By David Agren - Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 0 Comments
Inflation has stoked paranoia, a black-market peso and, for a lucky few, some great deals
The Parrilla la Luli in Buenos Aires grills thick cuts of beef, accompanied by big bowls of salad, copious cups of Malbec and surly customer service. Prices are pencilled in on faded menus—no reflection of the restaurant’s down-market decor, but rather of runaway inflation, which independent economists peg at 25 per cent. That’s more than twice the official rate of approximately 10.6 per cent—a number the International Monetary Fund (IMF) considers so corrupted that it censured Argentina, the third-largest economy in Latin America, for fudging its official financial figures. “The Argentine [economy] can be characterized by [a level of] inflation, which no one recognizes,” says Sergio Berensztein, an independent political analyst in Buenos Aires.
Such is the state of affairs in Argentina, where politics permeates everyday economic activities. Inflation is so sensitive that the government has prohibited the publication of independent estimates and sacked and prosecuted staff in the statistics service. It has also recently frozen fuel and food prices.
It’s just the latest sign of trouble in a country with a history of economic collapses—most recently in 2001, when it defaulted on $95 billion in debt and devalued the Argentine peso. Not surprisingly, many Argentines have sought to safeguard their savings by snapping up assets such as apartments and automobiles, along with U.S. dollars, which became scarce with the implementation of currency controls. The controls are an attempt to keep U.S. currency in the country, mainly because Argentina has been unable to access international capital markets since its 2001 default. The controls also came as holdout bondholders from the default pursued and won a $1.4-billion judgment in a U.S. court. Argentina refuses to pay the holdouts, which it brands “vultures,” a decision that could ultimately lead to another default, says Berensztein.
By Katie Engelhart - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
UK says “hands off our islands”
The British government’s latest military manoeuvre seems fresh out of a Monty Python sketch: 150 British soldiers who just returned from a tour in Afghanistan are being redeployed to the Falkland Islands, a land mass roughly the size of Connecticut, almost 13,000 km from Britain.
The saga began this month, when Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner published a letter in two British newspapers staking her claim on the Falklands (the Malvinas, as they are known there), which are just off Argentina’s coast. “In a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism,” she wrote, “Argentina was forcibly stripped of the Malvinas.” Fernández urged the UN to restore the islands’ “territorial integrity.” British Prime Minister
David Cameron didn’t miss a beat, quickly appearing on the BBC to declare his “extremely strong” resolve to keep the islands British. Already, military chiefs have drawn up plans to prevent hostile action by Argentina, London’s Telegraph reports.
Of course, we’ve been here before. And memories of 1982 are certainly guiding Cameron’s hand, says Graham Stewart, author of A History of Britain in the 1980s. That year, prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s firm action during the 10-week Falklands War—which cost 650 Argentine and 250 British lives—helped solidify her political support, and shape her legacy. “Cameron is clearly aware of the legacy,” says Stewart. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, July 6, 2012 at 10:39 AM - 0 Comments
Former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was sentenced to 50 years in an Argentine prison…
Former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was sentenced to 50 years in an Argentine prison yesterday. He was convicted for a his role in a government program which oversaw the kidnapping of babies from political prisoners during the military junta’s “dirty war.” Argentina’s last dictator, Reynaldo Bignone, also was also convicted and got 15 years. Both men are already serving life sentences for other crimes against humanity.
Over 34 babies were stolen between 1976-1983, taken away from their parents, leftist dissidents who were systematically tortured, raped and murdered by the Videla regime. The children were then raised by government officials.
Videla, 86, received the maximum sentence as the man criminally responsible for 20 of the baby thefts. Seven other government officials were convicted and two were absolved. A former military captain and his ex-wife were also sentenced after their adopted son, who was among the babies kidnapped by the Videla regime, testified against them.
By Gabriela Perdomo - Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 3:10 PM - 0 Comments
Nationalization of oil companies will earn points on the home front, but at what cost?
In a shocking move, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced the government would seize control of the country’s leading oil and gas producer, YPF. Its parent firm, Repsol, is based in Spain; the country expressed outrage at the takeover and offered its full support to the conglomerate. Kirchner, who announced the nationalization on live TV, will grant Argentina a 51 per cent controlling share in the company; she also dumped CEO Sebastián Eskenazi, installing two of her top aides, Julio de Vido and Axel Kicillof, in his place. The populist move is sure to win Kirchner points on the homefront, where there is a widespread sense that oil profits are being shipped elsewhere, but it comes at a steep cost internationally.
Repsol’s president, Antonio Brufau, claims the takeover was an excuse to cover up Argentina’s “social and economic crisis.” Spain’s industry minister is warning of “diplomatic, commercial and energy” consequences. Even Argentina’s two main newspapers were sharply critical: Clarin, the country’s largest daily, claimed Argentina risks scaring off investors. “The price,” it wrote, “is not just the court cases but the risk of ending up a little further away from the rest of the world.”
By Gabriela Perdomo - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 12:58 PM - 0 Comments
The president in black is picking a fight over the Falklands
“She had an elegance, a beauty, a warmth . . . and she loved having her picture taken.” That’s how famed photographer Platon described Argentinean President Cristina Fernández after taking her portrait for The New Yorker in 2009. Vanity, after all, is one of the politician’s defining traits. And it extends to everything from her sumptuous wardrobe, crafted by a personal fashion designer, to her unlimited political ambition.
Fernández, first elected in 2007, secured a second term in office last year with 54 per cent of the vote. It wasn’t her plan to become president again. But Néstor Kirchner, her husband of 35 years and the previous head of state, who planned to come back to succeed her, died suddenly of a heart attack on Oct. 27, 2010. The other half of the so-called “presidential marriage” suddenly found herself seeking re-election as candidate of the Peronist, social democratic Justicialist Party (PJ). Fernández, well aware that a wave of sympathy after her husband’s death played a role in her re-election, continues to wear only black, constantly evoking his memory in public speeches. In the face of criticism over the government’s handling of a train crash that killed 51 people in Buenos Aires, she said last month she couldn’t possibly be insensitive to the pain of the victims’ families. “I know what death and pain are,” she said. “I need you all to hug me tight. Because the one who used to hold me is no longer here.”
Fernández was never just the woman behind the man. When Kirchner took office, she was his closest adviser. Together, the duopoly has been running the country since 2003. But the Fernández period, which was marked first by economic recovery, has lately come to be known for skyrocketing inflation, a growing wealth gap, rifts with neighbouring countries, and distrust of the government. Growing discontent was recently met with an attempt to ramp up patriotic fervour by reigniting the old Falkland Islands dispute with Britain—right on time for the 30th anniversary of a botched military invasion by Argentina’s dictators.
By Jane Switzer - Monday, November 7, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Widowhood hasn’t been all bad for Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
The recently widowed president wins re-election, and dedicates her next term to her late husband
Widowhood hasn’t been all bad for Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. A year after the death of her husband, former Argentine president Néstor Kirchner, she harnessed his posthumous popularity to secure a landslide second presidential victory.
Kirchner, who was first elected president in 2007, was re-elected on Oct. 23 with more than 54 per cent of the vote, the widest margin of victory since democracy was restored to Argentina in 1983. The election denotes a stunning turnaround for the country’s first elected female president, who managed to parlay political protests and tumbling first-term ratings into overwhelming sympathy over the loss of her husband, who died of a heart attack on Oct. 27, 2010.
Dressed in black, Kirchner cried frequently throughout the campaign as she evoked the spectre of her husband, declaring her intention to continue his economic policies. Evidently, it worked: Kirchner’s six opponents trailed her by at least 35 percentage points. Néstor Kirchner, who served as Argentina’s president from 2003 to 2007, is widely credited with reducing unemployment and poverty after the country’s 2001 economic collapse. He announced in 2007 he would not seek re-election and would instead support his wife’s presidential bid, a power swap dubbed the “presidential marriage” by the Argentine press.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 2:12 PM - 1 Comment
Incumbent president captures over 50 per cent of the vote
Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner seized over 50 per cent of the vote this week, securing re-election to the presidency in a landslide victory, the BBC reports. Her closest opponent, Socialist leader Hermes Binner, was a distant second with only 17 per cent of the vote. In a triumphant speech, 58-year-old Kirchner told supporters in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo that she is committed to keeping Argentina on its current trajectory of strong growth. Some critics say her victory was the result of a “weak and fragmented opposition,” while other analysts ascribed her re-election to the booming economy.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 8:55 AM - 0 Comments
The Rugby World Cup is bringing plenty of men behaving badly to New Zealand
The English national rugby team kicked off its World Cup campaign in unconvincing fashion last month, limping to a win over underdogs Argentina in Dunedin, N.Z. The Englishmen struggled for points and played from behind for much of the match. But outside the stadium, where tens of thousands of travelling English fans gathered, scoring was not expected to be a problem.
Prostitution is legal in New Zealand, and brothels there reportedly doubled their condom orders ahead of the six-week Rugby World Cup. “Whenever I hear an English accent,” madame Mary Brennan told Agence France-Presse, “I know there’ll be some good business there.” The English are not the only fans in town. Brennan says she’s had bookings from South Africa, Ireland and even Canada.
As for the players themselves, the English, at least, aren’t averse to a little bad behaviour. Members of the team were photographed at a dwarf-themed pub night ahead of a pool match with Georgia. Management assured the public that, contrary to reports, no midgets were thrown. Captain Mike Tindall, meanwhile, who recently married the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips, was said to be “just friends” with a mystery blond he was spotted with at the bar.
By macleans.ca - Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 9:47 AM - 2 Comments
Canada and U.S. look to ease border restrictions, while the RCMP’s top job is once again open
Undefending the border
Prime Minister Stephen Harper emerged from a meeting with Barack Obama last week with an agreement in principle on a common security perimeter. The pair are turning bureaucrats loose on a bilateral search for ways to protect the world’s largest international trading relationship from 10 years’ worth of accumulated border obstacles. Ideas range from shared cargo inspections to a second Detroit-Windsor bridge, but the mere will to restore the Canada-U.S. friendship to its old, friendly terms may be more valuable than any particular tech or law measure.
Yes, it is ethical oil
Meanwhile, a U.S. Department of Energy report issued on the eve of the Harper-Obama announcement provided hope for Transcanada Pipelines in its quest to nab U.S. regulatory clearance for the Keystone XL project connecting Alberta oil markets with the Gulf of Mexico. The report confirms the pipeline would be unlikely to affect net global carbon emissions, but would relieve the dependency of U.S. refiners and end-users on Middle Eastern and other oil—shifting profits to Canada without significant greenhouse consequences.
One last ride
Mark Kelly, astronaut husband of wounded congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, displayed an impressive, old-school devotion to duty in resuming preparations to command April’s final mission of the space shuttle Endeavour. With Giffords stable and undergoing rehab, Kelly passed a special round of tests of his ability to concentrate on critical tasks. A NASA spokesman said that the three-time space traveller’s presence would “reduce the overall mission risk.”
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 3 Comments
With her popular husband’s sudden death, the Argentine president’s political future is in doubt
“It’s not the time to talk about candidacies,” proclaimed Argentina’s interior minister just two days after former president Néstor Kirchner died of a heart attack on Oct. 27. But already, with this sudden passing of the country’s most influential politician, the question on everyone’s mind was the political future of the current president: Néstor’s wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The Kirchners have run Argentina since 2003, when Néstor came to power after governing the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz. A tough kid from the provinces, he was credited with stabilizing the country’s broken economy after the 1999-2002 economic and social crisis, when unemployment peaked at 21 per cent. With his program of debt restructuring, he managed to pay back US$9.8 billion to the IMF, and oversaw a period of economic growth. Focusing on accountability, he also overturned amnesty laws that protected military ofﬁcials who had been accused of human rights violations during the country’s 1976-1983 dictatorship, resulting in a slew of prosecutions.
By Tom Henheffer - Friday, March 26, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 53 Comments
The countries are still battling over ownership of the Falklands
Who said the Falklands War was over? Argentina and Britain are once again bickering over the Islands, with the former alleging that the latter is trying to steal oil from the disputed territory.
The conflict comes as Desire Petroleum, a British oil company, on Monday began exploratory drilling off the coast of the Falklands, where it is believed that up to 60 billion barrels of oil and 51 trillion cubic feet of gas may be trapped under the earth’s crust. Argentina claims those reserves as its own, and has become increasingly aggressive since cancelling a deal with Britain to share the development of offshore resources as a protest against British companies’ oil and gas explorations in 2007. Argentina’s government also decreed last week that any ship crossing through its waters must have a permit to reach the Falklands.
The decision is “not only a defence of Argentine sovereignty but also of all the resources” in its waters, says presidential chief of staff Anibal Fernandez. Because Argentina considers the Falklands to be within its territory, it could potentially mean a blockade of the islands.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 10:10 PM - 59 Comments
AFP tallies the walkouts.
Delegations from Argentina, Australia, Britain, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand and the United States left the room as Ahmadinejad began to rail against Israel, a European source said.
Israel had already called for a boycott of the speech, and was not present when the Iranian leader began his address. Canada had already said it would heed the boycott call.
Judging from photos such as this, it might’ve been easier to figure out who didn’t leave.
By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 11:12 AM - 0 Comments
Okay, here’s the plot: There’s a conservative, button-down, suit-wearin’ governor of a mid-sized state, and he’s tired of all the fighting and legislating and taking orders from Washington. So he decides he needs to get away from it all. Using subterfuge, wacky scheming, and changing cars and planes, he manages to slip away from the job and run away without anyone knowing where he’s gone. He escapes to beautiful Buenos Aires, Argentina (land of castanets, partying and romance!), ready for a week of partying and fun before he has to return to his dull life in Columbia, South Carolina.
Cast Don Ameche as Mark Sanford and have him meet Betty Grable on his trip, and then go make a movie. Because we now know what’s going on with Governor Mark Sanford: he’s living out the plot of an escapist ’40s musical. His whole trip was simply a way of fulfiling the Good Neighbour Policy.
Update: When I wrote the above, I figured (like many people) that this movie had a romantic angle to it, but now it’s been confirmed.
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at 10:09 PM - 0 Comments
From Stephen Gordon’s spiffy Worthwhile Canadian Initiative blog, which is about economics and thus full of mystery, this chart shows that, from very similar starting points in the first part of the last century, Canada has done spectacularly better than Argentina. I wasn’t sure why this should be Continue…