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ARGENTINA | 31-03-2023 14:35

Stories that caught our eye: March 25 to 31

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

 

ALBERTO STATESIDE

President Alberto Fernández met up with his United States colleague Joe Biden in the White House on Wednesday after attending the Ibero-American Summit in the Dominican Republic during the weekend with an extended gap in New York City in between, including a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and a special session of the Council of the Americas. Both at the Summit and the 20-minute Oval Office meeting with Biden objections to International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan surcharges were uppermost in the presidential agenda with no apparent result but Fernández said that the meeting reassured him of US support  for a further review and revision of the agreement with the IMF, as well as US backing in other negotiations with international creditors. President Fernández was accompanied by Economy Minister Sergio Massa, who met up with IMF and BID (the Spanish acronym for the Inter-American Development Bank) officials while Customs chief Guillermo Michel met US Homeland Security Investigations Deputy Director Ricardo Mayoral to analyse the exchange of customs information as a preliminary step towards the exchange of tax information.

 

MACRI BOWS OUT

Ex-president Mauricio Macri last weekend bowed out of a presidential run this year, congratulating himself on winning a two-year battle over his ego and considering himself vindicated by the strong chances of Juntos por el Cambio “in pole position” for winning this year’s elections. Macri said that he could see as many arguments for saying yes as no and that his decision had been swayed by consulting important businessmen and political leaders. The ex-president would not be drawn on whether he would now play a king-making role but said that he would be available to advise the future president. Macri was scathing with the Frente de Todos government headed by the “improvised puppet” President Alberto Fernández as a “demolition squad,” calling for drastic change. He further invited speculation that he had sacrificed his own presidential run for his cousin’s mayoral candidacy when he strongly plugged the latter: “We have somebody highly prepared: Jorge Macri has unique experience, very valuable.” From New York Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero expressed regret that Macri had not bowed out eight years previously, thus saving the country a disastrous presidency. President Fernández (also in New York) had no direct comment but the presidential entourage, which denied being surprised by the bombshell announcement, called it a “correct” decision since he was doomed to defeat. In contrast, Juntos por el Cambio leaders unanimously hailed Macri’s decision as statesmanlike.

 

PAPAL HEALTH SCARE

Pope Francis, 86, was rushed to hospital in Rome last Wednesday. Although initial reports spoke of a potentially life-threatening coronary ailment, it turned out to be bronchitis from a pulmonary infection and his condition was reported to be stable at press time. Nevertheless, his participation in next week’s Easter rituals stood in doubt.   

 

MARIA KODAMA DIES AT 86

María Kodama, the widow of Argentina’s greatest writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) and the jealous custodian of his literary legacy, died last weekend at the age of 86, thus leaving unanswered questions as to who inherits the legendary author’s copyright.

 

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS

Good news and bad news on the economic front – an economy registering faltering growth in the last quarter of 2022 picked up in January with 2.9 percent growth as against the previous January but Standard & Poor credit rating agency downgraded Argentina to CCC-, just three notches above default, due to economic and political uncertainties. Meanwhile, Economy Minister Sergio Massa announced from Washington the 16th variant of the dollar – the “dólar-agro” to encourage farm exports with fuller details awaiting his return from the United States.

 

CRIME-FIGHTING IN SPOTLIGHT

There were new government moves against crime in both Buenos Aires City and Province last Monday with the national government creating a Unified Command of Federal Forces in Greater Buenos Aires to improve their coordination, thus emulating a similar command envisaged for Rosario, while outgoing City Mayor and presidential hopeful Horacio Rodríguez Larreta presented his new Security Minister Eugenio Burzaco after thanking his predecessor Marcelo D’Alessandro for making the city “the safest capital in Latin America,” as well as deploring the “injustice” of his exit due to “illegal espionage.” Burzaco promised a “proactive” police force which would be “merciless against drug-trafficking.” 

 

REVENUE-SHARING INJUNCTION

City Hall has asked the Supreme Court to slap an injunction on the Banco Nación to pay off arrears of almost 60 billion pesos as the national government continues to defy the tribunal’s ruling over three months ago ordering it to pay the Federal Capital 2.95 percent of federal revenue- sharing funds instead of the 1.4 percent to which the Frente de Todos presidency had reduced its allocation. After an initial flat refusal the national government started paying the difference in the form of Treasury bonds falling due in the year 2031 but City Hall is not satisfied.

 

EASTER STRIKE

The ANAC aviation union (which includes air controllers) has announced a strike for April 5 which will cripple the country’s 54 airports nationwide just ahead of the long Easter weekend. Related unions including APLA (pilots) and APA (cabin staff) are contemplating joining the stoppage.

 

RAPIST MAYOR ON LEAVE

The municipal council of the Entre Ríos town of Gilbert last Wednesday decided to extend the leave of absence of local mayor Fabián Constantino after he was sentenced to a 174-month prison term for the sexual abuse of three women, but without pay from henceforth. The mayor is currently under house arrest pending appeal of his sentence.

 

NOT ALL LIKE IT HOT

An artistic performance entitled Sirens in electronic gardens”in the traditional Museo Fernández Blanco (dating back to 1910) consisting of the recital of a poem hailing sex and drugs with scantily clad girls cavorting in the background has triggered controversy as a misuse of City Hall funds.

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