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argentina KEY STORIES FROM THE LAST SEVEN DAYS

What we learned this week: Public transport, cops and robbers and Pony Brother

From new fares on public transportation, to ballet dancers' protest and the president's support for Officer Chocobar.

Saturday 3 February, 2018
Protesters performed pirouettes to Swan Lake, blocking traffic on Avenida Callao.
Protesters performed pirouettes to Swan Lake, blocking traffic on Avenida Callao. Foto:Cedoc

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PRICES UP FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORT 
Argentina’s public transport system got more expensive this week, as buses and trains saw the first of three scheduled hikes. Transport Minister Guillermo Dietrich announced the measure on Thursday, noting that rates for the metro/ Subte will remain fixed until April. The “progressive” rate hike will put a higher burden on wealthier neighbourhoods of the Buenos Aires metro area, where the SUBE ticketing network is in place. Those travelling long distances and changing from one form of transport to another will also get discounts. For now, toll booths on bike lanes aren’t expected... 

UNION LEADERS GET TO WORK 
Two-thirds of the “triumvirate” running Argentina’s unions, under the “structure” of the CGT (General Confederation of Labour), called for a massive mobilisation on February 22 to protest President Mauricio Macri’s labour and previsional reforms. Hugo Moyano, union strongman virtually in charge of the truckers’ union (Camioneros), is leading the battle against the government after a sustained armistice with Macri’s government. As judges close in on Moyano and his son Pablo for alleged foul play in their management of Independiente football club, the Camioneros leader spoke this week of persecution, while claiming that if he ended up behind bars, he’d like to be “in the cell next to Macri’s father’s.” At press time, Camioneros was looking to reschedule its protest as family members of the victims reminded them it coincided with the anniversary of the Once train crash tragedy. 

CAMBIEMOS PLAYS COPS AND ROBBERS 
On the same day that public transport tarrifs rose, Mauricio Macri and his government drew the press and TV cameras lenses toward the Casa Rosada, where the president hosted Buenos Aires province police officer, Luis Chocobar. Shown off as the example of a good policeman by both the president and Security Minister Patricia Bullrich (in another of those crowdaround-the-protagonist impromtu press conferences that Argentina’s media outlets seem to love so much), Chocobar has been splashed across the media after he shot an 18-year-old who was robbing a US tourist in La Boca. The alleged robber later died. While much of the messaging of the media show was far from subtle, Cambiemos did drop its game face on the Judiciary independence, with Bullrich and Macri promising to give Chocobar the legal support in court he needs and City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta leading the criticism of the judge handling the case. So much for judicial independence. 

IT’S ALL IN THE FAMILY... 
In damage control mode, the government announced this week that direct family members of the Executive and its Cabinet were barred from holding jobs with the state. The move came after a scandal erupted in the Labour Ministry, as the former maid of Minister Jorge Triaca ended up with an official designation. Macri’s decree requires all relatives to be out by February 28, and was followed by a slew of resignations, including Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio’s father, who published a letter denying his represented a case of nepotism. It wasn’t immediately clear if relatives would be allowed to continue their business dealings with the state. 

GUNS, THREATS AND SUBS 
Coach Cristian Neira of the Escuela Presidente Roca club, a regional lower division team in Córdoba province, quit yesterday after midfielder Cesar Pagani pulled a gun during training and demanded to be included in the starting line-up.Emeterio Farias, president of the Córdoba Soccer League said: “The coach quit. The player threatened him with a gun during training. There’s another kid who is playing (in the starting line-up) and the coach thinks he is better, and he has the right to decide who plays.” Farias said Neira decided not to press charges out of fear, but said he reported the incident to the police. “I hope the authorities do something. A guy like this cannot be free,” Farias said. “We can’t allow the violent (people) to push us around.” Agreed. 

PERFORMANCE AS PROTEST 
Ballet dancers took to the streets of the capital this week (pictured left) with an open-air performance to protest government funding cuts. About 80 dancers, choreographers, and other workers of the state-funded National Dance Ballet lost their jobs in December under government austerity measures. Thursday’s protesters performed pirouettes to Swan Lake, blocking traffic on Avenida Callao but causing onlookers to break into cheers and applause. “Culture, education and health are pillars of a nation and a society,” said Manuela Bruno, 28, one of the troupe’s dancers. “So the cutbacks shouldn’t start there, or perhaps never happen at all.” Protesting dancers stretched and warmed up at the barre amid honking cars before their performance and hung a long rope with ballet slippers on a downtown street. “By cutting the ballet, the government is not going to save a lot of money,” said Matias Carugati, an economic analyst with Management & Fit. “But the government has to always think: Where should I cut money from? The ballet? Retirees? Public employees? It’s trying to cut from what is less of a priority.” 

MASCHERANO: ‘PONY BROTHER’ 
Hebei China Fortune’s new signing, Argentine legend Javier Mascherano already has a nickname from Chinese Super League (CSL) fans: “Pony Brother.” Chinese fans branded Carlos Tevez “Very Homesick Boy,” but it seems they have an altogether fonder nickname for his fellow Argentine. Mascherano, 33, left Barcelona last week for the Chinese Super League.

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