ARGENTINE UPDATE – Mar 8, 2016


SAVE THE HERALD

Estimados amigos del BUENOS AIRES HERALD “of the good old days”,

Según versiones que circulan en la ciudad el actual propietario del diario, el grupo INDALO del señor Cristóbal Lopez, está considerando la liquidación del Herald. Seguramente influye en esta decisión el hecho de que, a partir de su adquisición por el señor Szpolsky, su posterior venta a Ambito Financiero y luego la adquisición de éste por el actual dueño, la fuente fundamental de ingresos en este lamentable período que era provista por avisos provenientes del gobierno K se ha secado, a partir del cambio de las autoridades nacionales.

El Herald es el segundo diario vivo más antiguo del pais, seis años menor que La Nación. Su primera edición data del 15 de septiembre de 1876, y creemos innecesario recordarles los momentos de gloria y de valentia que ha tenido, y los nombres ilustres que lo integraron. Además, su tradicional defensa de la libertad de las ideas y de los derechos humanos hicieron que, en determinados momentos de la historia, fuera un verdadero paladín del buen periodismo en Argentina.

Crea una gran desazón pensar que ahora, justo en el momento en que nuestro país está siendo reintegrado a toda velocidad a un rol internacional de relevancia, esta valiosa pieza pueda desaparecer. Y decimos valiosa no solamente desde el punto de vista de su valor histórico, sino porque estamos seguros de que podrá jugar un papel verdaderamente útil para el país en este período de reinserción internacional, y en el posterior fuerte crecimiento productivo que se está vislumbrando en el mediano plazo.

Por ésto se nos ha ocurrido intentar una campaña “SAVE THE HERALD”. Somos conscientes de que, con la caida de prestigio que ha sufrido bajo sus últimos dueños, el diario no podría hoy en dia ser autosustentable. Como dice Andrew Graham Yooll, “…it cannot function if not as an appendage of a bigger outfit”.

Y es en ésto que nos dirigimos a Ustedes para solicitarles vuestra cooperación. Por ser todas figuras de gran prestigio y muy conocidas, les pedimos que piensen en personas y entidades que pudieran sentir que se valorizarían incorporando al Herald a su núcleo de acción. Se nos ocurre que no solamente hay que considerar a los medios, sino a organizaciones de las más diferentes índoles, pero que encontrarían en un prestigioso periódico un complemento muy interesante.

Desde ya les agradecemos de todo corazón que se “rompan” un poco la cabeza con este tema y, además, que comenten el mismo entre vuestros círculos de amigos y colegas. Realmente, creemos que aunando voluntades ésta por lejos no es una causa perdida.

Muy cordialmente,

Harry Ingham
isahar6@gmail.com
====================

TUESDAY

1. CRISTINA FERNANDEZ’S RE-EMERGENCE IN MURDER SCANDAL THREATENS NEW ARGENTINE LEADER’S AGENDA (The Washington Times)

2. IN VOLATILE YEAR, SMALLER MARKETS STAND TALL (The Wall Street Journal)

3. ARGENTINE PESO RESUMES SLIDE, WORST EM FX THIS YEAR (Financial Times)

4. ARGENTINE SALES GROW 19.3% IN FEBRUARY, EXPORTS AND PRODUCTION CONTINUE TO DECLINE (IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis)

5. ARGENTINA COULD RAISE PUMP PRICES 6% AGAIN IN APRIL (Platts Commodity News)

6. ARGENTINA TO DEVELOP WEATHER FUTURES CONTRACTS FOR FARMERS (Fox News)

7. FRESH EVIDENCE EMERGING OF IRAN’S DEADLY NUCLEAR AND TERROR TIES TO ARGENTINA (AEI.org)

8. JOURNALISTS AND MEDIA WORKERS IN ARGENTINA PROTEST AGAINST MASSIVE LAYOFFS ACROSS THE COUNTRY (Knight Center Utexas.edu blog)

9. THE CREATIVE PROTESTS OF SEX WORKERS IN ARGENTINA (Open Democracy)

10. AFTER DEAL WITH HOLDOUTS, ARGENTINA MUST CUT DEFICITS, BRING INVESTMENT (PanamPost)

11. AN AMERICAN IN ARGENTINA: BALANCING SCHOOLWORK, TOURIST ACTIVITIES IS A STRUGGLE OF STUDYING ABROAD (The Post, Baker University Center)

1. CRISTINA FERNANDEZ’S RE-EMERGENCE IN MURDER SCANDAL THREATENS NEW ARGENTINE LEADER’S AGENDA (The Washington Times)
By Frederic Puglie
March 6, 2016

BUENOS AIRES — A lurid political scandal that is part soap opera and part murder mystery is thrusting leftist former President Cristina Fernandez back into the spotlight as explosive charges have emerged in the death of a noted prosecutor a year ago.

But the revival of the scandal could also pose problems for new President Mauricio Macri, Ms. Fernandez’s center-right successor, rekindling partisan tensions and old feuds at a time when Mr. Macri hopes to move the country in a radically new direction.

Sensational testimony from a key witness last week put Ms. Fernandez back in the crosshairs of the investigation into the death of Alberto Nisman, the federal prosecutor whose body was found in January 2015 days after he accused Ms. Fernandez of a cover-up of Iran’s suspected involvement in a 1990s terrorist bombing in the heart of the Argentine capital.

Jaime Stiuso, a former high-ranking counterintelligence official who left the country shortly after Nisman’s death, last week told Criminal Judge Fabiana Palmaghini that the prosecutor stood in the way of Argentine-Iranian nuclear collaboration pushed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and that Quebracho — a leftist group with ties to the Fernandez administration, Caracas and Tehran — likely assassinated him.

Nisman’s still-unsolved death ignited one of the biggest political scandals this country has seen in decades. He was found alone in his Buenos Aires apartment dead from a single gunshot to the temple the morning of Jan. 18, 2015, just hours before he was set to detail his case against the Fernandez government to Congress. An autopsy found he had been dead since the previous day.

The spy made his accusations after Buenos Aires chief prosecutor Ricardo Saenz ruled out a suicide by Nisman, and they helped revive the dormant case, which Judge Palmaghini has now turned over to federal jurisdiction.

But the new headlines are also likely to cause headaches for Mr. Macri, whose calls for national unity hinge on support from a congressional opposition dominated by his predecessor’s Front for Victory. A revival of the Nisman saga could bring a quick end to his political honeymoon.

The Nisman saga is picking up steam in the midst of an internal Front for Victory battle between hard-liners determined to derail Mr. Macri and moderates who say they are willing to work with the new president — a division that Sen. Juan Manuel Abal Medina, a key figure within the bloc, acknowledged in an interview with The Washington Times.

Any appetite to set aside partisan bickering could well be diminished if Ms. Fernandez — the subject of several high-profile criminal investigations — is dragged through an embarrassing ordeal like the search warrant executed Friday on her Brazilian counterpart, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Rising anger

Anger over the new testimony seemed to boil over Thursday when Oscar Parrilli, a close Fernandez confidant and Mr. Stiuso’s former boss as head of the Intelligence Secretariat, urged that “they better protect Stiuso, so that what happened to Nisman doesn’t happen to him” — a remark he himself later qualified.

Although insisting that justice must run its course, Mr. Abal Medina questioned why Ms. Fernandez has been directly implicated in so many cases, a circumstance he said pointed to “vindictiveness” within Argentina’s highly politicized judicial system.

“This complicates the situation without any doubt,” the senator said, given that Ms. Fernandez is still the bloc’s “most important” figure. “She is no longer the undisputed leader, but she is not ‘one more voice’” either, he said.

Although Ms. Fernandez’s legal troubles may strengthen the resolve among the most loyal backers of the former president and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, they are also bound to weaken her position within the larger Peronist movement, said Mariano de Vedia, a political analyst for the La Nacion daily.

The Nisman case and other scandals dating back to her tenure “will have a strong impact,” Mr. de Vedia said, noting that a number of Fernandez lawmakers already have deserted to other Peronist factions in the lower house of Congress. “The Kirchnerist movement is not going to have a good time.”

A deep split in the leftist opposition forces could actually play into Mr. Macri’s hands, Mr. Abal Medina said.

“The government’s dream is to divide Peronism,” he said. “And if they achieve that, we will have Macri for a while.”

Meanwhile, the senator — who at the time of Argentina’s 2013 memorandum of understanding with Iran served as Ms. Fernandez’s Cabinet chief — denied the accusations made by Nisman and Mr. Stiuso that the agreement with Iran had nefarious objectives beyond its stated goal of setting up a truth commission to investigate the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center.

Cautioning that he had not participated in talks with Tehran, Mr. Abal Medina said he had no indication that the Venezuelan government was involved or that Chavez pushed nuclear cooperation with Iran in any other way. Ms. Fernandez’s intent, he said, was merely to find the culprits of the terrorist attack that killed 85 citizens.

But just that original AMIA investigation, on hold since Nisman’s death, is now once again largely being overlooked amid the intrigue of Mr. Stiuso’s accusations and their political fallout. Mr. de Vedia said he had little hope that the case would ever be resolved.

Mr. Abal Medina, though, insisted that both the investigations of the AMIA attack and the 1992 suicide bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires needed to continue. “We have these two embarrassments in Argentina,” he said. “We want the culprits to pay — whoever they are.”

2. IN VOLATILE YEAR, SMALLER MARKETS STAND TALL (The Wall Street Journal)
By Tanzeel Akhtar
March 6, 2016

ETFs that focus on Argentina, Kuwait and other overseas markets have held up well

The aftershock of China’s stock-market mayhem earlier this year has had a ripple effect across global markets, affecting the U.S. and Europe. And experts say the uncertainty isn’t over.

“We call 2016 the year of volatility, and so far it is playing out according to script,” Adam Patti, CEO and founder of alternative-funds manager IndexIQ, recently told a Charles Schwab virtual panel.

Elections in the U.S. will keep the uncertainty high. So will oil prices, slow growth in China, and U.K. politicians debating whether Britain should exit the European Union.

With that in mind, here are smaller countries, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds that could be a counterbalance for investors when the major markets are rattled.

Argentina’s rally
There are some overseas markets that have avoided the market mayhem—among them, Argentina, Colombia and Morocco. While such frontier markets aren’t for everyone, “Argentina has been one of the few markets that have rallied this year,” says Mark Preskett, senior investment consultant and portfolio manager for fund-tracker Morningstar Inc.

Argentina is included in the MSCI Frontier Markets Index. Mr. Preskett says investors need to be aware that frontier markets are a much smaller universe, which can affect liquidity when it comes to trading shares. “The MSCI frontier-market index has a market cap of $81 billion, compared with the emerging-market MSCI index, which is $3.2 trillion,” says Mr. Preskett.

He recommends considering a broader frontier-markets fund rather than going for direct exposure to these countries. One mutual fund on his radar that fits this bill is HSBC Frontier Markets, managed by Christopher Turner.

The two ETFs Mr. Preskett highlights in this area are Global X MSCI Argentina ETF (ARGT) and iShares MSCI Frontier 100 ETF (FM), traded on NYSE Arca.

Mr. Preskett says the Global X product is the only ETF offering access to Argentina, one of the few equity markets to have delivered a positive return in 2016 as of Feb. 29. The ETF has 32% of assets in the energy sector, 18.5% in financials, 15% in information technology and 12.8% in consumer staples. Top holdings include Tenaris SA, a manufacturer of welded steel-pipe products; MercadoLibre, an Argentine online e-commerce site; and Banco Macro SA, a private bank.

Another reason Mr. Preskett says the Global X Argentina ETF is worth considering: It invests in American depositary receipts of the Argentine companies, which helps with the shares’ underlying liquidity.

On the down side, the ETF is thinly traded. It has net assets level of just $33 million, and trading volumes are very low.

It is also “quite concentrated,” says Mr. Preskett.

“It doesn’t come without risk,” he adds, “but it does give you access to a market which has shown a reasonable level of diversification or independence to other asset classes.”

Kuwait exposure
The iShares MSCI Frontier 100 ETF gives investors broad frontier markets exposure, including a 17% allocation to Argentina. The fund’s biggest allocations by country is a 22% exposure to Kuwait. It also has a 12% exposure to Nigeria. Its largest sector weighting is financials at 51%. For the three years ended Jan. 31, the ETF has a total return of negative 1.43%. The fund had assets about $410 million on March 1.

One new ETF that accesses both the emerging and frontier markets is EMQQ ETF (formally, EMQQ Emerging Markets Internet & Ecommerce ETF), launched by Kevin Carter, chief executive of Big Tree Capital LLC.

This ETF has exposure to Internet companies such as Alibaba in China, Yandex and Qiwi in Russia, MercadoLibre in Argentina and MakeMyTrip in India. Mr. Carter says that of the 48 stocks in EMQQ, 33 are backed by U.S. venture capital and 33 trade on the NYSE or Nasdaq markets.

Mr. Carter says that last year, emerging markets made up 2.5% of the average U.S. investor’s portfolio. He believes in 2016 investors are probably even less exposed to emerging markets than before.

3. ARGENTINE PESO RESUMES SLIDE, WORST EM FX THIS YEAR (Financial Times)
March 7, 2016

The Argentine peso continues to add to its status as this year’s worst performing major emerging market currency.

Despite the country’s central bankers efforts last week to prop it up, the peso has resumed its slide on Monday, falling 1.3 per cent to 15.405 pesos per dollar in the wholesale market, reports Daniel Politi in Buenos Aires.

The drop takes the peso’s rout against the dollar so far this year to more than 16 per cent and has raised the question of whether policymakers will take an even more aggressive stance to prevent the currency from further depreciation as it teeters close to the 16-pesos-per-dollar mark. The answer will come Tuesday night, when it sets benchmark interest rates every week.

February proved to be a brutal month for the peso, with the currency enduring 13 per cent slide against the dollar. This prompted monetary authorities to change tack and late last Tuesday, they hiked the key interest rate by as much as six points to 37 per cent. The move gave the peso some respite, with the currency strengthening to as much as 15.2 pesos per dollar on Friday.

But Monday’s slide underscores how the peso will continue to be under pressure at least until the end of the month, when dollars from Argentina’s agricultural exports should begin flooding the economy. Why? In a word: Inflation. Argentines are hardly new to rising consumer prices but they have been particularly steep after President Mauricio Macri, who took office on 10 December, lifted stringent capital controls—popularly known as the “dollar clamp”—that immediately caused a sharp 30-percent devaluation of the peso.

Official national inflation statistics have not been available for months, but the Buenos Aires city government says prices rose 4.1 percent in January and 3.9 percent in December. So far there is little sign of cooling with private consultants estimating that February inflation will be between four and five per cent. The insistence by government officials that inflation would be between 20-25 per cent this year is looking increasingly unrealistic.

The volatility in the peso market “comes after one victory and two lost battles,” explains Rodrigo Alvarez, the head of Analytica, a local economic consultancy. “The victory was clearly ending the ‘clamp,’ but the government has lost when it comes to inflation and exchange rate stability.” Mr. Alvarez says the Central Bank appears to have been overconfident and “failed to give the adequate signs” and “took too long to react” when the peso kept plunging.

Now the central bank appears eager to keep the peso below 16 pesos. And with good reason. In October, at the height of the presidential campaign, now-Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay said that a dollar at 16 pesos was “very expensive,” characterizing it as a “panic price.”

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4. ARGENTINE SALES GROW 19.3% IN FEBRUARY, EXPORTS AND PRODUCTION CONTINUE TO DECLINE (IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis)
By Stephanie Brinley
7 March 2016

Argentine sales, including heavy vehicles, exports and production, rose 19.3% in February 2016 – a smaller gain than January’s 46.3% increase. Production declined 25.1% and exports 41.5%, according to the country’s organisation of automakers, ADEFA.

IHS Automotive perspective

Significance

Argentine vehicle sales (including light and heavy vehicles) started 2016 with a 46.3% gain. This was followed in February with 19.3%, both in sharp contrast to December 2015’s 25% decline. In February, passenger car registrations rose 48.9% y/y and LCV registrations picked up 67.5%. Production and exports, however, fell 27.1% and 41.5% respectively.

Implications

Argentina has started 2016 with consecutive sales increases. A trade agreement with Brazil has helped, although continuing declines in Brazil prevented that relationship from raising Argentine exports. Brazil, looking to stop declines in its own production output, has proposed a free-trade, rather than quota-based, trade agreement with Argentina and Mexico.

Outlook

Argentina fared much better than expected in 2015 despite a 1% decline, as the industry was supported by more access to foreign currency from the government, once automotive exports to Brazil started contracting. Although Argentina’s uncertainty includes currency devaluation, a new president is in place and the tax on luxury vehicles was eased; IHS expects sales to increase by about 3.5% this year.

Argentina’s Asociacion de Fabricas de Automotores (ADEFA) has published its accounting of February 2016 registrations, production export figures, including light- and heavy-duty vehicles. February sales increased by 19.3%; however, as this was behind the January gain of 46.3%, year-to-date (YTD) sales are up 31.1%. Passenger car sales rose 27.6% in February and light trucks rose 9.9 %, although medium-heavy vehicles declined 59.5%. Production dropped 25.1% and exports declined 41.5% in February.

Ongoing effects of peso depreciation and unstable economic and political situations were generally keeping the market back, after once pushing to become a 1.0-million-unit market by this year. Registrations reached 52,592 units in February, including medium and heavy commercial vehicles. Looking at light vehicle sales only (which accounted for 51,900 units of the month’s sales), passenger car sales in February 2016 reached 38,518 units, or 74% of light-vehicle sales, and light commercial vehicles (LCVs) reached 13,382 units.

ADEFA has not reported manufacturer monthly sales since late 2015. However, according to IHS Automotive data, in 2015 Volkswagen (VW) is estimated to have held the lead and captured 18.5% market share in the light-vehicle market, with 119,795 VW products sold, a gain of 6.3%. Ford sold 93,880 light vehicles in 2015, a 3.0% gain, and 14.5% share. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) pulled up to third position, with an estimated 92,128 units sold and 14.3 % share. General Motors (GM) fell to fourth position (87,506 units, up 6.2%). Renault/Nissan (87,106 units, down 2.7%) is behind GM.

Argentine total vehicle production, sales, and exports
February 2016 February 2016 Change % YTD 2016 YTD 2013 Change %
Production 34,174 45,605 -25.1 51,959 71,230 -27.1
Exports 14,178 24,223 -41.5 18,066 31.843 -43.3
Sales 53,593 44,074 19.3 102,158 78,202 31.1
*Includes light- and heavy-duty vehicles, due to ADEFA-52.4 volume reporting limitations.For more accurate light-vehicle comparisons, see IHS Automotive’s Argentine Monthly Market Report.

Export volumes continued to be affected by trade issues and weak demand in Brazil, as that market saw sales fall 25.6% in 2015 (see Brazil: 2 March 2015: and ). February exports did not fall as dramatically as in January, but continue to fall sharply, recording a decline of 41.5%. Argentina extended its quota-based agreement with Mexico until 2019; the agreement caps trade at USD575 million. In January 2016, 82.6% of exports went to Brazil, with 14,930 units shipped to Argentina’s immediate neighbour. In 2015, Mexico was the next-largest export destination, but over the first two months of 2016, more vehicles went to Paraguay.

Production continues to be affected by plant shutdowns. In February, production of light vehicles decreased 25.1% y/y to 34,174 units – for a sixth month, no vehicles were produced in the medium heavy commercial vehicle category. Production of passenger cars in February reached 19,159 units, down 24.6%. Monthly production of LCVs dropped 20.0% y/y to 15,015 units.

Outlook and implications

Argentina fared much better than expected in 2015, despite a 1% decline, as the industry was supported by more access to foreign currency from the government, once automotive exports to Brazil started contracting. Although Argentina’s uncertainty includes currency devaluation, a new president is in place and the tax on luxury vehicles was eased; IHS has increased its forecast for 2016. We now expect sales to increase by about 3.5% this year.

Argentina started out 2015 with a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) hovering around 500,000 units, and broke the 700,000-mark in the third quarter of 2015. One of the factors improving sales is the government’s efforts to free up more foreign currency, to make vehicles available for the local market and offset some impact of plummeting exports to Brazilian. With more local availability, sales have been positively affected.

New ADEFA president (and president of Ford of Argentina) Enrique Alemany noted that production performance was affected in part by automaker preparations for new models, as well as continued focus on the impact of the recessionary Brazilian market, noting that the weak conditions in Brazil hurt not only export but also production volumes. He has also expressed the need to wait until the end of the first quarter of 2016 to project performance for the year.

The country has elected a new president, Mauricio Macri. Macri was sworn in on 10 December, with initial signals that he will be more supportive of business, including reducing excise taxes on vehicles almost immediately (see Argentina: 30 December 2015: .

A taxation scheme in place from 1 January 2015 raised the minimum cap by 15% and increased vehicle cost. Initially scheduled to end in June, it was extended and the 30% tax level was applied for vehicles priced between ARS195,500 and ARS241,500; vehicles priced below the threshold are taxed at 10%. A 50% tax level was applied to vehicles that cost more than ARS241,500. The first version of the scheme levied higher taxes on vehicles priced over ARS170,000 (USD25,000) to control imports. An additional 30% was levied on vehicles costing ARS170,000–210,000 and 50% on vehicles priced above ARS210,000. These tax rates were adjusted at the end of December 2015, and the luxury tax on new cars costing more than ARS350,000 will fall from 30% to 10% and the tax on luxury vehicles costing more than ARS800,000 will fall from 50% to 20%.

A trade agreement settled between Brazil and Argentina has been renewed through July 2016. However, Brazil’s ongoing declines have prevented the agreement from helping improve Argentine exports to Brazil. Argentina renewed its quota arrangement with Mexico in March, as did Brazil; Argentina trade with Mexico is capped at USD575 million per year through 2019. However, Brazil is suggesting in early 2016 that a fully free-trade agreement be negotiated, and the two countries have agreed to renegotiate the agreement (see Brazil – Argentina: 22 February 2016: ). It is unclear if Argentina will be receptive; it is likely to do more for Brazilian exports than Argentine exports.

Momentum in 2015 fared much better than expected; we had initially projected at 20% drop, but the year closed essentially flat, pulling back just 1%. This was due to automotive exports falling drastically; as a result, the government freed access to foreign currency, which allowed for much better sales. With a new president in place, our new forecast calls for the industry to continue faring better than expected. Among President Mauricio Macri’s first measures was easing restrictions on access to foreign currency, which devalued the currency. This should ease black-market speculation, a contributor to the boom of 2013 and later the bust of 2014. As a result, we now expect the market to see 3.5% growth in 2016, whereas we were previously expecting it to contract.

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5. ARGENTINA COULD RAISE PUMP PRICES 6% AGAIN IN APRIL (Platts Commodity News)
By Charles Newbery
7 March 2016

Buenos Aires (Platts)–7Mar2016/931 am EST/1431 GMT Argentina’s service stations could raise prices in April, the third increase this year, as a weakening local currency erodes profits, Argentine state newswire Telam reported Monday, citing industry experts.

Diesel and gasoline prices were increased 6% over the weekend, in line with a 6% hike in January.

“There will be another tiny adjustment next month, to complete the response to what happened to the dollar,” Luis Malchiodi, head of the Fuel Entities Federation, told Telam.

The peso has depreciated 60% against the dollar since December, pushing up dollar-based costs for service stations and refiners, such as for crude and products.

The 12% increase in pump prices so far this year is also helping service stations contend with a decline in demand as the economy contracts. Malchiodi estimated that consumption in the first two months of this year has dropped 15% from the year-earlier period.

“People are using their cars less,” he said.

Raul Castellanos, secretary of the Chamber of Fuel Dispensers, told Telam that he also expects the increase in April to be 6%.

Service stations are raising prices because the price of oil “has risen in the same proportion as the currency depreciates,” he said.

However, at the same time the government has asked for the increase to be stretched out to minimize the “inflationary effect,” he said.

The government is trying to slow inflation, which has quickened to 30% this year from 26% in 2015.

As part of the price hike in January, the government also cut domestic crude prices 10% to $67.5/b for light crude and $54.9/b for heavier crude to help refiners.

Moreover, it has started to authorize imports of Nigerian Bonny Light this year to also help refiners, given that the plunge in global oil prices has made importing a cheap alternative to make up for any shortfalls in domestic crude supplies. Argentina imported 1.8 million b of crude in 2015, down from 3.7 million in 2014, according to the Energy Ministry.

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6. ARGENTINA TO DEVELOP WEATHER FUTURES CONTRACTS FOR FARMERS (Fox News)
March 7, 2016

Three companies joined forces Monday in Argentina to develop futures contract on the weather, a new financial tool that will allow agricultural producers to cover themselves against the risk of drought.

The development of these contracts will be undertaken as per an agreement signed Monday among Rofex – the futures exchange in the Argentine city of Rosario – and the S4 Agtech and Argentina Clearing companies.

According to a communique released by Rofex, using the so-called IndexS4, agricultural producers will be able to weigh the risk of drought that could devastate their harvests and, thus, hedge themselves against adverse weather events.

In addition, the firm said that the electronic market will provide “transactional procedures that are much more efficient than traditional ones, adding value to agricultural producers and offering the possibility of incorporating small producers not reached by the traditional risk transfer programs.”

The IndexS4 was developed by the S4 technology firm using satellite databases and employing statistics and algorithms.

If a drought negatively impacts production for a given harvest, the index falls below the trigger price stipulated in the contract and an automatic payment is provided to the agricultural producer.

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7. FRESH EVIDENCE EMERGING OF IRAN’S DEADLY NUCLEAR AND TERROR TIES TO ARGENTINA (AEI.org)
By Roger F. Noriega
March 7, 2016

Last week, an Argentine intelligence official testified that Iran sought nuclear technology from that South American country and that a prosecutor investigating suspected Hezbollah bombings in Buenos Aires had been murdered for attempting to expose Tehran’s dangerous plot.

This fresh testimony supports reports I published in July 2011 regarding suspicious nuclear diplomacy in 2007 and a massive cash transfer in 2010 involving then Iranian and Argentine leaders, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Nestor Kirchner, respectively. Despite congressional inquiries and mounting evidence, the State Department has chosen to ignore this blind spot in strategy for containing Iran’s illicit nuclear program.

According to the Argentine daily newspaper, Clarin, a former Argentine senior intelligence official, Antonio Stiuso, confirmed in two days of testimony before a judge that the former president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, interceded with Nestor Kirchner to resume nuclear cooperation with Iran, which had been suspended in 1991. Also, according to Stiuso’s testimony, Ahmadinejad was interested in using Argentina’s technology to produce plutonium bombs, which he characterized as more sophisticated than the ones Iran was trying to make with enriched uranium.

Stiuso noted that Venezuela did not possess the technical knowledge to make use of the nuclear technology sought by Chávez from Argentina. Instead, because Iran’s nuclear plans were designed by Argentines in the 1960s, Stiuso’s theory is that Tehran was the ultimate beneficiary of such nuclear cooperation.

Stiuso also testified that the former prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was murdered for refusing an order from former president Cristina Kirchner to cease investigating Iran’s role in the 1992 and 1994 bombings and its corrupt dealings with Argentine officials. In a draft criminal complaint discovered after the prosecutor was found dead last year in an apparently staged suicide, Nisman accused Cristina Kirchner of covering up the involvement of five Iranians who have been charged with planning the 1994 terrorist attack against the Jewish Community Center in the heart of Argentina’s capital city.

In a separate development, last Thursday, Nisman’s family disclosed a written statement by a prosecutor from Argentina’s federal appeals court saying that scientific tests failed to find evidence that he fired the pistol found near his body. This is the first formal statement by a government official confirming suspicions that Nisman was the victim of a homicide.

From the US side, the Obama State Department has systematically neglected the dangerous liaisons among Venezuela, Argentina, and Iran. As dramatic evidence of Iran’s deadly provocations in our own neighborhood continues to come to light, it is fair to ask whether its cluelessness was by accident or design.

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8. JOURNALISTS AND MEDIA WORKERS IN ARGENTINA PROTEST AGAINST MASSIVE LAYOFFS ACROSS THE COUNTRY (Knight Center Utexas.edu blog)
By Paola Nalvarte
March 7, 2016

Hundreds of Argentinian press and media workers gathered in the streets of Buenos Aires on March 3 to protest mass layoffs affecting their industry, according to news portal La Izquierda Diario.

The mobilization was organized by the Press Union of Buenos Aires (Sipreba for its initials in Spanish), along with the workers of Radio América, Tiempo Argentina and media company Grupo 23, who have not received their salaries since December 2015.

View image on Twitter
https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/628660412314206209/9IH-nVNR_normal.jpgSindicato Prensa BA ‎@sipreba

One of the main reasons for the protest was the dismissal of 136 workers of a total 160 employed at news channel CN23, which was part of the dismembered media conglomerate Grupo 23, and is now owned by Cristóbal López’s Grupo Indalo. The mass dismissal was repudiated by civil society, journalists and various institutions in the country, like the Argentinian Journalism Forum (Fopea for its initials in Spanish).

The protesters reached the capital’s main square, Plaza de Mayo, in front of the headquarters of the Cabinet of Ministers, to demand action from current Chief of Staff Marcos Peña, given little response of the Ministry of Labor in the case of CN23. According to Sipreba, Sergio Szpolski, one of the owners of Grupo 23, and his partner Matías Garfunkel, have been favored in this case.

Gabriel Michi, journalist from Radio América and CN23, told the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas that Grupo 23, which has almost 800 employees in its workforce, received a total of official advertising valued at about US $80 million from 2009 to 2015 when Szpolski and Garfunkel owned the company.

Compared to other media, those of Szpolski’s media group received the most government advertising during the previous government, Michi said. In 2015, Szpolski participated in the provincial municipal elections in Buenos Aires for the Front for Victory party, which was an ally to the ruling party at the time.

However, Michi added that even though the media of Grupo 23 had an editorial line that was not very critical of the previous government, its workers “always defended the most important values of the press,” doing their job professionally.

Michi also explained that many interpreted it as a true “hollowing out of the media,” also referring to the massive layoffs in the case of Grupo 23 that have been occurring since the electoral victory of opposition party presidential candidate Mauricio Macri.

Since then, Michi said, Szpolski and company began to get rid of some media in the group, stopped paying its suppliers and the salaries and bonuses of their employees.

The dismissed press workers, and those who continue working without receiving salaries, also have the support of the Argentine Federation of Press Workers (Fatpren for its initials in Spanish), which called for the intervention of the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security of the Nation to ensure employment for the journalists.

“We call on media owners to act responsibly, respecting labor rights of the workers and guaranteeing the continuity of employment,” Fopea demanded through a press release, through which the organization also urged the relevant authorities to take necessary actions to prevent the continued “hollowing out” of the media by owners.

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9. THE CREATIVE PROTESTS OF SEX WORKERS IN ARGENTINA (Open Democracy)
By Georgina Orellano
8 March 2016

Sex work in Argentina is legal, but since 2011 the anti-trafficking agenda has increasingly threatened that status. This has led to new alliances and strategies of resistance among sex workers there.

The Women’s Sex Workers organisation of Argentina AMMAR was born in 1995 as a consequence of the criminalization of sex work in public spaces in Capital Federal, a subsidiary of Buenos Aires. We sex workers organised ourselves to fight for our rights after having been subjected to all kinds of abuse, including exclusion, discrimination, and being treated as outcasts. Months later we joined the Argentinean Workers’ Central Trade Union, where we remain active to this day, and in 1997 we became a part of the Network of Women Sex Workers from Latin America and the Caribbean (RedTraSex).

It is said that Argentina has officially adopted an abolitionist approach, meaning that in principle it does not criminalise the exercise of prostitution per se, but rather the third parties that exploit the prostitution of others. Brothels were prohibited in 1936 by law 12.331, and subsequent legislation has effectively criminalized those who exercise sex work in the street and private spaces in 19 provinces. This demonstrates the thin boundaries between the abolitionist and prohibitionist models.

In Argentina, sex work is exercised in private apartments, pubs and dance clubs, on the street, autonomously, and through third parties. In some cases we experience labour exploitation – the same can be said for many other workers – and the lack of regulation of our activity exposes us to persecution and police abuses. In order to fight for our rights, our organisation has adopted a series of strategies, including a law proposal; working on building political alliances; offering day to day assistance in legal and health matters; and handing out condoms. We also spread our initiatives, such as public protests or debates, through our own social networks and public media. One of our most recent initiatives has been the creation of the Observatory on Institutional Violence against Sex Work and the launch of a hotline through which sex workers can lodge complaints of institutional violence.

AMMAR also functions as a trade union although it cannot legally be one, given the lack of regulation of sex work. This way of self-organisation allows us and our 6000 affiliates to emphasise the fact that we are workers. It has also given us a structure in seven provinces, where our representatives are chosen by our comrades. To do this work we are supported by several international agencies, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Red Umbrella Fund, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, UNAIDS, and the Levi Strauss Foundation.

Fighting the regressive trend

It is important to highlight that, since 2011, a powerful lobby against trafficking has been installed in Argentina, together with new laws that do not differentiate human trafficking from sexual exploitation and sex work. These policies were aimed to tackle the sex market as a whole and we, the ‘vulnerable women’, didn’t know how to move against such a big monster that was coming to take away our voices and occupy our political spaces. On 5 July 2011, President Cristina Fernández Kirchner signed Decree 936, which prohibited the publishing of sexual services in advertisements.

With a stroke of her pen she restricted the freedom of speech of thousands of us in a full democracy. We were never invited to discuss this legislation. Afterwards, sex work venues started getting shut, province by province, through actions carried forward mainly by those female legislators and abolitionist organisations leading the charge against trafficking. In 2012, another policy designed so as to control human trafficking required people from the Dominican Republic to get a visa in order to have legal permission to enter the country.

The phones at AMMAR didn’t stop ringing, but it wasn’t the press who wanted to hear our opinion on these new policies – it was our comrades. We realised we were dealing with an unwavering political decision, and so we set to work organising our colleagues. Thanks to these new policies there are now many more organised sex workers in Argentina. What a paradox: we were prohibited from exercising sex work, but we became organised as sex workers.

New laws, new alliances, new tactics

Knowing that we had increasingly fewer spaces in which to work without being threatened by closures and legal sanctions, we accelerated the process to present our own law proposal. We finished in October 2013. It is based on the premise that the Argentinian state does not consider sex work an illegal activity. Following this, it proposes to regulate sex work in the country by providing legal age sex workers – including transgendered and migrant workers – with labour rights such as the access to retirement funds and health benefits. It also includes a way to licence locations for sex work that meet supervision, health, and hygiene requirements.

At first, we presented our proposal by ourselves – no other organisation or labour union supported our demands. On the contrary, the campaign against prostitution had become so strong that our own comrades, who had witnessed the organisation’s birth and growth, started questioning our demands. We went in search of new directions, but we stumbled upon such seasoned and academic feminism that we left frightened, believing that even feminism wanted to decide over our bodies.

For a long time we stayed away from those spaces. But one day, as the raids, closures, and anti-sex work propaganda continued unabated, two anthropologists shyly showed up to our organisation with a proposal. They wanted to help us keep record of the institutional outrage we were experiencing. At first, we hesitated, we distrusted, but then we agreed and were not mistaken: they brought us back to spaces we had abandoned, they showed us another feminism – one that supported us.

We proposed new alliances. We won the support of the LGBT community, amongst them many trans sex workers. They were followed by a queer group, which supported us as representatives of a fellow minority persecuted because of our sexuality, and by labour unions that recognised us as workers, some of which are members in the Argentinean Workers’ Central Trade Union. Together with these organisations we repeatedly campaigned for our labour rights in public places, persevering even though we often received reactions that felt like slaps in the face.

We didn’t give up and decided to carry on with a different kind of action: issuing bills for our services, as if sex work was a legal category. The bill is the symbol for formalised, legal work in our country and that is why we carried out a campaign on May Day 2015 – Worker’s Day – of billing our sex services to recognised politicians and journalists. We wanted to demonstrate that our access to labour rights was possible without changing the entire law, just by adding the category of sex work onto the Labour Department’s register.

The results were better than we could have expected: politicians who hadn’t listened to us before received us and the media covered our demands for labour rights as a relevant topic. The billing campaign won the EIKON 2015 communications award from the Imagen magazine (a Spanish-language public relations and communications magazine).

We have not yet succeeded in having sex work included on the Labour Department’s register, but, unsure of what the political context will look like in the future, we keep fighting. We also plan the presentation of a new national ‘law project’ to regulate autonomous sex work and battle against new local policies, such as fines for sex work clients in the capital of the province of Mendoza. There have been plenty of bad reactions to our activism, but we haven’t remained still and have actually become even stronger. Here we are, many more voices demanding access to labour rights.

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10. AFTER DEAL WITH HOLDOUTS, ARGENTINA MUST CUT DEFICITS, BRING INVESTMENT (PanamPost)
By Luis Enrique Ponce Goyochea
March 7, 2016

President Macri’s Recent Success in Striking a Deal Unveils Larger Challenges Ahead

Argentina and its main international creditors have finally settled a long-held dispute over the repayment of defaulted sovereign bonds by closing a deal worth USD $4.65 billion.

At first glance, Argentina’s agreement with the holdouts to put an end to almost fifteen years of default seems a major victory; the country can now issue debt at lower interest rates in international financial markets.

This, however, is merely what is apparent: Argentina can indeed look forward to finally returning to the league of emerging markets, leaving behind its dark years as a peripheral market in the global economy.

Such an upgrade should allow Argentina to issue sovereign bonds at lower interest rates given the lower risk of default attached to its sovereign debt. Argentinean companies looking to issue corporate debt will also benefit, since they will access international financial markets at a lower price.

Nevertheless, we still have to take into account “what is not seen”, as French economist Frédéric Bastiat would remind us.

In this case, Argentina’s ability to access lower interest rates is not an end in itself. In essence, it is a means for the country to eventually return to the map in terms of strategic international relations. It is likely, for instance, that President Mauricio Macri’s government can now actively reestablish bilateral and multilateral trade agreements with the United States and the European Union.

In this sense, the ultimate and most relevant goal — a goal which often remains “unseen” — is economic freedom through greater openness in trade. Commerce with other nations, after all, has historically led to progress.

Isolation from global markets, on the other hand, leads to the decline of any institutional order and to a deteriorated business environment. The higher the risk attached to the country, the lower the flows of investment.

This is precisely what caused Argentina to fall into the group of so-called frontier markets in the first place, sharing a place alongside countries with such poor credit records that they inevitably needed to pay very high interest rates to access financial markets.

Simply put, common sense dictates that nobody would seriously make loans to any individual, company or country that is quite unlikely to properly honor debts.

Argentina, for instance, has defaulted four times over the past three decades: in 1982, after the policies of de facto finance ministers Martínez de Hoz and Lorenzo Sigaut; in 1989, after the Austral Plan launched by former president Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1989), who paved the way for hyperinflation and the advent of the convertible peso by virtue of the 1991 peso Convertibility Plan; in 2001, after the fiscal crisis leading to the first official devaluation of the formerly convertible peso; and Cristina’s Kirchner declaration of war on the “vulture funds” in 2014.

Such an unstable credit record clearly shows a roller-coaster pattern for Argentina, as the country is going into default once a decade on average.

In terms of private equity: who would seriously invest in a company which is most likely to go bankrupt every ten years? Not only would it have practically no access to financial markets, it would no longer even be in business.

Furthermore, it is certainly unsustainable for any kind of individual, company or country to systematically attempt to live beyond their means. Obviously, Argentina is no exception to this iron rule of business and finance.

So although Argentina’s newfound access to financial markets constitutes a major step forward when it comes to putting the country back on the global economic map, we will not overcome stagflation — that is,the current simultaneously high levels of inflation and unemployment, along with declining levels of productivity — by increasing levels of debt and public spending .

The government should rather concentrate on reducing public spending and, especially, on not allowing public sector squandering to push away private investment. Clearly, there is no such thing as as the “multiplier effect” of public spending, a notion dear to Keynesian mythologists.

On the contrary, the evidence shows that increasing levels of public spending is neither sustainable nor cost-effective, since this eventually leads to unsustainably high levels of budget deficits. And deficits end up destroying any country´s currency since they lead to hyperinflation because they are usually financed through money inflation. It is by systematically printing out domestic currency bills that supposedly independent central banks make up for large fiscal imbalances.

In Argentina’s case, the record is rather sad. Governments destroyed four national currencies in less than three decades, between 1969 and 1992. These are the peso moneda nacional (1969), the peso ley 18.188 (1983), the peso argentino (1985) and the austral (1991). The current peso is the fifth currency in Argentina´s monetary history.

The bottom line is that any agreement reached an that takes a country back to international credit markets is positive. But we should concentrate on the even more relevant goal of reducing and eliminating any budget deficit, since this is the true threat to a country´s sound currency and, hence, to its economy.

We should also try to bring in investment and increase international trade, which would lead to a boost in Argentina’s long-term productivity levels and in its general prosperity.

11. AN AMERICAN IN ARGENTINA: BALANCING SCHOOLWORK, TOURIST ACTIVITIES IS A STRUGGLE OF STUDYING ABROAD (The Post, Baker University Center)
By Melanie Umbaugh
March 7, 2016

I finally feel more or less adjusted to life in Buenos Aires. I’m not an expert, but I know my way around my neighborhood and my university. The city feels familiar enough now that I don’t feel like a total stranger strolling through the streets. A couple people at restaurants and cafes remember me; I’m almost a regular. I’m fitting in in Buenos Aires.

At the same time, I feel like I’m not doing enough. I don’t want to fall into a routine and forget to keep visiting new sites and trying new things. I’ve been here for a month, and I’ve loved it, but it has also passed by so quickly. Every day I don’t do something new feels almost like time wasted. I think in working to adapt to everyday life, I’ve forgotten to be a tourist, too.

Of course, I’m still a student while I’m here. I still have homework, and (although it seems like most Porteños don’t), I also still need to sleep sometimes. My time is not an endless stretch of opportunity and discovery. And some days, it’s exhausting adjusting to a new culture or navigating a tricky situation in an unfamiliar language, so I don’t take the time for that museum visit or tourist site. I have to remind myself that those times aren’t totally wasted. This column is a reflection on my own concerns about missing out, but also a pseudo-permission slip to take that extra time for myself when I need it.

The regular semester is about to start here in Argentina, and I’m looking forward to having a normal university schedule again. I also plan to make more of an effort to keep exploring and keep experiencing. I’m lucky to have four more months here, and that’s not nothing. The first phase of my time here is complete, and I’m going to make sure that the next phase is just as exciting.

So far in Buenos Aires, I’ve toured historic neighborhoods and a grand theater-turned-bookstore. I saw a Frida Kahlo painting in person for the very first time and was enchanted. I’ve spoken in Spanish more than ever before in my life, and I’ve even picked up the Buenos Aires dialect.

This is the farthest from home I’ve ever been, and it’s still exciting, but it’s also starting to feel like another home — just like Athens became my second home freshman year of college. I hope Buenos Aires can feel that way, too.

I have so much more to do, and I’m going to see so much more of this country — but it’s also nice to remember that I don’t have to do absolutely everything in order to have a great experience here. Living here and being here is already so much, four more months can only add to my love for this city and this time.

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