Journalists aplenty descended on the capital this week, as finance ministers and central bank governors from the G20 group of nations held a highlevel two-day summit, the first of Argentina’s presidency. While the meetings were behind closed doors, government officials found themselves quizzed repeatedly on a range of issues, though one topic – protectionism, namely US tariffs on steel and aluminium – dominated proceedings. Argentine officials hailed the meetings, but there were some murmurings of discontent from some about the proposed EU-Mercosur trade deal. The event’s final communiqué – a statement agreed upon by all parties – failed to break new ground, apart from one section on crypto-currencies, which the G20 decided should actually be called “crypto-assets.”
Argentina joined the European Union and five other countries in receiving a stay of execution on the import tariffs announced last month by United States President Donald Trump for steel (25 percent) and aluminium (10 percent). The exemption runs until May 1.
A Navy document released in the course of Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña’s March 14 report to Congress and giving the last known location of the submarine ARA San Juan (missing since mid-November) as just outside Stanley in the Malvinas islands rather than off the Chubut coast, as previously estimated, has been forcefully picked up by various opposition deputies who demand explanations.
Prior to yesterday’s friendly 2-0 win over Italy in Manchester, the football world had to absorb bad news from two different fronts – the death of 1974 and 1978 World Cup star René “El Loco” Houseman and charges of prostituting minors against an Independiente team player. The latter news emerged following reports that some of the club’s junior players, between the ages of 14 and 16, were abused as part of a paedophile prostitution ring.
IS THERE A LOCAL ANGLE TO THE FACEBOOK SCANDAL?
The global Facebook scandal has an Argentine angle, according to Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, who mentioned this country in his comments this week while being recorded in an undercover investigation. The Argentine role now awaits further elaboration and investigation, but the government quickly issued denials through unofficial spokespeople that it has not worked with the firm.
Last week’s release of Kirchnerite tycoon Cristóbal López, while reducing the charges against him to tax evasion (a move repeatedly criticised by President Mauricio Macri), had its sequel last week when a commercial court removed not only López but also current Indalo Group trustees Ignacio Rosner and Santiago Dellatorre from any control of Oil Combustibles, naming three court-appointed trustees in their place. The Supreme Court has meanwhile ordered an inquiry into how the chamber ordering his release was composed. On Thursday, Judge Herrnán Papa ordered the López bank Finansur (whose suspension was recently lifted) to declare itself bankrupt.
In a Wednesday night television interview President Mauricio Macri explicitly confirmed his choice of City judge Inés Weinberg de Roca to replace Alejandra Gils Carbó (who quit last October) as Attorney-General, stating that she was not “contaminated by Comodoro Py (the courthouse of federal judges).”
DAMIAN PACHTER TESTIFIES
Former Buenos Aires Herald journalist Damián Pachter testified in Israel on Thursday, as part of the trial investigating the accusations lodged by late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman against the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration, in connection with its 2013 memorandum of understanding with Iran (which Nisman denounced as designed to cover-up Tehran’s role in the 1994 AMIA Jewish community centre terrorist bomb attack leaving 85 dead). Pachter pointed the finger directly at the CFK administration as having ordered Nisman’s death in early 2015, and repeated his claims, adding that he has lived “under pressure” ever since. The first journalist to break the story, Pachter has refused to reveal his source.
Today is the 42nd anniversary of the 1976 military coup, which human rights organisations will be marking with a rally in Plaza de Mayo that will also present some more contemporary demands. Meanwhile, the preceding week included a couple of items related to the dark era that began in 1976. Former Navy commander Alfredo Astiz (wanted in France for the disappearance of two French nuns among other crimes against humanity) was included by the Federal Penitentiary Service in a list of those qualifying for house arrest, sparking uproad. Astiz, 67, is below the minimum age of 70 for house arrest and the decision still awaits judicial approval. At the same time, 88-yearold former deputy Buenos Aires provincial police chief Miguel Etchecolatz, returned to prison this week nearly a year after being granted house arrest last April.
The pay dispute between Buenos Aires province teachers and the provincial government remains as deadlocked as ever after teacher unions knocked back the latest offer, which added a 3,000-peso training bonus to the previous proposal of a 15-percent pay increase, plus 6,000 pesos in the event of perfect attendance. At the time of writing, leaders of the Suteba and FEB unions agreed to strike, with a date not yet set. It will likely take place in early April.
The Criminal Cassation Court on Thursday confirmed the trial of Buenos Aires provincial policeman Luis Chocobar for gunning down a fleeing mugger who had stabbed a US tourist.