Wednesday, July 24, 2024

ARGENTINA | 18-11-2022 00:18

Stories that caught our eye: November 11 to 18

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



The participation of President Alberto Fernández at the G20 Leaders Summit on Bali last Tuesday and Wednesday was reduced to the barest minimum by a bout of gastritis and low blood pressure. The president slashed his agenda to a Tuesday 20-minute meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (followed by announcement of an expansion of the currency swap with the Bank of China to the tune of US$5 billion in yuan), also pushing China to deliver on its pledges to invest US$1.22 billion in Santa Cruz dams, while on Wednesday his only contacts were with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and Spanish premier Pedro Sánchez. With the former he urged the IMF to forgo its interest rate surcharges and sought to tweak the objectives outlined in last March’s agreement while Georgieva recommended taking on inflation. Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero replaced him in all other scheduled activities. “I’m well and working fine,” President Fernández told the press, minimising the health scare.



Last month’s inflation was 6.3 percent, the INDEC national statistics bureau announced last Tuesday, accumulating 76.6 percent for the first 10 months and running at an annual rate of 88 percent. Communications (12.1 percent) was the leading culprit, due mainly to the soaring prices of telephone and Internet services, followed by “Housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels” (7.5 percent), due to the updating of utility billing. Then came health ((7.1 percent) due to the increased charges of prepaid healthcare schemes. The key item of food and beverages was fractionally below average at 6.2 percent with fruit and vegetables registering the sharpest increases while core inflation (excluding seasonal and regulated prices) was 5.5 percent. The Central Bank’s REM (Relevamiento de Expectativas de Mercado) survey of economic consultants shows them to forecast three digits for this year while dipping to 96 percent next year and almost 70 percent in 2024.



The fifth anniversary of the sinking of the ARA San Juan submarine with the loss of 44 lives was marked last Tuesday with various points pending such as a lack of forensic analysis while Caleta Olivia Judge Marta Yáñez has yet to decide on the Comodoro Rivadavia Federal Appeals Court’s recommendation that the criminal proceedings already underway against four naval officers be extended to ex-president Mauricio Macri, his defence minister Oscar Aguad and then Navy chief-of-staff Marcelo Srur. The families of the victims continue to express their dissatisfaction.



The deadlock over the Council of Magistrates continued last week with Kirchnerism insisting on its choice Senator Martín Doñate (Frente de Todos-Río Negro) while Senator Luis Juez (PRO-Córdoba) said that he would sue Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (who was acting president until yesterday in the absence of Alberto Fernández) unless she recognised him, as ruled by the Supreme Court earlier this month. A conflict of powers looms, warned Juez. The deadlock had consequences beyond the judicial sphere because the Kirchnerite insistence on Doñate as the Senate representative led to the opposition shunning Wednesday’s session in protest, enabling the Frente de Todos caucus to pass the 2023 Budget by a 37-0 vote and almost without debate, limited to 90 minutes. This budget (approved last month by the Chamber of Deputies with a 180-22 vote) contemplates total public spending of almost 29 trillion pesos while forecasting two percent growth and an annual inflation of 60 percent for next year while reducing the fiscal deficit from 2.5 to 1.9 percent of gross domestic product.  



Spearheaded by hospital residents, pay discontent among City employees peaked last Tuesday evening with a torchlight march following nine weeks of protests including 19 days of strikes, charging that in many cases the pay of health professionals had fallen below the poverty line with basic hourly medical fees of under 300 pesos. But the next day City Health Minister Fernán Quirós, whose initial offer had been an hourly 440 pesos, was almost doubling pay to a monthly average of around 200,000 pesos, apparently on the initiative of City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, and a solution seemed to be in sight. Protest leaders recognised that this offer would top this year’s inflation without recovering the real wage falls from previous years. Rodríguez Larreta told a radio interview that his aim was a starting salary of 200,000 pesos for policemen, teachers and health workers alike but that City Hall could not pay more than that without jeopardising its balanced budget.



Ex-president Mauricio Macri was at the receiving-end of both government criticisms and friendly fire last week, the former sparked by a World Cup preview in which Macri fancied German chances as a “superior race.” At the same time City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta said that Macri was not “the owner of the [Juntos por el Cambio] votes,” insisting that the PASO primaries were the best way of defining the candidates of the opposition coalition.



As part of a series of inland tours to prepare the ground for a possible presidential run next year, PRO deputy and former Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal toured the province of Formosa last week where she ran into a rocky reception, being constantly heckled and harassed by militants responding to the local Peronist Governor Gildo Insfrán. When Vidal criticised the latter, saying that his 27-year rule had resulted in a backward province at least 27 years behind the times, Insfrán himself weighed in, saying that it was Vidal who was “mentally retarded.”  



Last Wednesday in Paris the French Deputy Foreign Minister Anne-Marie Descôtes handed over to her Argentine counterpart Pablo Tettamanti declassified files pertaining to human rights violations during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. The two senior Foreign Ministry officials also took advantage to exchange views on a wide range of other issues such as the current international situation, climate change, food security, bilateral trade and even Antarctic co-operation.



After thrashing the United Arab Emirates team 5-0 in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, Argentina’s World Cup squad flew on to Doha to install themselves in their headquarters in a University of Qatar dormitory, where they will occupy 85 rooms. Next Tuesday they will be taking on Saudi Arabia in their World Cup début. At press time coach Lionel Scaloni was still tweaking his list of 26 players, replacing the injured Nicolás González and Joaquín Correa with Ángel Correa (no relation) and Thiago Almada.



On the eve of the World Cup, Martín Demichelis arrived here last Tuesday from Munich to succeed Marcelo Gallardo as the trainer of River Plate, the team where the centre-back started his football career although he spent far more years with FC Bayern Munich.

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