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ARGENTINA | 19-05-2023 12:13

Stories that caught our eye: May 12 to 19

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

 

CRISTINA SAYS NO (AGAIN)

Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner reiterated last Tuesday that she would not be a candidate this year since she had no intention of being the "pet of any government," thus resisting a “Draft Cristina” drive on  the part of sectors of the ruling Frente de Todos coalition. The ex-president blamed her electoral absence on the judiciary for convicting her for corruption last December, as well as "the verbal and symbolic  violence" of media hostility, citing the attempt on her life last September. Frente de Todos is thus left looking for a candidate with Economy Minister Sergio Massa, Cabinet Chief Agustín Rossi, Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro, Ambassador to Brazil and 2015 presidential candidate Daniel Scioli and social leader Juan Grabois the current options, while Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof is trying to stay where he is. The veep further blamed the previous Mauricio Macri presidency and the International Monetary Fund for Argentina’s current economic plight.

 

MASSA’S LATEST PLAN

A hyperactive Economy Minister Sergio Massa responded early in the week to the announcement of 8.4 percent April inflation just before last weekend, raising interest rates from 91 to 97 percent to lure pesos away from the dollar (but with a nine percent reduction for the Ahora 12 consumer purchase plan), stepping up intervention on money markets (including the legal but parallel financial exchange rates), instructing the Central Market to import food to hold down prices, easing the import of capital goods and intensifying negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and China to accelerate the inflow of hard currency. Virtual negotiations with the IMF to boost Central Bank reserves continued “constructively” all week, headed by Deputy Economy Minister Gabriel Rubinstein. Massa not only wants all the US$11 billion of IMF remittances due this year already next month, pleading drought difficulties as a “game-changer,” but also authorisation to use up to 60 percent for money market intervention while the IMF is not prepared to go beyond 20 percent.

 

CONTINUITY RULES OK

Last Sunday’s provincial elections in La Pampa, Salta and Tierra del Fuego resulted in the re-election of governors close to the government but not running under the Frente de Todos label in all three cases – Sergio Ziliotto, Gustavo Sáenz and Gustavo Melella respectively. Only the former had a competitive election, beating Radical Martín Berhongaray by only six percent in a polarised race, while Melella and Sáenz had margins of 40 and 30 percent respectively against fragmented oppositions. Legislative and provincial elections were also held in San Juan where a fourth re-election bid had been blocked by the Supreme Court – here the incumbent government won 15 of the 19 city halls but with the significant loss of the provincial capital. In the other suspended election, the Supreme Court on Tuesday gave a green light for Tucumán to vote (now set for June 11) when outgoing Governor Juan Manzur stepped down from his disputed slot on the gubernatorial ticket as the running-mate of his current lieutenant-governor Osvaldo Jaldo.

 

PIPELINE ON SCHEDULE

On the eve of La Pampa’s provincial elections last weekend, the remote locality of La Reforma in that province was the scene of a historic milestone as the last of the 56,700 tubes comprising the Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline was welded together, witnessed by President Alberto Fernández, via videoconference from Olivos presidential residence. The project, completed in under six months with record-breaking productivity in some aspects, is now on schedule to go on stream on June 20 and will expand the transfer of Vaca Muerta shale gas, reducing Argentina’s fuel import bills by billions of dollars in the near future.

 

PICKETERS MARCH

The Federal March of pickets from all points of the country reached the capital on Wednesday, converging around the Obelisk, the Plaza de Mayo and the Social Development Ministry while crippling downtown traffic for a continuing vigil through Thursday to press various social demands, including breaking off the agreement with the International Monetary Fund. Their protest was accompanied by teacher strikes affecting some schools in both Buenos Aires City and Province with numerous teachers joining the picket protest.  

 

200,000-PESO POVERTY LINE

A four-person household last month needed an income of 203,361 pesos not to fall below the poverty line and 94,194 pesos to avoid being destitute, the INDEC national statistics bureau reported on Tuesday. The figures for the first half of this year are estimated to find 43 percent below the poverty line and 10 percent destitute.

 

MILEI HITS BACK

Libertarian leader Javier Milei on Tuesday confirmed his “brilliant” fellow-deputy Victoria Villaruel as his running-mate for his presidential bid and hit back at President Alberto Fernández for calling him a “madman,” arguing that he only proposes to free people, not enslave them like the Fernández administration. He also replied to the president that "he was not a friend of the rich but of the creation of wealth which takes countries out of poverty whereas you are such friends of the poor that you only manage to multiply them,” while once more urging elimination of the Central Bank and the dollarisation of the economy. Milei also hit back at the CGT for criticising his labour reform proposals, saying that the days of “privileges” for trade unions were over, opinions echoed by PRO presidential hopeful Patricia Bullrich.  

 

SINGLE CITY CANDIDATE

After agreeing with his internal rival Patricia Bullrich on a single PRO candidate in the City (to be defined by opinión polls) and multiple candidacies for the PASO primaries in Buenos Aires Province, City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta appeared on Tuesday with both PRO mayoral hopefuls, his ministers Fernán Quirós and Jorge Macri.

 

CAMPAIGN FUNDING

The government has distributed over 455 million pesos to political parties to finance their election campaigns with the Justicialist (Peronist) Party, the centre-right opposition PRO and the Radicals the main beneficiaries.

 

GENDER VIOLENCE IN AND OUT OF DOCK

The prosecution last Thursday requested a suspended sentence of 27 months for Boca Juniors striker Sebastián Villa on charges of gender violence against a former girl-friend. The Colombian player will be offered a final defence on May 30, followed by the verdict. In an unrelated case of gender violence, actress Thelma Fardín gave a press conference last weekend to say that the recent acquittal in Brazil of soap opera star Juan Darthés on charges of sexual abuse against her was not the last word in a legal battle already lasting some five years.

 

PENGUIN PROTECTION PRIZE

The ninth Indianapolis Prize, considered the equivalent of a Nobel award in the field of animal conservation and worth US$250,000, has gone to Mar del Plata biologist and CONICET (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas) researcher Juan Pablo García Borboroglu for his work in researching and protecting penguins. The prize, which was announced in London, will be given to him in Indianapolis (Indiana) on September 30. Founder and president of Global Penguin Society since 2009, his work in the course of three decades has taken him to four continents, preserving millions of acres of habitat for the birds.

 

TOURIST HACKED TO DEATH

Córdoba youth Benjamín Gamond, 23, died of his wounds last Monday in a Mexico City hospital after being attacked on the previous Friday night by a man with a machete in a restaurant on the Pacific coast in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. His two Argentine friends accompanying him were also wounded but are out of danger. The assailant was detained and charged with aggravated homicide. The motive for his attack was not immediately known.

 

BOUDOU HEALTH SCARE

Former vice-president and economy minister Amado Boudou, 60, passed out while giving a talk to mark 40 years of democracy at Comahue National University in the province of Neuquén on the night of May 12 and was rushed in an ambulance to hospital where he was reported to be “recovering favourably” and out of danger. The episode was reportedly due to a recent bout of Dengue fever, according to his entourage.

 

BIELSA GOES ORIENTAL

Veteran football trainer Marcelo Bielsa, 67, has crossed the river from his native Rosario to become Uruguay’s new coach through to the 2026 World Cup, the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) confirmed last Monday. Bielsa, who has previously coached both Argentina and Chile, has been idle since his five-year spell with Leeds United ended last year.

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