1. ARGENTINE RULING PARTY LOSES GROUND BUT HOLDS ONTO CONGRESS AS OPPONENTS DECLARE ‘END OF ERA’ (The Washington Post)2. ARGENTINA’S AILING LEADER IN SECLUSION AS RIVALS CHALLENGE HER POWER IN SUNDAY’S ELECTION (The Washington Post)5. BUENOS AIRES SEES A SHIFT; ARGENTINE LEADER’S PARTY LOSES GROUND IN ELECTIONS, PROBABLY DENYING HER A CHANCE OF A THIRD TERM (Los Angeles Times)16. ARGENTINA TAKES OPERATIVE CONTROL OF SARMIENTO RAILWAY LINE AFTER ACCIDENTS (Business News Americas)1. ARGENTINE RULING PARTY LOSES GROUND BUT HOLDS ONTO CONGRESS AS OPPONENTS DECLARE ‘END OF ERA’ (The Washington Post)October 27, 2013BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — President Cristina Fernandez’s governing bloc held onto control of Congress in Sunday’s congressional elections, but the results buried hopes of changing the constitution to let her run for a third term and a former loyalist proved himself a political threat.The president’s former Cabinet chief, Sergio Massa, beat the candidate that Fernandez hand-picked to lead her slate for Congress, Martin Insaurralde, by a decisive 12-point margin in Buenos Aires province, where 37 percent of Argentina’s voters live.With 72 percent of the votes counted nationwide, the governing Front for Victory won 33 percent of the congressional votes overall, far short of the 54 percent that Fernandez carried in her re-election in 2011.Cabinet Chief Juan Manuel Abal Medina predicted that when all the votes were in, the front would gain five seats in the 257-seat Chamber of Deputies and maintain a “comfortable majority” in the 72-member senate.The Front for Victory remains the only nationwide political force and still holds more seats in Congress than any other bloc.But its losses in Argentina’s most populous districts suggested growing unhappiness and a weakened presidency. And the increasing appeal of Fernandez’s rivals elected Sunday could pose new threats to her all-or-nothing style of governing.The president’s opponents won more than enough seats to block any constitutional changes, ruling out a “re-re-election” in 2015. Without that threat, it might prove harder for Fernandez to keep rivals in check as Argentines begin marking the end of a government that she and her husband, the late President Nestor Kirchner, have led for a decade.Massa, whose calls for consensus and rising popularity have already peeled away some Fernandez loyalists, will be sworn in Dec. 10 as a deputy in Congress after receiving the most votes of any politician running Sunday.“We accept our differences, plurality, and as our Pope Francis says, harmony, which is the best way to build our society,” Massa said Sunday night in calling on all Argentine politicians to “please listen to the message of the people.”For the moment at least, the results position Massa to make a presidential run in 2015.“This is an overwhelming response by the people to our times,” said Dario Giustozzi, a member of Massa’s Renewal Front who also won a seat in Congress. “This is the end of an era, a new space. Now the people have a place where they can be heard.”Massa, however, will no longer be the successful mayor of the wealthy Tigre municipality, where many of Argentina’s rich and famous live in gated communities. Now he’ll need to make his voice heard while leading the third-largest force in Congress, with about 19 seats, compared to 131 for the ruling bloc.Before Fernandez, 60, was diagnosed with a head injury Oct. 6, she had appeared with Insaurralde at every major campaign event, sometimes doing all the talking.But since her skull surgery, she has remained in seclusion, a very unusual situation for a country accustomed to seeing her on television every day. While her doctors say her condition is improving, they ordered her to rest for a month and avoid any stress.Her vice president, Amado Boudou, is nominally in charge while she recuperates, but even top ministers have struggled to describe how decisions are being made, contradicting each other about how much she’s following the news. She was unable to vote or visit Kirchner’s tomb Sunday, which was the third anniversary of his death from a heart attack.With Boudou’s political future clouded by corruption investigations, Fernandez could now spend her last two years struggling to keep rivals in line during an intense succession battle within the always fractious Peronist party, to which her center-left Front for Victory belongs.Along with Massa, would-be presidents include the governor of Buenos Aires province, Daniel Scioli, and the mayor of the capital of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri. Both are seen as more business-friendly and centrist than Fernandez.2. ARGENTINA’S AILING LEADER IN SECLUSION AS RIVALS CHALLENGE HER POWER IN SUNDAY’S ELECTION (The Washington Post)October 25, 2013BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentine President Cristina Fernandez faces an election Sunday that will open a fierce struggle to reduce her powers, and her aides say she’s not even watching the news.Fernandez, 60, has been secluded in the presidential residence, recovering from skull surgery in the run-up to congressional elections that will decide how much control she’ll have over Argentine politics during the final two years of her presidency.Polls suggest the ruling Front for Victory and its allies will lose ground in both houses, burying the idea that her government will win the super-majority needed to change the constitution and enable her to run for a third straight term.Without the threat of a “re-re-election” to keep rivals in line, come Monday it would be anything goes in the multifaceted Peronist party that dominates Argentine politics, some analysts say.“It will initiate the internal succession process within Peronism, and the first very visible expression of this will be lawmakers switching sides,” Argentine political analyst Ignacio Fidanza, who directs lapoliticaonline.com, told The Associated Press.Fernandez underwent more follow-up tests Wednesday to make sure the blood on her brain discovered on Oct. 6 hasn’t reappeared. While her doctors said she’s recovering well, they also ordered that she avoid anything stressful until at least the second week of November. Fernandez had been the main attraction for slates of ruling party candidates, but now she won’t even be part of the jostling for new positions that happens immediately after any election.Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo said the president wasn’t even told this week about a train crash that injured nearly 100 passengers and is causing new headaches for the government. “The president doesn’t know about what happened,” he said. “I don’t think it would contribute to her recovery to learn about the episode.”Some polling suggests the ruling Front, known as the FPV, and its allies will barely hold onto their majority in the lower house and are more likely to lose the Senate.She needs a majority in each house to reach a quorum and push through her agenda, and the ruling party has already lost some sure votes in the current Congress. Of 257 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the FPV has 115 official seats, but can depend on only 109 or 110 votes from its own members, which together with allies provides her with the total she needs.In the current Senate, the FPV has 32 seats, and can count on allies for a total of 38 votes, barely more than the 37 needed for a majority in the 72-member chamber.“It remains to be seen what will happen with the ruling party’s allies, who could begin to move to the other side,” said Mariel Fornoni, director of the Management & Fit consultancy.Sunday’s vote represents the beginning of the end of a cycle that began in 2003, when Fernandez’s late husband, Nestor Kirchner, won the presidency. Kirchner restored power to the presidency and his wife has tightened her grip over the reins of the state after he died of a heart attack on Oct. 27, 2010.Fernandez lost ground in congressional elections during her first four-year term, but she won back enough allies to push through an economic emergency law granting her power to unilaterally make major financial decisions without further consulting Congress. Fearful of losing that power after Sunday’s vote, the government recently extended the “emergency” until the end of 2015.The biggest threats for this president, Fidanza predicted, will be managing Argentina’s immediate economic challenges and keeping rival politicians in line as a lame duck leader.October 27, 2013Sixteen and 17-year-olds will be able to vote for the first time in Argentina’s mid-term elections Sunday. Critics see the 2012 law that lowered the voting age as a cynical bid to bolster the leftist government, but others say it will bolster democracy.Ignacio Cura, a floppy-haired high-school student, belongs to a new generation of voters that will cast some of its first ballots tomorrow in Argentina’s mid-term elections.President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s ruling Peronist alliance, the Front for Victory, passed a controversial law last year that lowers the voting age from 18 to 16. More than half a million youngsters in this nation of 40 million people have since opted to join Mr. Cura on the electoral roll.Critics see the law as a blatant attempt by President Kirchner to harness extra votes in uncertain times for her leftist government, which is popularly believed to count young people among its most fervent supporters. But others say it is a tool for widening democracy and a political extension of Kirchner’s liberal social policies.“This started as a government plan to capture a new mass vote,” says Sergio Berensztein, a political analyst at Poliarquía, a Buenos Aires consultancy. “But that vote is not homogenous.”The general consensus here is that views among young people are more nuanced – perhaps giving weight to the claims of Diana Conti, a Front for Victory lawmaker, who said the law was “neither opportunistic nor demagogic.”Pro-Kirchner groups, for instance, have not been elected to run any of the student associations at the University of Buenos Aires, the biggest university in Argentina with more than 300,000 students. And Cura, who is 16, says he will not vote tomorrow for the Front for Victory.In a recent Poliarquía poll, 49 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds across the country said they would vote for opposition parties.A focus on youthsKirchner has made youth participation a cornerstone of her political discourse, and pro-Kirchner youth organizations have flourished in recent years.Young people, Kirchner said last year, are the “custodians of this political legacy.” She often refers to that legacy as “the winning decade,” a reference to 10 years of “Kirchnerism,” interventionist rule by Kirchner and her late husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner.“Kirchnerism has triggered an enthusiasm in young people,” says Julio Burdman, head of the politics department at the University of Belgrano.There is a general consensus here that political debate and activism are at their highest levels since Argentina returned to democracy 30 years ago following a brutal military dictatorship – from 1976 to 1983 – that crushed dissent and “disappeared” an estimated 30,000 people.“What we’re seeing now is similar to what I experienced in the 1980s as a teenager,” says Marcelo Ronco, discussing the elections with his 12-year-old son, Simón. “Today, young people are informed about politics; before, it was a ‘no-go’ subject.”Divisive policiesMany here, however, complain that the pro-Kirchner youth organizations – capable of packing stadiums and plazas for the president’s speeches – implement a top-down, rather than grassroots, structure in an attempt to indoctrinate followers.Others say a government plan that has seen nearly 3.5 million laptops given to high-school students – who say they come pre-loaded with Peronist propaganda – is indicative of short-term populism, rather than long-term educational reform.But poorer students have benefitted from the program. “There are seven of us at home with just one desktop computer,” says 18-year-old Santiago Andreu, who will vote for the Front for Victory. “I can study better now with the laptop.”Many young people identify with Kirchnerism because of social policies like child benefits, which poor families can receive if they ensure their children attend school. More than 3.5 million children are currently enrolled in the program.Others are drawn by Kirchnerism’s record on human rights: Mr. Kirchner overturned amnesty laws that had protected the perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the dictatorship. They also laud the current president’s attempt to break up media conglomerates, as well as reforms such as a 2010 same-sex marriage law and a 2012 law that allows people to legally change their gender without prior medical or judicial approval.“It’s a rounded model that promotes a better future,” says Soledad Prado, an 18-year-old medical student who is applying for a government grant to subsidize her living costs. She will cast her ballot for the Front for Victory, too.‘The end of the Kirchnerist cycle?’But tomorrow’s vote – in which a half of the lower house and a third of the upper house will be elected – takes place against a gloomy backdrop for Kirchnerism. While it is unlikely to lose control of Congress, other political forces are budding. They have capitalized on widespread discontent with the government, especially corruption allegations and a perception that violent street crime is rising.Sergio Massa, a mayor who was Kirchner’s cabinet chief for a brief spell in 2008 and 2009, is spearheading a breakaway Peronist alliance. He leads Front for Victory candidate Martín Insaurralde in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina’s most populous, by eight percentage points, according to Poliarquía. If he wins, Mr. Massa is expected to use victory as a springboard for a presidential bid in 2015.“This is the end of the Kirchnerist cycle,” says Mr. Berensztein, the analyst.Kirchner is a potent personality, but the Constitution bars her from running for a third consecutive term. And a government source, who preferred not to be named for fear of losing his job, says officials fear for Kirchnerism’s future without her. That leadership vacuum has become clear in recent days as Kirchner recovers from brain surgery.Rival politicians also sense vulnerability. “Kirchnerism is in crisis,” says Elisa Carrió, an outspoken opposition lawmaker who is running for re-election.Still, many young people here see Kirchnerism as the only guarantor of leftist rule. Older voters, meanwhile, are tired of Kirchner’s aggressive manner and crave a more moderate president, like Massa.In a family in a middle-class neighborhood of Buenos Aires, that contrast is clear: Giuliana Pécora, who is 18, will vote for the Front for Victory. She believes it is the only party that will broaden civil rights and correct social injustice through the redistribution of wealth.But echoing a view held by many in his age bracket, her father, Luis Pécora, feels that the welfare state is fueling a generation of indolence. He rues high inflation, which economists put at 25 percent, saying it is a symptom of deep-seated economic problems.“A winning decade? I have my doubts,” Mr. Pécora says. “For Kirchnerism, Monday marks the start of the end.”By Taos Turner28 October 2013BUENOS AIRES — President Cristina Kirchner appears to have retained her congressional majority in midterm elections Sunday, but her candidates were trounced in a crucial district, setting the stage for a fight within Argentina’s ruling Peronist movement to succeed her.The president’s candidates received more votes nationwide than any other party, television station C5N reported shortly after voting booths closed, citing people close to the government. Official preliminary results were expected late Sunday.But the Victory Front’s poor showing in Buenos Aires province and the apparent victory of her former cabinet chief Sergio Massa, a current mayor in the province, poses risks for the current president.For one, it now seems unlikely she will be able to muster enough political support to change the constitution so she can run for president again in 2015, a move lawmakers and ministers in her party had called for.Equally dire for Mrs. Kirchner, since non-Peronist opposition parties remain fragmented by ideological divisions, political analysts say some Victory Front legislators could defect to other Peronist factions seen as better positioned to take the presidency.Peronist moderates like Mr. Massa and Daniel Scioli, the influential governor of the province, have already signaled plans to seek the presidency.Although Argentines voted across the country, the nation’s attention focused on the race between Mr. Massa and Martin Insaurralde, another Buenos Aires provincial mayor. With almost 40% of Argentines calling it home, strong support in Buenos Aires province is critical for any presidential hopeful.Under Argentina’s proportional election system, both mayors were virtually guaranteed to win congressional seats. The more votes a party leader gets, the more candidates on that ticket win congressional seats.Argentina has hundreds of political parties, though many fall within the dominant Peronist movement. Half of the Lower House and a third of the Senate were up for grabs.But Mr. Insaurralde’s apparent victory was overshadowed by that of Mr. Massa, who outpolled Mr. Insaurralde by about 10 percentage points, reported television news station TN, giving him added momentum ahead of a possible presidential campaign.In an interview last week, Mr. Massa was noncommittal about his presidential plans should he win the office, but he acknowledged that at the age of six he knew he wanted to be president.Mr. Insaurralde’s poor performance represents a blow to Mrs. Kirchner, who had campaigned actively with him before undergoing emergency surgery Oct. 8 to remove a blood clot near hear brain.Mrs. Kirchner’s absence added to the gravity of the elections. The 60-year-old president hasn’t been seen or heard from since her surgery. Her doctors prescribed 30 days of restThe Victory Front’s results were similar to primary elections held in August, C5N said. In that election, the front and its allies won about 30% of the national vote.Argentines headed to the polls at a time when the economy has slowed dramatically since Mrs. Kirchner won a second term with 54% of the vote in October 2011.Most economists say the economy will grow around 3% this year with annual inflation of at least 25%. Restrictions on the purchase of U.S. dollars for travel or as a hedge against inflation have angered middle class voters.Mrs. Kirchner, however, will continue to wield significant power until the end of her term in December 2015. She will still be able to govern largely through presidential decree, thanks to an emergency powers law.5. BUENOS AIRES SEES A SHIFT; ARGENTINE LEADER’S PARTY LOSES GROUND IN ELECTIONS, PROBABLY DENYING HER A CHANCE OF A THIRD TERM (Los Angeles Times)By Andres D’Alessandro and Chris Kraul28 October 2013The party of ailing Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner lost ground in Sunday’s congressional elections, in effect killing chances that loyalist legislators would amend the constitution to allow her to run for a third term in 2015, as many supporters have urged her to do.If trends continue, Fernandez’s Victory Front party could maintain its majority but win about five fewer seats than she and her allies now control in the Chamber of Deputies. Their preelection tally was 134 out of 257 seats, far less than the two-thirds needed to approve a constitutional amendment.The president’s favored candidates and allies also appeared to be losing ground in the 72-seat Senate, where her bloc now controls 40 seats. To amend the constitution, she would need 48 Senate seats.With 72% of the ballots counted nationwide, the president’s party and allies were garnering just 33% of the vote, down from the 54% her bloc won in 2011 when she was elected to a second term.Fernandez’s cause was hurt by rising crime, corruption and inflation, and by her absence from the campaign trail since Oct. 8, when she underwent surgery to repair a brain hemorrhage. She has not been seen or heard from since, and her administration has released few details about her medical condition except to say that her convalescence is proceeding normally.After casting his ballot in the southern city of Rio Gallegos on Sunday morning, the president’s son, Maximo Kirchner, told reporters that his mother is improving and that expressions of support “do us a lot of good.”Fernandez’s doctors ordered her to take 30 days off to recover and prohibited air travel during that period, which meant she could not travel to campaign events or vote Sunday at her home base in Santa Cruz in southern Argentina. In recent years, Fernandez, 60, has been plagued by health problems related to high blood pressure.The election results show a sharp weakening of her political power.Fernandez has not formally announced her intention to seek an amendment that would permit her to run for a third term, but some analysts said they thought it likely if she had adequate legislative support.“Like all political phenomena, you can’t single out just one cause,” said Cecilia Mosto, political analyst at the Buenos Aires consulting firm CIO, when asked to explain the president’s weakened influence.One reason was perceived ineptitude of government ministries in the management of public policies and services, she said.Another was the horrific wreck of a Buenos Aires commuter train in February 2012 at the Once railroad station, which killed 51 and injured hundreds.“A big blow to Cristina’s image was the Once disaster,” Mosto said, because it exemplified government corruption and mismanagement. “The sad event synthesized and exposed in the worst possible way her weaknesses.”By Charlie Devereux and Eliana RaszewskiOctober 28, 2013Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s ruling coalition lost Buenos Aires province, the country’s largest, while keeping a majority in both houses of Congress in midterm elections yesterday.Sergio Massa, the former cabinet chief who now heads a group of dissident Peronist Party members, took 44 percent of the vote in Buenos Aires province, a 12 percentage point lead, over ruling alliance candidate Martin Insaurralde, with 95 percent of the votes counted. Fernandez’s ruling alliance received 32 percent of votes nationwide, according to the preliminary results. The government increased its majority in the lower house by five seats, Cabinet Chief Juan Manuel Abal Medina said.
The result ends any hope Fernandez may have harbored of pushing through constitutional changes to seek a third term in 2015 after failing to obtain a two-thirds majority in Congress, according to Mariel Fornoni, director of polling company M&F. Fernandez has used her majority in Congress since winning re-election in 2011 with 54 percent of the votes to nationalize the country’s largest energy company YPF SA last year and re-open an offer to restructure bonds left over from the country’s $95 billion default in 2001.“It’s an important difference in votes,” Daniel Scioli, governor of Buenos Aires province who is an ally of Fernandez, said. “We have to respect the will of the people.”Fernandez, 60, was notably absent during the campaign as she follows doctor orders to rest for a month after Oct. 8 surgery to drain blood near her brain. Her popularity recovered to 44.4 percent in October from 34 percent the previous month, according to the M&F poll.Absent FernandezArgentines elected 127 lawmakers for the 257-seat lower house and 24 for the 72-member Senate. Turnout was about 77 percent of 31 million registered voters, Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo said.Buenos Aires is Argentina’s most populous province, accounting for 39 percent of the country’s population and 36 percent of its gross domestic product. The ruling coalition also lost in the populous provinces of Cordoba, Mendoza and Santa Fe.The race for the 2015 presidential elections kicked off after Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri announced his intention to stand.Massa and other opposition candidates have attacked Fernandez’s record on inflation, which private economists estimate at 25 percent, and failure to combat crime, which figure as the biggest concerns for voters.‘Policy Reaction’Argentine dollar-bonds have rallied 14 percent since Massa won Aug. 11 primaries and the ruling alliance garnered about 30 percent of votes on expectations that Fernandez will be replaced by a more market-friendly president when she ends her mandate in 2015.With foreign reserves at a six-year low of $34 billion and a widening gap between the official exchange rate and a black market rate, the government will have to make important economic decisions to ride out the last two years in office, according to Jefferies Group LLC.“The actual results are perhaps less important than the subsequent policy reaction,” Siobhan Morden, head of Latin America strategy at Jefferies in New York, wrote in an Oct. 25 note. “The more important question is whether surviving the latest election cycle the administration will finally correct macro imbalances or whether the status quo continues of just muddling through.”October 28, 2013Argentine President Cristina Fernandez’s governing bloc took a drubbing in Sunday’s midterm elections, shrinking her congressional majority and snuffing out chances of a constitutional change to allow her a third term.Opposition leader and the president’s former cabinet chief Sergio Massa beat out the president’s handpicked candidate in the country’s largest voting district, Buenos Aires province.Massa, the mayor of the affluent town of Tigre, is widely expected to be a presidential candidate in the 2015 presidential election.Some lawmakers had wanted a constitutional amendment to allow the president to run for a third time, but the poor showing by Fernandez’s branch of the Peronist party has dashed those hopes.The 60-year-old president was not able to campaign for her congressional candidates after an operation earlier this month to remove blood from inside her skull and to relieve pressure on her brain.Her condition may have come from hitting her head during a fall in August.President Fernandez, who has been in office since 2007, had her thyroid glands removed last year after she was diagnosed with cancer, although later tests indicated no cancer was present.Her husband, former president Nestor Kirchner, died after a heart attack in 2010.October 27, 2013BUENOS AIRES — Argentine leader Cristina Fernandez’s allies took a beating in Sunday’s midterm congressional election, snuffing out chances of a constitutional change to allow her a third term and kicking off a succession struggle ahead of the 2015 presidential vote.Voters went to the polls under sunny Southern Hemisphere skies to choose half of the lower house of Congress and a third of the Senate in Sunday’s vote, marking 30 years of democracy following a 1976-1983 military dictatorship.Re-elected in 2011 on promises of increasing state control in Latin America’s No. 3 economy, Fernandez’s political coattails were trimmed by inflation, clocked by private analysts at 25 percent, while heavy-handed currency controls and falling central bank reserves have dented confidence.Candidates sponsored by Argentine opposition leader Sergio Massa won the House of Deputies’ midterm by a 10-percentage-point margin in the key province of Buenos Aires, according to exit poll announced on local television. About the size of Italy, Buenos Aires province is home to 40 percent of Argentina’s population and most of the country’s agricultural output.Massa, the mayor of the affluent Buenos Aires town of Tigre, headed his own list of candidates for Congress and is seen as a possible, business-friendly presidential contender in 2015.”Tomorrow, we start with a new political map,” said Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri, another possible presidential candidate who promises a shift toward market-friendly policies.No third termOther exit polls announced on television showed Fernandez’s candidates losing in key provinces around the country.Some legislators had said they wanted a constitutional amendment to allow the ailing president to run for a third term. But the poor showing by Fernandez’s branch of the Peronist party in Sunday’s mid-term dashed those hopes once and for all.To push through the legislation, they would need two-thirds support in both houses. If the exit polls prove accurate, Fernandez would not come close to achieving that level of support for another run for the presidency.Fernandez was unable to campaign for her congressional candidates since an October 8 operation to remove blood that pooled on her brain after she fell and hurt her head in August. She is expected to continue convalescing for another few weeks.The surgery marked the latest in a series of health issues for the 60-year-old leader, including low blood pressure and a thyroid tumor that also was surgically removed.Speaking to local television, Fernandez’s son, Maximo Kirchner, declined to speculate on when his mother would return to work. “She’s OK. She’s in a good mood,” he said.High stakesAs expected, Massa beat his rival, Martin Insaurralde, Fernandez’s handpicked Buenos Aires candidate.Massa – who vows to fight crime, combat inflation and improve farm profits – appeared well positioned to run for president. But Argentine history shows midterm victors are rarely able to sustain momentum and clinch the nomination.A dark horse could appear within the next two years, as was the case with former president Carlos Menem, who burst onto the scene in 1989, and Nestor Kirchner in 2003.Sunday was the third anniversary of the death of Kirchner, who was married to Fernandez, preceded her as president and set the tone for her policies.At play in 2015 is policy in one of the world’s top grains exporters as it struggles to keep up with rising world food demand and attract investment needed to exploit the vast Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas formation in Patagonia.Argentina’s peso weakened past 10 to the U.S. dollar in informal trade last week, widening its breach with the formal rate of 5.88 pesos per greenback. Central bank international reserves are at $34 billion, down from $43 billion in January.But stocks and bonds have rallied on hopes of market-friendly policy changes ahead.The blue-chip Merval stock index is up nearly 50 percent since the August 12 midterm primary.Sunday’s vote also tested the support of presidential hopefuls Julio Cobos, a Radical Party member from Mendoza; Hermes Binner, a socialist from Santa Fe; and Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli, an ally of the president despite his market-friendly views.By Hugh Bronstein27 October 2013BUENOS AIRES, Oct 27 (Reuters) – Argentine President Cristina Fernandez’s allies took a beating in mid-term elections on Sunday, shrinking her majority in Congress, ending chances of a constitutional change to allow her a third term and kicking off the contest to succeed her in 2015.Voters chose half of the lower house of Congress and a third of the Senate. With 62 percent of ballot boxes counted, the government said the opposition was ahead throughout the country.Re-elected in 2011 on promises of increasing state control in Latin America’s No. 3 economy, Fernandez’s political coattails were trimmed by inflation, clocked by private analysts at 25 percent. Heavy-handed currency controls and falling central bank reserves have dented confidence in her government.“Seven of every 10 votes cast today went against the government. This election was a triumph for the opposition,” said local political analyst Rosendo Fraga.Candidates sponsored by opposition leader Sergio Massa led the House of Deputies’ contest by 43 percent to 32 percent in the key province of Buenos Aires, Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo said, citing partial results.Buenos Aires is home to 40 percent of Argentina’s voters and most of the country’s agricultural output. The loss in this strategic province was expected to shrink the majority that Fernandez’s alliance has in Congress to just a few votes.Massa, the mayor of the affluent Buenos Aires town of Tigre, headed his own list of candidates for Congress and is seen as a possible, business-friendly presidential contender in 2015.“Tomorrow, we start with a new political map,” said Mauricio Macri, mayor of capital city Buenos Aires and another possible presidential candidate who promises a shift toward market-friendly policies.Sunday’s vote also tested the support of other presidential hopefuls. Julio Cobos, a Radical Party member from Mendoza, won his race, as did Hermes Binner, a socialist from Santa Fe.Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli, an ally of the president despite his market-friendly views, campaigned with her candidates and shared in their defeats, his position weakened.Over the months ahead, the jockeying among these potential presidential candidates is expected to increase with financial, grains and energy markets watching for signs of policy changes ahead.At play in 2015 is policy in one of the world’s top grains exporters as it struggles to keep up with rising world food demand and attract investment needed to exploit the vast Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas formation in Patagonia.NO THIRD TERMSome legislators had said they wanted a constitutional amendment to allow Fernandez to run for a third term. But the poor showing by her branch of the Peronist party in Sunday’s elections dashed those hopes once and for all.To push through the legislation, they would need two-thirds support in both houses. If the exit polls prove accurate, Fernandez would not come close to achieving that level of support for another run for the presidency.She was unable to campaign for her congressional candidates since an Oct. 8 operation to remove blood that pooled on her brain after she fell and hurt her head in August. She is expected to continue convalescing for another few weeks.Speaking to local television, Fernandez’s son, Maximo Kirchner, declined to speculate on when his mother would return to work. “She’s OK. She’s in a good mood,” he said.EYES ON MASSAAs expected, Massa beat his rival, Martin Insaurralde, Fernandez’s handpicked Buenos Aires candidate.Vowing to fight crime, combat inflation and improve farm profits, Massa appears well positioned to run for president. But Argentine history shows mid-term victors are rarely able to sustain momentum and clinch the nomination.A dark horse could appear within the next two years, as was the case with former President Carlos Menem, who burst onto the scene in 1989, and Nestor Kirchner in 2003.Argentina’s peso weakened past 10 to the U.S. dollar in informal trade last week, widening its breach with the formal rate of 5.88 pesos per greenback. Central bank international reserves are at $34 billion, down from $43 billion in January.But stocks and bonds have rallied on hopes of market-friendly policy changes ahead.The blue-chip Merval stock index is up nearly 50 percent since a mid-term primary vote on Aug. 12.27 October 2013BUENOS AIRES (AFP)–Voting in midterm elections began in Argentina Sunday in balloting likely to confirm the beginning of the political end of President Cristina Kirchner.More than 30 million voters were eligible to cast ballots and elect half the lower chamber of Congress and a third of the Senate.The president’s popularity has hit record lows, polls show, and Mrs. Kirchner may lose her majority in Congress.Though the South American country is still one of the world’s breadbaskets–exporting massive amounts of soy, wheat and meat–Mrs. Kirchner’s government has presided over expanding market controls, and sky-high inflation.Mrs. Kirchner, the 60-year-old standard bearer of the populist Peronist movement, will be barred from running for a third term in 2015, and many see the vote as the start of the race to replace her.Mrs. Kirchner’s young and relatively inexperienced former chief of staff, Sergio Massa, 41, who broke with the president and formed a splinter Peronist party, is considered the man to watch.The president’s Front for Victory faction is expected to retain control of Congress’ lower house and still be Argentina’s leading political force.But polls suggest it will lose seats to both Mr. Massa’s Peronist movement and to the divided right and left-wing opposition parties.The economy is sluggish, the protectionist government sets an official exchange rate with the dollar– fueling black market trading–and violent crime is increasingly common.Mrs. Kirchner, Argentina’s first democratically elected female president, has seen her approval rating slide to about 30% since she was swept back into office for a second term in 2011.She followed her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, as Argentina’s president. Nestor Kirchner was president from 2003-2007.By Ken Parks and Shane Romig26 October 2013MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina — The important question heading into midterm elections isn’t whether the ruling Peronist movement will win, but which of its dueling factions will gain the upper hand in the run-up to presidential elections in 2015.A third of the Senate and half of the Lower House are in play on Sunday. The Victory Front’s majority in the house looked safe against a divided opposition, though its slim majority in the Senate could be in jeopardy.But all eyes will be focused on how the results affect the race to find a successor to President Cristina Kirchner, the Victory Front leader, who won a second term in 2011 but is constitutionally barred from seeking a third.Primaries in August largely dashed any hopes that her supporters could win enough seats Sunday to garner the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution — setting off a race to find her successor.Moderates like Sergio Massa, mayor of a Buenos Aires suburb, are challenging Mrs. Kirchner as the de facto leader of the powerful Peronists, offering voters an alternative to the combative brand of left-wing Peronism identified with Mrs. Kirchner and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.Mr. Massa, who also served as Mrs. Kirchner’s chief of staff, quit the Victory Front in June to field his own list of congressional candidates, including himself, in Buenos Aires province under the banner of the Renovation Front.The winner of the showdown in the province will be seen as having the upper hand at representing the party in 2015. With 37% of voters, Buenos Aires province has significant sway in national elections.Non-Peronist opposition parties remain fragmented by ideological divisions. That means whoever leads Peronism, a populist political machine long known for its ability to close ranks around a leader and win over Argentina’s working and middle classes, will automatically be front-runners for the 2015 vote.Recent polls give Mr. Massa as much as an eight-point lead over rival Martin Insaurralde, who was a relatively unknown mayor until Mrs. Kirchner tapped him to lead her Victory Front ticket in the province.If Mr. Massa’s candidates defeat the president’s slate, that could also signal the start of a shift toward more market-friendly politics than the populism espoused by Mrs. Kirchner, whose increases in government spending have fueled rampant inflation, economists say.An orderly transition between now and 2015 is possible if moderates in the government assert themselves, said pollster Jorge Giacobbe. But if the “fanatics” that currently surround the president continue to dictate policy, the administration could end “in a train wreck,” he said.Mr. Massa, the 41-year-old mayor of Tigre, a bedroom community of about 376,000 people, hasn’t officially declared his candidacy for president, but he makes his intentions clear.“What had Barack Obama led before he became president? For six years, I managed the social-security system, which represents half of government spending. I have experience in national and local government,” Mr. Massa said in an interview on a recent day during the short flight to a campaign event in the beach resort of Mar del Plata.“I’m told that at school, when I was 6 years old, the teacher asked us what we wanted to do when we grow up. I answered: president,” he added.Joining him on the flight was New York’s former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, whom Mr. Massa has hired as a security consultant.Mr. Massa spent the day flashing smiles, slapping backs and kissing the cheeks of voters. Hundreds of people squeezed into an auditorium to listen to his proposal to give city governments a greater role in policing. Mr. Giuliani was on hand to talk about policing.Mrs. Kirchner’s government is widely believed to manipulate statistics about inflation, which most economists say is around 25%, more than double official estimates. High inflation led to a run on Argentina’s foreign-currency reserves in 2011, pushing her to ration hard currency and block imports. Those measures have scared off foreign investment and crimped growth, denting Mrs. Kirchner’s popularity.Mr. Massa’s reformist pitch contrasts with his track record in government. Mrs. Kirchner nationalized private-pension savings during his stint as cabinet chief and the doctoring of economic data that started in 2007 continued in full force.By Ed Stocker25 October 2013Argentines head to the polls on Sunday to vote in mid-term elections expected to deal a severe blow to the current government and dent possible reelection plans of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.The 60-year-old leader, recovering from brain surgery earlier in the month and reportedly not following events in the media, has been notably absent as she complies with her doctors’ wishes for strict rest.The elections will determine the makeup of Congress — half the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and a third in the upper chamber Senate are up for grabs — and could turn out badly for the government if August’s primaries are an indication. August’s ballot essentially acted as a test-run for Sunday, with the government’s Victory Front coalition winning just 26 per cent of the national vote.“It’s likely that the government will lose its absolute majority in both houses on Sunday,” said Ignacio Labaqui, professor of Latin American politics at the Argentine Catholic University in Buenos Aires. “It will be more difficult to pass legislation than in the last couple of years — but we’re, of course, not going to see something like the U.S. shutdown.’’These mid-term elections have become a litmus test for the durability of Kirchnerismo, the “national and popular project” that became government doctrine when Fernández de Kirchner’s now-deceased husband Néstor Kirchner assumed the presidency in 2003 and continued when the mantle was passed to her in 2007.The main challenge to its enduring legacy is in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina’s agricultural heartland and home to a third of the electorate. Heading the polls for national deputy there is Sergio Massa, mayor of Tigre and a former government ally who broke away to form his own Renovation Front earlier this year. Recently published figures from Buenos Aires-based pollster Poliarquía give him 41.2 per cent of the vote, ahead of the officially nominated candidate, Martín Insaurralde, who was trailing with 33.2 per cent.Massa cut a confident figure on Thursday when he addressed voters in Tigre during his campaign-closing speech. “Starting Oct. 28, we will surely have an enormous responsibility,” he said.The center-right, business-friendly candidate has become a focal point for dissatisfaction with the government, including perceived spiraling crime levels, currency controls and an inflation rate that private economists estimate to be around 25 per cent.Massa has promised to get tough on crime, even bringing in former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to make a speech about his “zero tolerance” record at a campaign rally earlier in the month. He also tried to cut a conciliatory figure on Thursday, saying he wanted to bring together “all political sectors.”“The government was defeated in the primaries and more than anything else in Buenos Aires Province,” said Facundo Martínez, head economist at M&S Consultants in Buenos Aires. “Massa is a candidate with a different interpretation of day-to-day realities in Argentina. This is an election about where the country is heading politically in the future.”If Massa does well on Sunday, he may well be a candidate in presidential elections in two year’s time.Fernández de Kirchner has already exhausted her two-term limit and is not eligible, although government insiders have suggested in the past that she wants to change the constitution in order to put herself forward. She would need a two-thirds majority in Congress in order to push such amendments through — and it appears unlikely the government coalition will get such numbers on Sunday.“Before the primaries, the government was playing the card of changing the constitution,” said Labaqui, the university professor. “Either it was real or they were trying to delay a succession struggle, which would shift the focus away from the president as leader and turn her into a lame duck.”What’s certain is that the government has no clear successor at the moment. The one-time darling of Peronism and current Vice President Amado Boudou has fallen out of favor after being embroiled in several corruption scandals. Although he is in charge while the president is on sick leave, the party has been at pains to keep the profile of the electric-guitar-playing, Harley Davidson-riding former economy minister as low as possible.Walking near one of the capital’s main thoroughfares, Corrientes Avenue, 41-year-old Rodrigo Castari said he wouldn’t be voting for Victory Front candidates, who are also trailing opposition members in the city.“They’re a disaster,” he told The Miami Herald. “Voting for them means more corruption and the same as before.” Castari, who lives outside the city limits in the province, said he would be voting for Massa.“He’s the best — he’s the only one who can do anything,” he added.The major winner in Sunday’s vote could well be the candidate from Buenos Aires Province. But whether this clears the way for a run by Massa in 2015 is another issue.“The challenge Sergio Massa will have is sustaining momentum,” explained Labaqui. “Two years in Argentine politics is a very long time.”By Hugh Bronstein27 October 2013BUENOS AIRES, Oct 27 (Reuters) – Argentine President Cristina Fernandez is expected to lose some of her congressional clout in Sunday’s midterm election as the ailing leader faces complaints over galloping inflation and a weakening currency.Re-elected in 2011 on promises of increasing state control of Latin America’s No. 3 economy, Fernandez’s political coattails have been shortened by inflation, clocked by private economists at 25 percent, while heavy-handed currency controls and falling central bank reserves dent confidence.Voters will choose half of the lower house of Congress and a third of the Senate in Sunday’s vote.Fernandez has been unable to campaign for her congressional candidates since an Oct. 8 operation to remove blood that pooled on her brain after falling and knocking her head in August. She is expected to continue convalescing for another few weeks.The surgery marked the latest in a series of health issues for the 60-year-old leader, including low blood pressure and a thyroid tumor that also was surgically removed.Candidates backed by Fernandez won just 26 percent of the vote in the August midterm primary, half of what her alliance got in 2011, and her handpicked congressional candidate did poorly in the key province of Buenos Aires.Some legislators had said they wanted a constitutional amendment to allow her to run for a third term. But a poor showing by Fernandez’s branch of the Peronist party in the primary dashed those hopes. To push through reform, they would need two-thirds support in both houses.Unless Fernandez’s forces defy the opinion polls and clinch a strong congressional majority, the outcome will trigger a succession struggle ahead of the 2015 presidential election.HIGH STAKESAt play on Sunday and in 2015 is the fundamental policy stance of one of the world’s top grains exporters as the country struggles to keep up with rising world food demand and attract billions of dollars in investment needed to exploit its vast Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas formation in Patagonia.Argentina’s peso weakened past 10 to the U.S. dollar in informal trade last week, widening its breach with the formal rate of 5.88 pesos per greenback. Central bank international reserves are at $34 billion, down from $43 billion in January.But stocks and bonds have rallied on hopes of market-friendly policy changes ahead.The blue-chip Merval stock index is up nearly 50 percent since the Aug. 12 primary, and analysts see more gains if Fernandez’s candidates get thumped again on Sunday.Presidential hopeful Sergio Massa, the business-friendly mayor of Tigre, near the capital, could broaden his advantage in opinion polls over rival Martin Insaurralde, Fernandez’s handpicked candidate in the key province of Buenos Aires.About the size of Italy, the province contains 40 percent of Argentina’s population. Massa and Insaurralde head lists of candidates whose fortunes will rise or fall according to the votes won by the two opposing political chieftains.Massa – who vows to fight crime, combat inflation and improve farm profits – may end up well positioned to run for president. But Argentine history shows midterm victors are rarely able to sustain momentum and clinch the nomination.A dark horse could appear within the next two years, as was the case with former President Carlos Menem, who burst onto the scene in 1989, and Nestor Kirchner in 2003.The midterm will also test the support of presidential hopefuls Julio Cobos, a Radical Party member from Mendoza; Hermes Binner, a socialist from Santa Fe; Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli, an ally of the president despite his market-friendly views; and the capital city’s mayor, Mauricio Macri.25 October 2013The interests of the main actors in the Argentinian debt saga are aligning, and the chances of an agreement between the government and “holdouts” (holders of defaulted bonds that continue to demand repayment in full) may be rising. Bondholders that took part in the sovereign-debt restructurings of 2005 and 2010 have waded into the argument and now seem to be willing to grant part of their interest earnings to the holdouts in order to avoid a technical default that would cause the price of the bonds that they hold to plunge. However, obstacles remain, with the holdouts calling for direct negotiation with the government.The impetus to fresh negotiations has come from the increasing perception that Argentina will enter into technical default at some point in 2014 or 2015, once it runs out of legal options in its battle with litigant holdouts in the US. Most recently, the US Supreme Court has rejected a review of Argentina’s unsuccessful appeal against a ruling that would force the sovereign to pay holdouts in full, when holders of restructured bonds are paid (via the Bank of New York Mellon in the US). Argentina is now appealing against an associated appeals court ruling, and the case will drag out into 2014 (and possibly 2015). In the meantime, a stay on the original ruling remains in place, protecting Argentina from the possibility of technical default.However, the latter appears a growing possibility once the appeals process is exhausted, assuming that a final ruling goes against the sovereign and that the stay is removed. In this case, statements by the administration of the president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, suggest that the sovereign will continue to refuse to pay the holdouts and will instead change the jurisdiction of payments currently made in the US (and therefore subject to risk of seizure), triggering a technical default. Such a situation is undesirable both for holdouts, who after years of litigation would still not be paid, and to restructured bondholders, as Argentinian bond prices would then sink.Restructured bondholders put a proposal on the tableAccording to a proposal made by bondholders’ representatives, current bondholders would be willing to yield 5% of their interest payments in the next five years to holdouts, if the latter give up their case against Argentina in the US courts and agree to the deal. For the proposal to succeed, at least 85% of bondholders (a proportion set under existing collective action clauses in the restructured bonds) need to accept a change in the bonds’ terms. For these bondholders, future gains through higher bond prices are expected to offset the interest payments granted to holdouts fully.Holdouts would receive bonds issued under the conditions of the 2010 debt restructuring from the government (in September Congress passed a bill reopening the 2010 debt swap to this purpose), as well as the amount yielded by bondholders. In total, holdouts would receive payments equivalent to nearly 100% of debt’s face value. Considering that many holdouts bought defaulted bonds at a steep discount, such an agreement appears favourable. For the Fernández government it would also be advantageous. First, the political costs would be minimal, as the government would finally succeed in imposing its conditions on the “vulture funds” by refusing to pay any more than other restructured bondholders have received. Second, as the extra funds for the holdouts would come from the bondholders themselves, the agreement would not violate clauses included in the restructured bonds that explicitly forbid the government from offering better terms in any subsequent debt swap. Finally, it would allow an end to a debt default saga that has dragged on for more than ten years, during which time Argentina has had no access to global capital markets, complicating economic policy management and leaving the country vulnerable to a fresh balance-of-payments crisis.Obstacles remainThere are still serious challenges to a deal. Among these is the problem of achieving an acceptance level of 85% of bondholders: many could opt to free-ride, choosing not to yield interest earnings but then obtaining the same benefits in the form of a boost in bond prices. For their part, the holdouts, while acknowledging that they are willing to negotiate an extra-judicial agreement, have insisted that the Argentinian government must be a part of the deal, presumably to assure its commitment with terms.In the event that the bondholders’ proposal does not succeed, an alternative for the Fernández government would be to enter into technical default and then begin negotiations with the holdouts. However, recent moves by the government suggest that it may be hoping to avoid such a scenario. In particular, the government’s decision in October to pay out on a number of outstanding claims at the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)-despite the fact that some of these claims had been bought at a steep discount by what the government would call “vulture funds”-suggests a definite softening of its stance towards foreign investors.The need for global financeThis new attitude may be a reflection of the troubles in which the government currently finds itself. Amid growing macroeconomic imbalances and dwindling foreign reserves, the government would desperately like to access global financial markets in order to avoid a financial crisis in the last two years of Ms Fernández’s term of office (which ends in December 2015). Export earnings-the main source of foreign exchange amid continued capital flight and weak FDI inflows-are expected to suffer amid lower commodities prices in 2014. This will hit an already-weak trade surplus. In fact, despite foreign-exchange controls, the worsening of the current account, combined with growing investor fears of a devaluation, have reduced the stock of international reserves by 25% in the past year, to under US$35bn by mid-October.Political factors may also be working in favour of a deal. The October 27th mid-term election is expected to produce a defeat for the government. It is possible that this will produce a shift in the balance of power within the president’s inner circle, away from the hardline leftists that have appeared to hold sway of late and towards figures such as the economy minister, Hernán Lorenzino, and the vice-president, Amado Boudou, who are perceived as keen to achieve a solution to the default problem. This would throw a lifeline to a government facing huge economic policymaking challenges. Although we have not changed our forecasts to include any sort of international bond issuance by Argentina in the short term, the possibility that the government will finally take steps to achieve a deal and put the 2002 default behind it appears to be growing.By Nate Raymond26 October 2013NEW YORK, Oct 26 (Reuters) – Argentina urged a U.S. appeals court on Friday not to lift a hold on an order requiring it to pay $1.33 billion to bondholders who are suing for repayment following the country’s historic default in 2002.In a late-night filing, the South American country asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to leave a stay in place pending a U.S. Supreme Court review of a court ruling in favour of holdout bondholders.“Vacating the stay now will expose the Republic and innocent third parties to a potential court-ordered default on over $24 billion,” Argentina’s lawyers wrote.The case flows out of Argentina’s $100 billion sovereign debt default in 2002.Two restructurings in 2005 and 2010 saw creditors holding around 93 percent of Argentina’s debt agree to swap their bonds in deals giving them 25 cents to 29 cents on the dollar.But bondholders who did not participate in the swaps, led by hedge funds Elliott Management Corp’s NML Capital Ltd and Aurelius Capital Management LP, went to court in New York to seek full payment.Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has pledged to keep paying the restructured debt but has vowed to never to pay more than other creditors received. That has created investor concern that the country could enter into a new technical default in order to avoid paying the holdouts.The case was filed in New York under the terms of the bond documents.In 2012, U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa found that Argentina violated a clause in the bond documents requiring the equal treatment of creditors.The 2nd Circuit largely upheld that decision in October 2012, in a ruling the U.S. Supreme Court this October declined to review. But the appeals court sent the case back to Griesa to determine how an injunction he had issued would work.In November 2012, Griesa ordered Argentina to pay $1.33 billion into a court-controlled escrow account in favor of the holdout bondholders. The 2nd Circuit affirmed that holding in August.In September, Argentina asked for a so-called en banc rehearing before the full 2nd Circuit, setting the stage for what is expected to be another appeal to the Supreme Court.As part of its August decision, the 2nd Circuit stayed its impact pending review of the Supreme Court, giving Argentina and nervous investors some relief.Following the August ruling, Fernandez proposed a voluntary swap of foreign debt in exchange for bonds governed by local law. But Griesa on Oct. 3 issued an order declaring the proposal would violate an injunction he issued previously in the case.After Griesa’s order, NML and Aurelius asked the 2nd Circuit to lift its stay, saying the “equitable calculus has fundamentally changed.”But Argentina in its brief on Friday said the holdouts “are wrong to claim that there is a ‘plan to evade,’ or that the Republic has been deficient in responding to disclosure requirements of the district court concerning any alleged plans.”Argentina’s lawyers added that the holdout’s efforts were not only directed at avoiding Supreme Court review but, “to be blunt, their effort to profit from side bets on market uncertainty and a risk of default.”Representatives for NML and Aurelius did not immediately respond to requests for comment after normal business hours.The case is NML Capital Ltd et al v. Republic of Argentina, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 12-105.16. ARGENTINA TAKES OPERATIVE CONTROL OF SARMIENTO RAILWAY LINE AFTER ACCIDENTS (Business News Americas)25 October 2013Argentina took control of Sarmiento railway line almost a week after a third accident in the service that connects Buenos Aires with the western suburbs.The government blamed Metrovías and Ferrovías -the two companies in charge of the operations of the Sarmiento railway- for the October 19 accident, when a train crashed at the Once terminal station, leaving 99 passengers injured.Interior minister Florencio Randazzo said the companies failed to control the train conductor, who is under investigation for his responsibility in the train crash. The government also took over the operations of the Mitre railway line that connects Buenos Aires with the northern suburbs.It was the third accident in Argentina’s railways in 20 months, and all of them have taken place on the same Sarmiento line.In February 2012, 51 died and 700 were injured when a train crashed as it arrived at the Once station. Last June, another three people died and over 150 were injured when two trains moving in the same direction collided in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.Since then the government has canceled private railway concessions along the major lines connecting Buenos Aires to the suburbs, and announced a series of investments to be made for new train cars.On Friday October 25, the San Martin train line began operating the first Chinese cars bought by the government.Argentines have blamed the government for the lack of investment in the railway system and as well as poor services being provided by several of the private companies in charge of the concessions. The government has been trying to reestablish safe commuting conditions, focusing on renewing the fleet and revamping signaling equipment and procedures.It has announced a 4.9bn-peso (US$975mn) revamping plan for the Sarmiento and Mitre lines, including a complete renewal of the rolling stock by importing 409 train cars, which are expected to arrive in early 2014.