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Rush Limbaugh Slams Argentine ‘Barack Perón’

April 30th, 2009 | 10:38 PM

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barack-peronU.S. talk radio celebrity and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh on Thursday slammed President Barack Obama for the U.S. government’s involvement in the failing automobile company Chrysler.

The once admirable company is about to file for bankruptcy but will receive federal aid and assistance while doing so.

Limbaugh, one of the country’s most controversial radio entertainers, has the most popular radio talk show in America. The show is broadcast on more than 600 stations in the U.S..

In a show Thursday, Limbaugh made the following comparison between Obama and Argentina’s famous former president:

“In a few short minutes, the president of the United States, Barack Peron, will announce his Argentinean-like takeover of Chrysler.  Yeah, we don’t hear much about Juan Peron anymore, we hear about Evita.  What’s happening to Chrysler today the president’s going to announce it according to the schedule in four minutes, right outta Juan Peron’s playbook.  Left-wing fascism coming out for Chrysler.”

Link: Rush Limbaugh’s Barack Perón Transcript

*Note: The photo is from Limbaugh’s site. I didn’t create it.

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Swine Flu Update: 9 Possible Cases In Argentina

April 30th, 2009 | 10:14 PM

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flu-photoThis is a quick update for those of you interested in swine flu. The Health Ministry is providing daily updates on the disease. Thursday’s news: Argentina has nine possible swine flu cases being tested for confirmation. That’s up from four on Wednesday. So far Argentina has had zero confirmed cases. On a related note, I did this story recently on how Argentina’s tourism industry might be hit if the flu problem worsens. Health officials say that compared with northern countries Argentina is at a disadvantage in containing the ilness because, unlike them, it is just entering into the winter flu season.

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Néstor Kirchner And The Politics Of Fear

April 29th, 2009 | 06:54 PM

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Former Argentine President this week has twice appealed to Argentines’ worst fears by saing that if they don’t vote for the ruling Frente Para La Victoria Party in June’s congressional election the country will “explode.”

In a firey campaign speech Tuesday night, Kirchner put it this way:

“If on June 28 Cristina doesn’t have a legislative majority, we’ll return to that country of 2001. We’ll return to unemployment. We’ll return to indigence. We’ll return to poverty and we’ll return to that Argentina that explodes,” Kirchner said, demonstrating that his appeal is to the lowest common denominator and not to the highest hopes and aspirations of average Argentines.

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Embarrassing Video Catches Argentine Politician Lying

April 29th, 2009 | 05:27 PM

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Former Buenos Aires Mayor Aníbal Ibarra is feeling like a pretty big idiot.

In a televised interview last night, film crews showed Ibarra walking the streets of Buenos Aires shaking hands with an unusual number of unusually admiring people. Each approached him with words of praise and affectionate gestures. All of this seemed a bit strange for the television crew, whose cameras caught Ibarra in the middle of an embarrassing lie.

As it turns out, Ibarra’s admirers weren’t really the simpleton citizens they appeared to be. Ibarra appears to have gotten them to follow him around the city during the interview and pose as his fans. But the stage trick, which undoubtedly is employed by politicians around the world, backfired, exposing Ibarra, who is running for Congress in next June’s election, as inauthentic and dishonest.

There’s nothing particularly nefarious about Ibarra’s behavior. In the world of political abuse, this fraudulent act seems like a minor transgression, a reckless PR gaffe. Stage tricks and other PR gimmicks are common for politicos in all countries, especially when they’re running for office.

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Swine Flu: Argentina Suspends Mexico Flights

April 28th, 2009 | 07:31 PM

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mexican-flagArgentina on Tuesday suspended flights to and from Mexico in a bid to prevent swine flu from spreading to Argentina, presidential Cabinet Chief Sergio Massa said at a press conference late Tuesday.

The flights will be suspended at least until Monday.

In an unprecedented measure, Massa also called on everyone who has recently arrived in Argentina from the U.S., Canada and Mexico to notify the government of their presence in Argentina.

“We need maximum collaboration from people,” said Massa. “Over the past 20 days more than 60,000 people have entered Argentina from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. We need those people who to contact the government by calling a 1-800 Health Ministry number.”

(The number is: 0-800-222-1002. I tried calling the number before publishing this post. It is a Health Ministry message, in Spanish, that asks the caller to press any one of a number of options to (press #5 for questions about swine flu, for example. When I pressed #5, I was told this was an invalid option.)

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Argentina Readies For Dengue, Swine Flu Double Whammy

April 27th, 2009 | 09:52 PM

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flu-photoWith dengue fresh on peoples’ minds or in their bloodstreams, the Argentine government has been rushing to prepare for the possible arrival of swine flu in the country.

Health authorities said Monday that no confirmed cases of swing flu had been detected in Argentina and that passengers arriving from Mexico and the U.S. were being passively screened for flu-like symptoms.

Health Ministry officials also advised against non-essential travel to Mexico, where authorities suspect that nearly 150 people may have died because of the flu. One of those was a 36-year-old Argentine musician, Horacio Marano.

As of Monday, the Health Ministry here had confirmed 21,243 cases of dengue, leading critics to say the government is poorly prepared to deal with something as potentially devastating as a worldwide flu epidemic.

My colleague Matt Moffett wrote more about this here in a brief story for the WSJ.

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New Survey Indicates Crime Rising Rapidly

April 27th, 2009 | 09:24 PM

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Torcuarto Di Tella University has just come out with its latest crime “victimization rate” survey and the results are not encouraging.

The study, which surveys households in 40 urban centers around the country, shows that 38.7% of these homes reported that at least one person living in that household was the victim of a crime within the past 12 months.

That puts the “victimization rate” up almost 20% not from April of last year, but from last month.

The victimization survey, considered a rough proxy for crime, is up 10% from April 2008.

Crimes were more common in April in larger urban areas such as Greater Buenos Aires, Greater Rosario and Greater Mendoza. Of the homes in the City of Buenos Aires, some 36.1% (up from 30.7% last month) had at least one victim, compared with 39.1%  (33.3% last month) in Greater Buenos Aires and 50.3% (36.7% last month) in the areas surrounding Cordoba, Mendoza, Rosario and Tucuman.

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“Qué Te Pasa, Clarin” Goes Online

April 27th, 2009 | 08:51 PM

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For those of you who follow local politics and media, the speculation that the Kirchners and Clarín, Argentina’s leading newspaper, are in an all out battle will come as no surprise. The truth is they are, something confirmed by multiple sources both at Clarín and in the government.

A great deal of power, influence and money is at stake. Clarín isn’t merely a newspaper. Grupo Clarín is a massive multimedia conglomerate that owns radio (Radio Mitre) and television stations (TN & Canal 13), newspapers, and broadband distribution companies like Fibertel, Cablevision, and Multicanal.

Naturally, the company is interested in maintaining its position as a dominant media company. The Kirchners, meanwhile, are naturally interested in maintaining their dominant position on the nation’s political stage. These two ambitions became mutually exclusive quite some time ago.

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One Third Of Argentine Doctors, Nurses Smoke

April 26th, 2009 | 08:01 PM

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Around 36% of Argentine doctors and nurses smoke, according to a report released last month by the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation.

That makes the percentage of healthcare professionals who smoke higher than that of the general population in Argentina, where about 35% of males and 25% of females toke the cancer stick.

It also ranks Argentina among the countries whose doctors and nurses lead the world in smoking, according to the latest edition of the Tobacco Atlas. Germany’s healthcare professionals lead the pack with a stunning 52% of them smoking. However, male Albanian medical students win the gold prize given that 65% of them smoke.

In the U.S. just 4% of healthcare professional smoke while the figure is 17% in Brazil and 41% in Bolivia.

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BA Province Curbs Public Smoking

April 26th, 2009 | 04:51 PM

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no-smokingSix months after passing a law to limit public smoking, the Province of Buenos Aires has finally begun enforcing the law.

As of last week smoking is no longer allowed (indoors) in public places smaller than 150 square meters (1,615 square feet). Exceptions will be made for places that completely block of a separate area for smokers.

Meanwhile, carcinogenic clouds will still hover freely in dance clubs, casinos and bingos bigger than 400 square meters.

Contrary to what critics claim about anti-tobacco laws, banning smoking in public places has not had a negative impact on business in Argentina or elsewhere, according to number of studies. A study by Torcuarto Di Tella University had this to say about such laws in Argentina:

“Using a quasi-experimental design and a difference-in-difference estimation procedure we find that the smoke-free laws did not affect negatively the sales of bars and restaurants in the city of Buenos Aires and in the provinces of Córdoba, Santa Fe and Tucumán. Moreover, in the case of Buenos Aires the smoke-free legislation induced an increase in the sales of bars and restaurants of around seven percent.”

The only country in South America to have banned smoking nationwide is Uruguay. The first country in the world to do is was Bhutan.

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Argentina Slams The IMF For Underestimating Data

April 22nd, 2009 | 08:14 PM

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imf-weoIn an ironic case of do DO WHAT I SAY BUT NOT WHAT I DO, the Argentine government on Wednesday slammed the International Monetary Fund for underestimating Argentina’s economic data.

In a three-page statement, the Economy Ministry cast aspersions on the IMF’s competence, saying the multilateral lender has a long history of incompetently measuring and forecasting key statistics like economic growth. The criticism came just hours after the IMF released its World Economic Outlook, which forecasts that Argentina’s economy will shrink by 1.5% this year.

As I reported here, the 195-page Outlook contained a one sentence footnote noting that private sector economists believe the government underestimates certain economic data like inflation. Argentine media have reported widely on apparent efforts by the government to get the IMF to exclude this footnote. But what appears to have most bothered the government, which has long badmouthed the IMF, is the Outlook’s contention that Argentina will have a recession this year.

“Since Argentina abandoned convertibility (in 2002), the IMF has systematically underestimated Argentina’s economic growth rate and the current accounts surplus in our country,” the Ministry said. “Between 2003 and 2008 the IMF underestimated annual GDP by an average of 2.4 percentage points each year.”

What the Economy Ministry didn’t say is that the government itself has underestimated economic growth since 2003. As one savvy observer noted:

“For the same period, the government’s forecasts were lot more inaccurate. The government has been projecting 4% real GDP growth (it is written every year in the government’s budget) and then growth was anywhere between 7% and 9.2%, so the government itself it is “systematically” underestimating the country’s growth by 3 to 5 points. That is worse than the IMF!”

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Che's Afterlife Author To Speak At BA Book Fair

April 22nd, 2009 | 08:33 AM

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ches-afterlifeMichael Casey, author of the new book Che's Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image, will be at the Buenos Aires book fair this Friday to present the book.

In the book, Casey, an Australian-American who has lived in Argentina since 2003, offers a biography not of Che Guevarra the man but of the famous photo of the revolutionary.

Readers will find that the story of the iconic image, which is arguably the most reproduced photo of all time, tells them more about themselves and the world they live in than about Che himself.

Michael is my boss at Dow Jones here in Buenos Aires, so ethical prudence probably prohibits me from writing my own review of the book here. But there's nothing to prohibit me from citing the words of Michiko Kakutani, the brutally critical Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times book reviewer, who described it as a “fascinating, bracing and keenly observed book.”

Kakutani offered the following:

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