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The president feuds with Buenos Aires’ mayor during Argentina’s bicentennial. The DNA of a leading publisher’s adopted children is investigated. A squabble breaks out over oil in the Falklands. A U.S. judge freezes Argentine assets as investors fail to embrace debt restructuring. Argentine soccer fans are arrested in South Africa, and Maradona promises a naked streak if his team wins.
Top News: Argentina threw itself one heck of a party last month to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its independence from Spain. Avenida 9 de Julio transformed into a birthday promenade, where thousands gathered for parades, star-studded concerts, and fireworks.
The remodeling of the Teatro Colon, Argentina’s opera house, was one of the center pieces of bicentennial celebrations, though the opera house itself set the stage for some classic Argentine political drama. President Cristina Fernandez refused to attend the grand opening after Buenos Aires’s mayor, Mauricio Macri, derided her husband at a rally. It was a grand opportunity for grand standing: Macri is likely to run for president next year, while Kirchner’s scored points among working class voters who see the remodeling of the Teatro as a symbol of elitism.
In another ongoing Argentine drama, the adopted children of Argentina’s leading newspaper publisher were forced by court order to submit underwear and other clothing for genetic testing (there was even a car chase). Marcela and Felipe Noble Herrera, are suspected by human rights groups to be children of victims killed during the military dictatorship. If their DNA samples match those of victims at the National Genetics Bank, Ernestina Herrera de Noble, their mother — a well-known political foe of President Cristina Fernandez — could face prison.
A possible trade war is brewing, as cargoes of French cheese, Brazilian corn, Italian ham, Mexican beer, and other imported foods face delays while Argentina reviews the “competitiveness” of the national market. Brazil, Argentina’s competitor in South American food exports, is particularly irritated, but many other countries are complaining. This comes on the heels of Argentina’s trade war with China over soy bean oil and anti-dumping measures.
Argentina’s diplomatic dispute with the United Kingdom is set to escalate, with British oil explorations in the Falkland Islands declaring “significant potential” for medium grade oil reserves. Argentina, which fought a war in 1982 with Britain over the islands, has been restricting shipping between the South Atlantic islands and the mainland in retaliation for what it deems an incursion of its territorial waters.
Meanwhile, Argentina’s defense minister unexpectedly announced that nuclear powered submarines could be patrolling Argentina’s national waters beginning in 2015.
Yet natural gas security has been on everyone’s mind as the Argentine government has started rationing natural gas as winter in the southern hemisphere sets in. The government has diverted gas supplies, prioritizing residential users, leaving 15 industrial users as well as Uruguay and Chile out in the cold.
Yet that didn’t help Argentina convince its creditors to give it a second chance. A little over half of Argentina’s creditors have agreed to swap defaulted bonds for new debt. That’s short of the 90 percent buy-in that Argentina was hoping for to return to international credit markets. The much anticipated debt swap had the tragic misfortune of timing with Greece’s debt woes and investors were leery.
Adding to the lack of credit confidence, a US judge froze $2.43 billion in Argentine assets at the behest of class action plaintiffs seeking repayment for the 2001 default.
Argentina tightened foreign exchange rules, in an effort to combat money laundering and tax evasion. Analysts say the new regulations may be a veiled attempt for Argentina to protect its foreign currency reserves. Meanwhile, Argentina plans to provide $2 billion in low cost loans to local businesses to boost economic development and bottlenecks in production according to Argentina’s Centaral Bank President.
Elsewhere: With the World Cup less than a week away, elsewhere is South Africa in Argentina. This soccer feverish nation is considered one of the top three contenders.
Argentine soccer fans are notoriously passionate. Fandom here is literally referred to as an illness. Fans have already been arrested in South Africa and the tournament hasn’t even started!
Ten Argentine soccer hooligans were arrested in Johanassberg’s international airport and deported to Angola. South African officials say that, “intelligence indicated the men would commit acts of public disorder” and violence with opposing teams. That’s par for the course soccer fever back home, but not going to fly in South Africa.
Meanwhile Diego Maradona, coach of the national team and arguably one of Argentina’s most ill, swore to streak naked through the center of Buenos Aires if Argentina wins the World Cup.