last month’s inflation was 4.2 percent, the INDEC national statistics bureau announced on Thursday afternoon, sharply down from last December’s 25.5 percent and the lowest figure since the first month of 2022 (3.9 percent). Annual inflation is now running at 276.4 percent with 71.9 percent so far this year. Core inflation (excluding regulated and seasonal prices) was even lower at 3.7 percent. The previous day before flying out to Europe, President Javier Milei had predicted that May inflation would be below five percent.

 

MILEI DOES EUROPE

At the G7 summit in the Apulian city of Bari, President Javier Milei exchanged notes with International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Kristalina Georgieva, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian premier Giorgia Meloni hosting the summit among others on either side of delivering a lecture on Artificial Intelligence yesterday. Prior to flying out to Europe, Milei enthused last Monday over the "tremendous advance of the new right in Europe" following the elections to the European Parliament while receiving on Wednesday a fresh booster from tycoon Elon Musk who forecast “massive” economic growth for Argentina. On the home front last Monday, Milei named one of his lawyers, Bibiana Lourdes Bianco, to be secretary-general of the National Agency for the Handicapped (ANDIS, in its Spanish acronym) to second another of his lawyers, Diego Spagnuolo, named to head the agency at the start of his presidency.

 

AMBER LIGHT FOR MONDINO

Foreign Minister Diana Mondino spent her trickiest week since joining the Milei administration with a double whammy in recent days – taken off the flight to Italy as part of the presidential entourage for the G7 summit, she also had to yield the Foundation for the Promotion of Investments and International Trade from her portfolio to the orbit of presidential chief-of-staff Karina Milei on the grounds that it would be “more efficient,” according to presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni. But in midweek she assured that she had been ratified in her post by the President and she remains useful to the government (at least for fulfilling the international obligations which do not interest Milei). The latter included a June 7 meeting in the city’s main mosque with Arab and Islamic ambassadors where Mondino replaced Milei and where the presidential absence drew the harsh criticism of the Arab League.

 

NEW FRONTS FOR PETTOVELLO

Administrative Investigations Prosecutor Sergio Rodríguez on Thursday opened up a preliminary probe into the contracts between Human Capital Ministry staff and the Organisation of Ibero-American States (OEI, in its Spanish acronym), thus exposing a scheme for informal public employee wage supplements which has been reportedly applied for decades. Other ministries are expected to enter the probe. On Monday Human Capital Minister Sandra Pettovello denounced a break-in attempt at her Moreno home, which the government interpreted as intimidation rather than any interest in robbery, while her Legal Affairs Secretary Leila Gianni denounced telephone threats.

 

WIN SOME, LOSE SOME

A London Appeals Court on Wednesday turned down an Argentine appeal against last year’s sentence ruling the payment of a sum equivalent to US$1.67 billion (including interest) for fudging economic growth figures in order to avoid payments on growth-linked bonds issued between 2005 and 2010 to four investment funds. But there was better news the next day when China agreed to renegotiate a currency swap to the tune of US$5 billion instead of insisting on immediate payment. There was even better news on Thursday when the International Monetary Fund signed off on the last review, thus releasing some US$800 million for Argentine coffers.

 

KICILLOF MEETS THE POPE 

On the same day President Javier Milei arrived in Italy, Buenos Aires Province Peronist Governor Axel Kicillof met with Pope Francis in the Vatican, afterwards reporting that the two leaders concurred against the advance of the far right. Back home on Tuesday Kicollof teamed up with several of his provincial government ministers and Greater Buenos Aires mayors to protest outside the Economy Ministry against the “illegal measures” of the Milei administration, including denying the citizens of his province over six trillion pesos in funds which were rightfully theirs. 

 

DARTHÉS SENTENCED

Actor Juan Darthés was sentenced to six years imprisonment in São Paulo last Monday for raping his colleague Thelma Fardin (now 31), a crime first denounced by the victim over five years ago. The sentence was announced at a virtual hearing of the Tribunal Regional Federal de San Pablo, whose three judges voted 2-1 against the actor. However, Darthés will not go to jail immediately pending appeal and even if his sentence is upheld, he may leave prison to work during the day although he must return every night to his cell.

 

DICTATORSHIP REPRESSORS SENTENCED

The Federal Cassation Court last Wednesday ratified the life sentences handed out to four former Army and police officers for crímes committed during the so-called ’Operativo Independencia,’ a crackdown on guerrilla activities in the northwestern province of Tucumán prior to the 1976 coup, rejecting the defence argument that Tucumán was then “at war.” The court also confirmed 10 acquittals with judge Alejandro Slokar voting against his two colleagues.

 

A LAKE BY ANY OTHER NAME

The libertarian government continued its "cultural battle" last week in the form of rebranding Lake Acigami with its former name of Lake Roca. "Under the administration of President [Javier] Milei, the fatherland is not for sale," Presidential Spokesman Manuel Adorni proclaimed at his daily press conference last Tuesday, ironically explaining that “Acigami” is an aboriginal word for “long bag.” Adorni further confirmed that the National Parks Administration would be a plaintiff in all cases of land occupation by “pseudo-Mapuches.” The name change was made without the prior consultation or consent of the Yagán community and local residents. 

 

POLISH SPIDER-MAN ARRESTED 

A Polish daredevil was arrested last Tuesday after trying to scale a 30-storey skyscraper without ropes, only to be removed by firefighters. Marcin Banot  Wiek, 36, dressed in an Argentine football shirt, was intercepted after climbing 25 floors of the Globant building in the Puerto Madero neighbourhood as onlookers gathered below. Images quickly went viral on social media. He did not resist efforts to remove him. Back on the ground, Banot Wiek was arrested and risks being ordered to pay the costs for the rescue operation, officials said. The Polish influencer has pulled similar ‘Spider-Man’ style stunts in other countries and has hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram. He had already tried to climb the same building last week but was prevented by police.

 

HORROR IN CHIVILCOY

The Buenos Aires Province town of Chivilcoy was in shock last weekend when Roberto Quiroz, 42, cut the throat of his eight-year-old son Itán, confessed his crime to a neighbour and then hanged himself from a tree after attempting to set himself on fire. Two days previously Quiroz had been detained for not respecting a restraining order requested by the boy’s mother.

 

TEPID WARM-UP

In a somewhat flat performance with Lionel Messi only entering in the 55th minute, Argentina beat Ecuador 1-0 in Chicago last weekend in Chicago in a preparatory friendly match for its defence of the Copa América later this month. Ángel Di María scored the only goal in the 40th minute while goalie Emiliano ‘Dibu’ Martínez kept a clean sheet against an unconvincing Ecuador attack. Argentina played another friendly against Guatemala last night.

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