Buenos Aires Herald – to stop printing


Wednesday, October 26, 2016
At the end of the day

It is with unspeakable sadness that we print our last edition today as the only English-language daily newspaper in Latin America, ending the Buenos Aires Herald’s 140-year run.

We have come a long way from our humble beginnings as a single-sheet and many things have changed. The Herald has been facing difficulties for a while now and though our future incarnation has been painted as a new challenge and an exciting offering to the market, it would be foolish to deny that such a dramatic change comes at a huge cost, or that it also reflects a media industry in crisis.

On the one hand, print media is suffering worldwide. Newspapers are facing reductions in staff and resources and major surgery as readers shift and migrate to digital media, drastically cutting circulation and advertising revenue. On the other, much of the public, especially younger people, are reading or watching the news on their smartphones or computers, often via social networks and — most importantly — for free.

This is a worldwide phenomenon but it is especially true of the Argentine media landscape this year, where modifications to government-paid advertising, its distribution and the recession are exacerbating the changes at a rapid pace. Unions estimate as many as 2,000 journalists may lose their jobs in the country in 2016, a staggering number which will damage the profession greatly.

It is particularly true that the Herald has faced its own challenges, especially in an ill-conceived, polarized media environment. It is in this scenario that we currently find ourselves, one in which — it seems to our majority owner, the Indalo Group — has become increasingly difficult to survive in as a daily.

At the same time, we are the first to believe and trust that there is a public — and a wider world — that demands an unbiased press. We believe that facts still matter. If the Herald holds a unique reputation in the English-speaking world in Latin America, it should be able to find a place in the market — be it as a daily, a weekly or a website.

On the record
Much has been written by other media outlets and online over the last few days and we would like to set the record straight.

We learnt for certain last Wednesday that we would be “transforming” into a weekly publication. The Indalo Group decided that continuing the daily edition in its current incarnation was unviable. Three days later, on Saturday, advertisements appeared in the newspaper announcing the new era ahead. We ourselves decided yesterday to publish a short note to our readers on Page 3, upon which we are expanding today on this page in our editorial. On Thursday, the day after we learnt about the coming changes to the newspaper, the overwhelming majority of our colleagues were told that they would be losing their jobs and understandably, our thoughts have been dominated by their plight this week.

The road ahead
It must be repeated, as we have said many times in this pages, that freedom of expression is a delicate flower, one with multiple requirements — for example, a company or organization which understands the mission, values, history and readers of a newspaper but also a state which does not overlook its duty to promote pluralism (an obligation that is not always ensured through having an elected government — both left-wing populist policies and market-friendly policies can lead to similar realities for the media market).

Regardless of whether the public or private sector is to blame, the concentration of the media into the hands of the few, ones with an axe to grind, always conspires against the right to information — a right which the social networks do not always preserve. The new digital culture demands innovative, serious, long-term strategies. It also requires a government that is willing and able to protect voices and ensure that pluralism is reflected in the media landscape.

For most of you who take the time to read this, we do not need to explain our history as a publication nor our most illustrious period during the military dictatorship. Whatever the Herald’s future is, we must maintain the pilars for which it has always stood — the diversity of ideas and cultures, a respect for individual life choices, defending human rights and abhorring those who infringe them. Not just to reflect one view, but a multitude of them, this is the true demonstration of democracy in action.

At this juncture, of this editorial and our existence as a publication, it falls on us to mention two key groups.
We should thank those loyal readers who have accompanied us every day — often for decades — a highly diverse and critical public. Many of them have true affection for the paper, as they regularly let us know by phone calls, emails and personal meetings. A number of you have called over the last few days to express your solidarity, respect and thanks — we offer you the same. Simply, we could not have done it without you.

Our final thoughts must be with the Herald’s staff, who have given their time and expressed our values in these pages over the years. Sadly, fourteen of them are leaving us today. They have written, designed and proofread key pages of our history. To you all, thank you.

TUESDAY OCT. 25

1. VATICAN, ARGENTINE CHURCH TO OPEN ‘DIRTY WAR’ ARCHIVES (The Washington Post)

2. ARGENTINA’S DEBT BONANZA BUYS TIME, RAISES RISKS (Financial Times)

3. VATICAN AND ARGENTINA TO RELEASE ‘DIRTY WAR’ ARCHIVES SOON (Reuters News)

4. EXCLUSIVE: CHINESE MINERS IN TALKS FOR STAKE IN BARRICK’S VELADERO MINE (Reuters News)

5. ARGENTINA CENTRAL BANK HOLDS POLICY RATE STEADY FOR FIFTH STRAIGHT WEEK (Reuters News)

1. VATICAN, ARGENTINE CHURCH TO OPEN ‘DIRTY WAR’ ARCHIVES (The Washington Post)
By Nicole Winfield and Almudena Calatrava 
October 25, 2016

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican and Argentina’s bishops have finished cataloguing their archives from the country’s “dirty war” and will soon make them available to victims and their relatives who have long accused church members of complicity with the military dictatorship. The 3,000 files being released, though, are a fraction of the documentation believed to be in the possession of the Argentine church.

A joint statement Tuesday by the Vatican and the Argentine bishops’ conference said the process of digitizing the archives had been completed and that procedures to access the information would be forthcoming. No date was set, and the opening for now is restricted to victims, detainees, their relatives and the religious superiors of victims who were priests or nuns.

Official estimates say between 7,600-13,000 people were killed or disappeared in a government-sponsored crackdown on leftist dissidents during Argentina’s 1976-1983 “dirty war.” Human rights activists believe the real number was as high as 30,000.

Many senior clerics were close to Argentina’s military rulers at the time and human rights groups have accused them of complicity with the regime.

The statement said the decision to open the church’s archives was taken at the express direction of Pope Francis, “in the service of truth, justice and peace.”

Francis — then the Rev. Jorge Mario Bergoglio — was the young Jesuit superior in Argentina during the military dictatorship, making his decision to open the archives all the more remarkable. The Argentine bishops’ conference, which Bergoglio headed until 2011, began cataloguing the archives soon after his term ended.

“We’re not afraid of the files,” said Cardinal Mario Poli, the archbishop of Buenos Aires. “We’re making them available in the pursuit of reconciliation, truth and justice.”

Relatives of victims welcomed the development as an important first step, but expressed disappointment that the files will only include an estimated 3,000 documents, most of them believed to be letters from Argentines to church authorities seeking information about their “disappeared” loved ones. That is likely a fraction of the documentation in existence since the archives of religious orders and individual parishes were not included in the cataloguing project, officials said.

“There’s no centralized archive,” Monsignor Jose Arancedo, who succeeded Bergoglio as president of the Argentine bishops’ conference, told reporters Tuesday in Buenos Aires. “We hope that the work done here is also done in other instances of the church.”

Dora Salas, a member of the group Families of the Disappeared and Held for Political Reasons, said the release was important “because it is the beginning of a new road, a whole new step.” Salas was kidnapped with her partner in 1977; she was released with her two young children but her partner was forcibly disappeared. “I think that this will lead to important things but I also believe that also there is a very long road ahead and that there is still a lot missing,” she said, citing parish files, military files and other documentation.

Francis himself had been criticized for not speaking out publicly about the atrocities while a high-ranking Jesuit. But he has also been credited with saving the lives of more than two dozen people, giving them sanctuary in his seminary and helping spirit them out of the country.

The documents concern archives held in the Vatican secretariat of state, the Vatican’s Buenos Aires embassy and the Argentine bishops’ conference. Most would normally never be made public, and in the case of the Vatican archives, they would only become available to academics starting around 2075.

The Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, stressed that for now the archives would only be open to victims and their relatives, not academics. He suggested that a broader opening could come later.

Activists say the church has yet to fully apologize for its human rights record, identify those responsible for the many violations the church knew about at the time, or lead Argentina’s justice system to bodies and to people who were stolen as babies from their birth families. Francis has said when he ran Argentina’s bishops’ conference in the 1990s no such evidence existed in church files.

The most damning accusation against Francis himself is that as the military junta took over in 1976, he withdrew his support for two slum priests whose activist colleagues in the liberation theology movement were disappearing. The priests were then kidnapped and tortured at the Navy Mechanics School, which the junta used as a clandestine prison.

Francis said he had told the priests — Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics — to give up their slum work for their own safety, and they refused.

He testified as part of a human rights trial in 2010 that to save them, he persuaded another priest to fake an illness so that he could hold a private Mass for dictator Jorge Videla and personally plead for the Jesuits’ release. They were set free in October 1976, left drugged and blindfolded in a field.

Yorio, who is now dead, later accused Francis of effectively delivering them to the death squads by declining to publicly endorse their work. But Jalics has said he and Francis have reconciled and that he considers the matter closed.

Francis’ decision to open the church’s archives raises the question of whether he will do the same elsewhere in Latin America, where some members of the church and Vatican hierarchy were seen as being aligned with right-wing military dictatorships that targeted leftists in El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua and elsewhere, even while fellow priests were being targeted.

It also begs the question of when the Vatican will open its archives into its World War II-era pope, Pius XII, long criticized by Jewish groups as having stayed silent in the face of the Holocaust.

The Vatican usually waits 70 years after the end of a pontificate to open its archives. But it has been under pressure to accelerate the Pius catalogue so the documents can be made public before the generation of Holocaust survivors dies.

Asked if the Argentine exception to the 70-year rule set a precedent for the Pius archives, Burke said to wait and see, suggesting a development was expected in the not-too-distant future.

2. ARGENTINA’S DEBT BONANZA BUYS TIME, RAISES RISKS (Financial Times)
By Benedict Mander
October 26, 2016

Aggressive borrowing by government meant to secure financial cushion for reforms.

Less than a year ago, Argentina was on the brink of a balance of payments crisis after 12 years of populist rule. But dollars have flooded into the economy since the business-friendly government of Mauricio Macri took over last December, with central bank reserves last week surging above $40bn.

Although the record set by Argentina’s bumper $16.5bn return to the capital markets this year has already been broken by Saudi Arabia, the government is continuing to startle investors with an aggressive debt strategy, in recent weeks issuing $8.5bn of long-term, fixed-rate peso-denominated bonds.

In a remarkable show of confidence in the government’s success in stabilising an economy that it inherited with double-digit inflation and liquid foreign exchange reserves close to zero, most of the demand for the 5, 7 and 10-year peso bonds was from international emerging market local debt funds.

“This shows a strong conviction that the central bank will succeed in bringing down inflation to single digits within just a few years,” says Andrew Cummins, founder of Explorador Capital Management, a US-based hedge fund focused on Latin America.

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A combination of what he says are “some of the highest real interest rates in the world” and a “solid sovereign balance sheet” makes the peso bonds an attractive vehicle for the “carry trade”, where investors borrow at low interest rates in one jurisdiction to buy higher-yielding assets elsewhere.

Nevertheless, Walter Stoeppelwerth, head of research at Balanz Capital, a local investment bank, says there is “some concern about when these guys are going to stop issuing debt”. After officials said they would not return to the markets this year, it sends a signal that a fiscal deficit of about 7 per cent is “not really improving”, he argues.

“They’ve been back, and back, and back [to the markets]. They’ve tapped just about every investor class you could possibly think of, placing as much debt as they can — and that’s starting to chafe with some people,” he says, adding that it is still “good news” that the government has now pre-funded its financing needs for the rest of the year.

This year public entities have issued $40bn in debt — three-quarters of it in foreign currency — raising public debt to 50 per cent of gross domestic product, up from 43 per cent last December, according to the Institute of International Finance.

Furthermore, there is mounting speculation that Argentina may be angling for inclusion in JPMorgan’s $809bn GBI-EM benchmark bond index for emerging market local currency bond investors by removing limits on foreign investor purchases of local bonds. That would open a whole universe of investors able to buy Argentine local debt, helping the country to reduce its reliance on foreign debt and so put an end to a long history of debt crises.

“Investors are providing the liquidity the government needs to finance the regime change,” says Martin Castellano, an Argentine economist at the IIF.

Ultimately, the global hunt for high yields is helping Argentina to postpone a painful but unavoidable fiscal adjustment until after next year’s midterm legislative elections, when the government is hoping to strengthen its position in congress to consolidate its reform programme. For now, analysts are optimistic that expected economic growth of about 3-4 per cent next year, after a contraction of up to 2 per cent in 2016, will help the government’s electoral performance.

Even so, despite the government’s impressive progress in solving a barrage of economic problems — including removing strict capital controls and ending a long-running debt dispute that was preventing access to the capital markets — interest rates in Argentina remain higher than other countries in the region. While Argentine sovereign debt yields about 6.5 per cent, Colombia can borrow at closer to 2 per cent.

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“Argentina’s financing costs have fallen, but the fiscal deficit is a weakness which limits their ability to finance themselves at lower rates. For interest rates to come down more, the fiscal situation needs to improve,” says Mr Castellano.

Mr Castellano argues that the main risk for Argentina is “complacency”. A decisive fiscal consolidation programme, including a clear multiyear path to cut public utility subsidies, must be put in place after next year’s elections “to dispel the risk of chronic fiscal deficits”. Failure to do so will leave the country vulnerable to shifts in market sentiment, and could derail Mr Macri’s reform programme, he argues.

“They can’t keep borrowing at these levels every year,” says Balanz Capital’s Mr Stoeppelwerth, who agrees that without a solution to the fiscal situation investors could begin to lose confidence. “At some point the well is going to run dry.”

3. VATICAN AND ARGENTINA TO RELEASE ‘DIRTY WAR’ ARCHIVES SOON (Reuters News)
By Juliana Castilla
Oct 25, 2016

The Vatican and Argentina will soon release archives from the country’s 1976-83 “Dirty War,” when a military dictatorship killed as many as 30,000 people in a crackdown on left-wing opponents, officials said on Tuesday.

The archives contain about 3,000 letters between the Roman Catholic Church and family members of the dictatorship’s victims. Human rights groups have accused Catholic officials of covering up abuses by the junta when it was in power.

“We are not afraid of the archives. They contain historical truth,” Buenos Aires Archbishop Mario Poli told reporters at a news conference. He did not provide a date for the release.

The archives will be made available exclusively to family of victims, or victims still surviving. The declassification was ordered by Pope Francis, a former Buenos Aires archbishop, a joint statement from the Vatican and Argentina’s Church hierarchy said.
The Argentinian Church’s reputation was tarnished by links between some high-ranking clergymen and the military rulers. Critics of Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, said he did not do enough for priests who challenged the dictatorship when he was leader of the Jesuits in Argentina.

Two priests kidnapped by the military government accused Bergoglio of not protecting them. The case was dismissed and the Vatican has denied the claims.
Many of the dissidents killed were tied to labor unions.

Survivors of the crackdown said one of the military rulers’ tactics was so-called “death flights,” in which political opponents were tossed into aircraft, stripped and then thrown alive into a river or the Atlantic Ocean to drown.

In August, the United States said it started delivering a new batch of declassified documents from U.S. military and intelligence agencies related to the dictatorship.

This followed the 2002 declassification of more than 4,000 U.S. State Department cables and other archives from the dictatorship, which the U.S. government initially supported.

4. EXCLUSIVE: CHINESE MINERS IN TALKS FOR STAKE IN BARRICK’S VELADERO MINE (Reuters News)
By John Tilak and Nicole Mordant
Oct 25, 2016

China’s Zijin Mining Group Co Ltd and Shandong Gold Mining Co Ltd have held separate talks with Barrick Gold Corp to buy a 50 percent stake in its Veladero gold mine in Argentina, according to four sources with knowledge of the process.

Veladero is one of Barrick’s five core mines, which are all in the Americas. It is expected to produce between 580,000 and 640,000 ounces of gold this year.

The high quality of the mine, production capacity and the prospect for geographical diversification have appealed to the state-owned Chinese suitors, said three of the sources, who requested anonymity because the matter is private. All of the persons spoke over the past week.

Barrick, the world’s biggest gold miner, has not launched a formal sales process for Veladero, and there is no certainty that the talks will result in a transaction, the sources said.

A potential sale of a 50 percent stake could fetch Barrick more than $1 billion, two of the sources said.

Barrick, Shandong and Zijin declined to comment.
Barrick’s shares, up about 2.6 percent on higher gold prices, extended their gains after the Reuters report. They climbed as much as 6.7 percent, hitting their highest level in more than 3 weeks. The stock traded 3.3 percent higher, at C$22.82, on Tuesday afternoon in Toronto.

Last month, operations at Veladero were shut down for more than two weeks after a cyanide spill at the high-altitude mine. This was the second cyanide spill at the mine in a year.

The deal would be the latest instance of Chinese companies investing in Latin America’s resource-rich commodities sector, partly to help feed domestic demand. Chinese investors have poured billions into Latin American acquisitions in recent years, buying into copper and iron ore miners, oil and gas concessions and power grids.
Barrick would like the buyer of the Veladero stake also to make an investment in its Pascua-Lama project in South America, two of the sources said.

The gold and silver project, which straddles the border of Argentina and Chile in the Andes Mountains, was put on hold in 2013 due to environmental issues, political opposition, labor unrest and development costs that ballooned to $8.5 billion.

The Canadian company wants help developing the mineral-rich area it controls, known as the El Indio belt, a 140-kilometer stretch of land home to Veladero and Pascua-Lama. Alturas, another large discovery owned by Barrick, is also on the El Indio belt.
Barrick and Zijin, one of China’s biggest gold producers, have been at the table before.

Last year, the two formed a strategic partnership, with Barrick selling a stake in its Papua New Guinean mine to the Chinese company. Zijin officials have visited Pascua-Lama several times, according to local media reports in 2014.

Barrick is in the midst of trimming noncore assets to reduce debt. It has a public process under way in Australia to sell its stake in Kalgoorlie, an Australian gold mining joint venture with Newmont Mining Corp.

Last December, Barrick completed the sale of a 50 percent stake in another South American operation, the Zaldivar copper mine in Chile, to copper miner Antofagasta Plc for $1 billion.

5. ARGENTINA CENTRAL BANK HOLDS POLICY RATE STEADY FOR FIFTH STRAIGHT WEEK (Reuters News)
By Luc Cohen
Oct 25, 2016

Oct 25 Argentina’s central bank kept its reference rate unchanged at 26.75 percent for the fifth straight week on Tuesday as it said recent indicators suggested inflation was falling in line with its expectations.

A central bank poll of economists this month showed expectations for inflation of 39.6 percent in 2016 and 20 percent in 2017. The bank’s inflation target for next year is 12 percent to 17 percent, while the government sees it at 17 percent.

The central bank said in a statement that key indicators it monitors “show an evolution of prices during the month of October in line with the path of disinflation foreseen by the monetary authority.”
Consumer prices rose 1.1 percent in September, up from 0.2 percent in August but lower than earlier months this year largely because the Supreme Court ordered the government to suspend subsidy cuts that had lifted home heating gas prices.

The central bank expects monthly inflation rates of 1.5 percent or less during the final quarter of this year.
Also on Tuesday, government data showed that Argentina’s economy shrank 2.6 percent in August from the same month a year earlier, the fifth straight month of year-on-year declines, in a sign recession continues.
Economic activity has now fallen 2.3 percent cumulatively this year when compared with the first eight months of last year. But the 2.6 percent year-on-year decline was smaller than the 6 percent drop registered last month, and activity rose 0.2 percent in August over July, marking the first time since March that the economy grew with respect to the previous month.

Brexit voters wanted the constitutional order of the industrial nation-state — the welfare state — and the cohesive cultural communities of their national past. They saw those objectives as threatened by a globalized financial and trading system that had suborned corrupt and incompetent elites who could not be trusted. Unless they come to realize that the advantages of the welfare state and an ethnically and culturally holistic community can only be protected by a reimagining of the State itself, by shaping the market state that is their future, we will face a reaction of despair, suspicion and violence that will shake the foundations of all states. — Ian Morris

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