Government Fines Supermarkets: Economy Minister Axel Kicillof announced today that several supermarket chains have received fines for a total of over $31m for not complying with the ‘Precios Cuidados’ price agreement. In a press conference this morning, Kicillof informed that “the level of compliance [with Precios Cuidados] of all the chains was of 73%” for the first quarter of the year. Coto was the chain with the highest rate of compliance, at 82%, followed by Carrefour (77%), Cencosud (Disco, Vea, and Jumbo; 73%), Día (70%), and Wal-Mart and Chango Más (58%). The minister highlighted the people’s role in reporting episodes of non-compliance, saying that they received over 30,000 calls from consumers. Despite the first quarter being “complicated and tortuous in getting the programme started,” Kicillof said that “we have noticed a marked decline [in food prices] which is heavily linked to the success” of Precios Cuidados. The economic team expects that fewer fines will have to be applied in the second quarter of the year.
Fire That Killed Eight People Could Have Been Intentional: A fire that destroyed a house killing a man, a woman, and her six children aged between four and 13, could have been caused by the woman’s ex-partner, authorities said. The incident occurred on Thursday at around 1am at a poor neighbourhood in Moreno, Buenos Aires province, when the house was set on fire and the family, who was sleeping in it, died as a result of smoke inhalation. The judge in charge of the case has issued an arrest warrant against the woman’s ex-partner and father of her youngest child, Cristian Méndez, who is being investigated for aggravated murder and gender violence. The family of the woman, Karina Flamenco, said that she had reported her ex-partner to the authorities seven times, the last one being on 7th March. “They caught him, he was hospitalised, and then he ran away,” said Flamenco’s father. “She lived in fear. The children couldn’t sleep out of fear.” Over 60 police officers have been deployed to find Méndez.
New Law Allows Cafés to be Set Up in Parks: The Buenos Aires City legislature passed a bill yesterday which allows bars to be set up in public parks. The law will permit private “service areas” to be set up in parks of more than 50,000m2, such as Parque Centenario, Parque Saavedra, Parque Sarmiento, and others. These areas will “serve food and/or bottled beverages” but will not be allowed to sell alcoholic drinks or cigarettes, and should not affect the park’s “common use or their public space nature”. Permanent permits will be conditional to the cafés providing services such as restrooms, free wi-fi connection, bicycle parking, and book loans. The bill was passed by 36 votes from PRO and UNEN against 19 votes from Kirchnerist and left-wing legislators. Social organisations and neighbourhood assemblies, joined under the common name of Red Interparques y Bares, protested the vote and denounced being intimidated and attacked upon exiting the legislature. Protesters claimed the bill will result in “a reduction in green spaces” in the city, and that because of this, it is unconstitutional.
In the same session, the legislature passed a bill transferring ownership of properties that functioned as clandestine detention centres during the last military dictatorship —such as the ex-ESMA, amongst others— from the city of Buenos Aires to the national state, and dissolving the Space for Memory Institute (IEM), a self-governed and autonomous institution which brings together human rights organisations. The bill, supported by PRO and Frente para la Victoria (FPV), was criticised by some human rights organisations, such as Madres de Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora, whose president Nora Cortiñas stated: “[The IEM] was the only autonomous and independent space left. It’s a shame that this turned into a big business.” The transfer is yet to be ratified by the national Chamber of Deputies.