ARGENTINE UPDATE – Mar 11 & 12, 2016

Barnes de Carlotto tells Herald
Saturday, March 12, 2016
Rights groups to seek US aid in quest for truth, justice

Human rights groups will take to the United States Embassy a request for Washington’s cooperation in investigations into crimes against humanity ahead of Barack Obama’s visit to the country on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the last military coup.

“We will file a request before the embassy as we want the US to declassify information regarding the era of state terror,” Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo head Estela Barnes de Carlotto explained to the Herald in an interview at the organization’s headquarters in Buenos Aires City.

“We want the US judiciary and the government to cooperate because we are investigating several baby-snatching cases with links to that country,” Barnes de Carlotto added.

In November, Delia Giovanola — one of the founders of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo — found her grandson, born in December, 1976 in the clandestine detention centre known as Pozo de Banfield and then snatched from his mother’s arms. The man has been living for over a decade in the United States.

His appearance and Obama’s visit to the country triggered the human rights’ petition. According to sources from the organization headed by Barnes de Carlotto, there are about half a dozen probes into potential child appropriation cases that have led them to the United States, but the probes have not made progress.

“Our efforts have been fruitless because we haven’t obtained a response from the Department of Justice. We need the courts to help us especially in cases when we have to collect and preserve blood samples for the DNA tests,” the leader of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo added.

Human rights groups are looking to meet with US Ambassador Noah Mamet before Obama’s arrival, scheduled for March 23, a day before the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the last military coup. The presence of the US leader has already sparked controversy among activists.

Meeting Obama?

Despite media reports indicating that Barnes de Carlotto will be meeting Obama when he arrives in Buenos Aires, the iconic human rights leader said that nothing has been arranged so far.

“I will not meet Obama. I will only meet him if he wants to greet us in a silent place and to give him our petition,” Barnes de Carlotto said, making it clear that any decision will be made between the group of organizations that have already met with President Mauricio Macri at the Olivos presidential residence last month.

“We don’t want to see him, but we will go if he wants to meet us,” she added.

Other iconic leaders such as Nobel Prize Winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel sent a letter requesting Obama not to visit Argentina on the anniversary of the last military coup whereas Hebe de Bonafini, the head of the Association of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, said the US leader should be repudiated. HIJOS — the group that gathers together children of state terror victims — made it clear they did not want Obama to visit the former Navy Mechanics School (ESMA) as it was first suggested by government officials.

“Thankfully, Obama’s visit to the ex-ESMA memorial was dismissed. This is a very painful date for us and the ESMA represents a very particular place. As I always say, you don’t know if you are stepping on remains,” she said.

Survivors have testified that some of the bodies of prisoners were cremated or buried outside the Officers’ Quarters, where the country’s most infamous clandestine detention centre operated.

While some point out that US was the mastermind of the repressive coordination between the dictatorships in the Southern Cone during the 1970s, some human rights organizations also praise the role played by former US president Jimmy Carter to report the crimes that were being perpetrated.
“We understand that Obama had nothing to do with that era, but it is clear that he is coming here for some reason and that there was also a reason why he did not come before,” Barnes de Carlotto said.
FRIDAY, March 11 & SATURDAY, March 12










By Jonathan Gilbert
March 11, 2016

BUENOS AIRES — A federal judge on Thursday refused to reopen a criminal complaint against former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner first brought by a prosecutor who died in mysterious circumstances last year, according to Télam, the state news agency.

Prosecutors thought they had new documents that warranted trying to revive the case against Mrs. Kirchner and her political supporters. The prosecutor who later died, Alberto Nisman, had accused Mrs. Kirchner and others of conspiring to derail his investigation into the 1994 fatal bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires. The complaint dissolved in Argentina’s courts.

Judge Daniel Rafecas said Thursday that the new documents presented were not sufficient to reverse his decision last year to dismiss the complaint, reiterating his determination that there was no evidence of a crime. The ruling can be appealed by Gerardo Pollicita, the prosecutor who sought to revive the case.

Mr. Nisman died of a gunshot to the head days after filing the original criminal complaint, but it has not been established whether it was a suicide or murder.

By Vanessa Dezem and Pablo Rosendo Gonzalez
March 10, 2016

* Law requires large consumers to use 25% clean energy by 2025
* Companies will gradually return to invest in Argentina’

Argentina is poised to approve the final details of a new law designed to give a boost to renewable energy as President Mauricio Macri steps up his efforts to fight climate change.

The law will impose fines on large users of electricity that don’t get at least 8 percent of their power from renewable sources, starting in 2018, according to Juan Carlos Villalonga, a lawmaker from the governing party Cambiemos.

The legal framework will be completed this week. Once enacted, the government will auction 1 gigawatt-hour of electricity from renewable generators.

“Once the framework is fixed by the government, with clear rules for all the players, Argentina will be able to quadruple the amount of electricity currently on offer from renewable companies as required by law before 2018,” Villalonga said in an interview in Buenos Aires after meeting with the Energy and Mining Minister Juan Jose Aranguren and a delegation from the Global Wind Energy Council.

Fosssil Fuels

More than 60 percent of Argentina’s energy comes from fossil fuels. The country has 215 megawatts of installed wind-power capacity and almost no solar or biomass plants, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Lawmakers approved policies in September to increase clean-energy generation. The new rules will require industrial consumers to gradually increase their use of renewable power to 25 percent by 2025. The penalty for non-compliance is equivalent to the cost of imported diesel.

“Companies will gradually return to invest in Argentina,” said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Wind Energy Council, an international trade group for the wind-power industry. “Prices per megawatt-hour are expected to at least double in first auction. In future auctions, prices would decrease.”

The law also creates a fund to finance or buy stakes in renewable-power projects. It enables bilateral power purchase agreements directly between generators and large consumers, instead of restricting those consumers to the state-owned utility Cia. Administradora del Mercado Mayorista Electrico SA, known as Cammesa.

“Argentina’s new government is looking closely to renewable sources, in a strategic way,” said Lilian Alves, a New Energy Finance analyst in Sao Paulo. “Argentina needs to add power capacity right now. In the last years, there were few additions, while the energy demand is still increasing. Wind and solar energy would be a good alternative, because these parks can be built in a short time.”

By Danielle Bochove
March 10, 2016

* Statement follows article that judge `processed’ employees
* Leak detected on Sept. 13 from a faulty valve at Veladero

Nine current and former Barrick Gold Corp. employees are facing accusations of negligence in Argentina over a cyanide solution spill last year, a local newspaper reported. Barrick said it has not yet confirmed whether any charges had been brought.

Diario de Cuyo reported Thursday that the nine had been “processed” more than a week ago by Judge Pablo Oritja over the September incident at the Veladero mine, citing judicial sources it didn’t identify. They weren’t detained, it reported.

“Barrick notes media reports that the Jachal Court of San Juan province, Argentina will continue investigating nine current and former Barrick employees as suspects of a potential crime in connection with an unauthorized release of processing solution,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “If confirmed, this is a standard legal process under Argentina’s civil law code.”

Cyanide solution is used in the leaching process at the gold mine. The leak, which was detected on Sept. 13 from a faulty valve, resulted in 1.1 cubic meters of solution escaping and led to a court order to temporarily suspend leaching.

‘Disappointed’ Partners

Earlier this month, a statement posted on the presidential palace website said that a police report showed five rivers in San Juan province were affected by the spill. Water samples taken immediately following the incident, and in the months following, showed there was no risk to the health of people or the environment downstream from the mine, Toronto-based Barrick said in the statement.

Barrick, the world’s largest gold producer, said it has strengthened controls and safeguards at the mine since the leak occurred.

“We recognize that we have disappointed many of our partners in San Juan province and we deeply regret this incident,” Barrick President Kelvin Dushnisky said in the statement. “The company is committed to ensuring we have robust polices and standards in place that protect the environment at all of our operations.”

Andy Lloyd, a Barrick spokesman, said in an e-mail that the company hasn’t yet confirmed whether charges have been laid.

By Charlie Devereux
March 10, 2016

* Primary budget gap cut 91%, while 2015 deficit rose to 5.4%
* New methodology consistent with that used by private analysts

Argentina’s primary budget deficit narrowed 91 percent in January from the year earlier as the new government of President Mauricio Macri cut spending.

The deficit narrowed to 548 million pesos ($36 million) from 5.8 billion pesos, the Finance Ministry said on its website. The shortfall would have been even smaller, but for a change in methodology, with the government excluding transfers from the central bank and the pension fund as part of its income.

The improvement comes after the deficit ballooned 73 percent to 292 billion pesos last year, representing 5.4 percent of gross domestic product. Macri has pledged to reduce the deficit by 1 percentage point this year and bring it to virtually zero by the end of his term in 2019. While January’s results show a significant reduction in spending, it’s too early to call it a trend, said Luciano Cohan, chief economist at Buenos Aires-based Elypsis.

“You’ve got a contraction in spending of nearly 10 percentage points in real terms, but this can be explained by the process of a new government taking control of spending in which payments are delayed because of revisions,” Cohan said by phone. “It seems much of this could revert in the coming months although the first signal they’ve given is of a very strong contraction in spending.”

Fiscal revenue in January rose 29.7 percent, in line with inflation, and spending increased by 22.6 percent. While the government increased outlays on social security 47.4 percent, all other categories rose less than inflation.

The new methodology more than quadrupled the estimate given by the previous government for the January 2015 deficit of 1.46 billion pesos.

12 March 2016

An inflation test for Latin America’s central banks

OLDER Latin Americans still have vivid memories of hyperinflation. Bello recalls changing money in dark doorways in the mid-1980s in Bolivia and being handed a truncheon of greasy banknotes secured by rubber bands. Peru went through a futile currency reform in which the sol lost three zeros and was briefly renamed the inti, which promptly racked up more zeroes.

Hyperinflation destroys businesses, undermines political systems and hits the poor especially hard. Latin America should have learned this painful lesson. So when in Caracas recently Bello was given a large shoebox packed tightly with banknotes in return for a few hundred dollars, he received it with an eerie sense of déjà vu and dismay. Official statistics put the rise in the consumer-price index in Venezuela last year at 181%, the world’s highest; the IMF forecasts 720% this year. Venezuela is extreme in its economic mismanagement. But while the rest of the world worries about deflation, across Latin America prices are rising. In Argentina, inflation is forecast to spike from 27% to 33% at an annual rate; in Brazil it stands at around 10.5%; in Uruguay, it is only one point lower, and in Colombia it has climbed to 7.6%. In Chile, Peru and Mexico it has also ticked up.

The reasons vary somewhat. In Venezuela and Argentina, inflation is mainly the result of printing money to finance indiscriminate subsidies. Ironically, it is rising now in Argentina partly because the new government of Mauricio Macri is cutting those subsidies.

In Brazil, too, the government cut subsidies on electricity and petrol in 2015. But the main reason inflation is so high there, even though the economy is in deep recession, is price indexation, according to Edmar Bacha, an economist who helped tame chronic inflation in the 1990s. By law, the minimum wage was raised in January by 11.6%; it in turn has a big influence on other wages and the prices of services, as well as on pensions. And that, plus past fiscal laxity, has made a mockery of the Central Bank’s (unambitious) inflation target of 2.5-6.5%.

Elsewhere the rise in inflation is the result of currency depreciation, which is driving up the price of imports (see chart). This is also a factor in Brazil and Argentina. Though very large, these depreciations are healthy: they are the way that Latin America’s economies are adjusting to sharply lower prices for their commodity exports. But they pose a dilemma for central banks that are committed to inflation targeting. In Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru central bankers began raising interest rates last year even as their economies slowed or were stagnant. Argentina, too, put up its interest rate last month.

The good news is that the rate at which currency depreciation in Latin America is passed through into domestic price increases is much lower than in the past, according to Alejandro Werner of the IMF. The Fund’s research shows that before 1999, when several Latin American countries floated their previously fixed currencies and adopted inflation targeting, large depreciations were associated with very high rates of inflation. Now the average pass-through in these countries is below 10% (ie, if the currency depreciates by 10%, domestic prices will rise by less than 1%).

Mexico’s central bank also raised its interest rate last month even though inflation is below its target. The peso has been clobbered by the fall in the oil price and by the weakness of manufacturing in the United States, to which Mexico’s economy is closely linked. Because the peso is very liquid and trades round the clock offshore, betting against it seems to be “the path of least resistance” for currency traders, says Luis Arcentales of Morgan Stanley, a bank.

Mexico’s central bank also announced that it would start intervening at its discretion in the currency market. So is it now targeting the exchange rate, rather than inflation? Not really: it was worried that the speed of peso depreciation would feed expectations of higher inflation down the road. “By acting forcefully today it will probably need to tighten less later on,” says Mr Arcentales.

The currency depreciations of the past two years are the first big test for inflation targeting in Latin America. One can argue whether individual central banks should have tightened monetary policy earlier or later. The big picture is that those countries that have been serious about inflation targeting are adapting to a tougher external environment at much less cost than those that have not been. They, at least, have learned the lessons of the 1980s.

By Hugh Bronstein
March 10, 2016

Argentina’s economy was in freefall by the end of last year and its fiscal accounts left in tatters by high spending ahead of the November presidential election, the government said in the first major data release of the new administration.

The 2015 primary deficit was 5.4 percent of gross domestic product versus 3.8 percent in 2014, the finance ministry said on Thursday after a top official told local TV that the economy shrank 3.5 percent in the last three months of the year.

President Mauricio Macri took office in December promising to bolster an economy hobbled by trade and currency controls. Since then he has floated the currency, cut taxes and trade barriers and eliminated thousands of public jobs. His challenge is to cut state spending while stimulating growth.

If he pulls it off, Argentina could become a bright spot in an emerging markets landscape blighted by Latin American corruption scandals, slower commodities demand from China and fear higher U.S. interest rates could push investment out of developing countries and toward the dollar.

“This is not an economy that is cooling. It’s an economy in clear recession. We had a very negative final quarter of last year combined with the central bank printing a record amount of pesos,” Macri’s Cabinet chief Marcos Pena told local TV late on Wednesday when he announced the 3.5 percent slump in GDP.

Pena did not say if the quarterly contraction was measured against the third quarter of last year or the fourth quarter of 2014. The country’s statistics remain cloudy as Macri reforms a statistics agency long discredited for publishing false data.
“The 3.5 figure could reflect the revamped statistical approach, with worse growth and inflation expectations under more credible methodology,” said Washington-based emerging markets consultant Gary Kleiman.

In January, Macri’s first full month in office, the primary fiscal deficit came out at $39.2 million, 91 percent narrower than the same month a year earlier. The primary deficit does not factor in debt payments.
Previous President Fernandez left office in December with inflation at about 30 percent per year. Macri’s economic team said the rate will slow to 1 percent per month in the second half of 2016.

The government says it would like to issue billions of dollars in international bonds next month, once a deal is finalized with creditors who rejected Argentina’s 2005 and 2010 debt restructurings and went to court for full repayment of obligations the country defaulted on in 2002.

Fernandez refused to negotiate with the creditors, who she derided as “vultures”. But Macri is in a hurry to end the 14-year legal battle over the country’s $100 billion default. The unresolved court case has hamstrung Argentina’s finances by locking the country out of the global credit markets.

“Stagflation will linger into the president’s first year regardless of the debt deal and the removal of capital controls,” Kleiman said.

By Hugh Bronstein and Richard Lough
March 10, 2016

Argentina’s primary fiscal deficit widened sharply in 2015 to 5.4 percent of gross domestic product, official data showed on Thursday, with the increase in public spending outpacing revenue gains ahead of the last presidential election.

Taming the fiscal deficit is one of the top policy priorities of President Mauricio Macri, who won election in November and has slashed power subsidies and laid off tens of thousands of public workers in a drive to lower Argentina’s bloated public sector wage bill.
The primary deficit, which does not include debt payments, grew to 291.66 billion pesos ($22.26 billion) in 2015, marking a 73 percent increase in peso terms.

The data showed public spending increased by 34.5 percent from the previous year, while government earnings increased 31.6 percent. Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay estimates inflation was running at about 30 percent.
Former President Cristina Fernandez’s leftist government spent heavily ahead of the election to spur domestic consumption in a bid to revive a stagnating economy.
In January, the primary deficit came to 548.0 million pesos, 91 percent narrower than the 5.77 billion peso deficit recorded in the same month a year earlier.

Argentina recorded a primary fiscal deficit of 3.8 percent in 2014, according to the finance ministry’s latest data. ($1 = 13.10 pesos on Dec. 31)

By Charles Newbery
10 March 2016

Buenos Aires (Platts)–10Mar2016/1112 am EST/1612 GMT Argentina’s state-run energy company YPF will look widely for a new CEO to replace Miguel Galuccio, who will resign at the end of April, a government official said Thursday.

“An international search will be made to find the most qualified person for the role,” the government’s cabinet chief, Marcos Pena, said on Radio Mitre.

He spoke a day after the administration of President Mauricio Macri, who took office in December, asked for Galuccio to resign after four years of running YPF, the country’s biggest oil and natural gas producer and top refiner.

Galuccio will step down April 30 as chairman and CEO.

His replacement as chairman will be Miguel Angel Gutierrez, a long-time banker.

Pena said YPF will benefit from “splitting” among two people the roles Galuccio held, allowing the CEO to focus on “the day-to-day of the company.” Macri had hinted that Galuccio could be replaced after winning the presidential election in November, but it nevertheless came as a surprise to many in the oil industry.

Galuccio, a 47-year-old petroleum engineer, has overseen a turnaround in YPF’s oil and natural gas production after it had declined by 6% annually between 2004 and 2012 under the control of Spain’s Repsol. Galuccio came on board in 2012 after the re-nationalization of the company, helping revive production, which grew a 13.5% year on year in 2014 and 3% in 2015 by squeezing more out of maturing conventional reserves and putting into production huge unconventional resources.

Galuccio’s performance has won him management awards and wide recognition in the oil world, helping to attract partners like Chevron, Dow Chemical and Petronas for projects in shale and tight plays.

Pena applauded Galuccio’s performance, but nonetheless said change was needed.

“A renewal was needed in the leadership of the company,” he said. “It’s healthy to renew and make a change.”

Galuccio “has finished a stage, in which he has made an important contribution, defending [YPF] against politicization,” Pena said. “There is no question that he defended the company and worked to ensure that the company could reach its rightful place within the energy system.”

YPF produces 43% of Argentina’s 532,000 b/d of crude and 30% of its 120 million cu m/d of gas, according to the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute, an industry group. It has a 58% share of diesel and gasoline sales, according to company estimates.

March 10, 2016
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Tourists in southern Argentina had the opportunity to witness a breathtaking natural phenomenon when huge chunks of the Perito Moreno Glacier broke off in front of them.

The pieces of ice crashed into Lake Argentina on Thursday, prompting cheers from onlookers at Los Glaciares National Park.

The massive natural monument in the province of Santa Cruz is approximately 97 square miles (250 kilometers), and its walls tower about 70 meters (yards) over water level.

Periodically the glacier advances over the lake and then breaks off.

The glacier last ruptured in March 2012.

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