Tag Archive | "Argentina"

Health Ministry on Alert as Dengue ‘Epidemic’ Reaches Buenos Aires

MosquitoThe first cases of dengue fever in 2016 have been reported in the City of Buenos Aires as the virus continues to spread around Argentina.

Over 1,100 cases have been reported around the country, with the northeastern provinces of Misiones and Formosa most affected.

While the Buenos Aires Health Ministry originally reported four cases within the city – all of which were infected outside of the city, with the patients now discharged – the total was raised to seven yesterday afternoon with three new cases confirmed by Buenos Aires Health Minister Ana Maria Perez Bou.

“The entire city is at risk. The contagion can occur anywhere,” said Perez Bou, announcing a city-wide plan targeting standing freshwater and highly-vegetated zones to prevent the spread of the virus.

While National Health Minister Jorge Lemus has referred to the situation in the provinces of Formosa and Misiones as an ‘epidemic’, no national emergency has been issued so far.

Alternately, National Director of Epidemiology Jorge San Juan insists that the situation be treated as an outbreak rather than an epidemic.

The reason, San Juan explained in an interview with Radio 10, is that the virus maintains the same serotype as that of previous years. As there are no new forms of the virus, for now, he says there is “no gravity” to the situation.

The surge in reported cases is the most serious outbreak of the dengue virus in Argentina since 2009 in which nearly 8,000 people were reportedly infected with the virus, including 150 cases in the City of Buenos Aires itself.

Concern in neighbouring countries has reached significantly higher levels. The Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) estimate places Brazil at 1.6 million cases of the mosquito-borne virus in 2015, and in Paraguay, five of the country’s 17 departments, including the capital, have reported infections. Experts believe recent El Niño flooding resulting in greater quantities of standing freshwater to be the main cause of the problem.

A dengue vaccine, already adopted by Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines, is currently under review by the National Administration of Drugs, Food, and Medical Technology (ANMAT). Despite delays, health officials estimate that the vaccine will be approved this year.

The World Health Organisation considers the dengue vaccine a major factor in the control and prevention of the virus.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (0)

Mercosur Summit: Argentina, Venezuela Clash over Human Rights

Argentine president Mauricio Macri drew sharp criticism from Venezuela’s foreign affairs minister Delcy Rodríguez after asking for the release of “political prisoners” in the Caribbean state.

President Mauricio Macri at the Mercosur Summit in Asunción (Photo via Prensa Argentina)

President Mauricio Macri at the Mercosur Summit in Asunción (Photo via Prensa Argentina)

“I want to ask all states, especially the Venezuelan government, to work tirelessly to consolidate a true democratic culture in our region, one that includes everyone,” declared Macri towards the close of his speech at the Mercosur Summit in Asunción.

“In this spirit, I wish to ask expressly for the prompt liberation of political prisoners in Venezuela. There can be no place for political persecution, or for the imprisonment for thinking differently. My vision of democracy goes beyond a vote every few years, it is a form a life, a pact of living together between those who think differently.”

“You are meddling in Venezuelan affairs,” Rodríguez, representing Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, responded to the new Argentine president. “You are defending this person, and this political violence,” she said, holding up photos of opposition leader Leopoldo López and images of violent protests in 2014. “They used bazukas, they set fire to the Public Ministry, to essential public services. In Venezuela there are independent public powers, which should be respected by the international community. And in this case, the judiciary acted.”

Rodríguez went on to target Macri himself. “I understand that President Macri wants to ask for these violent people to be released. I understand because one of his first announcements has been to release those responsible for torture, disappearances, and murders during the dictatorship himself,” said Rodríguez, making an accusation that is not true. “He has vetoed laws against injustice, torture, and forced disappearances,” she continued, without providing specifics.

“We were surprised to see that [Madre de Plaza de Mayo founder] Hebe de Bonafini, loved by social groups across the continent, was accused [of inciting violence] for calling for peaceful protests against the government.”

“If we’re going to talk about human rights, we have to do it without double standards and with honesty,” Rodríguez concluded her response to Macri. “We can’t talk about human rights to defend violent people and not to criminalise social protests.”

Speaking to press after the altercation, Argentine Foreign Affairs Minsiter Susana Malcorra said that Macri would not respond to the accusations, which she said were “erroneous”.

“We did not anticipate the strong reaction of the foreign affairs minister [Rodríguez], which was her right to do so, but she reacted based on incorrect information,” explained Malcorra.

EU Trade Deal

In his first speech to the Mercosur community as president, Macri called the bloc: “A space to strengthen economic and commercial relations, and to help each other grow and reduce regional inequalities.”

The Argentine president called on South American leaders to show flexibility and transparency, and extended his domestic pledges to reduce poverty and combat drug trafficking to a regional level.

Macri also said that a free trade deal between Mercosur and the EU was a “priority”, while adding that the bloc should also integrate further with Latin American countries united in the so-called ‘Pacific alliance’.

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Has Latin America’s Pink Tide Turned Muddy?

In Oliver Stone’s documentary, South of the border from 2009, the director describes the previous ten years as if Simón Bolívar´s dream had been realised. By 2009, left-wing leaders had been democratically elected across Latin America, the populations were behind them, and the economies were doing well. But in 2015, this no longer seems to be the case.

In Brazil, Dilma Rousseff’s approval ratings are at a record-low, the lowest since the re-establishment of democracy in Brazil in 1985, and she is facing impeachment. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavéz’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, is massively unpopular, with approval ratings at about 20% and a recent loss in the legislative elections. In Argentina, the recent election of Mauricio Macri could mean a significant warning for the Latin American left.

Until a couple of years ago, the latter scenario was wishful thinking for the liberals of Latin America, but times have changed.

Mauricio Macri celebrates his victory (photo: Reilly Ryan)

Mauricio Macri celebrates his victory (photo: Reilly Ryan)

The ‘Pink Tide’

Ten to 15 years ago, a so-called ‘pink tide’ broke on the coasts of Latin America. The political left consolidated its power in the region. Hugo Chávez in Venezuela (the first to be elected, in 1999), Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, José Mujica in Uruguay, Nestor Kirchner in Argentina, and Luiz Inácio da Silva, better known as Lula, in Brazil. Progressive parties were in power in Latin America and were implementing their policies.

Professor in Latin American politics at Oxford University in the UK, Diego Sánchez-Ancochea, believes there were two specific reasons for the success of the left. “First, major discontent with the poor economic results of the neoliberal reforms in the late 1990s. Second, the consolidation of democracy, which naturally results in alternation of power,” he says to The Argentina Independent.

Steven Levitsky, professor in Latin American history at Harvard University in the US, also identifies the consolidation of democracy as one of the causes of the left wing’s success. “It was a combination of unprecedented stable democracy, the first time the left wing could consistently compete for power everywhere, except Cuba, for multiple decades. There was also a context of extreme social inequality, which favours the left a bit over the right. And three, there was the economic downturn of 1998-2002, which hurt right-of-centre incumbents and eroded support for neoliberal policies,” Levitsky says.

Professor Ancochea explains that what tied the movements across Latin America together was a common goal of fighting inequality and neoliberal economical policies, as well as moving the trade streams away from the US, towards China, Russia, Iran, and other Asian economies.

The Chinese market in particular was a reason for prosperity in Latin America for years -Brazil especially- adds Levitsky. Now, however, the Chinese economy is slowing down, and, the academic says, that puts the Latin American economies under pressure.

The three most powerful men in South America: Chavez, Kirchner and Lula in 2006

The three most powerful men in South America: Chavez, Kirchner and Lula in 2006

With the Tide Came Change

Professor Ancochea emphasises that the overall process has been a victory for the left. “Most countries spent more on social policy than in the past, and also introduced new social programmes and reformed old ones. Some of the reforms, such as the unification of the health system in Uruguay or the creation of a universal non-contributory pension in Bolivia were particularly exciting. At the same time, they were able to do this without increasing their levels of debt,” Ancochea says.

Political consultant Carlos Fara agrees. “The continent has a noticeable stance supporting state intervention in the economy, and an ever longer agenda of greater wealth distribution. In the last 15 years the global market allowed better prices for exportable commodities. This revived the issue of wealth distribution in the political agenda, which obviously favoured the current centre-left in the ten most important countries, except in the case of Colombia. On the other hand, in addition to the improved global conditions for exporting, there was the reminder of the social consequences, derived from the economic reforms of the ’90s, known as the Washington consensus,” Fara says.

Levitsky says that since then, the economy has turned in the Latin American countries. He points out that the governments of these countries are not necessarily to blame, but that the circumstances have changed. “With the exception of Venezuela, which is a disaster, it really hasn’t ‘gone wrong’. In part, the left wing is suffering from an economic slowdown. A worsened economy brings popular discontent.,” says Levitsky.

Cynthia Arson from the Wilson Center does not believe the left has failed either. “The left-wing parties have maybe revealed that they are as vulnerable to certain things as the right-wing, like commodity prices.. Latin America is also less dependent on the continent’s surroundings than it used to be. But a lot of countries are still too dependent on other economies. And they are increasingly met with higher and higher demands of better quality in social services, due to the growth of the middle class, like in Brazil, to name one example,” she says.

Although Rousseff has lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty, she is now struggling with a faltering economy hit by recession, massive corruption scandals and as a result, the mistrust of her own people and voters.

According to professor in macro economics at the Pontifical University of Rio de Janeiro, Monica de Bolle, the recession could be the worst the country has experienced in 25 years. “The unemployment rate is going up, and the people’s incomes are eroding as inflation is running wild,” she says.

The Brazilian people have lost confidence in the former guerrilla soldier Rousseff, and her key issue, the fight against inequality. Brazilian journalist Christiane Lebelem, from Brazil News, thinks the population has abandoned Rousseff’s project. “She has lost the people’s trust. They are disappointed and tired,” she says.

Perhaps the biggest defeat Rousseff has had to suffer, has been the need to turn to more orthodox policies.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is facing impeachment (Antonio Cruz/Agência Brasil)

A Long Way to Fall

De Bolle believes both Brazil and Argentina have benefitted from Russian investments, but the cash flow from China is decreasing. However, that is not the only thing causing problems. “The recession is a result of a host of factors: policy mismanagement, the commodity price reversal, and the paralysis that has gripped the country following the eruption of the Petrobras bribery scheme. Although the government has frequently referred to hostile external conditions —the Chinese slowdown, the fall in commodity prices— policy mismanagement is the crux of the problem. Brazil’s fiscal deficit currently stands at over 6% of GDP, and is likely to rise to about 8% by year-end. The lack of a coherent fiscal strategy was the key reason for the country’s recent ratings downgrade by S&P.”

Rousseff recently announced a number of austerity measures, and according to De Bolle, those measures will hit her key voters in full force. “Taxes will rise along with the reintroduction of a financial transactions tax (CPMF) which falls on all bank transactions. They have also announced cuts to social programmes and public investment programmes, as well as a rescheduling of salaries and wages of civil servants. The objective is to reach a primary surplus target of 0.7% of GDP,” De Bolle says.

According to the academic, the poor and the vulnerable middle class will suffer the most. “These groups have been the hardest hit by the recession and the rise in inflation and unemployment. There’s an increasing chance that some of the recent social gains over the last decade will be reversed.”

The Surrounding Challenges

According to Fara, the problem does not only lie in the economic difficulties, but in the solutions as well. “The global conditions that no longer seem to be promising mean that everyone has to make some kind of adjustment. This solution doesn’t sit well with the left parties,” he says.

Levitsky agrees with Fara. According to the Harvard proffesor, several conditions challenge the left wing. “Weak economies, declining commodity prices, and the fact that the left has become the establishment, the ‘oficialismo‘, which often erodes what the left stands for,“ he says.

According to the experts, the surroundings are causing the unprecedented pressure. “The conditions have changed and we have two models: A social-democrat one, as in the case of Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Brazil, and a more leftist one, such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The shift in the economic global cycle, together with more qualified social demands, force an update in the political parties’ agendas to keep these parties as advocates of change,” says Fara.

In Argentina, this cycle came to and with the defeat of Peronism in the November election. With a campaign built around the idea of a need for change, Mauricio Macri ended 12 years of Peronist government and defeated the establishment —the progressive forces within in.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet with Argentine president Cristina Fernández (left) and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff (right) at her inauguration (photo: Presidencia/Télam/ddc)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet with Argentine president Cristina Fernández (left) and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff (right) at her inauguration (photo: Presidencia/Télam/ddc)

The New Democratic Right

The victory of Mauricio Macri in Argentina opened up a window of hope for the right, and was closely followed by a victory of the Venezuelan opposition in legislative elections. Analysts have compared the two, and highlighted the transformation that the South American right-wing has undergone over the last few years. One thing the established progressive leaders will have to learn, is how to deal with this ‘new right’ which claims to be democratic, moderate, and aiming for a centrist consensus.

Despite this peaceful rhetoric, the new right has a great potential to destabilise the progressive consensus achieved over the last decade and a half. Macri’s main announcement in terms of international policy was his intention to expel Venezuela from Mercosur —though the recent legislative defeat of the Venezuelan government has prompted him to backtrack on this measure which had been met with opposition by Uruguay and Brazil. A realignment towards the Pacific Alliance and the US could also weaken the South American institutions built and supported by the progressive governments, and with them, revert some of the progress made in terms of continental integration.

As they prepare for the backlash, left-wing leaders will have to learn to be in opposition if they want a chance to revive their golden years in the future. They have been learning from each other how to win in recent years, but they might want to start looking to Argentina and Venezuela to learn how not to lose. With Mauricio Macri’s change-focused campaign, they cannot say they were not warned.


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Congress Passes Bill to Ensure Free University Education

The Senate passed a bill on Wednesday to ensure higher education remains free of charge. The bill, which introduces modification to the Higher Education Law, was authored by Frente Para la Victoria (FPV) legislator Adriana Puiggrós.

The amendment incorporates specific wording that defines free access to higher education as an obligation by the State and a human right. It also stipulates that no citizen can be excluded from accessing higher education based on their social background, and that it is in the hands of the government to ensure this right.

Senators debate the bill to modify the Criminal Procedure Code (photo: Fernando Sturla/Télam)

Argentine Senate (photo: Fernando Sturla/Télam)

The first of the two main articles in this law sets forth that public universities will no longer be permitted to charge “any kind of charges, duties, taxes, tariffs or fees”. Puiggrós stipulated that in time, when the enactment of the law goes into discussion, a plan to wean higher institutions off their dependency on fees will be outlined.

The second article bans Argentine universities from taking entrance exams, making access to higher education now “free and unrestricted”. Therefore, competitive examinations and any “exclusion mechanisms” are forbidden.

The law was passed with support from the FPV and UCR, and despite opposition from the PRO party, which had already voted against the initiative in the Chamber of Deputies. PRO Senator Gabriela Michetti was absent during the debate in the Senate. Some universities have also attempted to ward off this measure, stating that the legislation encroaches on their autonomy.

Puiggrós highlighted that this small success does not diminish the need for a major overhaul of the Higher Education Law, passed in 1995.

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Buenos Aires Province Establishes Transgender Jobs Quota

The province of Buenos Aires has approved a pioneering law requiring that at least 1% of jobs in public agencies be set aside for transvestites, transsexuals, and transgender people.

The provincial senate passed the law unanimously last week and it will go into effect in a few months.

A pride umbrella displays a rainbow of colors (Photo: Beatrice Murch)

A pride umbrella displays a rainbow of colors (Photo: Beatrice Murch)

“We are very happy because we did not think that we could get to such an important moment,” said the secretary of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association in Buenos Aires, Diana Sacayán, in an interview with Télam.

In a recent report by Americas Quarterly, a publication with a focus on Latin America, Argentina was ranked second among its neighbours for the rights it gives to its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens.

Gay marriage has been legal in Argentina since 2010 and in 2012, Congress passed a law that makes it much easier for people to change their gender on legal documents by not requiring gender-reassignment surgery or a diagnosis from a doctor. Since the law was approved, more than 4,200 transgender people have changed their identity on national ID documents.

The country also covers the cost of gender reassignment surgery, but LGBT people across the country are still victims of hate crimes and discrimination in the workplace.

Frente para la Victoria (FpV) Legislator Karina Nazabal, who put forward the bill, called the transgender community “one of the most historically vulnerable populations in the country” in an interview with El Dia.

“The reality of this group is marked by prosecution, exclusion and marginalisation,” she said. “They have great difficulties gaining access to equal opportunities and treatment and the majority lives in extreme poverty, deprived of economic, political, social and cultural rights.”

Despite recent advances, transsexuals still have a life expectancy less than half the national average in Argentina.

The law will affect the provincial government, government agencies, state owned companies, municipalities, companies subsidised by the state, and those which have contracts from the state to provide public services.

“Everyone is entitled to decent and productive work, to just and favorable conditions of work, and to protection against unemployment, without discrimination based on gender identity,” read the law.

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Welcome to Mesopotamia – Chapter IV

Daniel final

In January 2015, Daniel Tunnard and his wife left Buenos Aires after 16 years to move to the small town of Concepción del Uruguay in Entre Ríos, Argentina, build a house and start a family. This is the story of everything that went wrong.

Leelo en castellano aqui.


The man from Telecom comes to install telephone and internet, some two weeks earlier than optimism had permitted me to hope. Because nothing is simple in this simple life, the engineer can’t get the cable from our flat to go down to the connection on the ground floor. He wants to check the phone cables in the garage, but since the new building we live in while the house is built is so cheap and made of cardboard and doesn’t employ a caretaker for such eventualities, I have to phone my mother-in-law who has to phone up the guy who sold her the flat and get him to send over a taxi with the remote control to the garage, charging me $67 for the empty pleasure.

'Welcome to Mesopotamia' (Photo by Daniel Tunnard)

‘Welcome to Mesopotamia’ (Photo by Daniel Tunnard)

While we wait the ten minutes for the taxi to arrive, Clemente the engineer – late fifties, stocky build, face like someone who’s spent too long squinting at the sun— keeps the conversation going in that admirable way locals do. He asks me what I’m doing here, where I’m from, Carlos Tévez, etc. He tells me that he loves Concepción del Uruguay (Clemente does, though El Apache probably enjoys yachting as much as the next man), he thinks it’s the best place in the world, he wouldn’t swap it for Mendoza or Iguazú or a mansion in Recoleta. The people are particularly special here, they’re like no one else in the rest of the country, he says. He says he sits outside his house under the shade of two ficus trees and the coaches to Concordia pass and all the passengers look down and see what a good life we live here. He says the women in Chajarí, 200km north, are the most beautiful in the country, a mix of Italian, German and native blood, dark black hair and green eyes all of them, even the men, not that he’s into men. He tells me the story of Yuyo Barragán, which goes on for so long I have to put it in a separate paragraph below. A propos of nothing, he asks me what shoe size I am. I’m a 42, he’s a 43. He takes this particular branch of the conversation no further. He asks me if I’m a Catholic, I tell him I’m Church of England, anglicano, he looks like he needs an explanation, but before I can go into a potted history of Henry VIII he says he’s an Evangelist and that the evangelists cured his knee. He tells me about his daughter, an English teacher training to be a translator, asks me if translation is profitable. He tells me about the Renault Duster he bought at a steal, and shows me the text message from 2011 when the owner told him it was valued at 115,000 pesos but he could have it for 92,000 pesos. I admire the text message, and the man who has saved it all these years, as if they were the last words of a missing loved one.

We open the garage and I check Charlie the cat isn’t there. Of course he isn’t. Clemente opens the phone box, pulls at wires, can’t find mine, goes back into the lobby, pulls at wires, thinks he’s found mine, goes back up to the flat, lubricates a cable with washing up liquid and feeds it down a hole in the wall, it gets stuck again, so he goes downstairs and tries to feed it upwards, nothing doing. This goes on for some time. It must be infuriating for him. He has faith that God will show him the way, he says. Faith is good. God is good. After two hours he admits partial defeat and leaves, saying he’ll come back with a workmate and get it fixed. Half an hour, he says. It’s 11.30. Time passes. It’s 12.30. I know how things work here. If you’ve not done something by 1pm, you won’t get it done until 5pm, unless it’s a Friday. Today’s a Friday. I’m dubious as to how many people work here on a sunny Friday afternoon before the 4-day weekend for Carnaval. If anyone does, I want to believe, it’s Clemente. He’ll come through. If not for me, then for the green-eyed girls of Chajarí. He pulls up in his van at 1.03, a-smiling and a-waving. God is good. Neither He nor Clemente can work out how to get the damn cable down to the cable box, but there’s no faulting their disposition.

Raúl ‘Yuyo’ Barragán, late of this parish, was a local Robin Hood-cum-gifted genius and arguably the country’s first hacker. While working for Aerolíneas Argentinas back in the late 70s, he figured out how to use the reservations system to send a false ticket request to another airline, who would send back confirmation. Yuyo would then use that confirmation to print out the ticket and thus fly all over the world first-class and sell cut-price flights to friends and acquaintances. He and a friend once found themselves in Rio de Janeiro with three days left and no money, so he printed out a couple of first-class tickets to Tokyo and they spent the next forty-eight hours flying to Tokyo and back, enjoying all that first class had to offer which, back in the 70s, forget about it. So infamous was he that he was invited to appear on that pinnacle of infamy, the Susana Gimenez chat show (previous guests: Carlos Menem, Michael Bublé, Shakira) where he appeared with his face concealed in a hood. He was ‘homosesual’, Clemente of Telecom tells me, ‘not that that matters’, he says, although the whole scam apparently started because he had a girlfriend in Caracas and wanted to visit her every weekend. There are a lot of “apparentlys” in this story, so legendary was Yuyo. What is for certain is that Barragán was arrested and investigated in 1993, but no airlines would testify against him. He was eventually convicted in 2003.

'Yuyo' Barragán appears on TV with Susana Gimenez

‘Yuyo’ Barragán appears on TV with Susana Gimenez

Much of this information comes from Auntie Marta, who knows everything about everyone in Concepción, quite a feat considering she’s from Villa Elisa herself. Josefina asks Marta if this is the criminal that her father was related to. No, says Marta, that was Fernandito Ibarra, promising tennis player, dashing dandy, treacherous thief, who would go and play tennis with his upper-class friends, and while the rest were engaged in a round of doubles, sneak into the changing room, take a friend’s house keys, and go and help himself to the family jewels. He’d do the same when his mother had her card-playing old dears round, knowing that he had a good couple of hours to do a thorough job of looting their homes. His grandmother was my father-in-law’s cousin. I could tell you the exact relationship (second cousin once removed) but these things get very fraught in Spanish and it isn’t worth the trouble, to the extent that everyone is referred to as a cousin. My wife has 18 proper cousins and an innumerable list of vague non-cousins who are called cousins, some of whom are in prison, probably.

We’re at Uncle Jorge and Auntie Marta’s, a paradisiacal leafy hectare, sitting by the pool and chatting about master criminals we might be related to, when a wasp stings me on the arse. ‘There’s a wasp on the back of your chair’, says Marta. ‘Don’t worry, it’s a bit woozy.’ I stand up just as the wasp contrives to fall down the back of my shorts, its panicked sting inevitable. I share its panic. I want to strip naked, but not in front of my aunt and mother-in-law, not now. It doesn’t occur to me to jump into the pool for comic effect. Instead I run into the house, squealing at my wife to follow. The wasp stings me at the top of my arse crack just as I wrestle my Walter whites off. Then it sits in my Y-front gusset, biding its time to sting my frightened scrotum, until Josefina spots it, and my scrotum breathes again. It hurts a little, but way less than the time I was stung by a bee as a kid and spent the rest of the day in bed. In fact, the endorphins kick in and I just giggle for a minute. It’s quite pleasant. I may become a beekeeper. Think about it, you get honey, which is good, and endorphins, which are also good. And royal jelly, whatever that is.

There are benefits to being covered in bees...

There are benefits to being covered in bees…

I ask Marta to talk to me about trees. Typical pseudo porteño that I am, I only recognise linden and plane trees, and even then I’d have trouble picking them out of an identification parade. What’s that tree? That’s a fresno. What’s that tree, a eucalyptus? I guess. No, that’s an álamo. ‘Remember the Alamo’ I growl. No one gets this joke, and even if they did they shouldn’t laugh. What’s that tree? That’s an oh no I’ve forgotten the name of that tree already. We’re in the market for buying trees. It’s a nice market to be in. We’re advised to start planting now so that we have shade when we move in. We say we’ll plant the trees as soon as we have water. It’s a long time before we plant any trees. We had a naïve idea about planting fruit trees in the garden: blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry, huckleberry, raspberry, strawberry, cranberry, peach. Even though we only ever eat bananas. But Auntie Marta says fruit trees, even if they do give fruit, are highly prone to pests and plagues and destroy your garden and are more trouble than they’re worth. Plus, you can buy better fruit at the shop. Yeah, all right, killjoy. We only eat bananas anyway.

Daniel Tunnard’s first book ‘Colectivaizeishon, el ingles que tomó todos los colectivos de Buenos Aires’ is available from Buenos Aires bookshops and mercadolibre.com.ar and as an e-book from Amazon and megustaleer.com.ar.

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Hand of Pod: River and Boca Joint Top, and the Problem for Independiente

Hand Of Pod is a podcast dedicated to discussing the domestic football scene in Argentina, with the inevitable occasional digressions into the land of the continental cups and the national team.

In the 181st episode of Hand of Pod, Sam, English Dan, Andrés, and Peter look back on a weekend of action that left River Plate and Boca Juniors joint top of the table as they prepare to head into their clash at La Bombonera on the 3rd May (there are no matches this weekend). The two will also clash twice after that in the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores, but we’ll do a full preview of those matches next week; this time round we look at Racing and Independiente, who both drew their matches 0-0 last weekend, and consider some of the league’s less heralded heroes so far. This week’s history bit has Dan telling us about the time Alfredo Di Stéfano was kidnapped by a Venezuelan group of political protesters.

There’s no Mystic Sam this week, but as a team we’re predicting a River win over Huracán in Saturday’s Supercopa Argentina, and for Aldosivi to turn their 1-0 advantage with an hour to play into a win away to Arsenal when that match is finished (which is what Sam originally predicted for that game anyway), also on Saturday.

You can find out more about the team behind HOP here.

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March Movies to Catch

las-enfermeras-de-evita-c_6326_poster2Las Enfermeras de Evita (Marcelo Goyeneche)

The film ‘Las Enfermeras de Evita’ by director Marcelo Goyeneche follows in the footsteps of Leonardo Favio’s ‘Sinfonía de un sentimiento’, sweeping viewers into the magical populist realism of Peronism. This documentary recounts the rise and fall of the free nursing school established by the Eva Perón Foundation during Perón’s first presidency through the voices of four of the school’s graduates. Goyeneche cleverly combines a plethora of film archive material from the period with black-and-white film clips that provide a fictionalised visual to the story of how these women came to nursing: María Luisa saw an ad in the paper, Lucy did a first aid course at the company where she was working, María Eugenia was moved by a sick young girl she saw at a local hospital, and Dolores was encouraged by her sister. In portraying how these women’s lives were changed by their career, the film hints at a much-neglected topic in relation to Peronism: the empowerment of women at the personal, professional and political levels.

Unfortunately, instead of dedicating more time to this fascinating aspect of the story, Goyeneche opts to add an off-kilter Hollywood musical element to his film, splicing in scenes of four young women dressed in crisp nursing uniform from the period doing musical numbers about Peronism. Now, we all know that Peronism had plenty of its own kitschy songs back in the day (La Marcha Peronista and others—like the march of the nurses that the four elderly women struggle to remember on camera), so was it really necessary to come up with modern-day songs that rehash Peronism? Goyeneche appears determined to let viewers know how decidedly pro-Peronist the film is through these musical scenes; he would have done better to let the story speak for itself.

Still, seeing the film is a worthwhile endeavour, especially since it is only showing at that nationalist bastion, Cine Gaumont, where a film can be seen for a very reasonable $8. On a Saturday night, the audience booed and hissed when former dictator Aramburu appeared on screen and cheered on anyone onscreen making pro-Peronist commentary; it was like a nationalist criollo version of the Rocky Horror.

For more information on where to catch Las Enfermeras de Evita, visit their facebook page

el 5 de talleresEl 5 de Talleres (Adrián Biniez)

This film tells the story of Patón Bonassiolle, the captain of a minor league football team–not Talleres de Córdoba, but Talleres of the province of Buenos Aires—when he comes to the realisation at age 35 that it’s time to give up on soccer. The film stars Esteban Lamothe, the up-and-coming actor who starred in Santiago Mitre’s brilliant film ‘El Estudiante’, and his real-life partner Julieta Zylberberg (one of the stars of the Oscar-nominated ‘Relatos Salvajes’). With some great footage of all of the action surrounding the game, ‘El 5 de Talleres’ sets out to be a novel twist on the usual story of the rising football star (or “crack”) that dates back to ‘Pelota de Trapo’, a classic from the golden age of Argentine film.

However, when it moves off the field, the film turns somewhat lacklustre. Patón’s character is trapped within an infantile version of manhood associated with football—an inability to control his temper, express his emotions, or think of anyone but himself. In addition to plenty of preening and fist pounding, Patón is plagued by regular prank calls from the anonymous fan of another team. The caller taunts our number five as Patón swears, insults and challenges the caller to a face-to-face encounter. The player’s flair-ups definitely leave the viewer wondering what a nice girl like Ale (Zylberberg) is doing with him. Of course, the looming question of the film is what Patón will do with himself once the season has ended. I’ll toss in a mini-spoiler: the answer has something to do with salami, which I guess is the director’s tongue-in-cheek way of suggesting that Patón’s manliness will remain strongly intact after he has hung up his cleats.

To find out where to watch El 5 de Talleres, visit their facebook page

el guriEl Gurí (Sergio Mazza)

Set in a drab little town in the province of Entre Ríos, ‘El Gurí’ is the story of ten-year-old Gonzalo and his baby sister. Their mother has left on a journey from which she may never return, leaving them alone with their great-grandmother. As the film plods forward, we eventually learn that the mother is gravely ill and has chosen to die alone, leaving the fate of her children in the hands of a former lover who may or may not be their father. The one lesson that the film seems intent on sharing is that its characters, stuck in this middle of nowhere either by fate or by chance (like Lorena, played by Sofia Gala Castiglione, who runs over a dog and is stranded in town until her car can be fixed), can only depend on one another: the state is notoriously absent from everything that occurs, especially in relation to the two children and who will eventually take responsibility for them.

According to director Sergio Mazza, the making of ‘El Gurí’ involved less visual exploration than his earlier films ‘Graba’, ‘Gallero’, and ‘El amarillo’, and more personal reflection on his own childhood in the care of a grandmother after his own father passed away. Unfortunately, the film falls short of transmitting this emotional charge to the spectator.

To find out where El Gurí is showing, visit their facebook page.

Posted in Film, The Arts, TOP STORYComments (0)

Hand of Pod: Late goals, and Central’s 100% start ends…

Hand Of Pod is a podcast dedicated to discussing the domestic football scene in Argentina, with the inevitable occasional digressions into the land of the continental cups and the national team.

The 177th episode of Hand Of Pod sees Sam and Andrés discussing a weekend of Primera action that was notable for late goals deciding the outcomes of matches, and for Rosario Central’s perfect start to the campaign coming to an end with a draw away to the bottom club, Atlético de Rafaela (Central remain top, though). Argentinos Juniors’ unbeaten record came spectacularly undone, Aldosivi and Unión produced a 3-3 draw and Boca Juniors goalkeeper Agustín Orión is in hot water after breaking San Martín forward Carlos Bueno’s shin (though we say it was accidental). Perhaps most surprisingly of all, both Independiente and River Plate managed to keep clean sheets! All this and more awaits, though we’ve almost no discussion of Argentina’s upcoming internationals, since they’re only friendlies.

Mystic Sam’s seventh round predictions (last week: 6/15)
Quilmes v Sarmiento
Central v Colón
Olimpo v Atlético de Rafaela
Banfield v Huracán
San Lorenzo v Lanús
Crucero del Norte v Temperley
Belgrano v Newell’s
Boca v Estudiantes
Gimnasia v River
Godoy Cruz v Independiente
Racing v San Martín
Unión v Vélez
Arsenal v Aldosivi
Tigre v DyJ
Argentinos v Chicago

Posted in Life & Style, SportComments (0)

ARSAT-1 Satellite to be Launched Today

ARSAT-1 will launcxxx

ARSAT-1 (photo courtesy of Ministerio de Planificación)

Argentina’s first geostationary satellite ARSAT-1 will be launched at 6pm today from a base in French Guiana.

From orbit, the satellite will offer communication services to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay, saving Argentina millions of dollars as the government will no longer have to rent expensive satellites from other countries.

Planning Minister, Julio de Vido, called today’s launch was “historic” and said that it highlighted the potential Argentina had in technology. He added that it would generate many jobs, and that next year the country planned on launching a second satellite for Latin America-wide communication.

ARSAT-1 – the first of three satellites – is the first satellite be designed, assembled, and tested in Latin America. ARSAT-2 and ARSAT-3 will also be developed Bariloche, in the Patagonian province of Río Negro. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner called them an example of “satellite sovereignty”.

Argentina is the first Latin American country to launch its own satellite, and joins a select group of eight countries that have developed such technology, including the US, Russia, China, Japan, India, Israel, and the EU.

The public will be able to watch the launch live on television as part of a presidential address today at 6pm.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (0)

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As a possible ‪Grexit‬ looms in the old continent, we revisit Marc Rogers' article comparing Greece's current situation to Argentina's own 2001-2 crisis.

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