Tag Archive | "macri"

The Indy Eye: This Month In Photos, January

Normally a sleepy time of the year, when hordes of people change the blistering asphalt of the city for some R&R at the beach or the mountains, this January was quite exceptional.

With the new government taking office on 10th December, this past month has seen a flurry of political activity that is unusual for this time of year. The new year began with a desperate, country-wide search for three runaway convicts that could have been part of a film —a comedy, mostly.

In Jujuy, social leader Milagro Sala from the Tupac Amaru organisation was arrested for leading a protest before the provincial government building, prompting concerns regarding the new government’s stance on the criminalisation of public protest. This concerns only deepened as new cases of police brutality and repression surfaced and a ‘public security emergency‘ —the full scope of which is yet to be determined— was announced.

Around the country, thousands of State workers have been turning up to work only to find out they are unemployed and accused of being “ñoquis” (those who collect a paycheque without doing any work). Several protests were organised against the dismissals, including a festival at the Kirchner Cultural Centre (CCK) and “ñoqueadas” in different parts of the city.

Nature has also been at the centre of the agenda —first were the water hyacinths (camalotes) washing up at the Costanera with all sorts of animals from upstream, and then the mosquitos made their yearly comeback, this time bringing with them a dengue epidemic and the thus far little-known zika disease.

The Chinese community celebrated their new year on 30th January (photo: Camille Ayral)

The Chinese community celebrated their new year on 30th January (photo: Camille Ayral)

Palermo (photo: Camille Ayral)

Palermo (photo: Camille Ayral)

Café Cortázar

This month, we visited the cosy Café Cortázar (Photo: Rosie Thomas)

Police keep a watchful eye on a protest (photo: Camille Ayral)

Police keep a watchful eye on a protest (photo: Camille Ayral)

Workers march against State layoffs (photo: Camille Ayral)

Workers march against State layoffs (photo: Camille Ayral)

Argentine-Brazilian group Candomblé performing in San Telmo (photo: Camille Ayral)

Argentine-Brazilian group Candomblé performing in San Telmo (photo: Camille Ayral)

President Mauricio Macri met with businessmen in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (photo: Casa Rosada Press)

President Mauricio Macri met with businessmen in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (photo: Casa Rosada Press)

The water hyacinths gave Puerto Madero a distinct look this month (photo: Patricio Murphy)

The water hyacinths gave Puerto Madero a distinct look this month (photo: Patricio Murphy)

The Tupac Amaru organisation set up a camp at Plaza de Mayo to demand the release of Milagro Sala (photo: Patricio Murphy)

The Tupac Amaru organisation set up a camp at Plaza de Mayo to demand the release of Milagro Sala (photo: Patricio Murphy)

Posted in Multimedia, Photoessay, TOP STORYComments (0)

‘I Am Not a Ñoqui’ – The Story Behind the State’s Mass Layoffs

Around 25,000 public sector workers have been fired in the last month and a half. The Indy investigates what’s behind the government’s intention to ‘trim down’ the State.

Protests outside the Centro Cultural Kirchner after 600 workers were fired at the start of the year (Photo courtesy of Patricio Murphy)

Protests outside the Centro Cultural Kirchner after 600 workers were fired at the start of the year (Photo courtesy of Patricio Murphy)

“I am not a ñoqui,” says 27-year-old Fernando Gaba firmly. The former usher and union representative at the Centro Cultural Kirchner (CCK) was fired by the new authorities at the beginning of January along with 600 of his co-workers.

“It hurts. It really hurts because I studied arts since I was four years old,” he says. Gaba and his fellow despedidos had been working at the CCK since May 2015, when the centre opened. “We are professionals and we are working in the arts in every single field that made us the best for our job. We passed an extensive selection process, but it’s not on paper, it’s not a public process. We were all selected because our CVs are the best of the best.”

Ñoqui, or gnocchi, the popular potato-based pasta, is also a term used in Argentina for people who collect a pay cheque and are technically employed by the state, but don’t actually do any work. While the pasta ñoquis have retained their popularity in Argentina since Italians began settling here, the people allegedly cashing in on taxpayers money are not so fondly regarded.

Argentina is in the midst of a battle between workers and the State. Since coming to power in December, Mauricio Macri’s national government, as well as several provincial governors and mayors from across the political spectrum, have dismissed almost 25,000 state workers at the three levels of government from across the country, according to El Despidómetro, an initiative set up to monitor the situation. It is part of a ‘trimming down’ of the State, says the government — an effort to reduce the number of workers, and specifically to clear out ñoquis.

A State Policy

When Gaba’s contract ended on 31st December 2015, the new government renewed it. But at the start of the new year, he and 600 other employees were abruptly fired, he says. They found out in a tweet posted by the Head of Public Media, Hernan Lombardi, that read: “In the CCK 81% of the hires were made during 2015. Without exams and [with contracts signed] through universities. In December they were still hiring people.” The fact that the CCK only opened to the public in May 2015 does not seem to have been taken into account by Lombardi.

“The minister (sic) fired us all by Twitter,” says Gaba. “We discovered we are no longer workers by seeing his Twitter. In 140 characters. It’s disrespectful. It’s mocking.”

'El Despidómetro' - keeping track of the mass layoffs

‘El Despidómetro’ – keeping track of the mass layoffs

But Gaba and the other workers at CCK are not the only ones who found themselves without a job at the start of 2016. The Ministries of Labour, Social Development, Interior, Justice, Planning, Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, and Transportation have all fired employees as well, just to name a few. It is hard to keep track, as new dismissals are announced every day, the latest being nearly 500 employees at the Culture Ministry who found their names on a list and were denied entry into the building.

In total, 90 government organisations, ministries, and state-owned companies have fired staff. Companies such as ARSAT (telecommunications) and Aerolineas Argentinas have let people go, while municipalities like La Plata, Morón, and Quilmes have also fired people. Numbers range from six workers fired by the Neuquén provincial government, to 4,500 by the municipality of La Plata.

It is not just the executive doing all the firing – Congress led the way, with Vice-President Gabriela Michetti (who is also the president of the Senate) announcing almost 2,000 dismissals shortly after taking office in December 2015. Some of these had to be reverted, as the indiscriminate mass layoffs included pregnant women and disabled people.

In explaining the rush to fire Senate employees, Michetti said that many workers’ contracts were ended because they were hired during 2015 and that “it’s practically impossible to lay off state workers who have held their positions for over a year.”

Trimming Down the ‘Fat’

When President Macri was running for office, he promised to review the contracts of state workers and promote a more streamlined public sector that wouldn’t employ workers who did not work.

“What we have encountered is a state at the service of political activism,” said Macri, whose administration estimates around 6% of state workers were hired as a political favour.

Few people would disagree with the need to fire State employees who get paid but don’t do any actual work. However, unions and workers’ representatives say this is not the case at hand: they claim that the overwhelming majority of the nearly 25,000 workers who have lost their jobs are not ñoquis.

Though the government said the University of Buenos Aires would do an audit to find who was a ñoquis and who was actually working, many workers lost their jobs before the review could even begin. This prompted further questions about whether the terminations were truly to clear out underperforming workers.

If the government was genuinely committed to rooting out people who “collect paycheques without working, no one would come out to defend these people,” says Julio Fuentes from the State Workers’ Assocication (ATE). “But that would have to be done on the basis of a serious analysis, with the participation of the trade unions and guarantees that arbitrary measures will not be taken.”

“Every time I talk about this I have tears in my eyes because it’s really, really been an act of love working [at the CCK],” says Gaba. “We work a lot more than our contracts ask. We work because we have the belief that all the people, all the city, all the inhabitants of Argentina have the right to access culture and the arts. And we saw that right before our eyes.”

But not everyone sees what Gaba saw.

Alfonso Prat Gay, the new finance minister, said in a press conference that the country needed to lose some “activist fat”, in a reference to the Kirchnerist activists allegedly hired improperly by the previous government.

Ñoquis are part of the legacy. We found a state full of activists. We don’t want the state to be full of activist fat,” said the minister.

“This is not the reality,” says Pablo Sparato, assistant secretary to the Argentine Workers’ Union (CTA), of the government’s claims. The reality, he says, is that “the government’s attack on workers is symbolic, because they are justifying the dismissals by stigmatising state workers, calling them ñoquis. The reality is that they’re covering up the fact that the State is being taken over by representatives of multinational companies (…) They are designing a State which, instead of serving the people, will serve the big multinationals.”

Many have also interpreted Prat Gay’s comments as indicating that the firing is not to rid the government of ñoquis, but to rid it of people who have political allegiance to the previous government.

"I'm a state worker - my work is for your rights" (Photo courtesy of Patricio Murphy)

“I’m a state worker – my work is for your rights” (Photo courtesy of Patricio Murphy)

“I was fired because the new government is trying to clear out all the workers of the past government,” says Gaba. “It is a revenge because they were opposition to the previous government (…) We are suffering for politics, but we are workers —we are not politicians.”

Due to this sense of political persecution, which has been denounced by the unions, some State wokers have even taken to changing their names on their social media profiles like Facebook, to hide from the government.

“I had to do that (…) because in some places they request the workers to open their [social media] profiles and if you’re an active Kichnerist supporter, they fire you,” says Gaba. “If anyone tried to find me by my real name (now), they couldn’t.”

As early as 11th December, ATE urged Security Minister Patricia Bullrich “to end the arbitrary and persecutory attitude towards the workers,” as the union reported that many employees had been requested to disclose their “political, union, and ideological allegiances” to the new authorities.

Florencia [surname withheld at her request] is a 33-year-old lawyer who is finishing up a Master’s degree in Human Rights and a Diploma in Criminology. She has been working at the National Directorate of Human Rights, at the Security Ministry, since 1st May 2011.

The Directorate of Human Rights is responsible for creating policies for domestic and institutional violence, sexual diversity, and disability, among others. It also handles cases, petitions, and public policies that promote respect for human rights.

“On Monday 18th January, several of my co-workers tried to login to their computers, which they could not do because their username had been removed, so we called IT. After several internal calls, human resources confirmed that they could not enter their username because they would be fired.”

Florencia’s office lost 13 employees. The ministry lost 215. For her, the new government’s actions go beyond reducing State personnel. These actions, she says, are meant “to eliminate public policy.”

“They’re all random and the common discourse shared by both the government and the media is an … attempt at selling the public the idea that ñoquis are being laid off, while truly, they are firing workers and dismantling programs.” She adds that “on the other hand, it should be noted that 20 people were named permanent staff through decrees 248/2015 and 250/2015 [on 23rd December 2015], without the prior public selection stipulated by law.”

"Ñoquis don't work, we do" - a campaign flyer by public sector workers' union ATE

“Ñoquis don’t work, we do” – a campaign flyer by public sector workers’ union ATE

A Deeper Problem

The mass layoffs have Argentina’s state workers’ unions —ATE, UPCN, and APL (which represents legislative workers)— up in arms. As new dismissals are announced, protests and strikes are organised.

“We are not going to allow the new authorities to create a State to guarantee the businesses of the big multinational [companies] (…) while at the same time reducing State functions that have more to do with responding to the everyday needs of the people,” says Spataro. “We’re going to oppose [the dismissals] because we think that we have to not only defend jobs, but we also have to defend a State that serves the workers and not the companies.”

Some progress has been made. In La Plata, where 4,500 workers were fired at the end of the year, they protested in the street until police released tear gas and fired rubber bullets at them. On 26th January, the municipal government announced it would re-hire 2,600 of them. The secretary general of the government of the municipality of La Plata, Javier Mor Roig, said in an interview with Radio Provincia that the workers would “remain in the positions they had and if necessary will be shifted to another task at hand.”

Today, being the 29th day of the month (a day in which it is traditional to eat gnocchi), several protests will take place around the country. In Buenos Aires, CCK workers have organised a cultural festival in support of the dismissed workers, while other organisations have called for rallies and “ñoqueadas” (where they will serve gnocchi) at the obelisk, Congress, Almagro, Villa Urquiza, Haedo, Moreno, La Plata, and even Rocha, in Uruguay.

The mass layoffs of the last month and a half have also served to highlight a problem that is endemic to the State in all its levels, and which predates the current government: the precarious conditions in which State workers are hired and the vulnerability they face in these situations.

Many workers have ‘junk contracts’, which don’t give them the job security they are entitled to. These contracts are temporary and often get renewed on a yearly basis. Fuentes estimates that around 600,000 state workers out of 3.9m have some kind of temporary contract.

In the case of the CCK, Lombardi said that another reason behind the firings was the bad contracts 85% of employees had, which they got through arrangements with national universities. “Even though it’s great that universities have agreements of this kind, they can’t be unofficial employment agencies,” he said.

“Lombardi is saying that we are guilty of signing a bad contract, but it’s not our fault,” counters Gaba. “It’s the fault of the past government that hired us in shitty conditions.”

Gaba was technically employed by a public university, which paid him, but the university received funding from the state to do so. It is a confusing system and it does not do nearly enough to protect workers’ rights. “In this way, the people pay their own health insurance and their own retirement pay,” he explains.

Going forward, all hiring for the National Public Administration will be carried out by the newly created Ministry of Modernisation, headed by Andrés Ibarra. This gives almost complete control to the ministry by requiring all hiring, contract renewals, and extensions to be approved by it. Ibarra’s ministry will also review the contracts of 24,000 public employees to see whether they should continue working or join the thousands of people who have already lost their jobs.

But the reality is that there are still almost 25,000 Argentines without work now. And unless the government’s hiring practices change from short-term contracts that give workers scant security, mass layoffs will continue to be a possibility.

For Gaba and the thousands of his fellow unemployed workers, the prospect of not returning to work is grim. He is surviving off of savings and his partner’s help. His full-time job has become trying to regain his old one.

“I’m fighting for all my comrades and all my co-workers because some of them have not the abilities to express what they’re feeling right now,” he says. “Some of them have to take care of children or the need to have work in anything until we got our jobs back.”

Requests for comment to the Modernisation Ministry were not returned.


Posted in Analysis, Current Affairs, News From ArgentinaComments (0)

An Alternative Guide to the Argentine Presidential Election

This Sunday, Argentina will have its first ever presidential debate, because it’s what the USA does so they thought they’d do it too. And also because it’s good for ratings now that Las mil y una noches is starting to wind down.

Argentines will witness a historic moment when an Argentine is allowed to speak for a whole minute without being interrupted by another Argentine. Worth tuning in for. The six five candidates will be expected to talk about the economy, education, and the usual stuff people pretend to care about, although the highlight of the debate is expected to be each candidate’s special party piece that they’ve prepared especially for the occasion.

Here’s our guide to the six five candidates…

Daniel Scioli

(NB: Isn’t actually going to the debate.)
We’re Going to Win So We Don’t Need No Debate It’s A Kind of Peronist Party
Party piece: Fred Astaire impersonation
’70s band he’d be most likely to join: Sparks

Daniel Scioli never wanted to be a politician. He was destined to be an Olympic volleyball player, but one of his hands tragically fell off while attempting a slam-dunk during the 1996 semi-finals against Croatia and he swore to wreak his revenge on the world by going into politics.

Two things you need to know about Daniel Scioli: 1) in his back garden he has a huge statue of pop duo Pimpinela, who sing about men who are love rats and scoundrels and are cast away into the dark night but then perhaps forgiven because that’s love, and are also slightly incestuous, since this is a brother and sister duo; 2) Daniel Scioli is favourite to be president. Try not to put these two facts together and reach unwarranted conclusions. Daniel Scioli is also rumoured to have a statue of Carlos Menem in his back garden. Carlos Menem was a very nice man who saved Argentina in the 1990s and took everyone to Miami in his big aeroplane, but now everyone hates him, for these are a fickle people. Having a rumoured statue of him in your back garden is unlikely to do your election chances much harm, not least when you already have one of Pimpinela, and even less so when you know you’re a golden-balled Argentine politician and you can do pretty much whatever you like.

Nope, the bit about the statue wasn't a joke...

Nope, the bit about the statue wasn’t a joke…

In fact, he isn’t even going to the debate because everyone knows he’s going to win anyway. We just wanted to post this photo of his Pimpinela statue.

Mauricio Macri

(N.B. Might not go to the debate as Daniel Scioli says he isn’t going; they’re not even president yet and they’re already squabbling like children)
Kind of Peronist But You Wouldn’t Know It To Look At Us Show Me The Money Party
Party piece: Making animals from balloons
’70s band he’d be most likely to join: Queen

When he was eight years old, Mauricio Macri escaped from his tyrannical father, thirteen brothers and sisters, and great poverty and ran off with the circus. He was scared of the lions and the elephants, but the clowns looked after him and they became firm friends, filling his sleeping quarters with yellow balloons and uplifting music, so that every day felt like a party. Mauricio’s epiphany came in 1981, when he saw Queen live in concert. “I will grow a moustache”, he said, “and stand on a stage in front of many people who will adore me, just like this great man. And I will eradicate poverty by destroying the poor and the crippled.”

Macri (left) signing a Queen song with an impersonator (right) on TV. This is for real too.

Macri (left) signing a Queen song with an impersonator (right) on TV. This is for real too.

He shaved his moustache off a few years ago, because no moustachioed candidate has won the presidency since Raúl Alfonsín, and that was in 1983 and everyone including your dad had a moustache. And he stood on a stage, but few people adored him, and many despised him. But if elected, he will keep his promise of destroying the poor. A man of his word.

Sergio Massa

I’m Kind of a Peronist Too But Not In A Bad Way Party
Party piece: Card tricks, usually Three Card Monte
’70s band he’d be most likely to join: Survivor



Sergio Massa’s reign as mayor of Tigre has consisted mostly of setting up video cameras to provide footage for Police Camera Action-style shows, which showed us all that there was more to Tigre than just wicker furniture and fruit markets. He also spunked a large amount of cash on getting tennis stars to come and play in Tigre, because he couldn’t be arsed to go into town. He wasn’t going to stand for president until he realised that his surname could be stylised as +A, which was too good a logo to waste on a political backwater like Tigre. It would have been even better if he lived in a country where A+ was used for grading papers, but he doesn’t. Still, +A. It’s pretty convincing.

No one knows what Massa’s policies are. He’s a bit like Macri but without the sneaky suspicion that he might be wearing a Scooby Doo mask which he will pull off as soon as he wins the elections to reveal that he’s actually Satan/Menem/Donald Trump, and a bit like Scioli in that he used to be friends with Cristina Kirchner but would rather people didn’t mention that these days. Basically, he’s the one who people who can’t stomach Scioli or Macri but don’t want to spoil their ballot will vote for. Will finish third.

Margarita Stolbizer

We Used To Be The UCR But Now We’re Friends With Every Party Party
Party piece: Finger puppet show
’70s band she’d be most likely to join: Fleetwood Mac

Margarita Stolbizer has the smallest eyes in the world. Just look at them. Tiny. Really tiny.

She's not squinting.

She’s not squinting.

When she was a little girl, Margarita Stolbizer had big, bright, happy eyes, like a character in a Manga cartoon with an annoying laugh. One day, the Great Emperor Thibaw Min of Cambodia came to Argentina to buy some milanesas de soja, and in a health food shop in Villa Ortúzar he came across the delightful Margarita and her enormous eyes. “Phnek teangnoh!” he cried. “Khnhom trauvte mean phnek teangnoh!” (“Those eyes! I must have those eyes!”) “Kmher!” he said to Margarita, which is an Anglo-Cambodian pun which wouldn’t actually work in Spanish. “Give me your eyes, and I will give you all the riches of Cambodia.” Margarita was young and foolish and thought Cambodia was a pop band. Thibaw Min took Margarita’s eyes and left her his own, tiny, squinting, old man eyes, and Margarita become a Radical and sought solace in Raúl Alfonsín’s bushy moustache.

Rodríguez Saá's logo

Rodríguez Saá’s logo

Adolfo Rodríguez Saá

Nobody Votes For Us Outside of San Luis Party
Party piece: Plays folclore classics on the flute
’70s band he’d be most likely to join: Jethro Tull

Adolfo Rodríguez Saá comes from a long line of people called Rodríguez Saá who do very well in the province of San Luis (or possibly San Juan, people get them mixed up) and then get about 3% of the vote in the presidential elections, probably from all the people in San Luis (or San Juan). His dad did it, or maybe that was his brother, and his granddad probably did it too. As we said, a long line.

One of the Rodríguez Saás actually did manage to make it to the presidency in 2001, when they’d run out of suitable presidential people, but he totally shagged his chance by resigning after a week. No one has voted a Rodríguez Sáa into office since, and they never will.


Nicolás del Caño

Never Heard Of Him Until Just Now Party
Party piece: Fire Illusions!
’70s band he’d most likely join: Someone obscure and probably Bulgarian who you’ve never heard of. Or Kiss.

Nicolás del Caño leapt to fame in the early 16th century when he became the first man to circumnavigate the globe. The first man should have been Magellan, but he got eaten in the Philippines and through mutinies, discontent and subterfuge, Del Caño rose to the top of the pile to bag his place in history. Now 542 years old, though you wouldn’t know it to look at him, this is his first Argentine presidential election. A firm favourite among the retired and sailors.

The first Argentine presidential debate will be on at 9pm this Sunday, although you may find your time is better spent watching this Pimpinela video on a loop.

Posted in Current Affairs, Election 2015Comments (0)

Scioli Takes Comfortable Lead in Presidential Primaries

Frente para la Victoria’s (FPV) Daniel Scioli won 38.4% of the vote in yesterday’s primary elections, over 12 points ahead of his closest rival, Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri, who gained 24.3%. Former cabinet chief Sergio Massa trailed the pair, picking up 14.2% of the vote.

Candidates Daniel Scioli (left), Mauricio Macri (middle), and Sergio Massa (right)

(L-R) Frontrunners Daniel Scioli, Mauricio Macri, and Sergio Massa

Three other candidates will also be on the ballot on 25th October, having won more than the 1.5% threshold: Margarita Stoblizer from the centre-left Frente Progresistas (3.5%), Compromiso Federal’s Adolfo Rodríguez Saa (2.1%), and Nicolás del Caño from Frente de Izquierda y Trabajadores (FIT) who picked up 1.7%, narrowly beating his FIT rival candidate Jorge Altamira (1.6%).

Five smaller parties did not make the cut, gathering less than 0.5% of the vote each.

Celebrations were strong in all of the camps, for differing reasons. Scioli highlighted his 12-point lead over Macri, whilst the Buenos Aires mayor and Massa were quick to celebrate all the votes picked up by their respective coalitions.

When looking at votes along party lines, the scenario changes, with FPV still leading the field, but by much smaller margins, making the chances of a run-off on 22nd November more likely. (To win outright, a candidate must win more than 45% of the vote, or more than 40% with a ten-point margin of victory over their closest rival.)

Governor of Buenos Aires province Scioli was the only candidate on the governing FPV’s ticket, after June’s announcement of his choice of vice-president – Kirchnerist insider Carlos Zannini – united the party behind a single candidate.

Macri and Massa, on the other hand, both beat out rivals to be on the presidential ticket.

Macri, running on the ticket for coalition Cambiemos, which includes his own party Propuesta Republicana (PRO) and the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR), closes the gap on Scioli significantly when adding the votes of UCR senator Ernesto Sanz (3.5%), and Coalición Civica’s Elisa Carrió (2.3%). The coalition’s collective total is 30.1%, just eight points behind Scioli. Massa’s Una Nueva Alternative (UNA) alliance also won 20.6% overall, if second-placed Córdoba governor José Manuel de la Sota’s 6.4% is included.

Whilst all eyes were on the presidential race, six provinces also took to the polls to elect new governors yesterday.

Buenos Aires Province

The most watched race was Buenos Aires Province, where a third of the country’s population resides, and current governor Daniel Scioli’s man – Julián Dominguez – faced off against cabinet chief Aníbal Fernández (a close ally of the president). Whilst the latter only narrowly won the FPV ticket, together the two government candidates picked up 40.3% of the vote, ahead of Cambiemos’ María Eugenia Vidal’s 29.4%, and UNA’s Felipe Sola – who previously governed the province from 2002-07 – and who picked up 19.6%.


In Catamarca the incumbent FpV governor, Lucía Corpacci, comfortably led with 52% of the vote, making it seem likely that she will be reelected in October. Her closest rival, former governor Eduardo Brizuela del Moral, of Frente Cívico y Social, picked up 39%.


In the southern province, incumbent Martín Buzzi won a landslide victory over his challenger to take the FpV candidacy and stand for re-election in October. The FpV also led overall, between them taking 40.4% of the vote, narrowly beating non-Kirchnerist Peronist, and former governor, Mario Das Neves of Alianza Frente Union Chubut Somos Todos (38.8%). Alianza Cambiemos Chubut trailed into third place with 15.6% of the vote, making it likely that the two Peronist candidates will face one another in a run-off in November.

Entre Ríos

With incumbent governor Sergio Urribarri not standing for re-election, fellow FPV candidate Gustavo Bordet came first in the primary with 44.3% of the vote, beating Cambiemos’ Alfredo de Angeli (35.8%).

San Juan

Current vice-governor Sergio Uñac had a good primary, taking over 85% of the votes cast for the FPV, ensuring he is on the ticket in October. It is likely that the FPV will be re-elected, after taking over 61% of the vote in the province. If he wins, Uñac will return to the position he held as caretaker in 2013 when incumbent José Luis Gioja was on medical leave for four months following a helicopter accident.

San Luis

Brother of presidential hopeful Adolfo, Alberto Rodríguez Saa took a seemingly unassailable in the primaries for Alianza Compromiso Federal, scooping 54% of the votes, close to 30 points ahead of Cambiemos, who picked up 26.4%, and FPV, with 16.9%. If he wins in October, which seems likely, Rodríguez Saa will continue the brothers’ dynastic rule of San Luis, which has seen them govern the province for 26 of the 32 years since the return to democracy in 1983.

Posted in Election 2015, News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (0)

Argentina News Roundup: 25th April 2014

Metropolitan Police supress protest at Borda Hospital (photo courtesy of FM La Tribu)

Metropolitan Police supress protest at Borda Hospital (photo courtesy of FM La Tribu)

Macri’s Acquittal on Borda Repression Case Overturned: An Appeals Court overturned yesterday a ruling that acquitted Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri and other high government officials of the repression at the Borda mental hospital last year. The first instance ruling acquitted Macri, his deputy María Eugenia Vidal, Chief of Cabinet Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, Security Minister Guillermo Montenegro, Urban Development Minister Daniel Chaín, and Health Minister Graciela Reybaud due to lack of evidence. However, it was overturned on appeal, on the grounds that “the government must exercise its hierarchical power directly if it knows that its subordinates are not fulfilling their specific obligations or duties,” and their responsibility on the incidents will now continue to be investigated.

On 26th April 2013, 200 members of the Metropolitan Police entered the Borda Hospital at 7am and violently supressed patients, doctors, legislators, journalists, and other people who gathered to protest the demolition of Protected Workshop 19 by the city government.

New Court Order To Discover Whereabouts of Luciano Arruga: The Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) and the family of Luciano Arruga presented yesterday a habeas corpus demanding the state immediately take “all the necessary actions” to determine the whereabouts of the missing teenager. Arruga has not been seen since January 2009, after allegedly being detained in a police station in Lomas del Mirador, in the province of Buenos Aires. In 2013, after years of campaigning by the Arruga family and human rights groups, the case was changed from ‘missing person’ to a ‘forced disappearance’ and taken up by a Federal Court. CELS lawyer Maximiliano Medina explained that yesterday’s court order runs parallel to the main criminal investigation, and is focused on finding Luciano. “The habeus corpus puts the victim at the centre, finding the body,” said Medina. “This order means that all bodies of the state must work together and provide Luciano’s family with answers. If they do not, there is the chance it could face international sanctions.”

Félix Díaz, leader of the Qom community, was officially recognised for his commitment to the environment (photo courtesy of FARN)

Félix Díaz, leader of the Qom community, was officially recognised for his commitment to the environment (photo courtesy of FARN)

Annual Environment Report Published: The Foundation for Environment and Natural Resources (FARN) presented its annual report on the state of the environment in Argentina yesterday. Presenting the report, Andrés Nápoli, director of FARN, said: “Despite complaints, protests, and judicial actions, the subject of the environment remains distant from the public agenda.” He went on to say that citizen participation remains the key to political change in these key areas. During the presentation, which took place in La Trastienda and was attended by more than 300 leaders from the environmental sector, Félix Díaz, leader of the indigenous Qom community in Formosa, was awarded for his work on the frontline of the environmental struggle and for his work for indigenous rights. The 400-page report is a comprehensive analysis of the current situation in Argentina in areas as diverse as agrochemical use, mining, soy production, the Ley de Basura Cero (Zero Rubbish Law) and Ley de Bosques (Forests Law), the Riachuelo, glaciers, and energy policies. It also addresses public opinion on the environment and what can be done to increase awareness of the country’s issues, and also how to get them on the public and legislative agenda.

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Argentina News Roundup: 7th March 2014

New subte station San José de Flores opened today on the A line (photo: Beatrice Murch)

San José de Flores subte station (photo: Beatrice Murch)

Subte Fares to Increase: Subte fares in the city of Buenos Aires will increase as of next Friday 14th March, from the current $3.50 to $4.50 for rides purchased with electronic cards, such as Sube and Monedero. Tickets bought in cash will cost $5 each, and the premetro will go up from $1 to $1.50. Those travelling more than 20 times per month will see the price of the 21st to the 30th ticket reduced to $3.60; the 31st to 40th will be reduced to $3.15, and all the trips from the 41st onwards will cost $2.70. The measure was published in the City’s Official Gazette this morning, and justified by a yearly rise in costs of 16%. The City’s General Auditor, Eduardo Epszteyn, criticised the rise, indicating that a report produced by his office at the legislature’s request found the subte‘s operational costs to be significantly lower than those mentioned by the government. “I can’t understand how [Mayor Mauricio] Macri’s government could reach that value. Their costs are grossly inflated,” he said.

Macri to Avoid Trial Over Wiretapping: A judge ruled that there is not enough evidence to bring Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri to trial over the 2009 wiretapping scandal. Former Education Minister Mariano Narodowski, former Metropolitan Police chief Jorge ‘Fino’ Palacios, and alleged spy Ciro James will undergo trial. Judge Sebastián Casanello considered that neither the prosecutor or the complainants “specify direct evidence supporting the allegation that Macri ordered that Néstor Leonardo and Sergio Burstein be spied on.” According to Casanello, the political responsibility that may be attributed to the Mayor is insufficient for criminal proceedings. Despite this latest development in the case, Macri is still prosecuted and the judge has ordered new evidence to be presented to him in order to decide whether to acquit him or to bring him to trial with the rest of the accused.

Buenos Aires Province Teachers to Strike Next Week: Teachers’ unions in the province of Buenos Aires confirmed they will go on strike on Monday and Tuesday next week. In a statement, the Teachers’ Unions Front (FGDB) said that they will “continue with the struggle until we receive a wage offer from the government that can be analysed by the teachers.” The FGDB has rejected the provincial government’s offer of a 25.5% wage increase, as they demand at least a 35% raise. Schools in the province did not start the term as expected this week due to the strikes.

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Teachers Protest Education Assessment Institute Proposal

UTE members protest in front of City Legislature

UTE members protest in front of City Legislature (photo: María Candelaria Lagos/Telam)

Teachers from the Education Workers’ Union (UTE) have erected a white tent in front of the Buenos Aires Legislature where they are protesting against a city government project to create a private education assessment institute to evaluate teachers and students. The measure will be discussed tomorrow in the legislature.

The teachers have asked opposition parties not to support the “privatist” measure from governing party PRO, whose support of the measure alone is not sufficient for the law to be passed.

“Macri’s party wants to create a private, external assessment institute using national and foreign funds” said Eduardo López, the president of UTE, in a press conference outside the legislature. López estimated that the teachers would remain there fore 24 hours in an attempt to bring down the proposal.

Frente para la Victoria (FPV) legislator Francisco Nenna, who helped to set up the tent along with other legislators, called for “all of the opposition to vote against this bill,” explaining that although the Minister for Education, Esteban Bullrich, had promised that the institute would bring in private universities and organisations to a give a trustworthy and independent evaluation of  the education system, in fact, the proposed system would create “a ranking system which ranked schools, students, teachers.” He highlighted that similar projects had “failed in Chile, Spain, and in every country which has implemented it.”

Nenna said: “We want a systematic assessment of the education system, which analyses the characteristics of our own, unique education system and which is carried out with the input of teachers, students, local leaders, and the educational staff”.

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Mid Terms: FpV Loses Ground but Maintains Legislative Majority

Sergio Massa, left, led his alliance to a victory over the ruling party, led by candidate Martín Insaurralde. Frente para la Victoria maintains a majority in congress. (Credit: Télam)

Sergio Massa, left, led his alliance to a victory over the ruling party, led by candidate Martín Insaurralde, right. (Ph: Télam)

After Sunday’s mid-term legislative elections, the balance of power in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies remained relatively unchanged, with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Frente para la Victoria (FpV) party retaining a quorum in both houses. However, support for the ruling alliance was down considerably, bolstered by a strong showing by Sergio Massa’s Frente Renovador alliance in Buenos Aires province.

At the national level, FpV obtained 32.50% of the vote for seats in the Chamber of Deputies, six points ahead of its finish in August’s primary elections. The ruling party’s chief opposition, the UCR and its main ally, the Partido Socialista, trailed FpV with 21.82% of the vote.

Frente Renovador, the alliance led by Sergio Massa, convincingly won in the province of Buenos Aires with 43.92% of the votes. Trailing Massa’s party in Argentina’s largest electoral district was FpV, with 32.18% of the vote.

In his first speech after his win, Massa spoke about the future and national ambitions for his political alliance, which many speculate include a presidential candidacy in 2015.

“We have to defend the millions of votes which have transformed Frente Renovador into the leading political force in the province of Buenos Aires, something that forces us to cross borders and begin to traverse Argentina.”

In addition to Massa, four other oppositional leaders defeated the ruling party in their respective provinces: Hermes Binner in Santa Fe, Juan Carlos Schiaretti in Córdoba, Julio Cobos in Mendoza, and Mario Das Neves in Chubut.

After a poor showing in the primaries, the FpV recovered the provinces of San Juan and La Rioja, with 56% and 49% of the votes, respectively.

In the capital, mayor Mauricio Macri’s Union PRO finished in first with 34.46%, just ahead of UNEN’s 32.23%. Each party will send five deputies to the upper house.

Nationally, the picture remained similar in the senate race. FpV finished in first with 32.13% ahead of the closest competition, PRO, at 14.23%.

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Metrobus Corridor to Destroy Recently Built Boulevard

Macri announcing Metrobus plans ( Photo: Enrique Cabrera/Télam/ef)

Macri announcing Metrobus plans ( Photo: Enrique Cabrera/Télam/ef)

Just one day after the announcement of four new Metrobus corridors in Buenos Aires, it has emerged that construction of one of the lines will entail the demolition of a recently-built boulevard.

Yesterday, Mauricio Macri, Mayor of Buenos Aires, said the lanes would run along Av. Cabildo, Av. San Martín, Paseo Colón and Autopista 25 de Mayo.

But in order to make the new bus lane on Av. Cabildo, extending 2.1km from Av. Congreso to the General Paz, the boulevard – which was recently completed and cost just under $5m – would be destroyed.

When questioned about the demolition, the capital’s sub-secretary of transport, Guillermo Dietrich, stated yesterday that “it is difficult to prevent these things”.

In dialogue with Infobae, Gabriela Cerruti, of opposition party Nuevo Encuentro, commented: “It seems to be that there has been an absolute lack in planning… It is a way of throwing away public resources, in plain view of all porteños.”

The legislator explained that the boulevard had gone through several stages of planning and construction since 2008, with the final stage last year, signed off by construction company Cumini SA. Despite the initial budget of $1.7m, the total cost of the work amounts to close to $5m, with $2.8m spent on maintenance and ancillary costs more than doubling the initial budget.

The administration of Macri was questioned for having “never discussed the project with the community”, especially as the complications of the works and the mounting costs have affected residents, who state that the funding could have been spent in other areas such as “housing, hospital improvements or sewerage”.

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Macri Annouces Construction of Four New Metrobus Corridors

Mauricio Macri (Photo courtesy of Mauricio Macri)

Mauricio Macri (Photo courtesy of Mauricio Macri)

The head of the Buenos Aires Government, Mauricio Macri, announced today the addition of four new Metrobus corridors to the City Transport system. The new routes will run along the Avenues Cabildo, San Martín, Paseo Colón, and the 25 de Mayo motorway

Making the announcement in the Usina del Arte in Boca, Macri said: “This is why we got into politics… You can make wonderful speeches but if they do not turn into concrete plans which solve resident’s problems, they are of no use at all.”

He went on to specify that the new lines would add 56km to the current transport system and would positively transform the lives of “more than a million people.”

Accompanied by the vice president of the City Government, Maía Eugenia Vidal, the Cabinet Chief, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, and the Subsecretary of Transport, Guillermo Dietrich, Macri expressed his desire to continue talks with the Provincial and National Government about extending the Metrobus corridors to the Greater Buenos Aires area.

“I have talked with the governor [Daniel Scioli, governor of the province of Buenos Aires] and we are also speaking with the National Government. With the all the experience we have accumulated in the design of the project, we are available to help (with the extension plans) in anyway possible.”

The city government says these four new corridors, added to the three existing corridors, will provide a means of transport to more than 1,2 million people daily using 73 different bus lines.

The Cabildo Metrobus run between the Av Congreso and General La Paz. The Metrobus San Martín will run from the Avenue Juan B. Justo towards General La Paz, and the Paseo Colón will run from Plaza de Mayo to Wenceslado Villafañe in La Boca. Finally, Metrobus 25 de Mayo, the plans for which are still in development, is expected to be a fast lane in the middle of the motorway and will run for 7,5km between Av 9 de Julio and the junction with Perito Moreno.

The building of the new Metrobus corridors is provided for in the city government’s budget for 2014, presented by Macri last week, which included an allocation of $3.8bn to the Sub-secretary for Transport to begin construction next year.

This sum will be closely scrutinised due to recent revelations that the construction of Metrobus Sur and Metrobus 9 de Julio cost the city $200m more than was originally budgeted for.

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