Sunday, December 10, 2023

ARGENTINA | 07-10-2023 01:21

Stories that caught our eye: September 30 to October 6

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



Photos posted on social networks of Buenos Aires Province Cabinet Chief Martín Insaurralde drinking champagne with the model Sofía Clérici aboard a yacht off the Mediterranean coast in Marbella was enough to cost the official his job on the same day the story broke with his resignation immediately accepted by Buenos Aires Governor Axel Kicillof seeking re-election this month. The next day Insaurralde obeyed the recommendation of Economy Minister Sergio Massa immediately after last weekend’s presidential debate and also relinquished his municipal council candidacy in Lomas de Zamora where he remains the mayor on leave until December. At least eight charges including tax evasion and money-laundering were lodged at the start of the week. This scandal comes shortly after Peronist party worker Jorge ‘Chocolate’ Rigau was caught cashing dozens of debit cards as part of a suspected gravy train for politicians. 



Argentina’s five presidential candidates – Javier Milei (La Libertad Avanza), Patricia Bullrich (Juntos por el Cambio), Sergio Massa (Unión por la Patria), Juan Schiaretti (Hacemos por Nuestro País) and Myriam Bregman (Frente de Izquierda) – squared off in Santiago del Estero last Sunday in the first presidential debate dominated by economic issues (drawing 19 of the 25 follow-up questions permitted in the three segments with none for education) and with the scandalous resignation of Buenos Aires Province Cabinet Chief Martín Insurraulde receiving less attention than expected. An atypically placid Milei avoiding mention of dollarisation was another surprise but he crossed several lines in the human rights segment. Various pundits saw Massa as the winner simply because he was not a loser (nobody was), Bullrich was shaky in the economic segment, a federalist Schiaretti was self-referential about Córdoba and Bregman defended pickets while blasting the International Monetary Fund. The second presidential debate is tomorrow in the Law Faculty of the University of Buenos Aires.



The recent comments of libertarian presidential candidate Javier Milei on human rights and the 1970s have drawn fire from various sides. On Wednesday his Juntos por el Cambio rival Patricia Bullrich sued him for dubbing her a Montonero terrorist who had planted bombs in kindergartens five decades ago. Referring to his experience of growing up in Austria, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk took issue with Milei over the missing of the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, pointing out that divisive rhetoric does not help to "heal wounds" and urging "a good understanding of history … which political leaders do not study." The Austrian added: “History is painful in Argentina, Chile and many other countries and one of the most visible manifestations of that pain is caused by the forced disappearances," in a dialogue with the news agency Europa Press. Turk highlighted that the figures for the missing are "estimates of the families" so that “differing over such a sensitive issue" does not help the healing process. Major conflicts begin with minor things, he warned. The UN official was referring to Milei downscaling the generally accepted figure of 30,000 disappearances during the dictatorship to 8,753 (the 1984 CONADEP truth commission total) during last Sunday’s debate, a stance described by President Alberto Fernández as "an unsustainable denial and justification of a genocidal dictatorship which tortured, killed and robbed babies, changing their identity."



Argentina anticipated last Monday that it would protest the visit of British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to the Malvinas, announced for election day (October 22) to vindicate the self-determination of the islanders. "We’ll be waiting for him with formal diplomatic protests and the due repudiation of an action pre-announced as an unnecessary provocation defying international law," tweeted Malvinas, Antarctic and South Atlantic Secretary Guillermo Carmona. Cleverly’s visit will be the first by a British official since Defence Secretary Michael Fallon in 2016.



Argentina has asked the International Monetary Fund to roll over the payments of some US$3.4 billion between capital and interest due this month (a series of payments starting with US$1.3 billion next Monday) until the end of October, the IMF confirmed on Thursday.



Brenda Uliarte’s bid to expand her written statement on the attempt to assassinate Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner 13 months ago was knocked back by the TOF(Tribunal Oral Federal)6 courtroom last weekend on the grounds that it was inappropriate at the pre-trial stage although the judges added that once the trial started (not until next year, it is estimated), she was free to testify whatever she considered fitting in her own defence. Uliarte is one of the three people sent to trial for attempted murder by federal judge María Eugenia Capuchetti, along with the assailant Fernando Sabag Montiel and “candyfloss gang” leader Nicolás Carrizo. Late last month Uliarte had sought to change her testimony to insist that the planning of the attack went beyond her former boyfriend Sabag Montiel in statements pointing in the direction of the Revolución Federal far right organisation and PRO deputy Gerardo Millman.



While backing up Juntos por el Cambio presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich in last Sunday’s debate in Santiago del Estero, Chaco Radical governor-elect Leandro Zdero denounced receiving threats from members of the Sena clan whose core family is currently detained for the June 2 femicide of Cecilia Strzyzowski. Zdero described the clan as “one of those parallel states, micro-states … enormously well-funded” created by outgoing Chaco Peronist Governor Jorge Capitanich. Gloria Romero, the victim’s mother, also denounced threats against her surviving daughter, who has already left the province and is unprotected outside Chaco.



Stopped by a Chubut provincial police road check north of Trelew, Néstor Eduardo Barrientos, the City Hall Government Secretary of the Tierra del Fuego provincial capital of Ushuaia, was found to be in possession of 257 grams of the so-called "zombie drug." While the official was detained on September 27, his arrest only became public knowledge last weekend, prompting Ushuaia Mayor Walter Vuoto to suspend Barrientos until the courts defined his case. The drugs were disguised as bath salts, which the Chubut authorities found to contain cathinones, a new and dangerous psychoactive related to fentanyl. Barrientos was held for a few hours before being released pending investigation by the Rawson federal courtroom.



Carlos Díaz Benítez, 47, was stabbed to death some 50 times in Mar del Plata in an especially vicious murder believed to have been the result of a drug dispute. A construction worker colleague of his was arrested the same day and was found to have a criminal record.



Candela Francisco Guecamburu, 17, was crowned champion of the Youth Chess World Cup in Mexico last weekend, heading a field of 85 young players from 42 countries with six wins and five draws to become only the 7th Argentine to win a chess World Cup after Oscar Panno (1953), Carlos Bielicki (1959), Marcelo Tempone (1979), Sandra Villegas (1985), Pablo Zarnicki (1992) and Alan Pichot (2014). "World champion! I congratulate Candela Francisco for her historic triumph in the Under-20 World Cup in chess, the first Argentine woman to do so. A national pride," posted President Alberto Fernández on his X (ex-Twitter) social network account, giving the teenager’s achievement priority over the resignation of Buenos Aires Province Cabinet Chief Martín Insaurralde (the hot news at the time), about which he had no comment.



Last Sunday’s superderby between Boca Juniors and River Plate went the way of the latter with a 2-0 away win thanks to goals by veteran Venezuelan striker Salomón Rondón and Enzo Díaz. River coach Martín Demichelis rewarded his team with two days off.  Meanwhile, FIFA announced that Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay will host one of the inaugural matches of the 2030 World Cup, which will be hosted by Spain, Portugal and Morocco.



Argentina’s Film Academy has selected Los Delincuentes, directed by Rodrigo Moreno, as its candidate for next year’s Oscar for the Best Foreign Film. Bidding for Argentina’s third Oscar following La historia oficial (1986) and El secreto de sus ojos (2010), the film starring Daniel Elías and Esteban Bigliardi will have its local premiere on October 26.

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