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ARGENTINA | 25-09-2021 10:33

What we learned this week: September 18 to 25

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

 

THE WEEK IN CORONAVIRUS

Argentina reached 114,828 deaths and 5,248,847 confirmed cases of coronavirus contagion by press time yesterday as against 114,286 deaths and 5,237,15 9 cases the previous Friday. Spring Day on Tuesday came with the relaxation of various restrictions optimistically proclaimed as “the last day of the pandemic” by Health Minister Cara Vizzotti and the brand-new Cabinet Chief Juan Luis Manzur – unlimited indoor capacity for social meetings and for shopping, entertainment centres, sports events, religious services, etc. authorisation of pensioners and student trips with face-masks no longer to be compulsory outdoors as from October 1 while entry caps from abroad are to be lifted as from November. The next day City Hall Health Minister Fernán Quirós asserted his authority to say that face-masks outdoors would remain obligatory until 70 percent of the district has been fully vaccinated.

 
NEW SUPREME COURT CHIEF

Horacio Rosatti will be the next chief justice of the Supreme Court until 2024 as from next month, thanks to the votes last Thursday of his predecessor Carlos Rosenkrantz and the court dean Juan Carlos Maqueda nominating him. The other two justices, Ricardo Lorenzetti and Elena Highton de Nolasco, gave the proceedings a miss.
 

NEW CABINET I

On the brink of last weekend and well after our press time, the government announced its new Cabinet, changing five of the 20 ministers as well as the helm. Following a complicated change of hands at provincial level, Tucumán Peronist Governor Juan Luis Manzur replaced Santiago Cafiero as Cabinet chief last Monday with Cafiero moving to the Foreign Ministry in place of Felipe Solá (who boarded his flight to a regional summit as a minister and landed in Mexico as an ex-minister). Current Río Turbio coal mine trustee Aníbal Fernández, a former Cabinet chief in two stints and a veteran of various portfolios, replaced Sabina Frederic as Security minister. The other changes were Julián Domínguez (Agriculture), Jaime Perczyk (Education) and Daniel Filmus (Science) replacing Luis Basterra, Nicolás Trotta and Roberto Salvarezza respectively.
 

NEW CABINET II (IN LA PLATA)

The change of Cabinet chief at national level was replicated in Buenos Aires Province with Lomas de Zamora Mayor Martín Insaurralde replacing Carlos Bianco in a Cabinet shuffle bringing two Greater Buenos Aires mayors to the fore with Leonardo Nardini of Malvinas Argentinas moving into the Infrastructure and Public Services Ministry in place of Agustín Simone (who will now head the Housing Institute). The other main change features two female veterans with provincial senatorial candidate Teresa García making an early move out of the Government (Interior) Ministry in favour of national deputy Cristina Álvarez Rodríguez (who is descended from Eva Perón’s family). Unlike at national level, Governor Axel Kicillof had made a point of requiring his entire Cabinet to offer their resignations following the shock PASO primary defeat in the province a fortnight ago.

 

MORSA VERSUS LILITA

The brand-new Security Minister Aníbal Fernández wasted no time in renewing his feud with Civic Coalition leader Elisa Carrió, calling her “a dirty lady in every sense” (adding for emphasis that she was "dirtier than a potato") in his first full day in office on Tuesday, in response to Carrio’s description of his promotion as “the return of a fallen monster – he knows all the mafias because he’s part of them” while her party commented: " Organised crime must be organising a party." On his first full day the new minister also clashed with his Buenos Aires provincial counterpart Sergio Berni in rejecting Taser stun guns. 


NEW INCOME TAX FLOOR

The government on Wednesday announced that the income tax floor would be raised from 150,000 to 175,000 pesos with the emergency decree appearing in the Official Gazette the next day. Almost 1.27 million employees stand to gain. On Tuesday a meeting of the Minimum Wage Council agreed to raise the pay floor a further nine percent to this month to 31,104 pesos and to 32,616 by next February.

 

UNEMPLOYMENT

Unemployment dropped to 9.6 percent in the first quarter of this year from 13.1 percent in the same period of 2020, INDEC statistics bureau announced on Thursday, but over two million people still remain jobless.  


MARKET WATCH

After a post-electoral dip of four pesos, the “blue” parallel dollar closed the week a peso up on the previous Friday at 186 pesos, nearly 80 percent ahead of the official exchange rate, which stayed put at 103.75 pesos, as quoted by Banco Nación, or 171.20 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 from 172.58 to 173.51 pesos and from 172.44 to 173.42 pesos respectively. Country risk shot up over 100 points from 1,496 at the close of last week to 15,98 points yesterday although this was due more to developments abroad (the crisis of the Chinese real estate giant Evergrande) than to domestic factors.


STREET-SELLING QUARTER

Two-thirds of illegal peddling takes place in 10 blocks of this city, the Chamber of Commerce informed on Thursday. The Chamber reported the number of illegal stalls as being 12.7 percent up in August as against the previous month but 27.5 percent below pre-pandemic levels. Balvanera and Once are the zones of greatest concentration.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Looking beyond this year’s voting, City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta on Tuesday launched his Plan Futuro aimed at consulting the citizenry and encouraging their participation via “ideathons” and panels of dialogue in five key areas for a post-pandemic city – integral welfare (including gender equality and environmental measures), security, education and employment and urban and digital transformation.


FIRST LADY PREGNANT

First Lady Fabiola Yáñez is 10 weeks pregnant, government house confirmed on Thursday. 
 

OIL COMBUSTIBLES 

The Civic Coalition wing of the Juntos por el Cambio opposition coalition has denounced Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and AFIP tax bureau chief Mercedes Marcó del Pont for "aggravated cover- up, abuse of authority, influence-trafficking and malfeasance" for dropping charges against businessmen Cristóbal López and Fabián de Sousa regarding tax evasion by their company Oil Combustibles. The 30-page denunciation also takes note of a conflict of interest on the part of President Alberto Fernández as an advisor of the Indalo Group before reaching the presidency.


ARGENTINE VINEYARD TOPS TOP 10

For the third year running an Argentine winery topped the ranking of ‘The World's Best Vineyards’ elaborated by almost 600 international experts – Mendoza’s Zuccardi Valle de Uco. But it is not the only Argentine or Latin American establishment tipped by the sommeliers, as the following list of the Top 10 shows: Zuccardi Valle de Uco (Argentina), Marqués de Riscal (Spain), Chateau Margaux (France), Bodega Garzón (Uruguay), Montes (Chile), Antinori nel Chianti Classico (Italy), Catena Zapata (Argentina), Viña VIK (Chile), González Byass-Bodegas Tío Pepe (Spain) and Creation (South Africa). 


PROTESTERS DEMAND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

Protesters flocked to the streets of the capital yesterday to take part in the Fridays For Future Global Climate Strike to draw attention to environmental issues and demand urgent action to combat climate change. High on the agenda of complaints were Argentina's new hydrocarbons bill, the government's controversial pork agreement with China, and the demand for new legislation to protect wetlands. Satellite events took place at more than 30 locations across the country, with banners declaring that "environmental justice is social justice."
 

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