Tag Archive | "cristina fernández de kirchner"

Argentina News Roundup: 23rd January 2014


President Fernández during yesterday's announcement (photo: Carlos Brigo/Télam/aa)

President Fernández during yesterday’s announcement (photo: Carlos Brigo/Télam/aa)

Presidential Announcement: President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner made her first public appearance since December last night. In a televised speech, she announced the launch of a programme of student allowances for people between the ages of 18 and 24 who are unemployed, employed in the informal labour market, or earn less than the minimum wage ($3,600). Beneficiaries of the allowance will need to submit certificates in March, July, and November of each year showing that they are enrolled in an educational institution of any level, and will have to carry out a yearly health check in order to receive the $600 monthly payment. The programme, called Progresar, is seen as an extension of the Asignación Universal por Hijo (AUH), will have an estimated cost of $11.2bn, and will potentially reach 1.5m people. “Young people who don’t work or study are the children of neoliberalism, they’re the children of parents who didn’t have a job or who lost it, and weren’t educated in the culture of labour. This is why they need the state to move forward,” said the president. She also confirmed she will travel to Cuba to participate in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit on 28th and 29th January.

Devaluation: The Argentine peso lost 12% of its value today, closing at $8 per US dollar, after reaching a peak of $8.31 at around noon. The Central Bank abstained from trading in the exchange market for most of the day, letting the local currency weaken dramatically for the second day in a row. Yesterday, the peso had closed at $7.14 per US dollar, up $0.24 from the previous day, the highest daily rate of devaluation since 2002. With today’s move, the peso has depreciated by 22.7% since the beginning of the year. On the parallel -or ‘blue’- market, the US dollar was selling at approximately $13, a 62.5% gap between both markets.

Overseas Shopping Restrictions: Tax agency AFIP informed today through a statement on its website the exceptions to the restrictions in overseas purchases announced yesterday. Books, prescribed medicines, works of art, and certain personal needs items will not be subjected to the limit of two purchases per year set by AFIP.

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New Government Ministers Face the Press


 Economy minister Axel Kicillof this morning.  (photo: Télam)

Economy minister Axel Kicillof this morning. (photo: Télam)

Two new cabinet ministers promised predictability and no “grand announcements” concerning the economy in their first press conferences after Monday’s cabinet reshuffle.

New Economy Minister Axel Kicillof assured the public there would be no “abrupt changes” to economic policy and that the government is “working very hard to carry out a program of government targets, with very clear objectives that the President has given us,” in a short press conference held before midday.

The goals have to do with, “employment, production, income distribution, and improvement of living conditions of Argentines,” Kicillof told journalists at the Economy Ministry.

“There are many instruments and one goal: to ensure predictability. There will not be anything harmful done to workers or employers, because this model is for companies to have good results,” he said.

Addressing the Central Bank’s reserves which have fallen more than US$10bn so far this year, he said, “We have reserves that have suffered some cuts but are at consistent and very strong levels, and the exchange rate is part of a comprehensive economic management plan.”

“What we have to do is generate increased supply of dollars with respect to demand and to see what these dollars are used for; we are not going to do anything to generate abrupt changes in the economy,” he reiterated.

Both Kiciloff and new Chief of Cabinet Jorge Capitanich, who also gave a press conference this morning, faced questions concerning inflation. Kicillof said: “We are working with price agreements,” while Capitanich said that the controversy over the INDEC figures is a thing of the past thanks to the new price indicator that will come into effect next year.

During his press conference early this morning, Capitanich said the Government has “objectives to carry out” to “generate economic growth, employment opportunities, conditions for public and private investment, certainty and predictability, and to preserve the purchasing power of wages.”

He said the government will work to strengthen the Central Bank’s reserves, which have dropped drastically this year, by stimulating exports and creating conditions to encourage higher levels of private investment. “We have a dynamic agenda with 200 goals seeking to fulfill the 2014 budget, an increase of 6% [growth rate] and and a trade surplus of US$10bn.”

Capitanich said it was important to prioritise productive investment over luxury items. “We will protect, care for our reserves… It is much more important to have essential supplies for the production chain than to buy a luxury car that only satisfies one person.”

He promised to work openly with all governors and will maintain “permanent interaction” with Congress, coordinating meetings with various parliamentary groups, including the opposition.

He also proposed daily talks with the press, starting earlier than today’s press conference which began at 8.15am.

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner yesterday attended the swearing in of the new cabinet ministers after 47 days absent from the Casa Rosada.

She also spoke from the courtyard of the Casa Rosada to hundreds of young supporters, speaking about “deepening the model.”  She announced that unemployment had fallen to 6.8% and promised to invest in freight trains to improve their “economic competitiveness.”

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President Fernández to Resume Duties on Monday


President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner . (courtesy of CFK Argentina)

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. (courtesy of CFK Argentina)

The Casa Rosada announced last night that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will return to office next Monday following her successful recovery from surgery.

The presidential spokesman, Alfredo Scoccimarro, indicated that final medical controls “have shown a good cardiovascular state” after neurological tests on Friday gave a clean bill of health.

President Fernández will return to office in just under a week, on Monday 18th November, a date that some of her supporters are now calling “18K”.

This announcement comes just over a month after she received neurosurgery to treat a subdural haematoma.

From the Casa Rosada, Scoccimarro revealed yesterday that Fernández will continue to have “secondary prevention controls” that will include “oscillatory tests”. Additionally, two months after the date of the original operation she will have another “neuroimaging test” to evaluate her progress on 9th December.

Doctors at the Fundación Favoloro, Facundo Manes, and Gerado Bozovich indicated that clinical controls and tests, which took 48 hours during the last few days, proved the absence of any significant arrhythmia.

Finally, Scoccimarro informed that future communications about Fernández’s state of health would be published by the Medical Presidential Unit rather than then Fundación Favaloro.

Vice President Amado Boudou, who was acting president during Fernández’ absence, said “We are happy for your return!” via a public post on Facebook.

City Mayor Mauricio Macri said he remains “optimistic” about the president’s return, adding that he hopes to see “a change of cabinet”.

President Fernández will continue resting at the official residence in Olivos until Monday 18th.

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President Will Undergo Surgery Tuesday Morning


Vice-president Amado Boudou on his first day as acting president (photo: Paula Ribas/Télam/ef)

Vice-president Amado Boudou on his first day as acting president (photo: Paula Ribas/Télam/ef)

Doctors will operate on President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner Tuesday morning to remove a subdural haematoma.

Just after 1pm Monday, President Fernández reported to the Favaloro Foundation complaining of a “tingling” sensation in her left arm, prompting doctors to hospitalise her and schedule an operation.

A statement released by Favaloro Foundation confirmed that the president had been hospitalised and is undergoing tests in preparation for tomorrow morning’s surgery.

The hospital stated that the operation “consists of the surgical removal of the president’s haematoma,” which was the result of a head trauma she suffered on 12th August.

After some uncertainty over what his role would be during the president’s medical leave, vice-president Amado Boudou officially signed an act Monday morning granting him the executive power until President Fernández’s recovery.

Boudou also stepped in for President Fernández at the inauguration of a fleet of ambulances earlier in the day at the Casa Rosada.

Speaking at the event, which took place before news broke of the president’s impending operation, Boudou assured the public that they “would soon be eagerly listening to the President,” but that in the meantime matters of business would continue as planned.

“We will continue with full force to keep the management of the government on track,” Boudou told the crowd.

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President Meets with Industry, Trade, and Labour Representatives


Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Río Gallegos(Photo: courtesy of Presidencia de la Nacion)

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Río Gallegos (Photo courtesy of Presidencia de la Nacion)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is currently meeting with representatives from workers’ unions, banks, and trade and industry organisations in the southern city of Río Gallegos, Santa Cruz.

The meeting was announced by the president in a speech in Tecnópolis last week, when she said that she wanted “to discuss important matters with the UIA [Argentine Industrial Association], the banks, the unions, the true economic actors and not with the substitutes they put on the [electoral] ballots.”

Immediately before the meeting, which began at 2.30pm at the Hotel Patagonia, the president gave a speech before these representatives as she announced the results of a public tender to build two hydroelectricity dams. There, she anticipated the talks she will hold with business and union representatives would be based around the discussion of macroeconomic issues. “It is necessary to discuss, after ten years of reforms, about economic growth, industrial development, and debt reduction,” she said. “It’s important that we can share opinions about these last ten years, the things we have done, the ones we still need to do, those that we did right and those that we did wrong.”

The president then presented the latest economic statistics, saying that the country’s GDP “has grown 5.1% so far this year, in a world in crisis, where unemployment keeps rising. Gurus say that the fiscal situation is weak -they are the same ones that in 2001 [before the economic crisis] said that everything was ok.” She stated that her intention was to “put down myths, lies, and falsehoods” about the country’s economic situation.

To illustrate her point, she compared certain economic indicators, such as dollar reserves and imports, with those of Australia and Canada.

With regards to the dams, the president stated that “it will be the largest hydroelectric enterprise after Yacyretá.” Two new dams will be built in the province of Santa Cruz by UTE, a consortium of two Argentine companies (Electroingeniería and Hidrocuyo) and the Chinese company Ghezouba. The project will begin construction in December and is expected to take five and a half years to complete. With an investment of over US$22bn, it will add 1,740 MW to the grid.

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Official Results of Primary Elections Announced


Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner congratulating Martin Insaurralde (courtesy of Carlos Brigo/Télam/cf)

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner congratulating Martin Insaurralde (photo: Carlos Brigo/Télam/cf)

The official results of the open, simultaneous, and compulsory primary elections (PASO), which were carried out yesterday, were published in the early hours of this morning. They show that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s party, Frente Para La Victoria (FPV), is still on top at the national level – with 26,31% of the votes. However, it lost in key districts such as the province and city of Buenos Aires.

The government came first in La Pampa, Rio Negro, Santiago del Estero, Formosa, Entre Rios, and Tierra del Fuego, but lost the main districts in terms of population and political strategy: Buenos Aires (province and city), Sante Fe, Mendoza, and Córdoba.

Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa, from the Frente Renovador, won in Buenos Aires with a difference of over five points ahead of his FPV rival, Martin Insaurralde.

Massa declared: “We want to thank those who chose us this time and to tell them that, facing the future, we are going to work so that they will choose us [in October] with confidence.” President Fernández showed support to her candidate Insaurralde: “I especially want to thank a partner, who, until a month and a half ago, was only known by 20% of the Buenos Aires province electorate, and who has done an excellent pre-election.”

In the City of Buenos Aires, UNEN got a combined total of 35.6% of the vote for deputies, coming in on first place. However, the individual lists that competed in the alliance’s primary were placed third, fourth, fifth, and ninth overall. PRO received 27.5% of the vote and FPV 19%. In the category of senators, which the city is electing this year, UNEN got a combined total of 32% (with the individual lists getting 13.3%, 10.4%, 7.58%, and 1% respectively), whilst PRO got 31.4% of the vote, and FPV 19.85%.

In Córdoba, governor José Manuel De la Sota’s candidate Juan Schiaretti from Union por Córdoba (UC) won with 30% of the votes, while former vice-president Julio Cobos, from the Union Civica Radical (UCR) won in Mendoza with 44,13%. Former governor Hermes Binner, from the Frente Progresista Civico y Social (FPCS) won in Santa Fe with 41,06%, where PRO’s candidate Miguel Del Sel came second, and the FPV third.

The winners of the primary election will go on to compete in the legislative mid-term elections to be carried out on 27th October, when half of the Chamber of Deputies and a third of the Senate will be elected.

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President to Meet with UN Secretary-General in New York


Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (courtesy of Casa Rosada)

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (courtesy of Casa Rosada)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will receive Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner today at 5pm local time in New York, ahead of the Security Council meeting she will chair tomorrow.

The meeting will take place at the UN headquarters and will have an “open agenda”. Ban met with the foreign affairs ministers of Mercosur earlier today, where they discussed the countries’ “concerns” over alleged US espionage.

President Fernández travelled to New York to preside over the Security Council meeting, after Argentina became temporary chair of the council last week. She will deliver a speech at 9.30am before the representatives of the countries attending the event.

As well as the members of the Security Council, representatives of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), the African Union, the Arabic States League, and regional and sub-regional organisations have been invited to attend the meeting.

Argentina has proposed two items to be considered by the Council this month. The first one concerns the relationship and cooperation between the UN and sub-regional as well as regional organisations. The second issue is the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and is scheduled to be debated on 19th August. At the end of the month, the reconstruction of Haiti will also be discussed.

After the meeting, president Fernández will provide an official lunch “in a restaurant close to the UN headquarters” for the UN Secretary-General, foreign affairs ministers, and representatives of the Security Council’s members. She will head back to Buenos Aires tomorrow night.

This will be the 15th time since 1948 that Argentina assumes the presidency of the Security Council.

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President Makes Announcements in National Address


Cristina Fernández de Kirchner yesterday during her speechin Casa Rosada. Source: http://www.casarosada.gov.ar/

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner yesterday during her speech at the Casa Rosada (photo courtesy of Casa Rosada)

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner took to the airwaves last night, making a long national public address, known as Cadena Nacional, to share a series of reforms and announcements.

The main announcements included:

- Direct Buenos Aires-New York flights with national carrier Aerolíneas Argentina will resume on 15th December. The flights will be daily and will fly from Ezeiza to JFK with a 264-seater Airbus 330-200. As New York is the third international destination chosen by Argentines, the route is being reopened after it was closed in 2008.

- The foreign land ownership survey has been completed, with “encouraging” numbers, according to the president. The survey showed that foreigners own 5.9% of rural and exploitable lands, representing 268 million hectares of cultivable Argentine land. The proportion comes in below the legally accepted limit of 15%. President Fernández said she was proud that the information, which concerned a “strategic and non-renewable resource”, was now public.

- A new minimum wage is to be discussed during a meeting between the government and the General Labour Confederation (CGT) and the Argentine Workers’ Union (CTA) at the Labour Ministry tomorrow. The minimum monthly wage currently stands at $2,875, having risen from $2,071 in March 2012, and there are hopes the rise could be significant again, to tie in with inflation, which currently stands at between 20% and 35%, depending on the source. During the announcement, the president highlighted that Argentines “have the highest purchasing power and highest minimum wage in the region”.

- A fiscal deal with Angola was also announced, and a deadline was given for General Milani’s designation as head of the army to be voted by the Senate, which must make a decision on his – and other – military promotions before the end of the year.

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YPF: US$5bn Compensation Offer Rejected by Repsol


Antonio Brufau

Chief Executive of Repsol (photo: wikipedia)

Spanish oil giant Repsol’s board has unanimously rejected Argentina’s US$5bn compensation offer for last year’s expropriation of YPF, stating that the offer “does not reflect Repsol’s loss”

In April 2012, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced the renationalisation of 51% of the YPF shares, Argentina’s largest oil and gas company, from Spanish shareholder Repsol.

Ex-President Carlos Menem had initiated the privatisation of YPF in 1993 after significant annual losses due to mismanagement and embezzlement during the 1970s-80s.

But after almost a decade under Spanish management, in 2012, the Argentine government accused Repsol of having failed to invest enough in developing the country’s energy assets and thus violating the terms of the contract.

Repsol has since experienced tensions with its largest shareholders Caixabank and Pemex over reaching a settlement with Argentina. One of the conditions demanded by Argentina’s government is that Antonio Brufau, Repsol’s executive chairman, must leave Repsol before any settlement is drawn up.

Repsol has launched several legal suits over a loss that it values at US$10.5bn and stated that it is “open to an out-of-court settlement” but wants fair compensation in the form of cash, bonds, or liquid assets. Argentina’s proposal included a 47% stake, estimated to be worth US$3.5bn, for Repsol in a joint venture to develop the country’s Vaca Muerta shale assets. It also offered Repsol US$1.5bn of capital that would have to be invested in the Vaca Muerta venture, a vast reserve of non-conventional hydrocarbonates in the province of Neuquén, the board said.

At the time of the expropriation, despite being widely backed on a national level, Argentina was accused of scaring off foreign investors and jeopardising the economy in the long run as well as the breaching of investment agreement and international law.

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18A: What Has Changed and What Is At Stake


Last Thursday night, the fervour of a section of Argentine society could be felt and heard in every corner of the country. Thousands of light blue and white flags fluttered in the skies of the main cities, creating the impression of a civic holiday, though it was the claim of more than a million indignant citizens.

Marcha 18de Abril (Photo: Julie Catarinella

Buenos Aires Thursday 18 April, thousands of peaceful demonstrators
(Photo: Julie Catarinella)

The streets, crowded with people chanting against ten years of rule by president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband and former president Néstor Kirchner, were swamped with demands and allegations that resonated in the handmade banners and loud sounds of pot banging.

“I’m tired of corruption. I’m tired of not being able to to go outside without being afraid. I’m tired of public officials getting richer at the expense of our people. I’m here to defend democracy”, said a 65-year-old housewife.

Their grievances included alleged corruption, violent crime, inflation, and poverty -concerns which have seen the president’s approval rating plummet almost two years after she easily won her bid for re-election (according to several consulting agencies, in the last half of 2012 her positive image had already fallen by 45%). After all, it was Argentina’s largest anti-government demonstration in years and the third mass protest against the president in seven months.

Marcha 18 de Abril (Photos: Julie Catarinella)

Buenos Aires Thursday 18 April, peaceful demonstrators
(Photos: Julie Catarinella)

One of the demonstrators’ main concerns was about a new judicial reform which, among other things, states that all members of the Magistrates’ Council, a body that oversees the selection and running of the judiciary, ought to be elected by the citizens. While supporters say the law will lead to a democratisation of the justice system, critics say it will dangerously politicise the judiciary ensuring impunity to members of the ruling party.

It is hard for a group of people to come together behind a single banner. The claims were numerous and diverse, and some of them resonate with the government’s electoral base. Most of the participants of this protest were not voters of Kirchnerism, however some of their grievances, such as inflation and insecurity, are also claims made by voters of the current government.

Scenes like these are bound to raise concerns for the president and her supporters, and the reason is the transversal nature of the complaints.

Last Thursday there were neighbours from affluent suburbs, rural workers from the countryside, leaders and members of the Independent Movement of Pensioners and Unemployed (MIJD), the Socialist Workers’ Movement (MST), young people in school uniforms, retirees in wheelchairs and walking sticks, and diverse groups of people from all around the country, united by their rejection of the government. These were the indignant social players of the so-called ’18A’, strongly proud of not being part of the 54% who voted for president Fernández in 2011, demanding to be heard.

No one can fail to admit the impact of the ‘cacerolazo‘, especially in districts historically controlled by president Fernández’s party, such as the Greater Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Salta, Tucuman, and Neuquén. In previous demonstrations, on 13th September and 8th November 2012, government supporters had dismissed the protest by pointing out that protesters belonged to the middle-upper classes and that the demonstrations were orchestrated by wealthy elites. There was also speculation that some media groups were responsible for stoking fears and encouraging the protest. As the judicial reform has been a hot topic in the news agenda, some media groups aligned with the opposition directly linked this issue with the 18A protest, which gave the event massive coverage and placed it on the spotlight.

This time, the main government officials refrained from comment. They feel this message is not addressed to them.

Marcha 18 de Abril (Photo: Julie Catarinella)

Buenos Aires Thursday 18 April,peaceful demonstrator
(Photo: Julie Catarinella)

The feature that differentiated the third cacerolazo against the government from the previous ones was the visible presence of opposition political leaders. On 13th September, when the pots were heard against the government for the first time, opposition politicians were conspicuous by their absence. Two months later, on 8th November, only some were audacious enough to attend. Last Thursday, however, the key figures of the opposition took to the streets and heard the people’s demands. After all, many of them admitted to having articulated the protests.

“The right of the majorities is not absolute nor can it be fulfilled at any cost. The president must govern for all citizens. We also want justice, we also want security, we also want a better quality of life,” explained Mauro, a 33-year-old engineer.

A crucial test of the government’s popularity will come later this year in the mid-term legislative elections, in which the government will try to keep its majority in both chambers. For the time being, the government pushes ahead with major bills.

The Responsibility of the Opposition

In the two previous cacerolazos, it came to light that certain opposition groups had provided support to the organisation of the protests, though with a low profile and no party identification.

Marked by the predominant influx of people not aligned with any political party, the novelty of ’18A’ was the strong and explicit role of political leaders of most of the opposition parties.

The demands of unity between the opposition candidates for an alternative option ahead of the elections were also part of the people’s claims at the demonstration. One of the organisers argued that the opposition parties should unite to form at least two electoral fronts, a right-leaning and a left-leaning one, to avoid fragmentation and confront the ruling party in the legislative elections next 27th October.

Some opposition sectors are beginning to come together to replicate the model of the opposition in Venezuela, based on an alliance of all left and right-wing parties to confront the ruling party in the polls. The aim of this alliance, the Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD), is to carry out primary elections, run together, and support the candidate who obtains the highest number of votes. But here in Argentina, not all believe in unity. Some socialist groups differ with right-wing parties in the way they analyse a possible new victory of Kirchnerism -they just do no think the risk is that high.

The wide gap between the various opposition forces has been very difficult to bridge so far and it might take too long before an alliance like the MUD in Venezuela can arise and develop a cohesive discourse.

It becomes evident that from now on the calls to these anti-government manifestations will be more orchestrated by these groups, and less ‘non-partisan’. This may affect future gatherings, given the explicitly ‘non-partisan’ stance of the protesters.

“No political party represents me so far, I don’t identify with any of the existing political platforms. I hope the opposition can come up with something new for the next elections. I still wanted to come and express my disappointment with this government,” said Susana, a 37-year-old shop-keeper.

On the ruins of the bipartisan system that ruled Argentina between 1983 and 2001, the government developed a hegemony that is based more on the lack of an alternative than on the trust of the popular vote. In recent years we have seen how opposition parties have been weakening because of their inaction against the power of Kirchnerism. The street protest reflects the other side of their supremacy in the arena of partisan politics. It expresses an ongoing discomfort at an opposition without organisation or discourse, and a ruling party that does not recognise the needs and predicaments of great part of society.

The political dispersion of the minority was evidenced in the 2011 election and resonates today in the form of a widespread dissatisfaction with the current political actors. Responsibility for this dissatisfaction falls on the intellectuals and politicians who are not articulating people’s demands into concrete, democratic, and autonomous actions.

Marcha 18 de Abril (Photo: Julie Catarinella)

Buenos Aires Thursday 18 April,peaceful demonstrators
(Photo: Julie Catarinella)

The open cacerolazos are an enigma in terms of their ultimate implications in the polls. The challenge for the opposition is to be able to translate the slogans seen in these protests into a parliamentary victory and later on, an electoral victory. Whether they achieve this will depend on the strength of their unity and their ability to evolve into a new political project able to represent this part of Argentine society.

A lot has been said about democracy over the past few days. The protesters denounce president Fernández for exceeding the limits of democracy towards a greater accumulation of power, while her allies state that the ’18A’ is the glaring realisation that there is full democracy in Argentina.

It is important to bear in mind that democracy in Argentina, as well as in most Latin American countries, is often expressed through strong personal leaderships. The strong presidential system in Argentina does nothing to alleviate the problem of a lack of representation in Congress. Without a strong opposition to ensure a fair political game, the government’s concentration of power will continue growing, to the point of jeopardising democratic consolidation.

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