What has happened this week in Argentina?
MACRI ADDRESSES CONGRESS, WITH ABORTION DEBATE TOPPING THE BILL
President Mauricio Macri opened the 136th ordinary sessions of Congress on Thursday with a 40-minute speech, where he confirmed the inclusion of an abortion debate in this year’s agenda (as widely anticipated) but also announced more unexpected initiatives such as equal pay for women and more paternity leave (see full story on Page 8).
With classes set to start in most of the country on Monday, teachers remained locked in pay disputes in 20 of the 24 districts (Misiones, Salta, San Luis and Tucumán being the only provinces to reach agreement). In Buenos Aires province, a region closely watched by the rest of the nation, teacher unions have rejected the offer of a 15-percent pay increase plus a 6,000-peso bonus for perfect attendance.
JONES HUALA IN THE DOCK
Mapuche militant leader Facundo Jones Huala appeared in court in Bariloche, facing extradition to Chile on charges including arson. The final decision is expected between today and Monday.
DÍAZ GILLIGAN CHARGED
Federal prosecutor Alejandra Mangano charged Valentín Diaz Gilligan with money-laundering on Monday, one week after his resignation as Government House deputy chief-of-staff over an offshore account in Andorra.
LUCIANO BENJAMÍN MENÉNDEZ DIES AGED 90
Former general Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, who died on Tuesday at the age of 90, was something of a first among equals in the ranks of the “dirty warriors” of the 1976-83 military dictatorship since his 13 life sentences for crimes against humanity marked a record – far outstripping even the likes of former Buenos Aires provincial police deputy chief Miguel Angel Etchecolatz. Most of these sentences were earned at the helm of the Córdoba-based, 15,000-strong Third Army Corps between 1975 and 1979, covering 10 provinces. The most notorious of over 800 cases against him were centred on the La Perla concentration camp, which added an estimated 3,000 victims to the dictatorship’s death toll, although he was also convicted for the death of La Rioja Bishop Enrique Angelelli and two other priests.
HEALTHCARE ROW WITH BOLIVIA OVER COSTS
Plenty of back and forth over free health and education services for foreigners last week, only to return to basically the same place. Bolivian President Evo Morales’ rejection of reciprocity in this area last February had led to a a Jujuy provincial initiative to charge Bolivians for health treatment in public hospitals (hitherto free), which was then nationalised as a bill by Lower House deputy Luis Petri (Radical-Mendoza), also extending the requirement to university education. But the latter clause in particular caused misgivings within the Let’s Change caucus while Morales promised equal treatment for “Argentine brethren,” returning the situation to square one.
MENEM RAISES EYEBROWS WITH CORRUPTION CLAIM
“Every government (in Argentina) has been corrupt except my own,” 87-year-old former president Carlos Menem claimed this week in a rare interview given to CNN en Español. “Parliamentary immunity does not protect me and I do not want it to protect me. Let them investigate everything they want to (investigate) but I am not going to hold on to that immunity to avoid a court case. Every government has been corrupt except my own,” he declared. Of the many court cases Menem has faced, two have led to sentences though both are pending appeals court decisions. In 2013 he was found guilty for the aggravated smuggling of weapons to Croatia and Ecuador in the 1990s, for which he received a sentence of seven years in jail. In 2015, he was found guilty for embezzlement, for which he received a four and half year sentence. Menem has avoided jail time because of his parliamentary immunity and age. Currently a senator, he told CNN en Español: “I have no sentences against me. There are open investigations and others that have been resolved.” Critical of both the CFK and Macri governments, Menem said he “cannot live without politics.”
FOOTBALL FAN CHANTS AGAINST MACRI TO LEAD TO SUSPENSIONS
Guillermo Marconi, secretary-general of the SADRA referees union, crossed a tricky line between politics and football when he proposed that continuing hostile chants against President Mauricio Macri should result in the immediate suspension of the match. The chants started with a draw between San Lorenzo and runaway league leaders Boca Juniors and continued with a 2-2 draw between River Plate and the Mendoza team Godoy Cruz after some controversial refereeing decisions. Macri (Boca president for 12 years before starting his political career as City mayor in 2007) has been accused by rival fans of slanting the playing-field in favour of his club but some government voices say the political opposition is orchestrating the chants. Argentine referees have been authorised since 2012 to interrupt matches for xenophobic chants against Bolivian, Paraguayan and other immigrant groups. According to Marconi, the anti-Macri chants are “discriminatory” and likely to provoke violence. Argentine Football Association President Claudio Tapia ìs out of the country this week in Sochi, Russia, in connection with this year’s World Cup.
HORROR IN JUNÍN
The community of Junín has been left aghast over the rape-murder of 11-year-old Camila Borda by José Carlos Varela, an odd-job man with a previous record of sex offences. The case has led to calls for convicted sex offenders to serve their full sentences and for stricter controls following their release.