THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS
With the advent of a second wave of the pandemic heralded by a steady stream of five-digit daily figures for confirmed cases of contagion throughout the week, there were 2,373,153 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 56,023 deaths at press time yesterday as against 2,291,051 cases and 55,235 deaths the previous Friday. The government immediately sounded alarm and did not wait for Easter week to start, announcing on Palm Sunday home office for the public sector and recommending nocturnal curfews for all districts with over 150 cases per 100,000 people in the last fortnight – a criterion applying to this city and three provincial capitals as well as over 40 other districts spread around 13 provinces. On Monday City Hall made its long-awaited announcement that it was commencing the registration and shift assignment of those aged between 70 and 80 years for vaccination, immediately for those aged 75 to 79 and as from Thursday for the rest. Alarmed by over 14,000 cases on Monday (the highest since October), the national government started fine-tuning new restrictions but not until this upcoming week in order not to interfere with Easter tourism (even if experts feared that this would accelerate contagion). On Tuesday Buenos Aires Province banned all activities from 2am to 6am in 110 of its 135 districts and capped social meetings at 10 people. The next day Argentina’s most populous province set a new record at 8,063 cases (over half the national total of 16,056), well above the previous record of 7,468 set over seven months ago. A million doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine was due to arrive on Thursday from Beijing aboard an Aerolíneas Argentinas flight while yesterday a further vaccine-laden flight was scheduled to arrive from Moscow following a delay although Health Minister Carla Vizzotti was unable to specify how many doses of Sputnik V it would contain. The 10 flights from Russia have brought 3.97 million doses so far out of a total of almost five million with nearly four million people vaccinated (although only around 17 percent with a double dose).
POVERTY RISES TO 42%
The INDEC national statistics bureau disclosed on Wednesday that 42 percent of the population were below the poverty line at the end of last year as against 35.5 percent as 2019 closed – up from 16 to 19 million people. Exactly a quarter of this figure (10.5 percent) is considered destitute. The most serious problem is that a clear majority of children aged under 15 – 57.7 percent or 6.3 million in total – belong to impoverished households. Another vast pocket of majority impoverishment is the Greater Buenos Aires urban ring surrounding the Federal Capital (with almost 12 million people according to the 2010 census) with 51 percent below the poverty line. The only other urban zone with majority impoverishment is the Chaco provincial capital of Resistencia (53.6 percent). The poverty figure peaked at 47 percent in the second quarter of 2020 due to the total lockdown driven by the coronavirus pandemic.
The government renewed its drive to postpone the PASO primaries and the midterm elections by at least a month, inviting various leading opposition figures (not including any party chairs from the Juntos por el Cambio coalition) to the Casa Rosada on Tuesday while Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ de Pedro said that he would be taking the proposal to Congress this coming Tuesday. The reaction of the Juntos por el Cambio helm the following day was that they could be open to evaluating a postponement if the pandemic data spiked during the winter (with the strongest misgivings coming from the Radicals and the province of Mendoza) but “from no viewpoint” would they accept elimination of the PASO primaries, describing that mechanism as vital for defining candidacies between coalition partners while suggesting that the ruling Frente de Todos coalition was indifferent to primaries due to their top-down structure. The opposition leadership also said that it would need to unify stances within the coalition before giving a final answer. The current electoral timetable sets an August 8 date for the PASO primaries with the midterms on October 24.
The bill raising the income tax floor to a monthly 150,000 pesos received unanimous approval (with 241 of the 257 deputies voting in favour and three abstaining) by the Chamber of Deputies in a marathon 20-hour session last weekend. Rapid Senate passage is expected in the upcoming week following discussion by its Budget and Labour Committees last week.
PLENTY OF CASH ABROAD
Argentines have some US$250.4 billion stashed away at home and abroad beyond the financial system, according to the estimates of INDEC statistics bureau. This sum is over sixfold the Central Bank’s foreign currency reserves (which closed last year at US$39.387 billion). Economists attribute this conduct to decades of instability, recession, inflation and expropriations undermining confidence in the peso as a reserve currency and in the local financial system as a safe place to deposit savings.
DICTATORSHIP-ERA JUDGE CONVICTED
The Federal Criminal Cassation Court on Thursday upheld the conviction of former La Rioja federal judge Roberto Catalán for participation in crimes against humanity during the 1976-83 military dictatorship which previously he had only been accused of covering up. Survivors testified that he not only knew about the disappearance of Adán Díaz Romero and the torture of at least eight political prisoners without doing anything to prevent it but even attended the interrogations. The judges also ruled any appeal to the Supreme Court to be “inadmissible.” Elsewhere, Martín Soria was sworn-in as Argentina’s new justice minister on Monday.
International Transgender Day of Visibility last Wednesday was marked by a demonstration outside Congress calling for Tehuel de la Torre, 21, a transgender youth missing since March 11, "to reappear alive." A man has already been arrested for the crime ahead of finding any corpse.
PERGOLINI QUITS BOCA
Radio star Mario Pergolini resigned as senior vice-president of Boca Juniors on Wednesday after clashing with the other vice-president, the club idol Juan Román Riquelme, over communications policy which Pergolini considered to be his beat. The Football Council headed by Riquelme had opened Instagram and Youtube accounts under the name of @Bocapredio which clashed directly with the official channels created and managed by Pergolini. The latter denied any problems with club President Jorge Amor Ameal or even with Riquelme, praising the former for putting the club first, but insisted that he could not continue because he felt “uncomfortable” since he could not translate his “vision” into reality.