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Argentina’s Awash in Constitutional Reform Talk

January 30th, 2012 | 08:08 AM

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Last June I discussed the possibility that President Cristina Kirchner would try to reform the constitution so she could run for a third consecutive term.

Last week the president appeared to float a trial balloon to see how people would react to such a move.

The constitution currently allows only for two consecutive terms and hers expires in 2015.

On Friday virtually all of Argentina’s major newspapers reported that Vice President Amado Boudou had said it was important to debate the idea now, and not in three years time.

I wrote something like this for Dow Jones Newswires:

In radio interviews Friday, Boudou downplayed the controversial reports. But he didn’t deny all of them and he carefully worded his answers to leave the options open.

“It’s not time to talk about those things,” Boudou said in an interview with Radio 10. “I can’t say today what’s going to happen the day after tomorrow. We all experience unexpected and unpredictable things that aren’t in your schedule now but that might be in your schedule another day.”

Boudou admitted to being at a political event in a coastal city Thursday where constitutional reform was discussed. He said he was there as a “political militant” and that things discussed in such meetings should remain private.

“A lot of things were discussed,” he said.

It could be that Kirchner simply wants to keep the talk alive to avoid becoming a lame duck early in her term.

As the estimable journalist Roberto Guareschi noted via Twitter, “In a difficult year, the re-reelection will keep PJ barons cautious. And Malvinas talk might serve as a distraction.” (more…)

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Some Argentine Officials are Big Apple Fans

January 25th, 2012 | 07:05 PM

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Vice President Amado Boudou appears to be a big Apple fan.

In this photo you can see him meeting with Economy Minister Hernan Lorenzino.

But if you’re an Apple geek what you’ll notice about the picture is that Boudou’s desk is full of Apple products. He’s got 1) a big iMac 2) a wireless Apple keyboard 3) a wireless Apple touch mouse and 4) and iPhone 4 or 4S (bottom of the photo, implying it may belong to Lorenzino).

Boudou is also using a LaCie portable hard drive, which is made specifically for Apple computers.

These products are expensive and can be hard to find in Argentina. Indeed, the government banned iPhone imports a long time ago, forcing Argentines to get them from MercadoLibre or somewhere else.

The import restrictions have also made it hard for local Apple resellers to honor the company’s international AppleCare warranty. Dealers here can’t import the parts needed to fix Apple products. This has been very frustrating for some Apple owners, including many readers of this blog.

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David Cameron On Argentina Falklands Dispute

January 24th, 2012 | 07:51 PM

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This is footage of British Prime Minister David Cameron discussing the controversial dispute with Argentina over the sovereignty of the Falklands Islands.

Last week Cameron made the following remarks, which set off a firestorm in Argentina:

“”What the Argentinians have been saying recently, I would argue, is actually far more like colonialism because these people (who live on the islands) want to remain British and the Argentinians want them to do something else.”

Argentines reacted furiously, saying that no British prime minister has the “moral authority” to make such a statement given England’s own colonial history.

What do you think? Which position is correct? Which is more democratic? Does it matter?

Here’s a summary of the dispute by Al Jazeera.

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Al Jazeera Video: Argentina’s Emerging Drug War

January 10th, 2012 | 05:22 PM

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Argentina’s growing drug problem represents a major threat to the kind of peaceful political and social stability the country has enjoyed, with infamous exceptions, in recent decades.

Experts say crushing the threat early is crucial to overcoming it before related violence and corruption infect public officials and police forces as they have in other countries. Once the problem has corrupted a country’s judicial system, it is exponentially harder to eradicate.

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Al Jazeera Video on Cristina’s Cancer Surgery

January 10th, 2012 | 04:54 PM

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My colleague Matt Moffett wrote a feature for The Wall Street Journal on this and the rather strange events that have been taking place in Argentina in recents weeks. You can read it here.

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Buenos Aires Subway Ticket Price More Than Doubles

January 6th, 2012 | 07:06 AM

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Subway ticket prices more than doubled today to 2.50 pesos (58 US cents) from 1.10 previously.

The increase comes just days after the federal government turned over management of the subway system to the City of Buenos Aires.

The day-to-day administration of the subway is carried out by Metrovias, a private sector company which has had a concession to run the subway since 1994.

Prices had been frozen for years while the cost of just about everything else in Argentina has soared amid rampant inflation that economists say surpasses 20% annually.

The federal government had kept prices artificially low by dolling out millions of dollars in subsidies every year. But now that the subway is in the city’s hands, the federal government will stop paying for those subsidies entirely in 2013.

This year the federal government and the city will split the cost of paying for the subsidies, which total about $167 million annually.

The subway carries around 300 million passengers every year, according to Metrovias. That’s double what it carried when the company started its concession.

Metrovias has some 3,000 employees, unionized workers whose demands for higher salaries and better working conditions will undoubtedly put political pressure on the city government in the years ahead.

My colleagues, Matt Moffett, Ken Parks and I did a feature for the Wall Street Journal on the topic and the broader issues of utility rates and subsidies, which you can read here.

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