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ARGENTINA | 04-06-2021 22:59

What we learned this week: May 30 to June 5

A selection of the stories that seized the headlines over the past week in Argentina.

 

THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS

The death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic topped the 80,000 mark yesterday with 80,411 lives lost at press time and 3,915,397 confirmed cases of coronavirus contagion as against 76,693 deaths and 3,702,422 cases the previous Friday. At the close of last weekend, the government and CONMEBOL decided against hosting the Copa América in Argentina. The week started with some of the restrictions from the previous nine days of strict quarantine being lifted as some schools were re-opened (although over half nationwide remain limited to virtual classes) and tables reappearing on the pavements outside restaurants and cafés, etc. On Tuesday pro-Cuban organisations in Argentina donated 380,000 syringes and 359,00 needles to the Caribbean island for its vaccination campaign. On Wednesday Juntos por el Cambio opposition deputies presented a bill to remove the offending word “negligence” from last year’s vaccination bill and thus unblock negotiations with Pfizer lab. On the same day Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero reported to Congress and had to field over 1,000 questions, most of them concerning vaccination – among his replies, Cafiero said that the government had requested only 10 percent of Argentina’s potential Cofax quota because of the cost. On Thursday the United States confirmed that it would be donating vaccines to Argentina without specifying a quantity or date. Yesterday Buenos Aires Governor Axel Kicillof held a press conference to announce conclusion of an agreement to purchase 10 million doses of India’s Covaxin, the first acquisition of vaccine by a provincial government in Argentina, without elaborating that their arrival may not be in any near future since New Delhi has a policy of attending to its own acute second wave crisis (the worst in the world) before exporting vaccine. Kicillof also announced that anybody in BA province aged over 70 may claim vaccination upon proving their age without fixing an appointment. Finally, the province of Córdoba yesterday reverted to the strictest phase of quarantine. 

 

ELECTION DELAY CONFIRMED

The new election dates of September 12 for the PASO primaries and November 14 for the actual midterms are now signed, sealed and delivered as from yesterday following the publication of Decree 357/2021 in the Official Gazette promulgating the law passed almost unanimously by Congress earlier in the week and signed into law by President Alberto Fernández. A clause in the law on the opposition’s insistence stipulates that there can be no further change of date. The original electoral calendar scheduled the PASO primaries for August 8 and the elections for October 24. In other Congress news, the Senate on Wednesday approved the bill lowering taxation for smaller companies but upping the corporate tax bill on aggregate. 

 

MARKET WATCH

 The “blue” dollar, the main parallel exchange rate, slipped back a peso last week, closing yesterday at 156 pesos from 157 pesos the previous Friday. The official exchange rate confirmed entry into three digits last week at the round figure of 100 pesos as quoted by Banco Nación, as against 99.75 the previous Friday – well ahead of the “blue” at 165 pesos if the 65 percent surcharges for purchasers are added. Among the unofficial but legal alternative exchange rates, the CCL (contado con liquidación) advanced well beyond the official exchange rate plus surcharges, rising to 166.20 pesos as against 165.10 pesos the previous Friday. The MEP (mercado electrónico de pagos) rose to 160.73 pesos from 159.30 the previous Friday. Country risk was fractionally down yesterday at 1,504 points from 1,508 at the close of last week.

 

BULLRICH DOMINATES HEADLINES

Patricia Bullrich, the former Security minister who now chairs PRO centre-right party, was all over the headlines this week, initially after having repudiated by the staff of a primary school in Castelar after filming herself outside it on Tuesday complaining that there were no classes. "With Lorena Petrovich, Analía Zapulla and María Traverso we went to a school in Castelar where the parents, teachers and psychologists told us of the anguish suffered by the kids from having no classes. It is urgent to open up the classrooms of Buenos Aires Province – they are not a focus of contagion," was the accompanying message, concluding after showing a chained door: "This is the image of a school chained up. We want to break these chains, like it says in our national anthem." The school authorities promptly corrected her with a communiqué pointing out: "The School is NOT closed," pointing out that virtual classes were given daily. Bullrich blamed Morón local PRO councillor Zappulla for the error, saying that she was just accompanying her in solidarity while also underlining that classroom presence was the real issue here. On Thursday Bullrich then criticised Lower House Speaker Sergio Massa and Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner heading up the Senate for granting parliamentary staff a whopping 40-percent raise (following an 18 percent increase last year), tweeting: "Evidently Cristina Kirchner and Sergio Massa are against all the Argentines with thousands of shopkeepers ruined and unemployment in every activity.” The extension of last year’s freeze on the pay of deputies and senators has yet to be decided. All this came just days after a controversial ‘escrache’ protest outside Bullrich’s home prompted C5N to fire one of its high-profile journalists.

 

NI UNA MENOS, SIX YEARS ON

The sixth anniversary of the first Ni Una Menos march against femicide was marked on Thursday with no marches or rallies for the second year running due to the pandemic, replaced by multiple comments via the social networks, including by Women, Gender and Diversity Minister Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta. Since that first march on June 3, 2015, there have been 1,717 femicides in Argentina, as monitored by the Equipo Latinoamericano de Justicia, with 238 in the last year.

 

PEPIN REMAINS WHERE HE IS?’

Uruguay on Thursday rejected the Argentine request for the arrest and extradition of Parlasur PRO deputy Fabián Rodríguez Simón (our featured interview last week) on the grounds of alleged extortionate pressures against Kirchnerite tycoons Cristóbal López and Fabián de Sousa.

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