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ARGENTINA | 01-04-2022 21:33

What we learned this week: March 26 to April 2

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

 

37% IN POVERTY

Poverty descended to 37.3 percent at the end of last year, down 3.3 percentage points from mid-2021 and 4.7 points year on year, INDEC statistics bureau announced last Wednesday. A total of 10,806,414 people were measured as remaining below the poverty line in the country’s 31 leading urban centres nationwide, projecting to over 16 million people out of an overall population of approximately 45 million inhabitants with over 920,000 people escaping poverty in the second half of last year and almost 1.2 million when compared to the same period in 2020. Destitution, which had peaked at 10.5 percent in 2020, was 6.1 percent in the second half of last year, down 2.5 points from the first half of 2021 and 2.3 points year on year. The 2,384,106 people measured in that category are thus over 703,000 less than the first half of 2021 and 632,000 less than the same period in 2020. Poverty in Greater Buenos Aires registered the sharpest fall, fully seven percentage points year-on-year to weigh in at 42.3 percent while it actually rose 2.5 points in the City of Buenos Aires to 16.4 percent. Western Argentina had the highest poverty levels at 42.7 percent while traditionally poor Northern Argentina averaged 39.3 percent. Poverty remains a majority phenomenon in the Chaco provincial capital of Resistencia (52 percent) and the Entre Ríos city of Concordia (51.5 percent).


SOCIAL PACT

President Alberto Fernández held extensive meetings on Monday with CGT trade unionists and Argentine Industrial Union (UIA) businessmen towards a wage-price agreement to halt inflation but with no visible results. In midweek socio-economic discontent made itself felt when picket and leftist organisations camped out along the Avenida 9 de Julio thoroughfare. The next day the government announced a 6,000-peso bonus for those collecting the minimum pension in order to compensate for inflation in the past two months, also proposing a similar bonus for workers in the public and private sectors but without deciding whether the money is to be paid by the government or arise out of collective bargaining.   


CENSORSHIP ROW

Strategic Affairs Secretary Gustavo Beliz ran into a strong backlash when he floated the possibility of regulating social networks last Tuesday. PRO chair Patricia Bullrich remarked that the “fascist dwarf” inside him had slipped out. 


ELECTED JUSTICE

Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ De Pedro last Thursday questioned the role of the Judiciary, suggesting that Supreme Court justices should be elected by popular vote in order to prevent the opposition from running to them any time Congress passed a law it did not like. De Pedro was reportedly anticipating fears that the Supreme Court would be ruling in favour of City Hall in its federal revenue-sharing dispute with the national government. The minister further said that “a way must be found of guaranteeing that wages finish ahead of inflation.”


EYEING ASSETS

Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last Monday presented to the Senate via the Frente de Todos caucus two controversial bills to whitewash undeclared assets abroad with the proceeds earmarked for paying off the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The repatriated capital is to be taxed at a starting rate of 20 percent, payable in dollars, rising to 35 percent if the return is delayed by over six months. The following day the veep ran into problems in the Senate when she failed to muster a majority for her reform of the Council of Magistrates.


STANLEY @ AMCHAM

In a week beginning with a much-commented meeting with Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (almost her first contact with a United Nations representative in a decade), the new US Ambassador Marc Stanley celebrated his country’s contribution to the Argentine economy at an AmCham cocktail last Thursday by exclaiming: "Over 600 member companies directly employing 420,000 personas, contributing 19 percent of Argentina’s Gross Domestic Product and 39 percent of the tax haul. Impressive figures!" For his part AmCham President Roberto Alexander said: "We in the Chamber continue working to link the public and private sectors, accompanied by the Embassy to deepen Argentina’s development” while AmCham CEO Alejandro Díaz, flagged the cooperation with the US Embassy to boost the position of US companies as Argentina’s leading foreign investor. Last week AmCham hailed the importance of Congress approval of the agreement between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while pointing to “pending structural changes” and Vice-President Fernández de Kirchner reportedly plugged Stanley for US collaboration with her bill to whitewash Argentine capital abroad, much of which is presumed to be in Delaware.


MARKET WATCH

The “blue” parallel dollar inched down a peso last week to a round figure of 200 pesos from 201 pesos the previous Friday. The official exchange rate closed the week at 116 pesos, as quoted by Banco Nación yesterday, as against 115.50 pesos the previous Friday. The parallel but legal exchange rates of the CCL (contado con liquidación) and MEP (medio electrónico de pagos) were both around 190 pesos yesterday, down from 194-195 pesos the previous Friday. Country risk fell to 1,720 points yesterday from 1,832 points late in the previous week prior to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approving its agreement with Argentina, starting the day at 1,736 points.  


BABY FRANCISCO

Argentina’s secrets of state do not include either the gender or the name of the presidential offspring expected later this month – the baby is to be named Francisco in honour of Pope Francis, first lady Fabiola Yáñez has revealed. She also apologised for her controversial birthday party in mid-2020 at the height of quarantine restrictions.  


THIEF WINS LOTTERY, VOWS NOT TO STEAL

Marcelo Paredes, 37, aka ‘Rambito,’ a notorious petty thief in the Chubut city of Puerto Madryn, won 94 million pesos in the Quini 6 lottery and immediately headed to the nearest police station to assure the bemused officers that he would never rob again. This chain of events actually happened some months ago but the story only became known in midweek. It was further revealed that Rambito had sought out two of his victims to offer them twice the cash he had stolen from them. 


CUP DRAWS CLOSER

Argentina wound up its run-in to the Qatar World Cup last week, drawing 1-1 against Ecuador in Guayaquil last Tuesday with a last-minute penalty awarded to the hosts in its final qualifying match while yesterday they were drawn with Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia as the Group C seeds.


FRENCHMAN CHARGED WITH ARAMBURÚ’S MURDER

A French ex-soldier has been charged with the murder of ex-Pumas rugby star Federico Martin Aramburu, and placed in pre-trial detention. Loïk Le Priol, a former marine commando and member of an ultra-right movement, is suspected of having opened fire on the former Argentine international, who died on the spot, after an altercation in a bar in Saint-Germain-des-Pres in Paris on March 19 .Le Priol, who served in Mali and Djibouti, was arrested four days later under a European arrest warrant at the Zahony border crossing between Hungary and Ukraine.


CHARLY DISCHARGED!

Ageing rock legend Charly García, 70, was discharged from hospital last Monday to continue his recovery at home from burns suffered in a domestic accident last February 22, injuries requiring plastic surgery.
 

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