THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS
Argentina had reached 115,819 deaths and 5,278,910 confirmed cases of coronavirus contagion by press time yesterday, as against 115,660 deaths and 5,271,361 cases the previous Friday. On Tuesday City Hall announced that the open-air use of face-masks would become optional with the capital’s population approximating 70 percent with complete vaccination while the Paraguayan border was reopened after 600 days at the Misiones provincial capital of Posadas.
After failing to obtain agreement from the private sector, the government froze the prices on almost 1,500 mass consumption products via Resolution 1050/2021 published in the Official Gazette last Wednesday, rolling them back to the start of this month and freezing them for the next three months (until January 7, 2022). Violators of the freeze will be liable to the sanctions of the anti-hoarding law (Law N° 20,680).
The “blue” parallel dollar soared 8.50 pesos in the course of the week and four pesos just yesterday, closing the week at 195 pesos as against 186.50 pesos the previous Friday. The parallel greenback thus moves ever closer to doubling the official exchange rate, which last week rose to 104.75 pesos from 104.50 pesos, as quoted by Banco Nación, or 173.15 pesos with the 65 percent surcharges for authorised purchases. The CCL (contado con liquidación) and MEP (mercado electrónico de pagos) parallel but legal exchange rates both rose, the former from 177.77 to 180 pesos and the latter from 177.68 to 179.75 pesos. Country risk accompanied the upward trend, rising to 1,671 points from 1,629 points at the close of last week.
CONTRASTING DISPLAYS OF LOYALTY
Peronist Loyalty Day was marked early this week by two contrasting events – the first on the day itself last Sunday organised by ultra-Kirchnerite government supporters in which President Alberto Fernández was roundly criticised for his negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and businessmen while some marchers attacked the memorial to the victims of the coronavirus pandemic, trampling on stones honouring the dead. The next day the CGT staged a far calmer and less controversial march without even speeches but instead a minute of silence for the Covid-19 dead.
MACRI IGNORES SUMMONS
Ex-president Mauricio Macri not only ignored his second summons to testify in Dolores at the trial of illegal espionage of the families of the lost crew of the submarine ARA San Juan but challenged the jurisdiction of the judge Martín Bava in two writs presented by his lawyer Pablo Lanusse at the time of the summons, accusing the judge of prejudging the case and lacking impartiality. Bava’s response was to issue a third summons for next Thursday but Macri’s lawyer said that he would not appear in Dolores court until the Mar del Plata Federal Appeals Court defined whether the trial continued in Bava’s hands or not, arguing that the BA City Federal Appeals Court had said that the case belonged to Judge Ariel Lijo. Various government supporters called for Macri’s arrest for contempt of court while the leading Frente de Todos Congress candidate for Buenos Aires Province, Victoria Tolosa Paz, repeatedly criticised his decision in last Wednesday’s television debate and even Radical Facundo Manes, running on the opposite list to Tolosa Paz, said that the ex-president should set an example of respecting the law.
The ongoing tension with Mapuche militants in Río Negro over the last four years returned to the main headlines last week, starting last weekend when Argentine Ambassador to Chile Rafael Bielsa’s defence of Mapuche leader Facundo Jones Huala at an October 5 court hearing was reported here as requesting his release, sparking outraged comment from numerous opposition leaders (and even Kirchnerite Buenos Aires Province Security Minister Sergio Berni) and denied by Bielsa last Thursday. This was followed early Wednesday by an arson attack, another of several over the last four years and the third this month, according to Río Negro Governor Arabela Carreras, who immediately blamed the RAM (Resistencia Ancestral Mapuche) movement formerly headed by Jones Huala (now serving a nine-year sentence for arson in Valdivia penitentiary in Chile after being extradited from Argentina in 2018) and called for support from the national government. Bielsa said on Thursday that as an ambassador he would never presume to intervene in Chilean justice but Embassy sources told Perfil that his appearance at a Temuco hearing earlier this month (where Bielsa denied that Jones Huala had been convicted for terrorism, as widely reported in the media, and was therefore entitled to parole) had been his decision, while also pointing to the lack of any Chilean protests over the episode. The Foreign Ministry, newly headed by former Cabinet chief Santiago Cafiero, declined any comment but Berni called the Embassy’s defence of Jones Huala a “colossal blunder” since the convict denied Argentine nationality while Berni’s Chubut colleague Federico Massoni also expressed “disgust.” Meanwhile, RAM claimed responsibility for the arson attacks, which were allegedly inspired by a letter from Jones Huala calling on the militants to step up action, while pamphlets against Carreras and foreign millionaires Luciano Benetton and Joe Lewis owning land in the area were found on the scene. Security Minister Aníbal Fernández refused to send federal forces to Río Negro in response to the first two attacks but on Wednesday spoke of despatching Border Guards although the next day President Alberto Fernández said that provincial security was not a responsibility of the national government. Finally, Bariloche federal prosecutor Sylvia Little quit Mapuche investigations on Tuesday but returned the next day after receiving support from the local citizenry.
Judge María Servini de Cubría has ordered the trial of Spanish ex-minister Rodolfo Martín Villa, 87, over the homicides of at least four demonstrators under the transitional government of Adolfo Suárez immediately following the Francisco Franco dictatorship (1936-1975), the lawyer of the plaintiffs reported last weekend, following the inability of the victims’ families to obtain a trial in Spain. Villa’s defence will appeal. Last year Villa pleaded not guilty while recognising "serious errors" on the part of the police. Eight other homicides are under investigation.
THELMA JARA DE CABEZAS DIES AT 94
Thelma Jara de Cabezas, 94, who not only lost her 17-year-old son Gustavo who disappeared following his arrest in 1976 but was herself tortured at the ESMA Navy Mechanics School in 1979 under the military dictatorship, died last Thursday. Upon her release in 1979 she was the victim of a fake news interview “The mother of a dead subversive speaks” with her photograph appended in the September 10 issue of the women’s magazine Para Ti, in which she was quoted as expressing her “repentance,” while soon afterwards her terminally ill husband Vicente Cabezas died.
CHARLY GARCÍA TURNS 70
Veteran rock star Charly García turns 70 today, an occasion to be marked by a concert at the Teatro Colón starring Fito Páez and a mass of events in the Centro Cultural Kirchner drawing Mexico’s Julieta as well as numerous local rock musicians.
WANDA, ONE WONDERS
The yellow press and the social networks have had more than one field day this month with the saga of Paris Saint-Germain striker Mauro Icardi and his wife Wanda Nara – finally reconciled last Tuesday following a scandal contemplating a divorce request by Wanda Nara on the grounds of her husband’s virtual (but not virtuous) infidelity with the actress María Eugenia "China" Suárez. The striker’s career earnings of around 60 million euros were at stake. Meanwhile Icardi has been skipping training with PSG for most of this month.
INFANTINO CHARMS TAPIA?
FIFA President Gianni Infantino visited Buenos Aires this week, seeking support for his controversial plans to hold a World Cup every two years. Feted by AFA chief Claudio 'Chiqui' Tapia at the football association’s headquarters in Ezeiza, with members of the 1986 World Cup-winning team in tow, Infantino argued that his idea – which has been criticised by players past and present – for a biennial World Cup plan would redistribute money around the game, rather than limit it to super clubs. "Today there are many football competitions that earn much more money than the World Cup and this money that is earned is distributed amongst a very small number of clubs," said Infantino at a press conference at the AFA’s headquarters in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires Province.