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ARGENTINA | 22-12-2018 12:55

Dec. 17th-23rd: What We Learned This Week

What has happened the last seven days?

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...

Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was in the headlines again this week, after Tribunal 1 of the Federal Appeals Court found there were no grounds to uphold an appeal against Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio’s corruption charge against Fernández de Kirchner, which he handed down in September. She will face a public and oral trial (More on Page 6). On Friday morning, in another bit of bad news, there was also a development in the so-called ‘Hotesur’ case, when a prosecutor said he wants the sitting senator and her family to face trial.

TIME FOR ANOTHER MALVINAS FURORE

Congress this week demanded Argentina’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom Carlos Sersale di Cerisiano face questions over a recent statement on social media in which he referred to members of the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands’ government as the islands’ “top authorities.” The post on Twitter, which referred to an Infobae article, said businessman Eduardo Eurnekian had been “welcomed by the Islands’ top authorities,” which some saw as a threatening comment to Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the disputed islands. Cue some over the top anger and the disapperance of the tweet from social networks. Later, Sersale said he “deeply regretted the confusion” his comments had caused. “I wish to reiterate that the legitimate authorities of the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the maritime area around them are the National Government [of Argentina] and Tierra del Fuego Government,” he wrote in a later column.

PICHETTO TAKES AIM AT IMMIGRANTS YET AGAIN...

Miguel Ángel Pichetto rolled out some of his greatest hits this week: having a go at immigrants and sweeping generalisations. On Thursday, the Peronist senator warned Argentina was heading for a major crisis if it failed to deal with organised crime in Greater Buenos Aires (fair enough), then pointing his finger of blame at Latin American immigrants (hmmm) while providing absolutely no evidence for his claims (aha). “I’m not saying there are no Argentines, there are,” he said at an event organised by CARI. “But the cocaine is handled by Peruvians, the money-laundering by the Colombians, and the Paraguayans organise the movement of drugs.” Pichetto, with absolutely no self-awareness or irony it seems, also warned of the so-called “Bolsonaro effect,” in reference to Brazil’s incoming leader, despite having just echoed the far-right leader’s own uninformed rhetoric. “The arrival of Bolsonaro, who is committed to a hard repressive security policy, could have serious consequences for Argentina and its northern borders because they [Brazilian security authorities] will pursue organised crime in the south of Brazil,” the senator said.

SUPREME COURT MOVES

The Supreme Court gave pensioners reason to celebrate early this Christmas this week, when it rejected the government’s bid to change the index used to calculate pension payments. On Tuesday, the justices of the nation’s highest court decided the 2017 reform was “unconstitutional,” ruling in a case that has implications for more than 150,000 others. The vote was four-toone, with Chief Justice Carlos Rosenkratz the dissident voice. On Tuesday, the head of the court saw a ruling go against him as well, when the justices voted that appointees and employees and other issues at the court should be decided and approved by a majority vote, rather than just being his sole prerogative. Rumours, meanwhile, continue to surround the court, with the government apparently unhappy at the “volatility” of Justice Elena Highton’s judgement and tales suggesting that Rosenkrantz’s spell heading the court may end sooner rather than later circulating in the local press.

MACRI SLAMS VENEZUELA, MADURO ‘DICATATORSHIP’

President Mauricio Macri on Tuesday called for the region’s leaders to work together to provide solutions for the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, as Argentina assumed the pro-tempore presidency of the Mercosur trade bloc. In words delivered to fellow delegates at a summit of the bloc’s leaders in Montevideo, Macri said Venezuelans were victims of a “harsh repression from their own government.” Macri denounced the government of Nicolás Maduro, branding it a “dictatorship that carried out a fraudulent electoral process,” calling on the bloc’s fellow members, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay to take action.

RECESSION CONFIRMED (IN CASE YOU HADN’T ALREADY REALISED)

Surprise, surprise: we’re in the middle of a recession. The most obvious fact in Argentina was confirmed by INDEC this week, which revealed the economy contracted by 3.5 percent in the third quarter year-on-year, giving Argentina the second straight quarter of shrinkage in a row. On the same day, the bureau also said that unemloyment in the same period reached nine percent, which you can either read positively (down from the second quarter of this year) or negative (rise from 8.3 percent in same period of 2017). Take your pick. Elsewhere, the IMF’s executive board finished its second review of its deal with Buenos Aires, granting the government another influx of cash from the US$56-billion loan.

PUBLIC RADIO BOSS QUITS AS WORKERS WALK OFF THE JOB

The director of Argentina’s public radio quit on Thursday because of a disagreement with the national government’s decision to prohibit collective wage bargaining. Ana Gerschenson will leave her role as the director of Radio Nacional, she confirmed in a letter to Federal Media Systems boss Hernán Lombardi. “With a bitter taste about what was unable to be achieved, I express my desire to step to the side from the radio. I cannot accompany the decision to not authorise collective wage bargaining in a year as difficult as this one,” she wrote. The station’s workers walked off the job yesterday in protest.

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