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ARGENTINA | 07-12-2019 13:18

Dec 2nd-8th: What We Learned This Week

Top stories of the last weekend.

NEW CABINET

-elect Alberto Fernández announced his future Cabinet at a delightfully close hour to press time. (See Page 4 for more.) SWAN SONG President Mauricio Macri claimed a rare Cadena Nacional nationwide broadcast on Thursday evening to make a final balance of his presidency (see Page 12). This evening he will be heading a farewell rally for his supporters in Plaza de Mayo. (See Page 2)

 

I’VE GOT THE POWER...

Vice-President Gabriela Michetti to swear in her successor Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who will then take charges of the Legislative Assembly as the new head of the Senate and swear in Alberto Fernández as president with outgoing President Mauricio Macri handing over the presidential sash and baton, all in Congress – such will be the core structure of Tuesday’s presidential inauguration after late in the week the government abandoned its strict interpretation of Article 93 of the Constitution: “The president and vice-president will be sworn in by the President of the Senate,” which pointed to Michetti as the authority to swear in Fernández.

 

NEW FACES IN CONGRESS

The 130 deputies elected in the October 27 general elections swore into their new seats last Wednesday with a wide variety of oaths and Frente de Todos caucus leader Máximo Kirchner drawing the loudest applause. A formality, but it was preceded by a dramatic switch in the parliamentary balance of power when a trio of PRO deputies bolted the Juntos por el Cambio caucus, which thus lost first place in the Chamber of Deputies to Frente de Todos. (See Page 7.)

 

POOR DATA

Poverty rose to 40.8 percent in Argentina in the third quarter of the year (with the devaluation crisis following the PASO primary falling in the middle of that period), the UCA Catholic University revealed on Thursday, with 8.9 percent destitute. These figures are the highest since the aftermath of the 2001-2 economic melt-down. Not the ending which a Mauricio Macri administration promising “zero poverty” at its start would have wished. The percentages translate into 16 million below the poverty line and 3.6 million destitute. This 40 percent of the population lives in less than a third of homes (32.1 percent) because their families are larger – the UCA figures show 59.5 percent of children and teenagers to lie in the poverty trap. Malnutrition has risen from 7.9 to 9.3 percent since last year. According to Agustín Salvia, who heads UCA’s Observatorio de Deuda Social, this poverty is now structural and independent of business cycles with no “trickle-down” while even the expansion of social programmes did not help against exclusion and inequality. Looking ahead to the Alberto Fernandez government, the report concluded: “A structural change will not only require strong investments and boosted exports but also policies which revive the domestic market.”

 

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...

Nobody had expected ex-president and future vice-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to be meek and mild in her court appearance last Monday over charges of Santa Cruz public works corruption but her four hours in court (which nevertheless offered no direct response to the charges) was both longer and more explosive than expected. “I’m not interested, I don’t care (about the legal proceedings ... because) history has acquitted me,” she said, whereby she implied that she could ignore justice because she had won the elections. She also adopted a curious line of defence in criticising the judges for not summoning any Cabinet chiefs as the official responsible for budget spending, thus placing President-tobe Alberto Fernández (Cabinet chief from 2003 to 2008) in the dock. (See Page 12).

 

TRUMP TARIFF ROW

United States President Donald Trump began the week by adding a new problem to Argentina’s troubled landscape, restoring import tariffs on steel and aluminium from both Argentina and Brazil on the grounds that this year’s devaluation in both South American countries (60 percent and 20 percent respectively) gave their exports an unfair advantage. In Argentina’s case these metals represent export revenue of US$ 700 million (mostly aluminium). These tariffs promptly joined an already complex agenda for the Mercosur summit in the small Rio Grande do Sul town of Bento Goncalves (Brazil) last Wednesday and Thursday, which also featured differences of opinion over Bolivia’s turbulent change of government and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s proposal to lower Mercosur’s Common External Tariff, which is likely to be resisted by Argentina’s incoming government. (See Page 11).

 

DOLLAR WATCH

The official exchange rate closed the week yesterday at 62.94 pesos per dollar, only fractionally up from the previous Friday (62.90), but the “blue greenback” surged past the 70-peso mark to 71 pesos from 69.25 at the close of last week. After peaking at 2,453 points earlier in the week, country risk closed yesterday at 2,360 as against 2,266 the previous Friday.

 

GROSSI TAKES HELM OF UN’S NUCLEAR AGENCY

Rafael Grossi, the new director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was off and running last week, confronting Iran over the alleged intimidation of an IAEA inspector. (See Page 13.)

 

BRUTAL MURDER OF LGBTQ ACTIVIST

Pablo Fullana Borsato, an architect and LGBTQ activist, was brutally murdered last weekend in the small Buenos Aires Province town of Colón. Police are treating it as an ordinary crime related to theft and possibly drugs but the LGBTQ community has a different interpretation, arguing that the nature of the killing (around 70 stab wounds) makes it seem a hate crime. (See Page 14.)

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