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ARGENTINA | 11-11-2022 12:05

Stories that caught our eye: November 4 to 11

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

 

JUDICIAL BACKING FOR JUEZ

The Supreme Court on Tuesday quashed the appointment of Kirchnerite Senator Martín Doñate (Frente de Todos-Río Negro) to the Council of Magistrates, replacing him with a colleague from opposition ranks, Luis Juez (Juntos por el Cambio-Córdoba). The ruling was signed by three of the four justices with Ricardo Lorenzetti holding back. The ruling considered that the Frente de Todos manoeuvre dividing itself into Nacional y Popular and Unidad Ciudadana caucuses in order to lay claim to both the Council of Magistrates representatives for the majority and the second minority at the expense of Frente Pro was sharp practice. Frente de Todos senators immediately called a press conference at noon that same day to reject the Supreme Court ruling as “political” and “inapplicable,” being “a clear conflict of powers between the judicial and legislative branches of government.” They further rejected Supreme Court Chief Justice Horacio Rosatti’s right to rule on the issue as both judge and jury since he chairs the Council of Magistrates. Juez was happy enough with the ruling, which was not the only judicial bad news for Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last week – the Federal Cassation Court is reviewing her acquittals in both the cases of the Memorandum of Understanding with Iran and the money-laundering charges against her family’s Hotesur hotel chain with a view to reopening both trials (on Thursday prosecutor Mario Villar formally asked that her acquittal in the latter case be quashed).

 

PRECIOS JUSTOS

Economy Minister Sergio Massa yesterday formally launched the Precios Justos programme whereby the prices of 1,400 products may not be increased by more than a monthly four percent during the last month of this year and the first three months of 2023.

 

STRIKES IN CITY

Tuesday was a day of strikes with La Fraternidad train-drivers and City hospitals both withdrawing their services, the former defying compulsory conciliation to press for a bonus of 50,000 pesos for retired union members and causing traffic chaos throughout the day. At the same time D-Line subway workers protested by opening up turnstiles to permit commuters free travel. For their part City hospital workers were pressing for “the immediate incorporation” of new professionals, especially nurses, an “urgent updating of pay” and improvements in Infrastructure, complaining about a “lack of response” from City Hall.

 

YET ANOTHER EXCHANGE RATE

Sergio Massa on Monday announced a new preferential exchange rate to help regional economies affected by drought and late frost. Speaking in Mendoza in company with local Radical Governor Rodolfo Suárez, the economy minister said: “We have taken the decision to run a programme to boost exports from November 20 to December 30” without specifying any exchange rate to accompany the dates. He also anticipated an aid package of 1.5 billion pesos for Andes provinces as well as loans stretching over 50 months. Massa further promised similar benefits to “all economies entering the Precios Justos price control programme.” The minister then asked the Radical governor to accompany the national government by lowering the energy prices for local farmers by 40-50 percent. Meanwhile the drought continues to hit the ongoing wheat harvest, causing bread prices to rise to 430-460 pesos a kilo last week.

 

CONGRESS REST OF YEAR

President Alberto Fernández has decided to extend Congress with extraordinary sessions until December 30 with bills regarding wealth taxation, agricultural promotion and pegging state purchases to local production but nothing responding to the pressures to scrap the PASO primaries for next year. On Wednesday night President Alberto Fernández was already heading out to France and the G20 summit in Indonesia, thus starting a week abroad. Extraordinary sessions may only debate legislation presented by the government.

 

PICKETS BACK ON WARPATH

Pickets were out in force along the Avenida 9 de Julio thoroughfare last Thursday, causing traffic havoc in many downtown zones, after talks with the new Social Development Minister Victoria Tolosa Paz insisting on a universal bonus of 45,000 pesos  for all people earning below the basic shopping-basket broke down. The pickets initially threatened to camp outside her ministry all night but finally backed down. The demonstrators were also protesting the discontinuation of many social plans.

 

CERRUTI ON STONES

Presidential spokesperson Gabriela Cerruti stirred up a new controversy last Wednesday when she told visiting Spanish minister Irene Montero that the stones piled in Plaza de Mayo in tribute to Covid-19 victims "had been placed by the right." The gaffe might have passed unnoticed if Cerruti had not posted it on Instagram, prompting a wave of indignation. "The stones are not right-wing, Gabriela Cerruti, they belong to all the Argentines who lost a loved one while you were celebrating in Olivos [presidential residence] and vaccinating your pals," PRO deputy María Eugenia Vidal responded, among other opposition critiques.

 

EVO IN TOWN

Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner hosted visiting Bolivian ex-president Evo Morales in the Senate last Monday after he had met up with President Alberto Fernández at the other end of the weekend. At the same time the Frente de Todos deputy José Luis Gioja, a former three-term governor of San Juan, said that the ruling coalition should work on producing all the necessary conditions for the presidential candidacy of Fernández de Kirchner.

 

GOVERNMENT MOVES ON HIGHWAYS

Administrative Litigation judge Enrique Lavié Pico on Wednesday signed a ruling permitting the state to intervene partially in the city access routes leased to the company Ausol by the Mauricio Macri presidency, blocking a state compensation payment of US$490 million to the concessionaire to avert a 1,200 percent increase in frozen highway tolls. The move had been requested by the Highways Board. The accountant José Luis Perrone was appointed trustee over the Ausol company, which is now prohibited from distributing dividends.

 

PRIDE MARCH

The 31st Pride March last weekend was well attended by the local LGBT+ community, flaunting their rainbow colours in a celebratory mood but also claiming pending rights. Argentina takes pride in being one of the most advanced countries in the región for gender legislation, including the approval of gay marriage, but the LGBT community feels that there is room for improvement.

 

QATAR, HERE WE COME (OR NOT)

Argentina’s football squad trained by Lionel Scaloni headed out to Qatar early last Monday to begin its World Cup adventure as from next Sunday, arriving the next day. Scaloni took 30 players with him, of whom he must make a final choice of 26. While the so-called “Qatar dollar” making the exchange rate for tourism abroad the least favourable of all will doubtless deter many fans, no less than 6,000 are explicitly barred, the Security Ministry has confirmed. While around half of these are barra bravas hooligans (a third backing River Plate and a quarter Boca Juniors), the other half range from those facing criminal charges of various kinds, ex-husbands behind with their alimony payments and (reportedly) outspoken critics of Qatar. Meanwhile the patriotism of the players has been questioned in at least one aspect – their choice of a Uruguayan brand of yerba mate cultivated in Brazil. Deputy Luis Mario Pastori (Radical-Misiones) was quick to question the decision as a betrayal of national industry.

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