Argentine Mondays: August 7th, 2017
Welcome to Argentine Mondays, your Monday morning update on what happened in Argentina while you were otherwise engaged over the weekend. Sit back and enjoy while the morning caffeine kicks in.
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A major arrest is made
Claudio Minnicelli, the brother-in-law of former Planning Minister Julio de Vido, has been arrested. One of the ten most-wanted Argentine fugitives, this has been all over the media since the story broke last night. Security Minister Patricia Bullrich tweeted the news that he had been arrested "in Mar del Plata [a coastal city in Buenos Aires province] by the 8th Precinct of the Buenos Aires Province Polica. Impunity [is coming to an] end here in Argentina!"
There had been national and international warrants for Minnicelli's arrest since October of last year. He is accused of being a ringleader for the "mafia de los contenedores" or "container mafia," shipping contraband goods from China in said logistical units and later selling them to the informal economy and black market here in Argentina.
Holograms, jibes and debates, oh my!
With the constant barrage of campaign propaganda and general confusion, the runup to the PASO primary elections next week often makes one feel like they're walking through a forest indeed — perhaps less spooky than Wizard of Oz, but equally forbidding. Hoping to take a leaf out of Star Wars' book, former Transport Minister and candidate for Buenos Aires province senator Florencio Randazzo appeared at rallies in two cities at the same time with a hologram. Yes, like Jean-Luc Melonchon did in the French presidential elections: I'm not sure if Randazzo made it look any cooler. It's the first time that such technology has been used in Argentina.
Most of the candidates appeared on television on Sunday for a debate (or an exchange of put-downs.) Running against Randazzo is 1País's Sergio Massa, who commented on the fact that the other candidates do not in fact live in Buenos Aires province, which they are seeking to represent (and made a point of stressing that he does) and accused them of "using the province as a trampoline" for their own political benefit.
Current Buenos Aires province governor María Eugenia Vidal took a swing at former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who has made no media appearances and did not participate in the aforementioned television programme. "Cristina hides because there are a lot of things that she can't talk about," said Vidal, such as Venezuela or poverty in Argentina because it would allegedly be "hypocritical."
The jungle of campaigns hitting voters from all sides in videos, tweets, radio shorts, Facebook posts, etc. apparently isn't having the effect that politicians would want. A study carried out by D'Alessio IROL Berenzstein has shown that almost a third of voters have not decided who they'll vote for on August 13th. In fact, 15% of the 1,790 people surveyed confessed that they would make up their minds only when they were in the dark room.
Econ: tidbits for Monday small-talk
Private analysts think that inflation for July will clock in at 2%, meaning that the forecast accumulated inflation will be around 14%: since the government's objective for 2017 was a 17% inflation rate, that's not good news.
According to the Industrial Chamber of Leather Goods (CIMA in Spanish), the imports of manufactured leather goods have risen by 33.22% this year alone, which is bad news for local leather producers.
Loans to the private sector have increased by 55%, rising to to AR$ 286 billion in July, according to First Capital Group, in comparison to the same period of time (January-July) in 2016.
Missing in Chubut province
During her PASO campaign, Fernández de Kirchner has of course been in the media campaigning across the province, including a butcher's shop in which she commented on the economic shortcomings of the current administration. She joined the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) and human rights organisations in asking for Santiago Maldonado, a young man who went missing in Chubut province, to reappear safe and sound.
Maldonado has been missing since August 1st: he participated in a protest led by the indigenous Mapuche tribe asking for their land and, according to his family, was taken by gendarmes when they dispersed the activists. The Argentine Gendarmería has insisted that they have had no contact with him.
Hasta luego, Venezuela
A Mercosur emergency summit held in Sao Paolo on Saturday — with the foreign ministers of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil — concluded that it was time to invoke the bloc's democratic clause and suspend Venezuela. The clause states that any Mercosur member in which democracy has been interrupted may be suspended: in a communiqué, the foreign ministers stated that is "was implemented based on the actions of the government of Nicolás Maduro and is a call for the immediate start of a political transition […] and restoration of the democratic order."
There has been a lot of back and forth by Mercosur on this issue since 2016 while Venezuela's crisis deepened: the motion to apply the democratic clause was put to rest after the opposition gained a majority in the Venezuelan Congress last year. For many, the suspension may be too little, too late.
A surprise phone call
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro made it into Argentine headlines for another reason this weekend: he spoke to the jailed Tupac Amaru leader, Milagro Sala, over the phone during a radio programme on Sunday. Radio Rebelde surprised both of their interviewees by putting them in touch: both expressed joy at the unexpected conversation. Maduro told Sala that “[They] are equally besieged, persecuted, tormented and tortured in the same unfair and illegal manner and by the same oligarchy. Hold strong and soon we will share a victorious embrace."
Sala also gave a rare interview over the weekend to Tiempo Argentino, in which she said that she was grateful for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR or CIDH in Spanish) recommending house arrest instead of her current detention, but that she did not like leaving three of her Tupac Amaru colleagues behind bars. She also said, sarcastically, that "if we [the Tupac Amaru] really had dedicated ourselves to business, we would be free [right now]."
Dulce de gusano
Yes, "worm jam." Apparently, 80 packs of dulce de membrillo (quince jam, often eaten with cheese in Argentina as dessert) bought by the Social Development Ministry had worms in them. The destination of said packs, weighing half a kilo each, has not been confirmed but several media outlets suspect that they were meant to be distributed to poverty-stricken neighbourhoods. If you do eat dulce de membrillo, double check: the worms are allegedly the result of substandard farming conditions.
Femicides and gendered violence are a serious issue in Argentina: in 2017, there has been on average one femicide every 18 hours, but many consider that there has not been enough legal or political action. Yesterday, friends and family of 16-year-old Anahí Benitez who was found dead on Friday after having gone missing for a week, marched towards Congress along with several organisations such as the Ni Una Menos movement. They asked for justice for Anahí and more public policy to protect women and girls from a similar fate. Her funeral was held on Saturday.
A good weekend for Argentine sport
Gustavo Fernández clinched the Men's Singles title at the British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships, beating Alfie Hewett 6-4, 6-3. Fernández was recently announced as the World Number One in wheelchair tennis: Argentina's first top ranking tennis player.
Argentine football superstar Lionel Messi has been declared to be the best historical football player in the Spanish league, according to the Centre for Historic and Statistical Investigation of Spanish Football (CIHEFE). Most Argentines would probably say that there didn't need to be an in-depth investigation to know that.
Both of Argentina's national hockey sides won against Chile over the weekend in the Panamerican Cup held in the United States. Las Leonas beat the Andean side 2-1 while Los Leones won by an astounding 9-2.
What to look out for this week:
Today, between 500 and 600 thousand people are expected to march throughout the city of Buenos Aires, starting from the church of San Cayetano in Liniers neighbourhood. Today is Saint Cayetano's day, the saint of work and bounty: the marchers are asking for "bread, peace, land, home and work." The marches are set to continue until 16:00, so make sure to check for delays in traffic and public transport!
This Thursday is "Super Thursday." Friday is the end of the PASO electoral campaign, so candidates can no longer attend rallies and propaganda can't be featured anywhere, so Thursday will be the climax of the campaign frenzy. Get ready for an even more intense onslaught of propaganda and rallies!
If knowledge is power, being informed helps you power through the morning. Or at least have a conversation or two. Happy Monday!