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What we learned this week: Teachers talks, Pope, Triaca, Ambassador

Pope in LatAm, Triaca in hot water and Donald chooses an envoy for Buenos Aires.

Saturday 20 January, 2018
This week marked three years since the death of special AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman – ruled suicide at the time and now officially considered a murder.
This week marked three years since the death of special AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman – ruled suicide at the time and now officially considered a murder. Foto:AFP-EITAN ABRAMOVICH

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LABOUR MINISTER TRIACA IN TROUBLE 

Labour Minister Jorge Triaca was in trouble last week over an ex-employee on two counts – not only for paying a former housekeeper Sandra Heredia under the counter for three years, in defiance of the labour laws as defined by his own ministry, but also for nepotism after subsequently employing her in the ministerial trusteeship running the SOMU longshoremen’s union since the arrest of Omar “Caballo” Suárez. This is not the first time Triaca has fallen under suspicion of nepotism – the recent appointment of his sister Mariana as a director of Banco Nación created a minor controversy. Just before the 2015 elections Triaca whitewashed half of Heredia’s earnings in the name of his brother Carlos, according to the ex-employee. Triaca also apologised after a leaked, verbally offensive WhatsApp audio message he sent to Heredia made its way into the press. He is now, reportedly, on vacation.

DONALD CHOOSES AN AMBASSADOR 

After fully a year in office, United States President Donald Trump has finally named Washington’s next man in Buenos Aires – Edward Prado, 70, a conservative Republican from West Texas (very much George Bush country) and an ex-judge with over 30 years on the bench. His leading qualification for the post seems to be fluent Spanish from his Hispanic origins. Meanwhile, in other diplomatic news, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is to visit Argentina in April.

CLIMBER FOUND

Good news from Bariloche: a climber, 28-year-old Joaquín Santos Rodríguez, who went missing 10 days ago near Bariloche was rescued alive and well on Thursday. 

POPE TACKLES ISSUES HEAD-ON IN LATAM TOUR, BUT HIS ARGENTINE ABSENCE REMAINS TOPICAL

If Pope Francis visited Chile and Peru this week, his absence from his native Argentina also formed part of the news story. Prior to the pontiff’s departure papal spokesman Greg Burke had promised an “interesting” message as Francis flew over his homeland. The only interesting thing about the strictly protocol four-line telegram sent to President Mauricio Macri (extending “warm greetings” and “best wishes” and asking people to pray for him) was that it was written in English. Meanwhile, Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña downplayed the papal absence as carrying any political message, saying that Francis was welcome home any time and that the important thing was that he was visiting the region. Francis himself kept quiet.

THIS WEEK IN CORRUPTION...

Both the previous president and vice-president of Argentina made courtroom news this week related to graft – Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner asked for the charges of public works misallocation in Santa Cruz province to be referred to a public and oral trial while her veep Amado Boudou (released from prison last week) challenged Federal Judge Ariel Lijo’s right to try him for corrruption on the grounds of the “arbitrary and illegal” 10-week imprisonment  inflicted on him. Meanwhile, in the latest in a series of lurid headlines related to unions that have rocked the nation since the turn of the year, a safety deposit box in Montevideo belonging to SOEME trade union leader Marcelo Barcedo was found to be stuffed with a whopping US$3.8 million. 

A PLANE FOR THE PRESIDENT?

The Mauricio Macri presidency has decided to launch a tender to purchase a new Tango 01 presidential aircraft in light of concerns voiced about the safety of using commercial airlines (as recently voiced by Security Minister Patricia Bullrich). The cost of the new aircraft is estimated at between US$50-65 million at a time when the government is seeking to cut costs. Macri will still have to use a commercial airline however to fly to the upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos where he plans to run an Argentine centre and meet with tycoon Bill Gates and Dutch Queen Máxima, among others.

NISMAN REMEMBERED, THREE YEARS ON

The third anniversary of the death of special AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman – ruled suicide at the time and now officially considered a murder – was marked on Thursday by comments and reflections from many quarters, including from his relatives. Small public demos could be seen around the city, and a remembrance service was held at the La Tablada cemetery. Those present at the service included Nisman’s mother, Sara Garfunkel, his daughters Iara and Kala, Environment Minister Sergio Bergman and DAIA head Ariel Cohen-Sabbah.

CONTROVERSIAL TEACHERS DECREE

In his first working week of the year President Mauricio Macri signed a decree to scrap collective bargaining with teachers at national level, thus jeopardising the start of classes.

MILAGRO SALA: TWO YEARS IN JAIL

Since last Tuesday fully two years have passed since the arrest of Jujuy social activist Milagro Sala. To date, she has still not faced trial for most of the various charges against her except for one case where she verbally threatened to blow up a police station unless a militant of her Túpac Amaru organisation held there was released.

IACHR CALLS ON GOV’T TO FULLY INVESTIGATE DEATH OF SANTIAGO MALDONADO

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced on Wednesday that it has decided to lift an injunction against the government over Santiago Maldonado, the missing artisan and Mapuche activist who was found dead in October. The IACHR urged the Argentine government again to fully investigate the events that led up to his death.

OPPOSITION RALLIES TO REVERSE DECREE PACKAGE

Opposition parties said this week they are engaged in cross-party talks to derail President Mauricio Macri’s wide-ranging decree package which they say has undermined Congress. The decree package, announced January 11, aims to speed up Macri’s reform agenda by implementing 140 modifications to existing legislation while eliminating 20 laws. The opposition is hopeful it can secure 129 votes in the Lower House and 36 in the Senate, lawmaker Agustín Rossi (Victory Front) told the Télam news agency. The opposition could call a special session of Congress for the first fortnight of February. The government wants to attract investment by improving importers’ access to local markets. Among the changes, the government will automate 314 import licences and create a so-called Secretariat for Production Simplification. It will also permit the ANSES welfare entity to invest its Guarantees and Sustainability fund in financial services.

BOCA SIDELINES PLAYERS AFTER ABUSE ALLEGATIONS  

Boca players Edwin Cardona and Wilmar Barrios were withdrawn from selection for a pre-season match against Aldosivi in Mar del Plata this week after news surfaced of a criminal complaint against the players related to two women. Cardona and Wilmar were accused of “threats, violence and illegitimate deprivation of freedom.” The women, who have not been identified, reported the alleged abuse to a judge in Buenos Aires. A federal court is investigating the allegations, which the unidentified women have promised to back up with hard evidence. Neither Cardona nor Barrios had appeared before the prosecutor, despite having been called in to testify. The women’s lawyer confirmed that the women accuse the Boca players of illegally depriving them of their liberty and injuring them on January 13, when they visited an apartment where the players were meant to get a haircut. The Colombia-born players deny any wrongdoing.

NAVY MAKES ‘CLAIRVOYANT’ ARA SAN JUAN ADMISSION  

In its efforts to locate the missing ARA San Juan submarine, Argentina’s Navy explored parts of the Atlantic Ocean that had been suggested to it by clairvoyants, the Navy confirmed this week. “It’s true. We looked to the north and outside the search area in two locations suggested by the clairvoyants who are accompanying the families,” Baldi revealed, responding to a question by Perfil. The bizarre revelation came as the Navy confirmed it is also reviewing quotes from private companies which it believed could collaborate with the ongoing search efforts for the submarine, which disappeared on November 15 last year with 44 crew members onboard. “There’s no time limit at the moment on international assistance but we know that eventually it will end. This is why we have made contact with five firms that could take the place of foreign teams and we’re currently reviewing their quotes”, spokesman Enrique Baldi said. There are no any budgetary restrictions on the search.

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