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ARGENTINA | 28-09-2019 03:55

What we learned this week: September 22 to 27

Key stories from the last seven days.

DOLLAR WATCH

The dollar closed the week at 59.56 pesos yesterday (fractionally up from 59.08 pesos the previous Friday) while unofficial rates ranged up to 63.47 pesos, almost 10 pesos down from their peaks in the wake of the currency controls imposed earlier this month. Yet behind the calm Central Bank intervention was needed yesterday against jitters over the International Monetary Fund withholding the latest tranche of US$ 5.4 billion.

EZEIZA ACCIDENT

Foreman José Bulacio was killed and 13 construction workers were injured when scaffolding suddenly collapsed last Tuesday at Terminal C at Ezeiza International Airport. The accident was reportedly caused by a crane taking a wrong turn. The new departure terminal (an 8.5-billion-peso investment) was close to completion with government hopes that it might be inaugurated before next month’s elections.

GROWTH AT LAST

A positive growth figure finally emerged from INDEC on Thursday when it announced economic activity was up by 0.6 percent in July against the same month in 2018, although at the same time it reported the economy as slumping 2.1 percent thus far in 2019. The positive midyear figure was entirely the product of a 20.1 percent surge in agricultural output in contrast to last year’s drought. Post-July data is expected to be worse, given the devaluation and rise in inflation since the PASO primaries, with a Central Bank’s survey of economists predicting negative growth of 2.5 percent and 55 percent inflation for this year.

Woman in Córdoba gets 13 years in jail for cutting off lover’s penis

Córdoba architect Brenda Barattini, 28, was sentenced on Wednesday to a 13-year prison term for the less than surgical amputation of her lover’s penis. Prosecutor Laura Battistelli showed no gender solidarity in this case, pointing out that Barattini lacked any remorse with plenty of self-pity and concluding: “We women do not vindicate our cause or achieve empowerment by transforming ourselves from victims into the opposite.”

MACRI 4 MULTILATERALISM

Despite demotion from G20 chief to perceived lame duck status since his last United Nations General Assembly address, President Mauricio Macri largely repeated last year’s script in Manhattan on Tuesday, blasting the Iranian and Venezuelan regimes while upholding Argentina’s Malvinas sovereignty claims. But he also defended multilateralism, including a review of his G20 stewardship, and addressed global issues such as climate change and the fights against terrorism and drug-trafficking. In a flying visit of less than 12 hours Macri only had time to meet with the interim International Monetary Fund helm and Michelle Bachelet, the former Chilean president who is now the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

IMF MEETINGS TO NO AVAIL

Flanked by Finance Minister Hernán Lacunza and Central Bank Governor Guido Sandleris, President Mauricio Macri sat down in New York on Tuesday with David Lipton (standing in for Christine Lagarde who stepped down as International Monetary Fund Managing Director earlier this month) while the next day Lacunza huddled with Lagarde’s successor, the Bulgarian economist Kristalina Georgieva, but all to no avail – still no word on when the next IMF tranche of US$5.4 billion will come through. Georgieva limited herself to hopes that a crisis-stricken Argentina might have a brighter future while Lipton said that “renewing the financial relationship … might take a while.” Lacunza said that IMF recalcitrance was “incorrect” since Argentina had fulfilled all the fiscal and monetary conditions in the first half of the year.

5,000 PESOS FOR PRIVATE-SECTOR WORKERS

At the start of the week the government, trade unions and business chambers reached agreement on a 5,000-peso bonus for all private-sector employees. This bonus will be compulsory but may be staggered (an insistence of the PyME small and medium-sized companies) and will not be incorporated into basic salaries. The aim of this bonus is to compensate the damage inflicted on real wages by the devaluation and inflation of the last several weeks.

JUDGE JUDGED IN SALTA

An ex-judge was himself judged in Salta last Tuesday and sentenced to 15 years in prison for a crime committed over four decades ago – namely the abduction and disappearance of then Salta Peronist Governor Miguel Ragone in 1976 (just a fortnight before the military coup that year). Since the case is defined as a crime against humanity, there is no statute of limitations. Salta’s Tribunal Oral Federal No. 2 (TOF2) convicted Ricardo Lona for making a travesty of justice in his investigation of the crime as the federal judge at the time, ensuring the impunity of the assailants (who also killed local shopkeeper Santiago Arredes with a burst of machine-gun fire when he tried to intervene). Three senior police and military officers were convicted in 2011 for masterminding the crime. The 15-year sentence matched the prosecution’s request.

CFK OFF TO CUBA (AGAIN)

Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner yesterday “urgently” requested authorisation from the courts trying her for corruption to make her sixth trip to Cuba this year to visit her ailing daughter Florencia (a co-defendant in the trial) and will be heading to the Caribbean today where she will remain until October 7 after her request was granted. As a result the ex-president’s weekend presentation of her book Sinceramente in Salta has been cancelled.

SANDRA HEADS TO FLORIDA

Sandra, the orangutan who was famously ruled to be legally not an animal but a “non-human person” by a judge in 2015, last Thursday left for a Florida sanctuary via a Kansas quarantine after spending some 25 of her 33 years enclosed in Buenos Aires zoo (founded in 1886).

FIRST PRO-FEMALE Superclásico

The first superderby in women’s professional football saw Boca Juniors thrash River Plate 5-0 on Tuesday, the pick of a number of matches from the first round of fixtures. In related news, Lionel Messi was honoured as ‘The Best’ player of the last year by FIFA, while Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United won a fair-play award.

PICHETTO AND BOLSONARO

Senator Miguel Angel Pichetto, President Mauricio Macri’s running-mate, yesterday visited Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia and received assurances for the latter’s “unconditional support” for the Juntos por el Cambio ticket. In return Pichetto said that it had been an error for Frente de Todos arch-rival Alberto Fernández to visit Brazilian ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in jail last July when the opposition candidate had condemned Lula’s detention as “arbitrary.” A “cordial relationship” with Brazil was essential, Pichetto concluded.

ECUADOR STRIPS UNASUR HQ OF NÉSTOR KIRCHNER STATUE

The monument to late ex-president Néstor Kirchner has been withdrawn from the Unasur headquarters in Quito, Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry announced yesterday, adding that the state of Ecuador (which has broken with the left-leaning integration alliance along with seven of the original 12 members, including Argentina) would be reclaiming the entire building in the future. The statue (inaugurated in 2014) will be stored in a vault. Unasur has been dormant since the chairmanship of Colombian ex-president Ernesto Samper concluded in 2017.

STATUE SWAP

Next month Pope Francis will be presiding over the return of a statue of the Virgin of Luján abandoned by retreating Argentine forces during the 1982 South Atlantic war and taken by the British victors from the Malvinas islands to Aldershot.

COLÓN MAKE HISTORY

Club Atlético Colón, most commonly referred to as Colón de Santa Fe, reached the decider of the second-most prestigious South American club tournament on Thursday night after beating Brazil’s Atlético Mineiro 4-3 on penalties after a 3-3 draw on aggregarte over two legs. Colón will face Ecuador’s Independiente del Valle in the final, who advanced after a 2-2 draw in Quito with Brazilian favourites Corinthians. Both sides will playing for their first South American trophy.

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