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ARGENTINA | 30-09-2022 14:34

Stories that caught our eye: September 23 to 30

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

TYRE STRIKE TIP OF A GROWING ICEBERG?

Tyre production remained deadlocked in Argentina as a result of strikes and blockades at the three main plants with Economy Minister Sergio Massa threatening to resort to imports if no agreement can be reached. The conflict, unresolved after over 30 rounds of negotiation, is also threatening to bring the auto industry to a halt. The workers, whose SUTNA union is headed by Trotskyist Alejandro Crespo, are insisting on double pay over weekends and their wage increase of 66 percent so far this year being topped up by more than the 38 percent offered by the companies to counter inflation. This was by far the week’s most important stoppage but ATE state workers are heading in a similar direction with a Tuesday strike by their members at Aeroparque and Ezeiza airports causing the cancellation of a dozen flights to provincial destinations (San Luis, Formosa, Jujuy, Rosario, Bahía Blanca and Río Grande) while other trade unions are expressing discontent over lagging real wages. ATE is further demanding that 30,000 jobs in the public sector be made permanent, marching on the Economy Ministry last Tuesday. In other labour news, teamster Pablo Moyano, the most militant of the three CGT secretaries-general, threatened to resign in umbrage over not being invited to a Monday dinner at Olivos presidential residence along with other CGT leaders.

 

SCHOOL SEIZURES

A wave of student protests against the quality of snacks, school buildings and work-experience schemes at 15 public secondary schools in this city has affected classes for almost 15,000 pupils, also costing an estimated daily six million pesos of municipal funds, with some political back and forth between a centre-right City Hall and its Kirchnerite opposition behind the scenes. Some parents could find themselves forced to cough up for the behaviour of their children, the City Education Ministry says.

 

POVERTY FIGURES

The percentage of people below the poverty line dropped fractionally from 37.3 to 36.5 percent between the last half of last year and the first half of this, INDEC national statistics bureau reported on Wednesday, but destitution rose from 8.2 to 8.8 percent to number over four million people. These abstract figures made themselves noticed in concrete form downtown last week with picket demonstrators camping outside the Social Development Ministry in the Avenida 9 de Julio thoroughfare, demanding more welfare benefits and soup kitchens.

 

MASSA’S FIRST BUDGET

Economy Minister Sergio Massa, presented the 2023 Budget in Congress on Wednesday afternoon, defending it as “prudent and realistic” as well as in line with what deputies had in mind when approving the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Appearing before the Budget and Finance Committee chaired by Carlos Heller (Frente de Todos-City), Massa crunched the budget numbers as overall spending of almost 29 trillion pesos, projected annual inflation of 60 percent, a two percent growth rate, a 2.9 percent increase in the investment rate, a fiscal deficit of 1.9 percent of gross domestic product, an exchange rate of 218.90 pesos per dollar by the end of the year, estimated export growth of 7.1 percent and reduction of the tax burden from 23.95 to 23.77 percent of GDP.  

 

JULY GROWTH DATA

The July data had the Argentine economy growing 5.6 percent by comparison with the same month in 2021 and 6.4 percent that far this year but zero growth from June, the Indec statistics bureau divulged on Monday. The leading growth sectors were hotels and restaurants (up 45.7 percent from the previous July) and mining (+13.6 percent) but transport and communications rose 8.8 percent and manufacturing industry 5.6 percent. The most recent report of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts four percent growth for this year.

 

MAPUCHES BACK IN ACTION

Mapuche militancy flared up again last week in the Villa Mascardi area near Bariloche, overrunning the zone around the Los Radales cabin last Tuesday after driving off Federal Police officers investigating the burning of a nearby Border Guard hut during the weekend.

 

NEW CASE FOR CFK

The City Federal Appeals Court not only confirmed the indictment of Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for the misuse of presidential aircraft to transport items of personal interest ranging from newspapers to furniture for her family’s hotel chain to El Calafate during her presidency but one of the three judges (Mariano Llorens) even proposed that she be evicted from the Senate to permit her arrest. The charges carry a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years.

 

NEW PLANE RELEASES

The number of crew members still being held of the Emtrasur freight aircraft detained at Ezeiza Airport since early June was reduced from seven to five on Tuesday when Lomas de Zamora federal judge Federico Villena ruled the acquittal of 14 of the 19 Venezuelan and Iranian crew members. The release of a dozen of them had already been recommended in early August and confirmed a fortnight ago, thus leaving only seven still in Buenos Aires to face charges of participation in terrorist activities.

 

MILANI ACQUITTED

Former Army commander-in-chief César Milani was acquitted on Thursday of embezzlement during the 2007-15 Cristina Fernández de Kirchner presidency, the last of 10 cases against him in a trial running for almost three months. The retired general denounced "political persecution" and a media witch-hunt headed by Jorge Lanata as responsible for the "grotesque" accusations against him, claiming that he had even been linked to the 2015 death of AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman. Milani was charged with buying an upmarket San Isidro house beyond his apparent means. The former military intelligence chief admitted to an “administratively sloppy” transaction but insisted: "My assets are absolutely in order and in accordance with my family’s income." 

 

PARLIAMENTARY WEALTH

Misiones Senator Maurice Closs is the richest national parliamentarian with an inherited fortune of over 1.9 billion pesos, closely followed by fellow-senator Eduardo Costa (Radical-Santa Cruz) with over 1.7 billion, while deputy Máximo Kirchner heads the lower house with over 523 million pesos (also mostly inherited). These figures are based on the 2021 sworn statements submitted to the Anti-Corruption Office.

 

MENDOZA DEATH

A boy of 12 was shot in the head by his 18-year-old cousin in the small hours of Monday at home in the Greater Mendoza suburb of Guaymallén, dying hours later in the Hospital Central of the provincial capital. The cousin, who was placed under arrest, told detectives that the 9mm calibre pistol fired off accidentally.

 

THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

A survey has revealed that half of Argentines aged over 75 admit to almost never using Internet nor hi tech of any kind, thus showing that there is also a digital gap between generations. The survey, covering 200 Argentines aged over 55, showed only 55 percent to use Internet regularly but the study also showed the pandemic as having a positive effect in increasing the digital inclusion of the elderly to break through their isolation, as well as to keep up with emigrating youth via Zoom.

 

BELGRANO BACK IN TOP FLIGHT

The popular team Belgrano de Córdoba returned last weekend to First Division football after beating Brown de Adrogué 3-2, ensuring top place 11 points ahead of the pack with two matches to go. The last time the team with the sky- blue colours (founded in 1905) was promoted in 2011, they passed a relegated River Plate going in the opposite direction.

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