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ARGENTINA | 20-11-2021 09:11

What we learned this week: November 13 to 20

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

 

MIDTERM ELECTIONS

The Frente de Todos ruling coalition suffered a bruising defeat in last Sunday’s midterm elections, even if less shattering and less of a shock than the results of the PASO primary nine weeks previously. The impact was far more dramatic in the Senate where the opposition picked up seats from Frente de Todos in five of the eight provinces renewing their upper house representation (Chubut, Córdoba, Corrientes, La Pampa and Santa Fe), thus causing Peronism to lose quorum in the Senate for virtually the first time since 1983. The swing to the opposition was less clear-cut in the lower house with Juntos por el Cambio gains across the country counterbalanced by the loss of seats in strongholds such as this city (three deputies) and Jujuy – each of the main coalitions ended up with 15 of the 35 deputies up for election in pivotal Buenos Aires Province where the Juntos margin shrank to 1.3 percent. The latter improvement was presented as a triumph by the government with President Alberto Fernández in a defiantly celebratory mood at Wednesday’s mass Peronist Militancy Day rally in Plaza de Mayo, assuring the crowd that “triumph is not conquest but never giving up and nobody has beaten us.” Beyond the polarisation the most striking features of the voting were the emergence of a brand-new libertarian caucus with five seats while Frente de Izquierda doubled their strength from two to four seats. Virtually complete voting results had Juntos por el Cambio with almost 42 percent (9.73 million votes) and Frente de Todos with 33.5 percent (7.77 million votes), winning in only nine of the 23 provinces, with Frente de Izquierda a distant third with 5.9 percent (1.37 million votes) in a turnout of 71 percent. The future Congress will thus see Frente de Todos with 118 of the 257 lower house seats and 35 of the 72 senators, as against 116 and 31 respectively for Juntos, who also won in 14 of this city’s 15 communes.

 

POST-ELECTION FALLOUT

Last Tuesday the government pushed for 116 emergency decrees still awaiting Congress approval to be ratified in the near future before the Senate numbers change. Today will see the launch of a new Kirchnerite line Soberanxs headed by former vice-president Amado Boudou along with ex-ambassador Alicia Castro, former Buenos Aires Province lieutenant-governor Gabriel Mariotto and outgoing deputy Fernanda Vallejos among others, all critical of President Alberto Fernández, announced as an immediate reaction to last Sunday’s midterms on the following day. Castro described it as a "cultural bloc” which would battle for sovereignty at every level while Mariotto argued the urgency of the "democratisation of the media," an idea echoed by Chaco Governor Jorge Capitanich on Thursday​

 

DEATH IN BARRACAS

The Metropolitan Police were in the spotlight following the Thursday death in a Florencio Varela hospital of Barracas Central footballer Lucas González, 17, after two police bullets were fired through his head in Barracas on Wednesday. Three city policemen are under investigation. 

 

SCHIAVI FREED

Former Transport Secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi, sentenced to 66 months in prison for his responsibility for the 52-death Once rail tragedy in 2012, was freed the day after the election when the Tribunal Oral Federal (TOF)2 court ordered his release upon having served two-thirds of his sentence with good behaviour. 

 

THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS

There was a total of 116,360 deaths and 5,313,607 confirmed cases of coronavirus contagion at press time yesterday as against 116,222 deaths and 5,304,259 cases the previous Friday. In the first two days of the week the pandemic vanished from the news as the midterms and their fallout crowded out all else. As from Tuesday City Hall released children up to the third grade from the obligation to use face-masks in classrooms (a restriction relaxed for all schoolchildren in playgrounds as from October 20). 

 

MARKET WATCH

The “blue” parallel dollar closed yesterday at 201.50 pesos, up from 200 pesos from the previous Friday after falling earlier in the week in the wake of the government’s midterm defeat. It thus remains close to double the official exchange rate of 105.50 pesos, as quoted by Banco Nación, or 174.76 pesos for savers with the 65 percent surcharges. With no further Central Bank efforts to hold them down, the other parallel rates – CCL (contado con liquidación) and MEP (mercado electrónico de pago) – shot up from their testimonial levels of 184.08 and 183.98 pesos the previous Friday to 216.05 and 205.58 pesos respectively although the parallel rates of these parallel rates had been in the region of 215 pesos on the eve of voting. Country risk showed little movement at 1,761 points as against 1,753 points the previous Friday. 

 

VULTURES STRIKE BACK?

Three vulture funds, holdouts from previous bond swaps, filed for an injunction on debts totalling US$230 million in the courtroom of Manhattan judge Loretta Preska last Tuesday. Their call for a lien on Argentine assets in the New York Federal Reserve comes at a delicate time in the government’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

 

PATERNITY LEAVE BOOST

Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof last Thursday signed a law extending maternity and paternity leave for provincial employees to up to 180 days on full pay, describing the measure as a “modern and innovative" move towards gender equality. Kicillof was joined by provincial Ministers Mara Ruiz Malec (Labour), Nicolás Kreplak (Health) and Estela Díaz (Women) in announcing the new scheme, which permits women to change maternity into paternity leave in order to keep their jobs. Paternity leave for fathers at birth now rises to up to three months from two or three days.

 

MACRI JUDGE CONFIRMED

The Mar del Plata Federal Appeals Court on Thursday upheld the jurisdiction of Dolores surrogate federal judge Martín Bava in the investigation of presumed illegal espionage against the families of the victims of the submarine ARA San Juan (where ex-president Mauricio Macri is indicted among others) against objections lodged by Macri’s lawyers Pablo Lanusse against Bava as lacking Independence. The judges did not think that the judge’s failure to relieve Macri of his obligation to intelligence secrecy ahead of his first appearance in Dolores last month extended beyond justifying the postponement of that summons. Last Monday was the fourth anniversary of the submarine’s disappearance but any remembrance was lost amid the aftermath of the midterm elections the previous day.

 

HOTESUR REJECTION

Federal prosecutor Diego Velasco on Wednesday asked for Vice-President Cristina Kirchner request for acquittal on charges of money-laundering via her family’s Hotesur Patagonian hotel chain to be rejected and that the trial move ahead. The vice-president argued that all hotel accounts passed through the banking system. On Thursday the federal appeals court for social security ratified the veep’s right to a double pension.  

 

FRIDA HEADS TO ARGENTINA

Argentine collector and MALBA museum founder Eduardo Costantini last Tuesday bought Diego y yo, a rare painting by Frida Kahlo, for almost US$35 million – a record price for a work by the iconic Mexican artist or any from Latin America. The 1949 painting, a self-portrait of Kahlo with the face of the painter's husband Diego Rivera appearing on her forehead, smashed the former record of US$8 million set for a Kahlo in 2016. The masterpiece will now go into Costantini’s private collection rather than MALBA. 

 

LOVE IS GREAT.

Highlighting its ongoing cooperation with Argentina's government on LGBT+ rights, the British Embassy in Argentina this week opened the doors of the ambassador's residence to a number of key activists and civil society representatives for an event marking Pride Month. The event, which featured an impressive Tango Queer performance by dancers Juampy Ramírez and Fernando Carrasco, underlined the committed of both Argentina and the United Kingdom to human rights. The two countries currently hold the co-presidency of the Equal Rights Coalition and have committed to working to address the scourge of violence and discrimination against the LGBTI+ community worldwide.

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