Archive for the ‘ARGENTINE UPDATE’ Category

Cuando soldaditos formoseños frenaron a los Montoneros

4 octubre, 2015


29 septiembre, 2015

GONE .. Argentine General Mario Menéndez

What is omitted is his butchery in the Cordoba Region during the dirty war.. An evil ruthless man..

Mario Menéndez

Menéndez in the Falklands during the Argentine occupation in 1982

Menéndez in the Falklands during the Argentine occupation in 1982 Epa
Last updated at 12:01AM, September 26 2015 – Times (UK)
Army officer who was briefly governor of the Falklands after the Argentine invasion in 1982 but failed to mount an effective defence against British forces
Described by President Leopoldo Galtieri as “the best general in the Argentine army”, Mario Menéndez probably owed his appointment as governor of the Malvinas, otherwise known as the Falklands Islands, more to his record of providing his head of state with advice that he wished to hear than either to his military experience or his judgment.
Brigadier-General Menéndez arrived at Port Stanley, the capital, five days after the occupation of the Falklands. One of his tasks was to meet the British governor, Sir Rex Hunt, who was wearing a formal uniform, including a plumed hat, and arrived at the town hall in his offical car, which was a converted London taxi. “There was this rather miserable little general, sallow faced, coming towards me with a fixed smile,” said Hunt, who was ordered to leave the islands.
Menéndez was not expecting to have to fight for the retention of the islands and, it is said, his confidence never recovered from hearing that a British task force had left for the South Atlantic.
By his own account, Menéndez was previously a member of the military committee in Buenos Aires, reporting weekly to Galtieri on foreign policy, military readiness, training and the budget. With the country’s economy in decline, Menéndez would have needed flashes of imagination almost every week to keep the president happy, but seemingly not enough to dissuade the military junta from deciding on the classic political trick of generating a foreign policy crisis to distract attention from troubles at home.
His two commanders on the Falklands were senior to him as brigadier-generals, so his orders would have been subject to debate before compliance. Much of his 11,300-man force were conscripts with scant appetite for battle. The defensive campaign he conducted reflected nagging doubts about whether his men would stand and fight. Yet, when the crunch came, they fought competently and resolutely at Goose Green against 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment and initially against all of Major-General Jeremy Moore’s force in defence of Stanley. Throughout the campaign, Menéndez’s uncertainty dissipated what resolve his subordinate commanders were able to muster in terms of offensive spirit.
As a graduate of the national military college, Menéndez would have recognised that an amphibious force is vulnerable during a landing and in its immediate aftermath. In tune with military pundits worldwide, he expected the British landing to be close to Port Stanley. When the belt of seaweed off the coast precluded that option, and the task force began to disembark at San Carlos Water, 50 miles away on the opposite coast, he at first dismissed the report as a diversion intended to draw his forces away from the capital.
The capture of Goose Green by the 2nd Parachute Battalion at the end of May left him and his immediate staff in a despondent mood. In one of the few initiatives taken during the campaign, Menéndez assembled his staff to issue orders “to plant a screen from north to south of East Falkland to ambush the British troops as they advanced towards Stanley and cut their line of communications behind them”.
He had some tough, experienced special forces capable of putting at least part of such a plan into practice, but not enough; one group was ambushed by an SAS patrol on Mount Kent and another by the Royal Marines Arctic Warfare detachment on Mount Simon. Worse, as the bulk of the air force’s ground-attack aircraft were based on the mainland, and therefore not under his command, they sought targets of opportunity rather than systematically attacking 3 Commando during its long march eastwards. From the moment that the two British brigades were ashore, Menéndez knew he faced defeat. The proportion of professional soldiers in his force was just too small for it to prevail against the professional forces the UK had fielded against him. His aim then was to hold out for long enough that he could claim “surrender with honour”.In the first week of June, he was urged by Galtieri to mount a counteroffensive against the Fitzroy Settlement at Bluff Cove to the southwest of Stanley, which was occupied by troops of the British 5th Infantry Brigade. Such a venture might possibly have delayed the outcome, but, yet again, Menéndez hesitated, and his two subordinate brigadiers began plotting to remove him.
Such was his lack of confidence in the ability of his troops to hold the range of hills surrounding the capital that he even considered withdrawing to the airport, but he was dissuaded from doing so. By then, his troops were cold, hungry and demoralised. Despite the well-prepared positions in the hills, their minefields, and the observation points from which their medium guns could fire, the Argentine defence of Stanley was neither sufficiently sustained nor resolute to allow any claim to be made of “surrender with honour”. They were beaten by better men, who were better led and highly motivated.
Mario Benjamin Menéndez was born in Buenos Aires into a military family. An uncle had led an unsuccessful coup against President Juan Perón in 1951, while his cousin, Luciano, was another politically inspired general who became involved in the so-called “Dirty War” against domestic insurgents in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After graduation from military college, he made steady progress, commanding the 5th Infantry Brigade in Operation Independencia, a counter-insurgency campaign against Trotskyist guerrillas operating in Tucumán province, and later commanded the 6th Mountain Brigade in Neuquén province.
A month after the surrender of Port Stanley, he was stripped of all military authority and in October 1983 arrested and confined to a base away from Buenos Aires. According to his mother, Hilda Villarino de Menéndez, his arrest was due to a book he had published criticising the Falklands campaign; he said the idea for the invasion came from the Argentine navy. Almost 30 years later, he was also charged with human rights abuses committed before the Falklands campaign.
He is survived by his wife, Susana, whom he married in 1955; their son, also named Mario, who followed him into the army and served with him during the Falklands campaign; and two daughters. Marta Julia is a nursery teacher and Maria José is an employee of the Bank of Italy in Buenos Aires.
Tired, disillusioned and discredited, Menéndez spent his 30-year retirement reflecting on the penalties of being described by the disgraced former president, Galtieri, as the country’s best general, which was certainly not an assessment borne out by his performance during the Falklands conflict of 1982.
Brigadier-General Mario Menéndez, Argentine army officer, was born on April 3, 1930. He died on September 18, 2015, aged 85

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el lado oscuro de la visita Papal a Cuba

26 septiembre, 2015


18 septiembre, 2015

By Vicky Baker
14 September 2015

Facts, lies and statistics: these have become key themes on the campaign trail for October’s national election in Argentina.

Does Argentina have a lower rate of poverty than Germany? It seems unlikely, and there were many raised eyebrows when Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said, at a UN summit in Rome in June, that her homeland’s national figure had dropped below five percent. Aníbal Fernández, her head of cabinet, later took the claim a step further by confirming that Argentina was indeed bettering Norway, Denmark and Germany in the fight against poverty.

Facts, lies and statistics: these have become key themes on the campaign trail for October’s national election, with the opposition vowing to offer greater transparency than under the current government, led by Fernández since 2007.

Argentina has developed a critical stats problem. The combination of highly partisan press and some very unconvincing official data has created a huge output of untrustworthy information. The country has one of the highest rates of inflation in the world and yet its national statistics office, Indec, has been underestimating the figures for years. Currently the official inflation figure hovers around 15 percent, while independent analysts suggest it could be almost double that. Coming up with alternative figures has led to some independent economists being threatened with fines or jail sentences.

Perhaps the most outlandish example of Argentina’s book-cooking came in 2011 when Guillermo Moreno, then secretary of domestic trade, allegedly asked McDonald’s Argentina to reduce the price of the Big Mac, in what was viewed as an attempt to get a better position in the Economist’s annual Big Mac Index, which, the publication says, aims “to make exchange-rate theory a bit more digestible” by comparing burger prices around the world. The company complied, but customers noticed the burger disappear from shop-front menus. It was available, if requested, but the chain clearly hoped customers would be swayed by the other, more realistically priced offerings.

“Our leaders are not going to stop lying, or using figures in the most strategic way they can,” said Laura Zommer, director of Argentina’s independent fact-checking organisation Chequeado. “But the antidote to this is to increase the cost of the lie. You do this by making the public more alert and more questioning.”

Zommer was talking to Index on Censorship about the global rise of the fact-checking industry. Index’s latest magazine has profiled some key fact-checking organisations, from the UK to South Africa. There are now 64 active websites dedicated to analysing and potentially debunking political or journalistic statements, up from 44 a year ago. The second Global Fact-Checking Summit was held in London in July, with participants from 31 countries.

“It seems like we are capturing a global zeitgeist,” Will Moy, director of UK fact-checking organisation told Index. “I’m not sure if it’s [due to] a growing sense of distrust or because the internet makes it easier to fact-check and compare primary sources. Maybe it’s a search for authenticity? We’re definitely tapping into something.”

Founded in 2010, Chequeado (meaning ‘checked’) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation, with an aim to “improve the quality of public debate”. It was South America’s first independent fact-checking organisation, although many more have sprung up since, from Uruguay’s to Mexico’s El Sabueso, run by AnimalPolí

Zommer said that the organisation has been well received by the public and the press. It has developed partnerships with three radio stations, and runs fact-checking columns in two newspapers (national broadsheet La Nación and English-language daily Buenos Aires Herald). When Fernández gave a speech to open Congress earlier this year, Chequeado ran a live fact-checking event on Twitter; its hashtag #ChequeadoCFK (based on the president’s initials) received 1.5 million impressions.

In the case of the the poverty statistics, while the anti-government press delighted in the absurdity, Chequeado delved deeper. It debunked the claim, while also showing that Argentina and Germany have different methods for determining the poverty line. In Argentina, it’s based on the income needed to purchase a basket of basic food items. In Germany, like many European countries, it’s calculated on relative terms: those earning significantly less than the median income are considered poor.

There is plenty of evidence to show their work is being listened to. Former chief of cabinet Jorge Capitanich responded directly to Chequeado in a press conference, divulging the sources he used after one of his statements on infant morality was declared false. And former vice-president Julio Cobos admitted to being wrong after incorrectly stating that 85 percent of prisoners hadn’t finished primary school. “Excellent work, Chequeado”, he tweeted.

But Chequeado is quick to stress that it is not just going after the government. Opposition politicians and journalist are also held to account. Journalist Jorge Lanata, one of Fernández’s biggest critics, is among those regularly scrutinised. Like everyone else, he is pulled up for falsities, and also for exaggerated or misleading statements.

Zommer said that their intention is to provide a platform that people feel confident to use, whatever their political persuasion. “Often, individuals have information that contradicts a minister, but they aren’t going to come out and say it publicly, because they are scared, or because they don’t want the confrontation. Part of our work is to generate a platform that is neutral. We want people to be able to come to us with information,” she said.

Argentina’s elections take place on 25 October, with a possible run-off between the top two candidates on 22 November. Fernández is constitutionally barred from a third consecutive term, but her party’s sole candidate, Daniel Scioli, remains the current frontrunner. Meanwhile, the opposition continues to try to capture the public’s attention with promises of increased transparency. “The first task we have is to resolve statistics. We can’t talk with the world if we’re lying to it,” said opposition candidate Sergio Massa at a recent debate. Chequeado has an eye on him too.










By Larry Neumeister
September 16, 2015

NEW YORK — A federal appeals court handed Argentina a victory Wednesday in its quest to relieve itself of the pressures of debt owed to American hedge funds and others, saying a judge went too far by letting some bondholders demand payment without proving how much they are entitled to be paid.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower-court judge was oversimplifying the definition of the class of bond holders affected by his orders.

A ruling written by Circuit Judge Richard Wesley noted that defining a precise class to which Argentina owes damages for refusing to pay bondholders and calculating those damages have been “exasperating tasks.” But the decision issued by a three-judge panel said Judge Thomas P. Griesa was making it too easy for some plaintiffs by creating a class including bondholders who were not the original purchasers of the bonds.

“While objective criteria may be necessary to define an ascertainable class, it cannot be the case that any objective criterion will do,” Wesley wrote. “A class defined as ‘those wearing blue shirts,’ while objective, could hardly be called sufficiently definite and readily identifiable; it has no limitation on time or context, and the ever-changing composition of the membership would make determining the identity of those wearing blue shirts impossible.”

The dispute over Argentina’s debt emerged after the South American nation defaulted on $100 billion in debt in 2001. Most creditors accepted lower-valued bond swaps in 2005 and 2010. But U.S. hedge funds led by billionaire hedge fund investor Paul Singer’s NML Capital Ltd. refused and took Argentina to court in Manhattan and won. Griesa has repeatedly ruled that Argentina can’t pay other creditors until it pays the holdouts.

Argentina has not complied with Griesa’s orders, and the funds have tried to seize Argentine assets around the world. Last month, Griesa ruled the plaintiffs can pursue Argentine assets in the U.S., except for military and diplomatic property.

The plaintiff in Wednesday’s decision held a relatively small number of bonds. The appeals court ordered an evidentiary hearing to decide damages.

Attorney Carmine Boccuzzi for Argentina said he was pleased with the ruling.

“The ruling makes clear that plaintiffs may not use the class mechanism to avoid having to prove the actual damages of purported class members,” he said.

Jason Zweig, the bondholder’s attorney, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

In court papers, Zweig wrote dismissively of Argentina’s arguments, saying the appeal was designed “simply to further delay this already 9-year-old case, in order to prolong the day it must pay its outstanding debts.”

In court papers, Boccuzzi wrote that judgments in favor of members of the class were “inflated and inaccurate” because the bonds at stake are regularly traded in the secondary market.

By Chris Kraul
September 17, 2015

He came walking.

That’s how parishioners of Our Lady of Caacupe remember the future Pope Francis. Rather than take the archdiocese limo, Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio rode a bus and then walked half a mile to the church operating out of a converted warehouse.

“Once I met him at the bus stop and offered to carry his briefcase the rest of the way, but he wouldn’t hear of it,” said Monica Morales, a church volunteer and mother of six.

Those who would understand Francis’ papacy would do well to come to this poor parish in one of Buenos Aires’ most violent, drug-infested villas, as shantytowns here are called. By doubling the number of priests and committing church resources to outreach programs, including drug abuse rehabilitation here and in other poor parishes, he reenergized its mission to serve the marginalized and vulnerable.

“Before Bergoglio, there were two churches — one of the poor and the other one being the official church,” said Father Lorenzo De Vedia, an Our Lady of Caacupe priest whom parishioners address simply as Toto.

De Vedia recalled the future pope while sitting in his cramped parish hall office, built with concrete blocks behind a former truck loading bay, and tucked inside what was once an industrial building.

“He was a novelty in that he promoted a closeness between the hierarchy and the barrios,” De Vedia said. “He was with us in every sense.”

From Sept. 22-27, Francis will visit Washington, New York and Philadelphia, a trip that will serve as an introduction for many of the U.S. faithful as well as non-Catholics to the 78-year-old Buenos Aires native who in 2013 became the first Latin American to ascend to the papacy.

With an engaging smile, humble persona and natural political acumen, Francis raised the Argentine Roman Catholic Church’s profile as defender of the poor and disenfranchised during his 15 years leading the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. In his two years as pope, he has amplified that mission.

“Francis isn’t inventing anything. How you see him as pope is how he was in thought and action as archbishop of Buenos Aires,” said Sergio Rubin, a reporter for the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarin and coauthor of a biography of Francis.

Marcelo Figueroa, a theologian who has been a friend of Francis for 15 years, contrasts his roles as pope and parish priest concisely: “The only difference is now he wears white.”

“Down to earth” is how Ursalina Rios remembers Francis during his pre-pope visits to Our Lady of Caacupe. The poor parish is bordered by a printing plant, an industrial bakery and blocks of high-walled warehousing protected by concertina wire. He came to the church every Dec. 8 to help celebrate its saint day and stayed to participate in the blocks-long procession.

“We felt he was committed to us,” said Rios, as she pitched in on the parish sale of secondhand clothing.

Asked what the U.S. should expect during the papal visit, people who know him say Francis probably will address important U.S. issues by urging compassion for immigrants and decrying sexual abuse by priests. He may reiterate warnings issued during his July trip to South America that senseless consumerism is a “subtle dictatorship.”

His comments during that trip prompted conservative observers to label Francis a socialist. But Figueroa, who moderated a TV series of interreligious discussions that included then-Archbishop Bergoglio, said such claims miss the mark.

“To understand Bergoglio, you don’t read [German sociologist] Max Weber, Karl Marx or [Argentina’s late populist president] Juan Peron, but the Gospels,” Figueroa said.

Keys to the pope’s philosophy also can be found in his training as a Jesuit, an order which emphasizes “a connection between faith and good works,” said Gustavo Vera, a Buenos Aires city councilman.

Before his election, Vera headed a Buenos Aires-based civil society organization called La Alameda that fought human trafficking and workplace slavery. Archbishop Bergoglio became a staunch Alameda defender after Vera and others received threats from prostitution and trafficking gangs.

Like his model St. Francis, Bergoglio was a man of the world before his ordination at age 32, having first held jobs as a lab technician and a discotheque bouncer. At age 36 he became head of the Argentine Jesuit order.

Bergoglio also learned not to kowtow to authority, a disposition that put the archbishop at odds with Argentine leaders, including President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. She, along with her late husband and former President Nestor Kirchner, is said to have clashed with the future pope over government policies toward the poor.

“He never tried to ingratiate himself with those in power, unlike many who came before him,” Vera said, adding, “He never personalized his criticisms, but the government interpreted it that way.”

During his U.S. visit, Francis will undoubtedly echo themes from his time as archbishop, or as Figueroa put it, “stress the importance of love, of inclusion, of tending to the lost lambs that the world doesn’t want.”

Inclusion means the dregs of society, be they prisoners he met recently at a notorious Bolivian prison or drug addicts at Our Lady of Caacupe, where Francis took special interest in directing them to rehab programs, De Vedia said.

Rios, the Our Lady of Caacupe parishioner, remembered how, in addition to visiting on the Dec. 8 feast day, Francis would show up three or four times a year to have lunch with about 20 poor parishioners.

Then later, he would be off, walking to catch his bus.

Kraul is a special correspondent. Special correspondent Andres D’Alessandro contributed to this report.

By Charlie Devereux
September 16, 2015

*Her eye may be on 2019 as she fills top posts with allies
*Some presidents have held onto influence, others have failed

Next month, Argentina will elect a president who, for the first time in 12 years, is not a Kirchner: President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner or her late husband Nestor. It is a prospect that delights many investors eager to move on from the Kirchners’ leftist populism. That legacy, however, may prove more enduring than they expect.

In the past year, Fernandez has appointed nine out of 10 directors on the central bank board, including the president. She created a new spy agency and appointed a member of her inner circle as its chief. She transferred oversight of phone-tapping activities to the prosecutor general’s office, where in 2012 she installed an ally.

The securities regulator, the tax agency, the communications regulator and state-run companies such as YPF SA, Aerolineas Argentinas and Enarsa also have directors’ boards packed with Kirchner loyalists. A new law she is seeking to pass will forbid the government from selling its shares in a state-run business unless it obtains a two-thirds majority in Congress. About 60 percent of judges and prosecutors have been appointed by the Kirchners.

“Conflict between Cristina and the future president, whoever it is, is inevitable,” Rosendo Fraga, director of Nueva Mayoria, a political consulting company, said by e-mail. High approval ratings and leadership of her party “give her a good starting point to maintain power. She wants to return in 2019.”

Fraga noted that other former presidents have tried to retain influence once their mandate ended and few succeeded. However, Fernandez will leave office with a higher approval rating — at least 38 percent in late August — than any of them. She also still heads the Peronist Justicialist Party, which has held sway over Argentina for the past half century.

While a new government can change some of her appointments, many positions have fixed terms.
Having served two consecutive terms, Fernandez is forbidden by the constitution from competing in the October 25 vote, but she could stand again in 2019. Having key players spread through the country’s institutions may help her do so.

Fernandez also has increased public-sector employment. The number of Argentines working for the state went up by 58 percent to 3.5 million in 2015 from 2003 when Nestor Kirchner took power, according to the Foundation for Latin American Economic Investigations.

In the October election, Fernandez is backing Daniel Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires province, after he agreed to name Carlos Zannini, one of her closest confidantes, his running mate. He also deferred to her on candidates for the National Assembly, which probably will include key allies of hers. Scioli leads Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri by about 9 percentage points.

Stagnant growth, annual inflation of about 25 percent and dwindling foreign reserves will force the winner to consider changes to her economic policies. Both Macri’s and Scioli’s teams have said they would negotiate with investor holdouts from the 2001 default to end a legal detente that has kept Argentina out of capital markets for more than a decade. They have also both said they would reduce subsidies on energy bills to cut a fiscal gap estimated at 7.3 percent of gross domestic product.

The difference between the two candidates appears to be in how quickly they would apply those changes, with Scioli preferring a more staggered approach to mitigate negative effects on inflation and growth. Carlos Pagni, a columnist at La Nacion newspaper, said Macri could interpret a victory as a mandate for rapid change. But if Scioli wins, Fernandez will have more control over his policies. And that could prove problematic.

“If Scioli, by trying to avoid confrontation with Cristina, takes his time to establish his leadership, I’m not sure if the market will wait for him,” Pagni said.

In 1973, Juan Domingo Peron negotiated his way back to power with his ally Hector Campora serving as a presidential placeholder. Fernandez may be hoping her party’s youth movement, named after Campora, can play a similar role for her when she leaves office in December.

Peron’s return, however, wasn’t what many of his supporters had hoped. He lurched to the right, forging an alliance with fascist death squads that culminated in a brutal dictatorship, said Federico Finchelstein, chairman of the history department at the New School for Social Research in New York.

Other attempts have failed outright. Some 15 years ago, Carlos Menem tried to use Eduardo Duhalde as a placeholder for his return to power. But Duhalde groomed Nestor Kirchner, a little-known governor of Santa Cruz province in southern Argentina.

Kirchner shrugged off Duhalde and reinforced the reach of the presidential office. Fernandez has continued that approach, maintaining, for example, an emergency economic law that allows her to bypass congressional approval when making adjustments to the budget.

As a result, the cards are now so stacked in favor of the person in the presidential Pink House that unless a new president decides to curtail his own powers, many analysts doubt that Fernandez will be a puppet master.

“It’s really an irony that the Kirchner administration, that has been so disrespectful of institutions, is now naming people to positions and expecting that the next president will respect that,” Finchelstein said. “If history prevails, then there is no reason to believe that he won’t do what the Kirchners did, and Cristina will see her power curtailed.”

Scioli has fended off repeated inquiries about his independence, saying only he will “be his own man.”
Some see Fernandez’s influence lasting. Mario Toer, a professor of Latin American politics at the University of Buenos Aires, says her backing of Scioli should be viewed as an alliance rather than a succession. The next president will have to negotiate with her, Toer said, especially in Congress, where her movement will have considerable influence.

“Scioli knows he lacks a force he can mobilize because that will remain part of Kirchnerism,” Toer said. “The emergence of a new line of policy will have to count on Cristina’s seal of approval.”

By Katia Porzecanski
September 16, 2015

*GDP warrants have missed Argentina’s overseas bond rally
*`Warrants offer an attractive risk-reward,’ BofA says

Bond investors have been snapping up Argentine bonds on optimism the nation’s next president will end a dispute with creditors. But there’s one debt security they’ve shunned: the country’s GDP warrants.

With the economy unlikely to grow enough to trigger payments on the securities anytime soon, the dollar-denominated warrants have dropped 3.3 percent in the past three months. The country’s euro warrants have fared even worse, tumbling 7.1 percent. Meanwhile, Argentina’s overseas bonds have gained 3.7 percent on average, the most in Latin America.

But keeping the warrants at arms’ length may no longer be in investors’ best interest, say Bank of America Corp. and Hapoalim Securities. They’re now recommending buying the securities as a bet that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s successor will unwind policies that have fueled inflation and kept Argentina out of international bond markets for over a decade.

“The warrants offer an attractive risk-reward and are a nice way to gain exposure to the political transition if you missed the rally,” Jane Brauer, a strategist at Bank of America, said by phone from New York.

Brauer says the slump in the warrants is in part due to the outlook for Argentina’s peso, which is down almost 10 percent this year. Coupon payments would be smaller if the exchange rate weakens further. Bank of America estimates that at 8.4 cents per dollar warrant and 8.1 per euro warrant, investors will recoup the cost of the warrants by 2019, assuming no payments are made until 2018.

“They have been unnecessarily punished because FX uncertainty has driven excess risk premium, they have a non-traditional buyer base, and they are not in the benchmark index where dedicated emerging market investors are,” Brauer said.

She estimates the fair value of the dollar warrants is about 9.7 cents on the warrant and 10.7 for the euro securities. Bank of America expects the first payment will probably occur in 2018, which could total 4.4 cents per warrant, for growth in 2017 that will rebound to 3 percent. Holders will receive another payment of 4.9 cents in 2019.

Investors in the warrants receive a payment if growth in the previous year exceeds a preset threshold and the inflation-adjusted value of the country’s gross domestic product is above the base-case scenario laid out in the prospectus. Starting this year and until the warrants mature in 2035, the threshold will be 3 percent.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect Argentine growth to fall short of the threshold until 2017, when the economy will expand 3 percent, according to the median estimate.

Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said Sept. 15 that the expansion in Argentina has picked up since the second quarter and is estimated to end the year at 2.3 percent. That would be more than five times the median growth forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Bond investors are betting the new president will end Argentina’s battle with hedge funds led by billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp., a move that would pull the nation out of default and restore Argentina’s access to international markets. U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa has blocked the country from honoring its foreign debt until the government reaches a settlement with creditors from its 2001 default.

Fernandez, who calls the investors “vultures,” has refused to comply with the ruling.

Front-runner Daniel Scioli and leading opposition candidate Mauricio Macri have both indicated they’d hold talks to end the debt dispute.

Ending the creditor battle would help “unlock foreign savings” and boost economic growth by as much as 4 percentage points, Buenos Aires-based investment bank Puente Hnos SA said in a July 23 report.

Puente strategists led by Alejo Costa said that at current price levels, every percentage-point increase in potential GDP growth would increase warrant valuations by 30 percent.

For investors “looking to gain access to Argentine assets on expectations for a quick solution of the holdout case, these GDP warrants are worth considering,” Victor Fu, a New York-based strategist at Hapoalim Securities, said by e-mail. If the economy “can grow 2.3 percent for 2015, as Kicillof said, it should raise the GDP base for the future cash flows of the warrants.”

By Jonathan Stempel
September 16, 2015

A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday rebuked the federal judge overseeing litigation stemming from Argentina’s sovereign debt default nearly 14 years ago, and threw out his expansion of one class action of bondholders suing the country.

By a 3-0 vote, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa erred in enlarging a euro-denominated bond class action to cover investors who held the bonds at any time, not just for a continuous defined period.

The appeals court ordered Griesa to make specific findings as to which bondholders are entitled to damages and how much, or else to consider awarding damages individually.

Circuit Judge Richard Wesley said the decision marked the fourth time the appeals court reviewed, and rejected, Griesa’s methods of calculating damages or defining bondholder classes.

He said the latest expansion would have made it too hard to determine who belonged in the class because the bonds are traded frequently, and because some investors may decide to “opt out,” or not join, any class action.

“Defining the precise class to which Argentina owes damages for its refusal to meet its bond payment obligations and calculating those damages have proven to be exasperating tasks,” Wesley wrote.

Wednesday’s decision is part of litigation by Argentina bondholders seeking full repayment after the country’s roughly $100 billion default at the start of 2002. Argentina defaulted again on some bonds in July 2014.

Plaintiffs led by Henry Brecher were seeking damages of about 68 million euros ($77 million) in the eurobond case.

“We’re very pleased with the court’s ruling,” Carmine Boccuzzi, a lawyer for Argentina, said in an interview. “The 2nd Circuit makes clear that plaintiffs cannot use the class mechanism to avoid their obligation to prove actual damages.”

Jason Zweig, a lawyer for the bondholders, was not immediately available for comment.

The case is Brecher v. Argentina, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals No. 14-4385.

16 September 2015

(The following statement was released by the rating agency) NEW YORK, September 16 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has affirmed Argentina’s Long-term foreign currency IDR at ‘RD’. In addition, Fitch has affirmed Argentina’s Long-term local currency IDR and Country Ceiling at ‘CCC’ and the Short-Term Foreign-Currency IDR at ‘RD’. KEY RATING DRIVERS Fitch’s affirmation of the foreign currency IDR at ‘RD’ reflects Argentina’s inability to cure the default on external market debt. The legal process related to the dispute between Argentina and certain holdout creditors that did not participate in the 2005 and 2010 exchange offers culminated in a prohibition that stipulates that Argentina could not make payments to exchanged bond holders unless payments were also made to the plaintiffs in the case. The government has not reached an agreement with holdout creditors that would allow Argentina to service its restructured debt.

Fitch does not expect a resolution in the near term given the the electoral cycle. There is considerable uncertainty regarding the timing and type of resolution with the holdouts by the incoming administration. Fitch’s affirmation of the local currency IDR at ‘CCC’ reflects Argentina’s weak and volatile macroeconomic performance, rising fiscal financing needs and limited sources of funding. Funding needs have increased due to widening fiscal deficit, and external financing sources remain limited. Fitch estimates that the national administration’s deficit (without taking into account social security (ANSES) or BCRA transfers) could rise to 7.3% of GDP in 2015, driven largely by higher spending. Although the fact that public sector entities hold 61% of government debt mitigates immediate refinancing risks, continued monetization of fiscal deficits would feed into greater macroeconomic instability.

Moreover, access to fresh sources of FX remains curtailed due to the inability of the sovereign to directly tap external markets. External vulnerability is significant given high commodity dependence, weak external liquidity (69% in 2015), limited material sources of external financing and protracted tensions in the FX market that fuel recurrent episodes of capital flight. While headline international reserves have increased since entering default in July 2014, partly explained by use of a currency swap facility with China, Fitch expects available external liquidity to remain under pressure due to rising FX interventions and the likely use of international reserves to service Boden 2015 amortization. RATING SENSITIVITIES Note that the Foreign and Local Currency IDRs do not have Rating Outlooks.

The resumption of timely debt service on defaulted bonds would lead to the upgrade of the foreign currency IDR. At such time, Fitch will review Argentina’s ratings and make an assessment based on the sovereign’s capacity to service debt, its economic fundamentals, and the remaining litigation risks. KEY ASSUMPTIONS Fitch expects China to manage a slowdown in its economy, growing by 6.8% in 2015 and 6.5% in 2016, thus providing limited upside for commodity prices. Fitch expects Brazil (an important trading partner for Argentina) to remain in recession in 2015 and downside risks have increased for 2016 growth outlook.

15 September 2015

ONE of the first foreign leaders to congratulate Jeremy Corbyn on his election as the new leader of Britain’s Labour Party on September 12th was Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Argentina’s president tweeted her government’s felicitaciones to Mr. Corbyn, “a great friend of Latin America, [who] shares, in solidarity, our demands for equality and political sovereignty.” She was referring to a long-running dispute between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands, or Malvinas, as they are known in Spanish, which lie 480km (300 miles) off the eastern coast of South America. Britain and Argentina both claim them. Unusually for a British politician, Mr. Corbyn has argued that the islands should be jointly administered. How do the countries’ respective claims compare?

In 1982 Argentina’s then military dictatorship invaded the islands in a desperate search for popularity at home. Britain recovered them after a ten-week war in which 649 Argentine and 255 British troops died, along with three Falklanders. Military defeat triggered a return to democracy in Argentina. Its subsequent governments have renounced the use of force, but still pursue a diplomatic claim to the islands. Ms. Fernandez has been particularly energetic in this. Argentina deploys two main arguments. First, according to the Foreign Ministry, in 1833 Britain “illegally occupied the islands and evicted the Argentine authorities”, preventing Argentine settlement there. Secondly, Argentina says that Britain is acting as a colonial power against the UN Charter. Britain disputes both these claims, and says there is nothing to negotiate. It argues that it has continually and legally occupied the Falkland Islands since 1833 and that their inhabitants have a right to self-determination under the UN Charter.

The islands were intermittently occupied in the 18th century by French, Spanish and British sailors but had no permanent inhabitants between 1806 and 1826. In 1820 the newly independent state of the United Provinces of the River Plate, the forerunner to Argentina, declared that it had inherited Spanish sovereignty over the islands. This claim was disputed by both Britain and the United States. Buenos Aires appointed a governor in 1829, but his small settlement was razed by an American warship two years later; his replacement was murdered by a group of Argentine convicts. Britain then occupied the islands in 1833, declaring them a Crown Colony and settling them with Scots and Welsh.

Today the Falklands are a self-governing British Overseas Territory, with 2,932 inhabitants, some of whose families have lived there for seven generations. The Falklands’ economy has been boosted by the issue of licences for fishing and by oil exploration. In March 2013 the Falklands’ government held a referendum on the territory’s political status in which 99.8% of the voters supported the status quo. Neither side will change their mind for the foreseeable future.

September 16, 2015

The Argentina Armed Forces [official website, in Spanish] has released documents revealing that Argentinian soldiers were tortured and abused by their superiors during the Falklands War in 1982. It is reported [BBC report] that many low level soldiers faced hash conditions such as being ill equipped and tortured by superiors. Soldiers reportedly endured mock executions and being placed in mass graves while tied up. The documents state that the conflict resulted in the death of 900 soldiers.

The Falkland Islands [BBC profile], called Las Islas Malvinas by Argentinians, are located in the South-West Atlantic Ocean. The dispute dates back to the 1800s when an island settlement by the newly-formed Argentina was banned by the UK. The UN ordered the two nations to reach an agreement over the territory in 1965, but after years of talks, Argentina sent troops to the island. Between April and June 1982, UK and Argentina fought a war over the territory which led to the deaths of 655 Argentinian and 255 British soldiers. Although Argentina surrendered, the countries have continued to disagree over the islands. In November 2008 the governments of the UK and the Falkland Islands announced [JURIST report] that they agreed on a new constitution for the disputed islands. In June 2012 the government of the Falkland Islands announced that it would hold a referendum [JURIST report] on its political status and the residents voted overwhelmingly to remain under British control in 2013.

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ARGENTINE UPDATE – Sep 8 & 9, 2015

10 septiembre, 2015











By Jan Cheek ,Chair of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands
September 8, 2015

On Friday 4th, Ms Cecilia Nahón, Argentina Ambassador to the United States, wrote an article for the Huffington Post, titled ‘Malvinas: All Argentina Is Saying Is Give Dialogue A Chance.’

In the article, Ambassador Nahón described how old political disputes in the United States were being solved as a result of ‘a willingness to engage in dialogue and diplomatic negotiations.’ Amb. Nahón went on to detail how the Question of the Falkland Islands was an ‘182-year old sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom’, in reference to the reassertion of British sovereignty of the Islands in 1833. Argentina refers to this as the ‘usurpation’ of the Islands, and claims that the entire Argentina population was forcibly ejected from the Islands, although records within the Argentine National Archives show this was not the case.

The Government of Argentina states regularly that its claim to the Falkland Islands runs continuously from the 1820s. It does not. The Argentine claim to Spanish succession, which was never accepted by the United Kingdom, was ended by the ‘Convention of Peace’, ratified in 1850, and for 34 years Argentina was silent over the Falklands, during which time several Argentine leaders stated that Argentina had no dispute with Britain. There was a brief flurry of letters in the 1880s but after that, the ‘claim’ to the Islands was dropped by the Government of Argentina until the 1930s. José María Ruda reignited the discussion over the so-called ‘claim’ to the Islands in 1965 with his impassioned (and inaccurate) speech to the United Nations Subcommittee III.

The Falkland Islands Government has previously worked alongside the Government of Argentina, with joint accords on a range of economic issues. One by one, and largely under a Kirchner regime, the Government of Argentina has reneged on these agreements. In the decade of Kirchnerite government, Argentina has walked away from every chance of dialogue on the Falklands.

Amb. Nahón accuses Britain of ‘militarization’ of the South Atlantic, but the military presence in the Islands is a level appropriate to deter aggression by Argentina, and is proportionate to the perceived threat. The Government of Argentine, whilst denying any military designs on the Islands, has spent the past year attempting to broker deals for fighter aircraft from Spain, Sweden, Israel, Russia and China to bolster its own forces, yet bitterly complains about infrastructure upgrades (including the construction of a new school) in the Falklands.

The right of self-determination of all peoples in enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and safeguards the inalienable right to determine one’s own political future, and any allegiances therein. We, the people of the Falkland Islands, have a right to a say in our own political future, and the United Kingdom has assured us that there can be no discussions on sovereignty with Argentina unless we, the people of the Falkland Islands, so wish. And we expressed our wish in our historic referendum in March 2013. This was internationally overseen and saw 99.8% of those who voted freely choosing to retain our current relationship with the UK.

Amb. Nahón claimed that the UK refuses to enter negotiations about issues other than sovereignty. But it is untrue. The UK has simply said that Islanders need to be involved in any discussions, and we have extended numerous invitations to talk to the Government of Argentina. These go unacknowledged. In February 2013 then- British Foreign Secretary Hague agreed to meet with the Foreign Minister of Argentina in London. Timerman refused to attend because my colleague and I, as elected members of the Falkland Islands Government, were present. The empty chair at that meeting speaks volumes about the sincerity of Argentina’s call for dialogue.

Amb. Nahón claims to seek dialogue with the United Kingdom to ‘negotiate’ over the Falkland Islands, yet the Argentine Constitution (revised in 1994) plainly states ‘the recovery of said territories [Falkland Islands, South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands] and the full exercise of sovereignty […] constitutes a permanent and unrelinquishable goal of the Argentine people.’ Constitutionally, then, Argentina cannot, and will not, settle for anything less than full control of the Falklands, and therefore any conversation about the Islands isn’t a ‘negotiation’ at all – when Argentina says ‘dialogue’ it really means ‘deliver the Falklands to us.’

The Falkland Islands Government has made it perfectly clear that we are prepared to sit down and talk with Argentina about matters of mutual interest, yet it is Argentina who consistently ignores our invitations whilst crying out for conversation.

Argentina’s disingenuous call for dialogue is in reality a call to colonise our country, seize our natural resources and deny our right to self-determination.

By Pablo Rosendo Gonzalez
September 8, 2015

*Nine out of ten provinces pledge support at meeting in Neuquen
*Candidate promises to maintain competitive domestic prices

Argentina’s ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli obtained the support of the governors of oil-producing provinces ahead of Oct. 25 elections at a summit in Neuquen province, the home of the Belgium-sized shale deposit Vaca Muerta.

Scioli, his vice presidential candidate Carlos Zannini and governors of nine out of 10 oil provinces signed a document to support the continuity of energy policies if he leads the next government starting Dec. 10. The document includes pledges to keep the benefits for shale producers, offshore drilling projects as well as conventional production in a bid to curb energy imports.

The pledge of support from governors including Neuquen and Chubut province, is a key sign of support from fellow Peronists and provincial parties in Scioli’s attempt at succeeding President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Since seizing YPF from Spain’s Repsol SA in 2012, the government has set the domestic price for oil at $77 a barrel and natural gas prices well above international levels to stimulate investment and production.

“Daniel Scioli is the guarantee to sustain the current energy policies that have made Argentina the third country in rigs in the Americas,” Chubut Governor Martin Buzzi, who heads the committee of the 10 provinces, said at the event. “We must continue producing.”

YPF’s chief executive officer Miguel Galuccio, Pan American Energy LLC’s vice president for commercial development Marcos Bulgheroni, Economy Minister Axel Kicillof and Planning Minister Julio de Vido also attended the meeting. Santa Cruz province was the only energy-producing regional government to skip the conference.

Scioli, the ruling party candidate, attracted the most votes in primaries to choose presidential candidates in August. The current governor of Buenos Aires province, Scioli had 36.7 percent support against 29.2 percent for Buenos Aires city Mayor Mauricio Macri and 17.1 percent for lawmaker Sergio Massa, according to a Management & Fit poll taken late last month.

Scioli needs 45 percent of the vote on Oct. 25 to avoid a second round or more than 40 percent with a 10 percentage point advantage over the runner-up.

By Charlie Devereux
September 8, 2015

*Fernandez has appointed 5 central bank directors in 6 months
*President Fernandez is due to leave office in December

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner replaced two central bank directors, completing a shake-up of the board just three months before she leaves office.

Waldo Jose Farias and Santiago Carnero will leave and be replaced by Juan Miguel Cuattromo and Flavia Marrodan, according to a decree published Tuesday in the Official Gazette. Farias and Carnero were asked to step down after they voted against removing HSBC executives in a tax dispute without allowing the bank to defend itself, La Nacion reported Sept. 4.

Fernandez, who cannot run for re-election after serving two consecutive terms, has appointed all eight members of the bank’s board in the past two years. The overhaul is part of a broader campaign to give her allies more power once she has left office and includes the creation of a new spy agency and reforms within the judicial system, said Sergio Berensztein, director of Berensztein, a Buenos Aires-based political consultancy.

“This isn’t an isolated incident and forms part of a strategy to retain influence beyond her mandate,” Berensztein said by phone from Washington. “We’ve never seen such a conclusive attempt to prolong an administration as we’re seeing now.”

Jesica Rey, a spokeswoman at the Economy Ministry, referred any questions to the the president’s office. Presidential spokesman Alfredo Scoccimarro wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Cuattromo is a former professor at the University of Buenos Aires who has served on the board of Grupo Galicia and also as a consultant at the World Bank. In 2013, he was appointed sub-secretary of macroeconomic programming by Economy Minister Axel Kicillof. Marrodan was named in 2013 as deputy manager of personnel at the securities regulator under Central Bank President Alejandro Vanoli.

In April, Fernandez appointed Barbara Domatto Conti, Alejandro Formento and Mariano Beltrano as directors.

Argentine bonds have returned 21.4 percent in the past year, the most in emerging markets, on speculation that a change of government in December will augur more market-friendly policies.

By Charlie Devereux
September 8, 2015

*Cash shortage may pressure government to settle with holdouts
*Advisers for election front runner acknowledge need for deal

When Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner hands over the reins in December, her successor may find a central bank running extremely low on cash. That could be good news for bondholders.

While gross reserves are $33.5 billion, after subtracting debt arrears, special drawing rights, dollars owed to importers, private deposits and a currency swap with China, the cash portion could be close to zero by year-end, according to Jefferies Group.

The silver lining for creditors is that dwindling reserves will prompt the next government to negotiate a solution to a decade-long legal battle with holdout hedge funds in order to regain access to international capital markets, said Andres Borenstein, an economist at Banco BTG Pactual. Advisers to leading presidential candidate Daniel Scioli are now publicly acknowledging the need to settle with investors led by billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp.

“Leaving aside whether there’s a political will to do it, we know that whoever comes along will need to negotiate because there are few reserves left,” Borenstein said in Buenos Aires. “If they had $100 billion in reserves there would be no hurry for the government to negotiate.”

Argentina’s dollar-denominated bonds due in 2033 have risen to their highest level in eight years after economist and adviser Miguel Bein appeared in an interview alongside Scioli and said a new government would have to negotiate with holdouts. The leading opposition candidate, Mauricio Macri, has also said he would talk with the hedge funds. The notes rose 0.9 cent to 106 cents on the dollar at 11:20 a.m. in New York.

Argentina defaulted for the second time in 13 years in 2014 after U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa blocked the nation from making interest payments to holders of restructured bonds unless it pays the holdouts in full. Fernandez’s government has refused to comply with the ruling and calls the investors vultures.

The run up to the Oct. 25 presidential election is exacerbating the shortage of dollars as the government resists a devaluation of the peso to keep real wages high for voters. The peso has weakened just 8 percent this year, lagging neighbors including Brazil to Colombia where currencies have tumbled by about 30 percent.

Argentines are taking advantage of the overvalued peso to spend abroad, adding to the drain of dollars. Spending on credit cards jumped 58 percent in July from a year earlier.

The central bank, which uses a crawling peg system to control the currency, sold $1.4 billion in the currency market last month to support the peso.

Regaining access to credit markets by negotiating a settlement with holdouts won’t be enough, said Siobhan Morden, the head of Latin America fixed income strategy at Jefferies in New York. The next government will have to carry out structural reforms such as a devaluation and the elimination of utility subsidies in order to avoid a balance of payments crisis, she said.

Negotiating with the holdouts “is a given,” Morden said. “It really raises the stakes for an adjustment because to assume that the market will lend to you is a mistake. The market will not typically lend into bankruptcy.”

The government may buy itself some time by offering a debt swap ahead of a $6.3 billion maturity on Oct. 3, said Maximiliano Castillo, director of Buenos Aires-based consultancy ACM. He estimates that a new government will assume power with gross reserves of $29 billion, or $18 billion when subtracting the amount of Chinese yuan included from the currency swap.

“The fact that there’s such little wiggle room with reserve levels is generating incentives for the next government to seek rational negotiations and look for a quick solution,” Castillo said.

8 September 2015

BUENOS AIRES, Sept 8 (Reuters) – Argentina’s ruling party presidential candidate, Daniel Scioli, on Tuesday promised to maintain financial incentives designed to bolster oil and gas production and help end the country’s reliance on energy imports if he wins October’s election.

Argentina’s next president will lead a country that sits atop some of the world’s largest untapped shale oil and gas resources, but which needs to attract an estimated $200 billion in investments over a decade to exploit the deposits.

“We will ensure that the stimulus in place for new gas and new oil continues,” stated the agreement signed by Scioli. Governors of Argentina’s 10 oil and gas producing regions and state-run energy firm YPF also signed the pledge.

“Given the volatility seen in oil markets in past months, we will establish a path for the price of oil used in the domestic market in a way that strengthens this key industry.”

President Cristina Fernandez’s government fixes the price for locally produced crude oil at about $77 per barrel, while oil currently trades below $50 on international markets. The high local price helps the earnings of producers and bolsters the tax revenues of oil and gas producing provinces.

Until the global rout on oil prices, Argentina’s domestic oil prices were far below the international price, a policy aimed at helping consumers. Oil and gas producing regions now want assurances the local price will remain above the market rate while prices remain in a trough.

Other incentives are in place. In January, the government unveiled a stimulus that guaranteed producers a maximum $3 per barrel subsidy when quarterly output exceeds a government-set base level. Exporters receive up to an additional $2 per barrel for every barrel of crude shipped abroad.

At stake in the Oct. 25 election is the direction Latin America’s No. 3 economy will take after eight years of interventionist policy under Fernandez.

Despite the incentives, state controls on the economy and unpredictable policymaking have deterred energy majors like Chevron Corp, Petronas and Total from making little more than foothold investments in Argentina’s nascent shale sector so far.

Scioli bills himself as the candidate of continuity, supporting gradual reforms toward more market-friendly policies rather than the wholesale change advocated by opposition frontrunner Mauricio Macri.

By Charles Newbery
8 September 2015

Buenos Aires (Platts)–8Sep2015/946 pm EDT/146 GMT Daniel Scioli, a front-runner to become the next president of Argentina, said Tuesday that if elected he would sustain high domestic oil prices and other policies to encourage exploration and production.

Scioli said he would “create conditions to ensure the profitability and sustainability of each project” in the sector, if he were to win the October 25 election.

Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires province, spoke after signing an agreement with the governors of the Organization of Oil Producing States, or OFEPHI, to sustain the energy policies of the ruling party in power since 2003.

The governors had been calling on him to maintain domestic oil prices at between $63/b and $77/b as a way to encourage investment in rebuilding production, after more than a decade of decline. The governors also asked for assurances that he would sustain gas prices at $7.50/MMBtu for output from new developments.

Scioli, who is running on the ruling party’s ticket, vowed “continuity” in energy policies to help the country increase production at a time of global economic uncertainty.

Martin Buzzi, the governor of Chubut and presiding head of OFEPHI, said in a statement that the agreement includes keeping oil and gas production royalties at current levels of a minimum of 12% and sustaining energy prices at levels that spur investment.

“The country’s oil policy is here to stay,” Buzzi said.

He added that the pricing policy has allowed Argentina to amass a rig fleet that’s now the third largest in the Americas after the US and Canada, and ahead of Colombia, Brazil and Mexico.

In the agreement, mention is made to keeping state-run YPF, the country’s biggest energy company, as “a powerful tool for building our energy future” through the drilling for conventional and unconventional oil and gas resources. Argentina has among the largest shale resources in the world, and YPF was the first to put them into production in a partnership with Chevron.

The goal of the agreement is to achieve “energy sovereignty,” according to its wording.

After years of keeping a lid on energy prices, the ruling party reacted to a plunge in production by taking YPF under state control in 2012 and then peeling back energy price controls and offering incentives to revive drilling.

Indeed, after global oil prices plunged in the second half of 2014, the national government, which handles pricing issues, set the price at $63/b for heavier crudes and $77/b for lighter crudes in January. Oil refiners agreed to buy at these prices in exchange for rights to gradually increase pump prices. Diesel and gasoline prices are now the second highest in Latin America.

This policy has helped turn around a more than 35% decline in oil production between 1998 and 2014 and a 20% drop in gas production between 2004 and 2014.

Oil production rose 0.1% to 532,860 b/d in the first half of 2015 compared with 532,154 b/d in the year-earlier period, according to the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute, an industry group. Over the same period, gas production rose 2.8% to 116.9 million cu m/d from 113.7 million cu m/d.

By Charles Newbery
8 September 2015

Buenos Aires (Platts)–8Sep2015/244 pm EDT/1844 GMT Petrobras Argentina Tuesday said the license for its second-biggest oil field in Argentina has expired and that legal action to secure an extension has not prospered.

The company, the seventh-biggest oil producer in Argentina, said its concession to operate Jaguel de los Machos in the south-central province of La Pampa ended Sunday, and the province declined to recognize an extension awarded by decree earlier in the year.

Petrobras Argentina said in a filing with the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange that it tired to sue the province to get the extension. But it said that the Supreme Court of Argentina said it was not within its capacities to intervene in the case. The company, a unit of Brazil’s state-led Petrobras, said while there is room to take legal action, it has had to hand over rights to develop the block to the province.

Jaguel de los Machos produces 4,600 b/d of oil and 221,000 cu m/d of gas, according to the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute, an industry group.

This means that the loss of the concession has cost Petrobras Argentina a third of its 14,000 b/d oil production and 3.5% of its 6.4 million cu m/d of gas output.

In a separate stock exchange filing, Buenos Aires-based oil producer Petroquimica Comodoro Rivadavia (PCR) said it has signed a deal to operate the block for the next year with the possibility of subsequent six-month extensions. PCR said it inked the contract with La Pampa’s state oil company Pampetrol.

Petrobras Argentina also has an operating license for the 25 de Mayo-Medanito Block in La Pampa until October 28, 2016, where it produces about 8,500 b/d of oil and 450,000 cu m/d of gas.

However, the La Pampa government has said it wants to find a new operator for that block too, probably through a tender.

In February, PCR got a 10-year extension for Medanito, its most productive block that it has been operating since 1992. As part of the deal, PCR agreed to farm in Pampetrol as a 20% partner for Medanito, starting in 2016 and to invest at least $216.25 million during the extension period.

Medanito produces around 5,300 b/d of crude and 850,000 cu m/d of gas. It is a different field than Petrobras Argentina’s 25 de Mayo-Medanito.

By Charles Newbery
8 September 2015

Buenos Aires (Platts)–8Sep2015/1019 am EDT/1419 GMT The governors of Argentina’s hydrocarbon-producing provinces will discuss oil and natural gas pricing later Tuesday with Daniel Scioli, a frontrunner to become the country’s next president, Neuquen Governor Jorge Sapag said.

“We must achieve the economic stability, increased investment and a greater flow of currency that will allow us to continue making investments in oil and gas,” Sapag said in a statement late Monday.

The governors of the Organization of Oil-Producing States (OFEPHI) will hold the meeting in Neuquen City.

They have said that they want to press on Scioli the importance of sustaining domestic oil prices at between $63/b and $77/b to encourage investment for rebuilding production after more than a decade of decline. The governors will also seek to sustain gas prices at $7.50/MMBtu for output from new developments.

“We want to ratify key points on energy for the country,” Sapag said of the meeting with Scioli.

Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires province, is a favorite to win the October 25 presidential election for the ruling party.

After a decade of declining oil and gas production, the ruling party reacted in 2012 by taking YPF, the country’s biggest energy company, under state control and then peeling back energy price controls and offering incentives to revive drilling.

Indeed, after global oil prices plunged in the second half of 2014, the national government, which handles pricing issues, set the price at $63/b for heavier crudes and $77/b for lighter crudes in January.

Oil refiners agreed to buy at these prices in exchange for rights to gradually increase pump prices. Diesel and gasoline prices are now the second highest in Latin America.

Given that refiners get most of their crude locally, this makes it easier for the government to sustain the high prices. It also helps that the biggest refiner is YPF, with a nearly 60% share of diesel and gasoline sales. YPF is using the proceeds of the higher pump prices as a major source of funding for its $6-7 billion a year investment, the bulk of which is going on exploration and production.

A focus for YPF and other companies is on developing the country’s shale resources, estimated to be among the world’s greatest.

“We need clear rules so that we do not miss out on this opportunity for growth,” Sapag said of the unconventional resources.

He added that companies have drafted plans to invest $100 billion in gas projects over the next decade, including ExxonMobil, Shell and Total. With six unconventional gas projects, Argentina “can achieve energy self-sufficiency in the next few years,” he said.

The government’s policy of high wellhead prices has rekindled drilling activities, helping to turn around a more than 35% decline in oil production between 1998 and 2014 and a 20% drop in gas production between 2004 and 2014.

Oil production rose 0.1% to 532,860 b/d in the first half of 2015 compared with 532,154 b/d in the year-earlier period, according to the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute. Over the same period, gas production rose 2.8% to 116.9 million cu m/d from 113.7 million cu m/d.

By Charles Newbery
8 September 2015

Buenos Aires (Platts)–8Sep2015/208 pm EDT/1808 GMT Refinery: Caleta Cordova, Argentina (proposed) Owner: Compania Argentina de Comodoro Rivadavia Overall capacity (b/d): 1,258 initial capacity Notes: Argentinian oil company Compania Argentina de Comodoro Rivadavia said Tuesday it plans to build a small oil refinery in southern Argentina.

The facility would have an initial crude processing capacity of 1,258 b/d, in line with other such plants in the country, the Buenos Aires-based company said in a filing with the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange.

Comodoro Rivadavia said the refinery would be built on company land in Caleta Cordova, a port city in Chubut, the country’s most productive oil province.

Instead of building from scratch, the company said it plans to purchase part of the facility from Polipetrol, a refiner in Lujan de Cuyo, in the western province of Mendoza.

Once installed, the refinery would produce diesel, fuel oil and intermediate fuel oil, as well as asphalts, the company said.

Comodoro Rivadavia declined to give the cost of the project, but said it would borrow 35% of the investment from Banco del Chubut, a bank owned by that province.

While a small refinery, it is the first such project in years in Argentina.

A number of companies built small refineries in the 2000s, encouraged by a government incentive program designed to expand refining capacity as a growing economy and rising car sales pushed up demand for diesel and gasoline. But several of the refineries ran into financial trouble as the government also put caps on product prices, making it harder to compete against imports also benefiting from tax breaks.

The situation started to change in 2014 when the government allowed refiners to raise prices in line with a policy of keeping domestic crude prices at between $63/b and $77/b, now higher than international reference prices. It also put a limit on diesel and gasoline imports in another bid to encourage oil production and refining.

As a result, Argentina went from having among the cheapest product prices in Latin America to the second highest, with gasoline prices averaging $1.36/liter, according to the latest data of Source: Company





4. ARGENTINA: COUNTRY OUTLOOK (Economist Intelligence Unit – ViewsWire)

( The Washington Post)


By Hugh Bronstein
September 9, 2015

Brazil’s popular but scandal-weary former leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva endorsed Argentina’s ruling party presidential candidate on Wednesday, shoring up Daniel Scioli’s credentials with the political left a month and a half before the election.

Scioli, governor of Buenos Aires, is from the same party as outgoing President Cristina Fernandez. He usually presents himself as more moderate than she, but Wednesday was an exception when he appeared at a rally with Fernandez and Lula.

“This is a state that is present in places where problems cannot be resolved by the markets,” Scioli said in introducing Lula, whose image has been dented this year by scandals involving his party.

Scioli normally strikes a less ideological tone while campaigning.

Fernandez, preceded as president by her late husband Nestor Kirchner, is part of a leftist Latin American bloc once led by Lula and the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. She is barred from seeking a third consecutive term in the Oct. 25 election.

“I hope that what started with the 2003 election of Kirchner, and that continued with the two elections that followed, can be concluded by electing once again the political program that transformed Argentina,” Lula, a gravely-voiced one-time factory worker, said.

He is credited with strengthening Brazil’s social safety net while allowing the country’s markets to flourish during his 2003 to 2011 administrations. Economic struggles under his hand-picked successor Dilma Rousseff have dulled some of Lula’s shine, but he remains the country’s most influential politician.

Even so, a corruption probe into Brazil’s state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, is straining Lula’s Workers’ Party.

Scioli promises to govern in a way reminiscent of Lula’s glory days. The governor has defended Fernandez’s interventionist economic policies and promised to continue her most popular welfare programs while he advocates gradual reforms toward more open markets.

Scioli is first in the opinion polls versus opposition leader Mauricio Macri, the business-friendly mayor of Buenos Aires. Scioli gives few details about his platform, but his aides use words like “flexibility” and “pragmatism” to say how his policies would differ from Fernandez’.

By Maximiliano Rizzi
9 September 2015

BUENOS AIRES, Sept 9 (Reuters) – Soy seed sales in Argentina are down as much as 40 percent compared with last year as tight finances prompt farmers to use up their seed stocks or buy on the cheaper black market, one of the world’s leading producers of enhanced soybeans said on Wednesday.

The decline comes even as farmers in Argentina, the world’s No. 1 exporter of soymeal, are expected to plant more soy than in last year’s record harvest as they shift away from corn.

Sagging international soy prices and high interest rates on bank loans because of rampant inflation are making it harder for farmers in Argentina to raise funds to purchase seeds.

Chicago Board of Trade November soybean futures have fallen 17 percent from their summer peaks. Prices bottomed out at the lowest September price for the new-crop soybean futures contract since 2006.

“This year, how to finance seed purchases is more important than the actual cost of the seed,” said Obdulio San Martin, regional commercial manager at Don Mario. The company says it had a 35 percent market share in South America in 2014.

Planting of the 2015/16 soy crop begins later this month.

In order to reduce outlays, San Martin said farmers were eating into seed reserves or buying on the black market, where farmers avoid paying royalties to companies like Monsanto Co , which develop genetically modified seeds.

Underscoring the financing squeeze facing farmers, nearly all wanted to pay for this year’s seeds after the crop is harvested, whereas four years ago they typically paid for half the seeds at the time of planting, San Martin said.

Corn seed sales were down by a similar figure, he said. A strong El Nino weather pattern in the final three months of 2015 is expected to start dumping torrential rains on Argentina’s grains belt from October, deterring farmers from planting the relatively high-cost grain.

Farmers are also looking ahead with uncertainty to October’s presidential election. The leading opposition candidate, Mauricio Macri, says he would abolish export quotas on corn and wheat. Ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli, who leads polls, has yet to outline his farm policy platform.

“We expect a sharp fall in corn seed sales, unless we see a change in the macro-economic environment or agricultural policy,” San Martin said.

8 September 2015

The government of Argentina’s La Pampa province forced Brazilian national oil company Petrobras to relinquish the Jagüel de los Machos E&P concession, the firm said in a securities filing.

Despite having granted Petrobras a 10-year extension for the license earlier in the year, the local legislature apparently changed its mind and voted to hand the concession over to provincial state-run energy firm Pampetrol.

The Petrobras concession expired September 6, after which the extension was supposed to have taken effect.

Instead, local oil company Petroquímica Comodoro Rivadavia (PCR) will now operate the license and pay royalties to Pampetrol, under an agreement signed by the two firms.

Pampetrol – which is to say, the provincial government – will receive three times as much in royalties under the new agreement as it did from Petrobras, which had operated the concession since 1990, according to local paper El Diario de La Pampa.

Another Petrobras-held concession in the province, 25 de Mayo-Medanito SE, will expire in October 2016.

As with Jagüel de los Machos, local authorities approved – and will now rescind – a 10-year extension of 25 de Mayo-Medanito SE once it expires.

PCR will operate Jagüel de los Machos until October 2016, when the local government will re-auction both concessions, the paper said.

The revocation of the Petrobras extensions, while good for the province’s coffers, epitomizes a common complaint among foreign operators in Argentina, which is that the so-called rules of the game are often unclear and subject to change.

The provincial governments are legally considered the owners of Argentina’s mineral resources and granted a great deal of autonomy in the awarding of hydrocarbon concessions – especially when compared to other oil-producing countries in the region, where the tender processes are more centralized and transparent.

Jagüel de los Machos accounts for half of La Pampa’s hydrocarbon royalties, according to the paper. Petrobras was Argentina’s sixth-leading oil and third-leading natural gas producer in June, according to data from the national energy department.

4. ARGENTINA: COUNTRY OUTLOOK (Economist Intelligence Unit – ViewsWire)
8 September 2015


POLITICAL STABILITY: With the general election scheduled for October 26th, the political outlook remains clouded by persistent economic weakness. Currency depreciation pressure has required ever-tighter foreign-exchange and import controls, and wage demands have skyrocketed amid rampant inflation. Partly reflecting ongoing economic turmoil, the election contest is shaping up to be one of the closest since the economic crisis of 2001-02. In this context–and given the country’s strong tradition of protest and powerful unions–risks to political stability will be high in the run-up to the election. This was evident in elections in Tucumán province in late August, where several dozen ballot boxes were burned and violent protests broke out amid claims of voter fraud. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s baseline forecast is that a more market-friendly administration will take office in December 2015, and that it work to reduce economic distortions. However, the adjustment process will be a difficult one, involving politically unpopular austerity measures, including a scaling back of fiscal expenditure. The risk of social unrest will therefore remain significant for much of the forecast period.

ELECTION WATCH: The presidential race ahead of the election in October is a close one, between the mayor of the capital, Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, and the governor of Buenos Aires province, Daniel Scioli. Mr Macri is the well-known founder and leader of the centre-right opposition Propuesta Republicana (Pro) party; Mr Scioli is a pragmatic, popular politician who has managed to remain a part of the ruling Frente para la Victoria (FV, a faction of the Peronist party), despite tricky relations with the president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Mr Scioli has emerged from the August primaries as the frontrunner (and we assume he will win), but Mr Macri remains in a fairly close second place, having secured some crucial electoral alliances with centre-left parties that will give him the nationwide presence that he currently lacks (his Pro party is popular only in the capital). Mr Scioli has the backing of the president, which should help to cement his appeal among the 30% of voters that form the FV’s core support base. However, Mr Scioli earned Ms Fernández’s endorsement (and the benefits of incumbency, which are important in Argentina’s clientelist political system) by naming one of her closest allies as his vice-presidential running-mate. This could hamper Mr Scioli’s campaign, which has until now been aimed at attracting centrist voters by presenting him as a moderate consensus-seeker. Mr Macri, meanwhile, has chosen a fellow Pro member as his running-mate. This risks alienating voters outside the Pro’s Buenos Aires stronghold, but Mr Macri is betting that by refusing to ally with dissident Peronists he will be better able to present himself as a candidate of change not tainted by clientelism.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: The Fernández government is looking to strengthen ties with China as it seeks new sources of foreign direct investment debt finance, and has sealed a series of investment accords with the country in recent months that should cement China’s position as a strategic partner. On top of these investment deals, in mid-2014 China agreed an US$11bn, three-year currency-swap arrangement that has bolstered the foreign reserves and given the government a lifeline as it seeks to avoid a currency crisis. Meanwhile, relations with the US remain at a low ebb following last year’s sovereign default, which was the consequence of Argentina’s failure to abide by the terms of a New York court ruling. Default renders essentially useless recent attempts to resolve a series of disputes in order to access external credit. Among other things, these efforts included an agreement with the Paris Club to restructure defaulted bilateral debt and the resolution of a series of claims involving the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The Fernández administration has now abandoned such efforts, but we assume that the incoming administration will work from 2016 to exit default (by arriving at a deal with holdout creditors) and normalise relations with creditor countries, suggesting improved relations with the US and Europe in the medium term.

POLICY TRENDS: We have long considered a substantial tightening of macroeconomic policy necessary to reduce inflation, improve external competitiveness and avoid an eventual balance-of-payments crisis. However, the Fernández administration is clearly reluctant to make these adjustments, which involve difficult austerity measures. With elections approaching and t
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4 septiembre, 2015







By Juan Pablo Spinetto and Charlie Devereux
September 1, 2015

*He has met candidates and president ahead of elections
*Wants to ensure peaceful handover of power in December

The leading candidate to be Argentina’s next president has pledged to create a people’s ministry of economy to “fulfill Pope Francis’ dream.” His main opponent has met twice with Francis in Rome.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has visited the pope six times in his two years in office.

It is no surprise that Argentine politicians, facing a first round of elections on October 25, want to bask in the glow of the planet’s most influential Argentine and Roman Catholic. Perhaps more noteworthy is the way this pope seems to be playing along, offering his image and blessing to the cause of Argentine democracy.

“It is the pope’s way of guaranteeing a peaceful handover of power,” said Jorge Castro, director of the Institute of Strategic Planning in Buenos Aires, noting that political transitions in Argentina have usually brought crises.

While he has neither returned to his homeland since assuming the papacy in 2013 — despite visiting neighbors Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay — nor favored any candidate, Francis has embraced numerous visits from fellow Argentines, including those with a political tinge.

Falklands Dialogue

Last month, at a weekly public gathering, an activist thrust into his hands a sign that called for dialogue between Argentina and the U.K. over the Falkland Islands, which belong to Britain but are claimed by the Argentines. The pope was photographed holding the small poster and smiling. President Fernandez tweeted the photo.

A spokesman for the Pope quickly sought to quash the attempt to link him to the cause, saying people often gave Francis things at such gatherings and he had no idea what the sign was at the time.

By his own admission, Francis finds it hard to abstain when he thinks his involvement can make a difference on a subject close to his heart. He has supported dialogue in disputes such as the one between Turkey and Armenia and the U.S. and Cuba.

In the Falklands case, though, advocating dialogue might be seen as taking sides. The U.K. sees such a call as an effort to open a closed case: There is nothing to talk about.


The pope has publicly acknowledged the risk of being exploited by political causes and figures.
“I have to say it, sometimes I’ve felt used by the country’s politics – by Argentine politicians asking for an audience,” Francis said in an interview with Mexico’s Televisa in March.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the pope, then known as Jose Bergoglio, didn’t shy away from involving himself in Argentina’s abrasive politics. He criticized Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner for failing to tackle poverty. In 2010 he led protests against her proposal to legally recognize same-sex marriage.

When he worked across the square from Argentina’s presidential palace, the pope had trouble getting an audience with Fernandez, seeing her three times in six years, never in private.

Smooth Transition

Now he’s come under fire from some in Argentina’s media for meeting with her so often, a gesture that some see as an endorsement of her government and party in this election cycle.

The pope actually thanked Argentine journalist Alfredo Leuco for his frankness after he wrote an open letter saying that for Fernandez, “being able to show herself at your side is a big help for her.”

It may be that for Francis a bit of political exploitation of his image is a small price to pay to achieve his objectives of ensuring a smooth transition of power on Dec. 10. Analysts say he is making a difference.
“All of Argentina’s political cycles in the past 40 years have ended in a state of crisis and this time that’s not the case,” Castro, the political analyst, said. “Without a doubt one of the elements that has allowed for a transition without a crisis is the presence of Pope Francis.”

Polarizing Effect

Francis has succeeded in bringing the main candidates together, after a fashion. Daniel Scioli, who received the most votes in primaries last month, invited Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, his main opponent, to the launch of an exhibition on the pope at a book fair in Buenos Aires last year. He attended.

The pope’s main concern seems to be to bring an end to the polarizing effect Fernandez and her late husband exerted over Argentine politics, said Enrique Zuleta Puceiro, a pollster and political analyst. By setting aside their fractious past and forging a friendship with Fernandez, he’s played a subtle hand in changing the political climate in Argentina, he said.

“He understands that his voice reaches a long way in Argentina,” Zuleta Puceiro said. “There’s a rhetoric of collaboration in the air in Argentina that’s replaced the rhetoric of conflict that characterized a good part of the last ten years.”

By Charlie Devereux
September 1, 2015

*HSBC’s Argentine unit told to remove CEO and one director
*HSBC accused of helping capital flight by wealthy Argentines

Argentina’s central bank revoked the licenses of two top executives at HSBC Holdings Plc’s local unit, including the chief executive officer, arguing they had failed to prevent clients from laundering funds and evading taxes.

Gabriel Martino, the bank’s CEO, and Miguel Angel Estevez, a director, didn’t adequately manage risks at the institution or implement proper internal and external controls, the central bank said. HSBC must inform authorities of its plans to replace them within 24 hours.

Martino “didn’t direct the necessary actions to mitigate and address adequately the risk of prevention of money laundering and financing of terrorism,” the central bank said in the statement.

HSBC allegedly helped clients hide assets abroad to avoid paying taxes through shell companies and using legal advisers and lawyers, according to a government presentation released to the media in November. Argentines held as many as 4,000 accounts at HSBC’s Geneva branch, with only about 125 having declared funds, the presentation showed. HSBC has denied wrongdoing.

“HSBC Argentina continues to operate normally in the country,” spokeswoman Lyssette Bravo said in an e-mailed statement. The company “complies with the laws and regulations that govern its activity in the country and will continue cooperating” with the justice system and regulators.

‘Repatriate’ Funds

The bank created a platform to allow clients to evade taxes by funneling funds to Swiss accounts worth as much as $3.5 billion, tax chief Ricardo Echegaray said at a press conference today in Buenos Aires.

Echegaray said he sent a letter to the central bank on July 17 asking for the board to review the status of the executives.

“The central bank measure is very positive, we see it as a very healthy decision,” Echegaray said.

“Perhaps the decision will prompt the bank to come to the tax agency to resolve this problem. They have to repatriate $3.5 billion.”

The U.K. bank in June agreed to pay 40 million Swiss francs ($42 million) to close an investigation by Geneva prosecutors into allegations of money laundering at its Swiss private banking unit.

The central bank in April removed Citibank Argentina’s CEO from his post after the bank “ignored” local laws governing repayments on sovereign debt in a dispute with so-called holdouts led by billionaire Paul Singer.

By Juliana Castilla
1 September 2015

BUENOS AIRES, Sept 1 (Reuters) – Argentina’s leading presidential candidate Daniel Scioli would seek to increase investment in mining by ensuring tax stability for foreign companies eager to exploit the country’s vast mineral resources, a key campaign advisor said on Tuesday.

Hugo Nielson, head of the Latin American Mining Organization and an advisor to Buenos Aires province Governor Scioli, said policy predictability would attract investment in Argentina’s gold, silver and copper fields. He said Argentina has a law ensuring taxes don’t rise on specific projects, but the law has not always been applied.

“The mining investment law must be ratified to guarantee tax stability,” he said in an interview. “You should not be able to add one single tax to a project once it is approved.”

Scioli is a member of the party of outgoing President Cristina Fernandez, whose economic controls have scared off foreign investment. He has been leading the opinion polls ahead of the Oct. 25 presidential vote.

He has pledged to gradually change some policies while retaining the advances in social welfare made by Fernandez during her eight years in power.

Argentina taxed mining projects at a rate of 38 percent in 2013, the latest year for which data was available from the local CAEM mining industry chamber. That rate is much higher than the 20.4 percent rate in Chile and 12 percent in Peru.

“Mining could attract investment immediately because there are about 10 projects ready to go but just waiting for Argentina to send the right signal,” Nielson said.

He mentioned Brazilian company Vale, which pulled out of a potassium mining project in 2012 after failing to get tax concessions from the Argentine government. The company had asked for tax breaks as global potash prices dropped, and to help ease soaring costs it attributed to high inflation and the controlled exchange rate in Argentina.

Analysts say consumer prices are rising at close to 30 percent. Scioli has vowed to cut inflation to single digits by the end of his first term. Fernandez is barred from running for a third term in October.

Nielson, who analyzes mining at Scioli’s DAR (Desarollo Argentina) think-tank, said luring investment would be a top priority for the governor, who got 38 percent of the Aug. 9 open primary vote versus Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires whose coalition captured 30 percent.

Nielsen said Scioli would bring provincial governments together to ensure that local regulations do not discourage mining projects that are environmentally sound.

By Andrew V. Pestano
September 1, 2015

There are more than 400 people who were abducted as children yet to be located.

BUENOS AIRES, Sept. 1 (UPI) — A woman in Argentina has been identified through DNA testing as a child abducted from left-wing political prisoners during the country’s military dictatorship.

The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo group was founded in 1977 with the aim of finding stolen children who were illegally adopted during the military government of Argentina between 1976 and 1983.

There are still more than 400 people who were abducted as children yet to be identified, but 117 have been located so far.

The woman found recently, identified as Grandchild No. 117, now knows her true origins. She was born in 1978 and was the daughter of Walter Hernán Domínguez and Gladys Cristina Castro, communist activists and members of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party who were arrested in 1977.

In 1976, a coup d’état in Argentina established a military junta called the National Reorganization Progress, headed by Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla, that ruled until 1983.

María Assof de Domínguez and Angelina Catterino, the two grandmothers of No. 117, have long-searched for answers to the fate of their children and of their grandchild.

“We have waited for this day for years,” Catterino said at a news conference on Monday.

Assof said she remembered how she and Catterino often took to the streets to look for the granddaughter whom they had never met.

“We were just housewives,” Assof said through tears. “I was forced to come to Buenos Aires for the first time in my life to look for my son.”

Their granddaughter was raised by civilians who had close ties to officials of the military dictatorship. Identification for her began in 1994, when a report surfaced that a baby mysteriously appeared in the home of a couple in the city of Mendoza at the height of military rule.

“We don’t know what her name is yet,” Assof added. “But we want to tell her that she has several cousins and uncles. We want her to feel happy. That’s our only wish.”

Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo released a video of the announcement by group leader Estela Barnes de Carlotto, at which Catterino and Assof were present.

By Richard Lough
September 1, 2015

(Reuters) – Argentina’s central bank on Tuesday ordered HSBC Argentina to name a new president and vice president within 24 hours, accusing the bank of failing to establish necessary controls to prevent tax evasion and money laundering.

Argentine authorities locked horns with HSBC in November when they charged the bank with helping more than 4,000 clients evade taxes by stashing their money in secret Swiss bank accounts.

HSBC rejected the charge, but Argentina said in March it wanted HSBC to repatriate $3.5 billion that Argentine tax authorities said the bank had moved offshore.

The central bank said on Tuesday that HSBC’s president, Gabriel Martino, “had not directed the necessary measures to mitigate and adequately address the prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities.”

HSBC has consistently said it respected Argentine law.

“HSBC Argentina continues to operate normally in the country,” it said in a statement, adding that it “will continue to cooperate with the justice system and regulators.”

Ricardo Echegaray, head of Argentina’s AFIP tax agency, called the central bank’s move “positive”. He said the bank’s clients who had moved money abroad through secret channels should accept criminal liability and pay the taxes owed.

“They will have to recognize that together with Martino, and the HSBC authorities here in Argentina, they looked to cheat Argentina, to move funds abroad that they had never declared and on which they had never paid taxes,” Echegaray told a news conference.

Argentina’s central bank has the authority to revoke the licenses of officials who legally represent commercial banks before the financial regulator.

Europe’s largest bank faces probes in several countries of allegations it helped clients dodge taxes.

By Belén Marty
September 1, 2015

Fraud Allegations in Tucumán Incite Appeals for Electoral Reform

In response to allegations of electoral fraud in the northwestern province of Tucumán on Sunday, August 24, the presidential candidates representing Argentina’s opposition have proposed the country resume using electronic ballots in future elections.

Argentineans have successfully used electronic ballots twice this year during the mayoral election in Buenos Aires in July.

Opposition leaders made the call for changes in the voting system on Thursday, August 27, following accusations of fraud in the election for governor in Tucumán, which was marred by violent clashes between protesters and police and the burning of ballot boxes.

“In light of the recent irregularities registered in local and national elections, this change is urgent, and aims to provide real transparency and efficiency to the most important act of all modern democracies: the elections,” said the Radical Civic Union (UCR) in a press release.

National Electoral Director Alejandro Tullio told local newspaper La Nación that making a change to the electoral system during an election year would be a “huge irregularity.”

Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández, who is currently running for governor of Buenos Aires, said he was unaware of the allegations of fraud in Tucumán and is opposed to making any changes to the voting system so close to the election.

“Do you know any place where the voting system was changed only 50 days ahead of an election?” he questioned. “This is one of the many lies [the opposition tells] to appear as if they are serious and concerned; they lose the election, and then they do this pantomime.”

In a rare show of unity for the Argentinean opposition, presidential candidates running against the ruling coalition held a press conference on Wednesday, August 26, to express their concern over the situation in Tucumán. The candidates also asked the government to guarantee transparency in all future elections.

Sergio Angelini, chairman of the Grupo MSA, the company which provided the electronic voting system in Salta and Buenos Aires, says there is “no chance” of implementing an electronic ballot by October’s presidential election. Angelini says there is not enough time to adequately train people to oversee the process.

“It would be a qualified vote, because there would be people that understand the system and others who do not,” he said.

Election Fraud Claims

Angry residents in Tucumán, who claim the government manipulated the election results, took to the streets on Sunday, August 30, for the seventh consecutive day of protests. Demonstrators are demanding a new election, while the defeated opposition candidate for governor, José Cano, is asking for an annulment of the results.

Cano claims two employees of the state-run mail company Correo Argentino, which is tasked with distributing election materials, have admitted to using strategies that altered the outcome of the election.

Election officials are currently recounting ballots and expect to have definitive results by mid-September. As of Monday, August 31, officials have reviewed 378 ballot boxes, and have Cano in the lead with 47.28 percent of the vote, five points ahead of ruling-party candidate Juan Manzur.

Violent Protests

Protesters clashed with police on Monday, August 24, in Tucumán, after the preliminary results of the election revealed a landslide victory for Manzur with 55 percent of the vote.

Police Chief Dante Bustamante says protesters acted aggressively and security forces “followed protocol.”

“During that so-called peaceful demonstration, three police officers were injured. So, what peaceful protest are you talking about?” he said.

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ARGENTINE UPDATE – Aug 10, 2015 (bis)

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