THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS
There were 4,627,537 confirmed cases of coronavirus contagion and 98,148 deaths at press time yesterday as against 4,512,439 cases and 95,382 deaths the previous Friday. At the start of the week airlines warned that over 40,000 Argentines stranded abroad could take as long as five months to return but a Tuesday meeting between the Transport Ministry and local and international (IATA, the International Air Transport Association) representatives lasted less than 10 minutes with the government standing by its daily entry cap of 600 passengers at press time, although there was talk of possible “exceptional flights” later in the week. A strike by airline employees on Thursday did not help the situation. This issue largely displaced vaccination as the focus of pandemic debate until Thursday when the vaccine shortages dominated the questions to Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero reporting to Congress (with almost a million Argentines overdue for their second shot of Sputnik vaccine) – Cafiero told deputies that a contract with Moderna lab for vaccines for the young would be signed on Monday. On Thursday City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta announced new relaxations in restrictions, especially on the social and cultural front – indoor meetings of up to 20 people and cultural events gathering up to 1,000 people as from next month are now cleared while employees can now commute to their offices up to 30 percent of capacity. Intensive care bed occupancy has been almost halved since last month, Rodríguez Larreta reported.
INDEPENDENCE DAY PROTEST
Demonstrations called by agricultural employers and the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition, with tractors and trucks wrapped in national flags, took place at various locations across the country on Friday. The protesters celebrated Argentina's Independence Day by rallying against the "populism" imposed by President Alberto Fernández's government. Several thousand protesters gathered at the side of a road at the demonstration's main rally in the city of San Nicolás, some 240km north of Buenos Aires, in the middle of the pampas. Among those in attendance was PRO party Patricia Bullrich, who called for Argentina to “free itself from populism” while dressed as a gaucho and riding on a horseback.
Thursday’s presidential summit of the Mercosur trade bloc proved to be bumpy with President Alberto Fernández accusing his colleagues of going it alone while his Brazilian colleague Jair Bolsonaro taking over the bloc’s presidency for the rest of the year deplored the lack of progress under his Argentine predecessors and Uruguay’s Luis Lacalle Pou ratified his country’s intention to seek agreements beyond Mercosur.
Senator Carlos Reutemann, 79, a two-term Santa Fe governor (1991-1995 and 1999-2003), a four-term senator (the first three as a Peronist and the last under the Cambiemos label) and a Grand Prix motor-racing idol in his younger days (1972-82), died on Wednesday.
The Italian singer and television personality Raffaella Carrà, 78, an icon of the Argentina of half a century ago, died in her home country last Monday. Most of her programmes were broadcast by the Italian state channel RAI but via Spain’s TVE reached much of Latin America where she was especially popular in Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Peru. Her most popular programme "Amore" speaks for itself.
CORREO ARGENTINO CASE
Judge Marta Cirulli on Monday ruled the bankruptcy of Correo Argentino post office, owned by the Macri family. The previous day ex-president Mauricio Macri from Europe had circulated a letter in the social networks charging that a vendetta against him via the judicial system was afoot, masterminded by Treasury Prosecutor Carlos Zannini (who had requested that Correo Argentino be declared bankrupt).
The “blue” dollar, the main parallel exchange rate, closed the week at 174 pesos as against 170 pesos the previous Friday. The official exchange rate inched up to 101 pesos from 100.75 at the close of last week as quoted by Banco Nación or 167 pesos with the 65 percent surcharges for purchasers, below the “blue.” Among the unofficial but legal alternative exchange rates, the CCL (contado con liquidación) climbed to 167.20 pesos from 166.40 pesos the previous Friday while the MEP (mercado electrónico de pagos) inched up a mere five cents from 166.35 to 166.40 pesos in the course of the week with the Central Bank keeping a lid on this sensitive rate. Yesterday’s country risk figures ranged between 1,612 and 1,621 points as against 1,588 points the previous Friday, perhaps more the result of Delta variant jitters than money market trends.
President Alberto Fernández on Wednesday overturned a 1998 reform permitting workers a free choice among the obras sociales union-run healthcare schemes, decreeing that they were restricted to the scheme of their activity for at least a year. This move had long been requested by the CGT umbrella labour grouping.
The Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a Cassation Court sentence ruling “lack of evidence” in crimes against humanity charges against Jujuy tycoon Carlos Blaquier, 93, and Ledesma sugar giant administrator Alberto Lemos, who are accused of providing vehicles for the illegal detention of three of their employees soon after the military coup in 1976, thus re-opening the trial. Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Rosencrantz dissented with the decision, his predecessor Ricardo Lorenzetti abstained while the other three justices voted against the Cassation Court sentence, disputing their jurisdiction in this case. The government’s Human Rights Secretariat is a plaintiff in the trial, which has been upheld by the Salta Appeals Court and is already three years old.
Argentine golf champion Angel "Pato" Cabrera, 51, was sentenced to two years prison last Wednesday for assaulting his former partner and stealing her mobile phone. The ruling by a court in the central city of Córdoba was broadcast on television. Prosecutor Laura Battistelli argued that gender violence was an aggravating factor. Cabrera was arrested by Interpol in Rio de Janeiro in January and extradited to Argentina in early June. The golfer, who will appeal, faces other charges of domestic violence, including one filed by his ex-wife and mother of his two children in 2016.
AMBASSADOR CAUGHT OUT
The Argentine Ambassador to Israel Sergio Urribarri (a former governor of Entre Ríos, 2007-15) found himself the centre of controversy as from Tuesday when video images circulated of him dancing frantically at a wedding party in Tel Aviv while shouting to a man next to him: “Tomorrow we’ll all have Covid.” His flippant remark was ill-timed with Israel currently undergoing an upsurge of the Delta variant, despite advanced vaccination, thus causing restrictions to be tightened, while coronavirus is no joke in an Argentina approaching 100,000 deaths. Argentina is not currently in Israel’s good books due to recent hostile votes in the United Nations regarding the Gaza Strip conflict.
COVID COPA FINAL
Argentina faces hosts and favourites Brazil today in the Copa América final thanks to the heroics of Aston Villa goalie Emiliano Martínez, who saved three of the five shots fired his way in the penalty shootout deciding Tuesday’s semi-final against Colombia. There were various interpretations as to his success, ranging from the inspiration of fathering a daughter Eiba almost simultaneously to intimidating two of the three frustrated Colombian players (Davinson Sánchez and Yerry Mina) by telling them: “I’m going to eat you up, brother.”