Monday, December 4, 2023

ARGENTINA | 13-10-2023 16:58

Stories that caught our eye: October 6 to 13

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



The dollar had its wildest week of 2023 which was not over at press time but an important psychological barrier was crossed on Tuesday when the “blue” version surged beyond 1,000 pesos. Raids on bureaux de change throughout the week included the detention of three Chinese citizens in Belgrano’s Chinatown on Wednesday after a total of US$700,000 was detected in money-belts on their persons. Meanwhile travel agencies started to suspend any payment of services abroad in pesos in anticipation of more devaluation before this month is out, insisting on dollars, although the sale of air tickets is not affected for now.



Last month’s inflation was even higher than August’s 12.4 percent, weighing in at 12.7 percent or an annual rate of 138.3 percent or 103.2 percent so far this year, INDEC national statistics bureau announced on Thursday afternoon. The main culprits were garments and footwear (15.7 percent) and recreation and culture (15.1 percent) but the key item of food and beverages was also above the monthly average at 14.3 percent. Core inflation (excluding seasonal and regulated prices) also topped the general figure at 13.4 percent.  The news left the Central Bank pondering whether or not to raise interest rates now standing at an annual 118 percent with the Central Bank’s REM survey of economic consultants forecasting an annual inflation of 169 percent by the end of this year. Most of these consultants had been forecasting a lower inflation for last month than the 12.7 percent finally announced by INDEC.



The final presidential debate in the University of Buenos Aires Law Faculty stepped up the voltage from its Santiago del Estero predecessor with most of the protagonism passing to the Juntos por el Cambio candidate Patricia Bullrich. Economy Minister Sergio Massa was placed more on the defensive by the continuing fall-out from the scandal of the disgraced Buenos Aires provincial politician Martín Insaurralde adding to growing economic problems. Libertarian Javier Milei was more uncomfortable with a trio of segments (Security, production and labour, human development, housing and the environment) not including his pet area of economics. The other two candidates, Juan Schiaretti and Myriam Bregman, stuck to their respective federalist and leftist guns.



At least seven Argentines were among the hundreds of Israelis massacred by the massive and murderous Hamas incursion into Israel last weekend, shocking the rest of the world. Some 600 Argentines resident in Israel immediately sought repatriation with the number doubling the next day and continuing to grow to 1,400 as of press time. Thousands of people including Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Juntos por el Cambio presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich responded to the call of AMIA and DAIA Jewish organisations last Monday to march down Estado de Israel avenue in support of the invaded Zionist state.



Lomas de Zamora Federal Judge Ernesto Kreplak on Tuesday slapped court secrecy on the case investigating former Buenos Aires Province Cabinet chief Martín Insaurralde, his ex-wife Jesica Cirio and model Sofía Clerici for money-laundering and embezzlement. At the same time prosecutor Sergio Mola requested raids on the properties of the defendants to secure more evidence, such as the presents made by Insaurralde to Clerici and posted on social networks, a request granted by Kreplak. The investigated trio is also forbidden to leave the country. During the weekend Cirio, 38, gave a television interview in which she denied having received US$20 million from Insaurralde as a divorce settlement. She also said that she had no idea that her ex-husband and Clerici were living it up in the Spanish resort of Marbella when the news broke. Finally, she said that she had formed no new attachment since her separation last November. In related news, research into airport records showed that Insaurralde has made 200 trips abroad in the course of this century.



Argentina on Wednesday appealed last month’s New York verdict sentencing the country to pay US$16 billion to the investment fund Burford Capital over the 2012 expropriation of YPF oil company. The appeal against Manhattan Loretta Preska’s September 15 ruling had already been anticipated at that time by Presidential Spokesperson Gabriela Cerruti, who added: "We will continue defending energy sovereignty and our YPF state company from the vulture funds." The appeal warned that making the multi-billion payment imposed by the ruling would inflict "irreparable damage on a population suffering from high inflation caused by an unprecedented drought," adding: "The country does not have access to capital markets to issue a bond and deposit a guarantee." 



Mirtha Legrand, 96, made her TV comeback with the couple of the year, PASO primary winner Javier Milei and his new significant other Fátima Florez, as the exclusive guests of her show La Noche de Mirtha, guaranteeing a high rating. The normally incandescent Milei did not attack Pope Francis this time beyond saying: “I’m not so far from considering him a Communist” but lashed into his presidential rival Patricia Bullrich as a bomb-chucking “terrorist” in the 1970s. The libertarian hit back against charges of complicity with government presidential candidate Sergio Massa by filling his lists with the Economy Minister’s nominees by charging that there were also many Peronists hidden away in the Juntos por el Cambio lists, including the mayoral candidate in the hotspot of Lomas de Zamora, an ex-aide of Martín Insaurralde.



Forest fires in Córdoba last week caused the evacuation of dozens of families with several buildings burned to the ground. The focus of the blaze, which began last Monday, was the Valle de Punilla valley in the midwest of the province. Strong winds, the sequel of drought and high temperatures all contributed to the catastrophe but human agency was also a factor. "An arsonist has been arrested and I hope that the full weight of the law falls on him," said outgoing Córdoba Governor Juan Schiaretti, who is starting the last week of his presidential campaign, while expressing relief that no human lives had been lost. According to media reports a man of 27 admitted to having started a bonfire to boíl water and then had been unable to control the flames. Three hydrant planes and light rainfall on Wednesday morning had started to extinguish the blaze by midweek.



The Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously rejected the last appeal against the the sentences for child abuse at the Antonio Próvolo Institute in Mendoza, upholding the 18-year prison term of former school gardener Armando Ramón Gómez Bravo who thus joins priests Nicola Corradi and Horacio Corbacho, both sentenced to 50 years for abusing 11 deaf-mutes aged from five to 17 between 2005 and 2016.



Jorge Lavelli,one of the defining theatre and opera directors of the las century, died last Monday in Paris in his 91st year, the Argentine Embassy announced. Born in Buenos Aires in 1932, Jorge Lavelli left for París at an early age with his first hit there his 1963 version of The Marriage by the Polish playwright Witold Gombrowicz (who spent over two decades in Buenos Aires after being stranded here by World War II). Lavelli became a naturalised Frenchman in 1977. Unexpected stage effects were his forte. 

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