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ARGENTINA | 17-11-2023 12:50

Stories that caught our eye: November 10 to 17

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

 

A NATION DECIDES

Tomorrow this country’s next president will be defined by a run-off between Economy Minister Sergio Massa and libertarian deputy Javier Milei. The week started with the presidential debate between the two men on Sunday evening. Massa spent much of the final week of his campaign in Greater Buenos Aires but was in Patagonia on Tuesday. Milei held two major rallies – one on Tuesday in Rosario and the other in Córdoba to close his campaign. In order not to risk infringing the veda electoral curfew in force since yesterday, nothing said during either the debate or rallies will be conveyed here since it was almost all propaganda aimed at either boosting the speaker or demolishing his rival (the latter being very much a dominant feature of last Sunday’s debate).

 

SINGLE-DIGIT INFLATION

Last month’s inflation was 8.3 percent, the INDEC national statistics bureau reported on Monday, sharply down from September’s 12.7 percent with a frozen exchange rate and utility bills contributing to the slowdown. Annual inflation was running at 142.7 percent with 120 percent already posted for the first 10 months of this year. The only double-digit items last month were communications (12 percent), garments and footwear (11 percent) and domestic appliances (10.7 percent). Core inflation (excluding seasonal and regulated prices) was 8.8 percent.

 

PENSION HIKE

Pensions will be hiked 20.87 percent for the last quarter of this year, it was announced just before last weekend. The increase had been initially projected at 28 percent and something in the range of 22-24 percent had been expected but Massa’s tax cuts during the election campaign undermined the revenue base. Those on minimum pensions can look forward to bonuses of 55,000 pesos next month, 60,000 in January and 70,000 in February but only if the current government is returned to power.

 

FREE CHOCOLATE?

La Plata prosecutor Betina Lacki on Tuesday called for Julio ‘Chocolate’ Rigau, the Peronist activist caught over two months ago extracting money from an ATM with dozens of debit cards as part of a suspected slush fund of the Buenos Aires Province legislature, to be remanded in custody. Criminal court judge Guillermo Atencio, who has already stated that the crime warrants an eight-year prison sentence if guilt is established, must now decide whether Rigau stays free. The middleman's mobile telephone was confiscated by police and its contents have revealed multiple political contacts centred on La Plata municipal councillor Facundo Albini, 36, a member of the Frente Renovador party headed by Economy Minister Sergio Massa. Lacki has already requested Albini’s arrest while indicting the 48 owners of the debit cards used by Rigau at the end of October.

 

ARA SAN JUAN REMEMBERED

The sixth anniversary of the sinking of the ARA San Juan submarine Wednesday prompted President Alberto Fernández to make a rare exit from campaign reclusion to deliver a message in commemoration of the 44 crew members who perished, calling for justice in the light of the technical flaws causing the tragedy. Via his social networks he relayed: “The 44 crew members of ARA San Juan will forever be in the hearts of the people #44Presentes. Six years after their last communication, we continue to demand justice while embracing their families and friends in their quest for the truth.” Defence Minister Jorge Taiana also recalled the tragic loss of life with a very similar message via the social networks.

 

POPE COY ON VISIT

Pope Francis, who turns 87 next month, finally addressed the continuous rumours regarding a possible visit to his homeland next year, saying: “My visit to Argentina does not depend on the triumph or defeat of any party” while adding: “I feel very uncomfortable with those priests who speak to the media in my name.”

 

CARLOTTO RAPS VILLARRUEL

Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo president Estela Barnes de Carlotto blasted libertarian vice-presidential candidate Victoria Villarruel for her proposal to transform the former ESMA Navy Mechanics School concentration camp from a memory site, calling it “insane” and “a bid to Photoshop history.” 

 

DICTATORSHIP KILLER DEAD IN BERLIN

Former naval officer Luis Kyburg, 75, has died in Berlin just weeks before he was due to be charged with the murder of 23 left-wing activists in 1976 and 1977, Berlin prosecutors informed on Thursday. The indictment against him had been filed this month by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) after a lengthy investigation but it then transpired that the man had died of natural causes in October, bringing the case to a sudden halt. Most of Kyburg’s presumed victims were reportedly killed on "death flights."

 

FACEBOOK CONFESSION

Fabián Villegas, 38, chose social networks to confess to the murder of transexual leader Diana Zoe López García, who had been working in the Casa Rosada since mid-2021. Only after announcing the crime on Facebook did Villegas call the police to inform them that he had killed his partner, whereupon he was arrested. According to his account, it was not a clearcut homicide (or transfemicide in more modern jargon) because in the course of an argument Villegas had seized a kitchen knife and stabbed Diana in the thigh, not automatically a fatal wound but in this case severing the victim’s femoral artery. Also blaming drugs and alcohol, Villegas posted: “I’m going to look for you in Heaven, baby. I ask your pardon, baby, may you rest in peace. I love you, we’ll be seeing each other.” Last Monday Diana’s immediate boss, Strategic Affairs Secretary Mercedes Marcó del Pont, and colleagues paid tribute in the central patio of the Casa Rosada.

 

CHINA CALLING

Current and future Buenos AiresCity Mayors Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Jorge Macri received on Tuesday Shanghai Deputy Mayor Hua Yuan and his delegation with the aim of boosting ties between the two giant cities and an eye on possible future investments. The PRO administration also seeks to lure Chinese students who wish to learn Spanish while Rodríguez Larreta placed the accent on “all the knowledge industry in this City where our talent is globally valued," an accent echoed by Macri, who said: “Our human capital is without a doubt one of our best qualities with the most competitive sectors in software development and digital services ... while we know Shanghai to be a leader in artificial intelligence,” applying these new technologies to security and public health in particular.

 

PERSONA NON GRATA?

British musician Roger Waters, former Pink Floyd frontman and well-known pro-Palestinian activist, said on Wednesday that he had nowhere to stay in Buenos Aires and Montevideo for his upcoming tour dates starting yesterday as a result of a "boycott" against him organised by the "Israeli lobby." As a result he will have to fly in from São Paulo. Waters, 80, is also scheduled to perform in Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador on his This Is Not a Drill tour.

 

KISSING JUDGE BOUNCED OFF BENCH 

The Chubut Impeachment Tribunal on Thursday removed Comodoro Rivadavia criminal judge Mariel Suarez after being filmed in a Trelew prison kissing a dangerous criminal whom she herself had sentenced to life imprisonment – conduct which the tribunal considered “indecorous” to the point of being malfeasance.

 

PALERMO GANG RAPE

Prosecutor Fernando María Klappenbach has requested prison sentences ranging from 56 months to 13 years for five of the six defendants in the trial of the Palermo gang rape in the summer of 2022. The prosecutor also recommended the acquittal of a sixth defendant, Franco Likan, as qualifying for the benefit of the doubt but nevertheless called for a six-month prison sentence in his case for assaulting a witness. The trial, which has been running since August 28, will be hearing the defence of the accused in the next few hearings.

 

RIQUELME VERSUS MACRI

Current Boca Juniors vice-president Juan Román Riquelme on Tuesday confirmed that he would be trading places with outgoing president Jorge Amor Ameal on the "Soy bostero" list to run for the club presidency in the December 2 elections when he will be up against the opposition ticket of Andrés Ibarra and Mauricio Macri, who was president of the club between 1995 and 2007 and of the nation between 2015 and 2019 when Ibarra was his Modernisation minister. Given Riquelme’s proximity to presidential candidate Sergio Massa, a sharp rivalry is expected.

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