Last month’s inflation was 6.7 percent, the INDEC national statistics bureau announced in midweek, the highest in 20 years. Annual inflation thus reached 55.1 percent with 16.1 percent so far this year. The key item of food and beverages topped the general average at 7.2 percent with double-digit increases posted by education (23.6 percent) and garments and footwear (10.9 percent). In a Monday television interview Economy Minister Martín Guzmán had anticipated that March inflation would top six percent, promising that it would be “the highest of this year,” but the final figure exceeded almost every expectation. The minister, who was endorsed by President Alberto Fernández yet again over the weekend, also made “clear political support” a condition for economic success and ruled out any more farm export duties. Also on Monday, before last month’s inflation was announced, City Hall said that a family of four needed a monthly 90,467 pesos to evade poverty and 49,602 pesos to escape destitution. Poverty in this city was measured last year at 16.4 percent as against 37.3 percent nationwide.
The week started with the birth of Francisco Fernández Yañez (at 1.21am on Monday, to be exact) at the Otamendi Hospital, the second son of President Alberto Fernández and 27 years younger than his elder brother. The president declined to take paternity leave and continued working out of the hospital for three days, thus preventing Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (who congratulated the presidential couple along with best wishes for their new offspring, also sending flowers) from replacing him. Francisco, who weighed in at 3.5 kilos, was immediately made a member of Argentinos Juniors football club at birth.
Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on Wednesday inaugurated the Eurolat parliamentary assembly bringing together European and Latin American legislators with a controversial speech in which she reminded President Alberto Fernández that “being given the presidential baton does not mean that you have power” and complained about lawfare at her expense. More out of character she described capitalism as the “most efficient system” with inequality “the product of political decisions or the lack of them.” Some of the visiting deputies criticised her speech as a partisan harangue below the level of the institutional occasion, also questioning that she aimed her fire at NATO rather than the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
SILK ROAD SIGN UP
Argentina last Monday formally entered China’s Belt and Road Initiative (often dubbed the Silk Road, which connected China to the outside world for over 1,000 years between the Han and Tang dynasties), an alliance potentially offering access to US$23.7 billion to finance infrastructure projects according to the Foreign Ministry as well as the possible transfer of Beijing’s special drawing rights from the International Monetary Fund. The memorandum of understanding to that effect, signed by Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero on February 4, was published in the Official Gazette last Monday. Belt and Road already connects 139 countries (including 13 Latin American republics and all 54 African nations) with 70 percent of the world’s population, 75 percent of energy reserves and 55 percent of global economic output.
Picket activists failed to reach agreement with the government over the expansion of social plans at the start of the week and resumed their protests in midweek. City Hall has proposed stripping pickets disrupting traffic of their social plans. Monday’s talks lasting over two hours were headed by Social Development Minister Juan Zabaleta on the government side and Polo Obrero leader Eduardo Belliboni for the pickets, who are also demanding jobs and food assistance.
STRIKES STEP UP
Hauliers were on strike throughout the week to protest the lack of diesel fuel and increased freight rates, thus crippling grain exports. An agreement was reached Thursday. City doctors went on a 36-hour strike last Tuesday to press for a 90 percent pay increase to move ahead of inflation and working conditions.
The government last Tuesday decided to fire Luis Puenzo (winner of the 1984 Oscar for the best foreign film with La Historia Oficial) as head of INCAA (Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales) following a rowdy protest demanding his resignation, which ended in clashes with the City Police and two arrests. The complaint against Puenzo was that he showed little or no interest in independent and inland film producers. Culture Minister Tristán Bauer underlined that “for this government the production of national content is fundamental” in the defence of “cultural sovereignty.” Picket leader Eduardo Belliboni of Polo Obrero joined the protest.
The “blue” parallel dollar slipped just one peso in the course of an abbreviated week ending Thursday to 195 pesos from 196 the previous Friday while the official exchange rate moved up from 117.25 to 118 pesos in the same period, as quoted by Banco Nación, or 195.34 pesos if the 65 percent surcharges for savers and tourists are included. The parallel but legal CCL (contado con liquidación) and MEP (medio electrónico de pagos) exchange rates both inched up, to 190.75 and 191.33 pesos from 189.50 and 190.36 pesos respectively. Country risk dipped below 1,700 points, from 1,727 to 1,689 points.
GANG RAPE TRIAL
The trial of the six youths accused of the Palermo gang rape of February 28 was confirmed last Tuesday and they will remain in prison with the court arguing that they could threaten the victim if released. Only half the defendants have appealed so far.
The Argentine Navy on Wednesday received its fourth and last ocean-going patrol boat ARA Contraalmirante Cordero from the French ship-builders Naval Group in Concarneau, Brittany. "These boats are already contributing to the defence of the sovereign interests of Argentina," commented a Navy communiqué. Each with a crew of 40, the patrol boats can remain over three weeks at sea with a speed of over 20 knots (37 kilometres per hour), weighing 1,650 tons and 87 metres long.
Last Tuesday United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres was awarded the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa by Córdoba University chancellor Hugo Juri in New York. Despite such pressing urgencies as the Russian invasion of Ukraine “placing climate change at the mercy of geopolitics” following hard on the Covid-19 pandemic, the former Portuguese premier found time to deliver a speech of several hundred words in thanks for the honour, showing a knowledge of the Jesuit origins of Córdoba University over 400 years ago and of previous recipients such as the late Shimon Peres and “my friend Felipe González.” He regarded the honour as being extended to the UN as a whole rather than to himself, hailing the role of higher education in making for a better world.
DEAD ON ARRIVAL
A man travelling over 15 kilometres on the 66 bus line from Greater Buenos Aires to Liniers was found to be dead at the end of the journey around noon on Tuesday without any of his fellow-passengers having noticed, thinking that he had just nodded off.