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ARGENTINA | 16-06-2023 14:49

Stories that caught our eye: June 9 to 16

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

 

INFLATION STAYS THREE-DIGIT

For the first time this year monthly inflation dipped, rising 7.8 percent in May as against 8.4 percent in April, as reported by INDEC national statistics bureau last Wednesday. But annual inflation remains well into three digits at 114.2 percent while the cost of living has risen 42.2 percent so far this year. The leading culprit was the item of housing, utilities and fuels, surging to 11.9 percent, largely because of a long overdue updating of electricity and gas bills, while the key item of food and beverages was well below the monthly average at 5.8 percent. While the April inflation figure overshot all market forecasts, the opposite was the case this time with a May inflation topping nine percent widely tipped.

 

FEMICIDE FEAR

On the eve of tomorrow’s PASO primary, the province of Chaco was plunged into a prolonged uproar all week after prominent picket leader Emerenciano Sena, a key ally of Chaco Peronist Governor Jorge Capitanich, and his wife were arrested in connection with the disappearance of their daughter-in-law Cecilia Strzyzowski, still missing at press time ever since her disappearance on June 1 but with femicide strongly suspected.

 

SEVEN ALLIANCES

When the deadline for defining electoral alliances expired at midnight last Wednesday, seven contenders were registered for the August 13 PASO primaries: Juntos por el Cambio, Unión por la Patria (a last-minute rebranding of  Frente de Todos), Frente de Izquierda y de Trabajadores – Unidad, the libertarian La Libertad Avanza under Javier Milei, Hacemos por Nuestro País (non-Kirchnerite Peronists), Principios y Valores (nominating former Domestic Trade secretary Guillermo Moreno for the presidency) and Frente Liberar. These alliances now have until next Saturday to define their lists of candidates.

 

MIXED MESSAGES FROM INLAND VOTING

For the first time this month the main opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio had the upper hand in last Sunday’s provincial elections, ending 40 consecutive years of Peronist rule in San Luis and more than doubling the votes of rival lists in both the Mendoza PASO primary and the Corrientes midterms, while the Peronists found a consolation prize with a landslide win in Tucumán. San Luis and Tucumán thus have new governors at least nominally – Claudio Poggi already governed the former between 2011 and 2015 while Osvaldo Jaldo was acting governor of the latter in the 17 months during outgoing Governor Juan Manzur’s stint as national Cabinet chief. Apart from topping Juntos por el Cambio by over 20 points, the Peronists in Tucumán were poised to regain the provincial capital where they were leading when the vote count was controversially suspended. The libertarian bandwagon hit a bump in the road in Tucumán with its candidate Ricardo Bussi not even reaching four percent, 10 percent below his 2019 performance. In Mendoza Senator Alfredo Cornejo looks set to return to the governorship he held between 2015 and 2019 after shaking off strong challenges within the opposition primary from PRO’s Omar De Marchi and fellow-Radical Luis Petri while Peronism had its worst provincial election ever.

 

‘VIP VACCINE’ TRIAL

Former Health minister Ginés González García has been summoned to testify on July 10 in a federal courtroom, charged by prosecutor Eduardo Taiano with abuse of authority in the trial of the ‘VIP vaccine’ scandal which cost the minister his job. González García is accused of administering then scarce vaccines against Covid-19 to privileged persons not in risk groups or health workers, including the family of ex-president Eduardo Duhalde, current Defence Minister Jorge Taiana, Treasury Prosecutor Carlos Zannini posing as a health worker and the journalist Horacio Verbitsky (who subsequently blew the whistle) in the summer of 2021 when the coronavirus pandemic was at its height. The case was originally launched by the prosecutor Guillermo Marijuan and some opposition deputies but shelved by federal judge María Eugenia Capuchetti who considered the offence to be moral rather than criminal. But the Federal Appeals Court consisting of the judges Leopoldo Bruglia, Pablo Bertuzzi and Mariano Llorens has now taken up the case again.

 

CRISTINA & THE COURTS

Federal Judge María Eugenia Capuchetti on Monday committed Fernando Sabag Montiel, Brenda Uliarte and Nicolás Gabriel Carrizo to trial for the attempted assassination of Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last September 1 but the latter is dissatisfied with the limited number of defendants, calling for a far broader investigation of the plot against her. In other legal news concerning the Vice-President, the IGJ (Inspección General de Justicia) official legal watchdog has approved the move by the company Hotesur S.A., the Patagonian hotel chain of the Kirchner family, to switch its head office from the Federal Capital to the Santa Cruz provincial capital of Río Gallegos, a transfer already published in the Official Gazette of the Patagonian province late last month, it was revealed last weekend. The new head office will now be in Vice-President Fernández de Kirchner’s Río Gallegos address. The move apparently aims at placing the controversial hotel chain which has already faced trial for presumed money-laundering under the jurisdiction of a friendlier court. This trial was quashed by the TOF(Tribunal Oral Federal)5 court but their decision is being appealed and under review by the Federal Cassation Court.

 

CHILEAN REPRESSOR DIES

Manfredo Jurgensen Caesar, 79, a Chilean facing charges of human rights violations during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship who was arrested at Ezeiza International Airport on June 3 while en route to Germany, died last Thursday, the airport police reported.

 

AMIA WARRANTS

Argentina on Thursday sought an international arrest warrant for four Lebanese citizens suspected of involvement in the 1994 bomb attack on the AMIA Jewish community centre which killed 85 people and injured over 300. The quartet was named as Hussein Mounir Mouzannar, Ali Hussein Abdallah, Farouk Abdul Hay Omairi and Abdallah Salman (aka El Reda). They are thought to reside in  either Paraguay, Brazil or Beirut and to be linked to the Shiite Hezbollah organisation.
 

THE BIG CHILL

With winter still a few days ago, broad swathes of the country were shivering throughout most of last week with the Weather Bureau issuing a series of yellow alerts for nine provinces apart from this city. While low temperatures in mid-June are far from unprecedented, the list of provinces affected by the yellow alerts marked a surprising variation from past experience when a windswept Patagonia always took the lead – it read Buenos Aires (especially the Atlantic coast), Chaco, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Formosa, Jujuy, Salta, Santa Fe and Santiago del Estero. A yellow alert defines risk groups as children, people aged over 65 and the chronically ill.

 

ICEBERG OF LITHIUM

Canadian film director James Cameron, director of the 1997 blockbuster Titanic winning multiple Oscars and more recently acquiring a high environmental profile from his Avatar films, has said he feels he “walked into an ambush” earlier this month during a visit to Argentina in which he believes there was an attempt to use his image as an environmentalist to give a positive spin to lithium mining operations despite indigenous opposition. His reaction was to say that he would now devote money from his Avatar Alliance Foundation to support indigenous communities opposing lithium operations in South America. Here earlier this month to speak at a sustainability conference in Buenos Aires, Cameron travelled to northern Jujuy Province on June 8 to visit a large solar power plant with Radical Governor Gerardo Morales without being told that his presence would be used to plug “lithium extraction” as well as solar energy. Part of the ABC “lithium triangle” with Bolivia and Chile, Argentina is the world’s fourth-largest producer of this strategic metal.

 

NO MORE WORLD CUP FOR MESSI?

The United States might be the destination of Lionel Messi to play next season in Inter Miami as from next month but not where the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico is concerned. “Don’t think so. That was my last World Cup. I’ll see how things go but in principle I won’t be going to the next World Cup,” the 36-year-old told China’s Titan Sports during the World Cup champion’s tour of Asia, adding: “After winning the World Cup I was missing, I’m satisfied and grateful for the career I had. That’s the most important thing to me.” But national squad coach Lionel Scaloni will be keeping the door open for his more famous namesake. Meanwhile, FIFA chief Gianni Infantino was given a Barracas Central shirt by AFA President Claudio Tapia during a visit to Argentina for the U20 World Cup won last weekend by Uruguay – the global football boss promptly made a video for the club's fans (which include 'Chiqui' himself).

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