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The vanguard of same-sex marriage

As Argentina becomes the first country to allow gay marriage, couples across the country exchange vows. A polar cold snap wreaks havoc across the continent. Maradonna cries betrayal after losing his coaching job. Egypt liberalizes trade with Argentina. And prisoners escape from a cash-strapped jail that used a dummy in its guard towers.

Top News: Argentina became the first Latin American nation to allow same sex marriage. After a marathon 14-hour debate in the Senate, the federal law passed on July 15th.  The bill gives views same-sex couples equal under the law granting them  the rights to marry, adopt children, inheritance, and access to health insurance.   

The following week, in a room filled with activists changing "equality," President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner signed the bill into law and said, "In a few years this debate will be absolutely anachronistic."


And the week after that, a slew of couples started tying knots across the country. The first were Jose Luis Navarro, 54, and Miguel Angel Calefato, 65, in the civil registry of Santiago del Estero, where the official used a pen to cross out "man and woman" on the marriage license and wrote in "contracting parties." Hours later another couple in Buenos Aires wed and more weddings are planned in the coming weeks. Mexico City's Tourism Secretary offered the first couple to marry under the new Argentine law a free Cancun honeymoon. 


Among the first to marry in Argentina was a gay couple from Chile. Although foreigners won't legally benefit from Argentine's marriage laws, many here believe the new marriage law will boost gay tourism in Argentina.   Gay tourism represents 15 percent of global tourism. Many hope the new law will help other Latin American countries in the region follow suit. In Chile, the head of the Socialist party announced his plan to sponsor a  bill similar to Argentina's. 


Meanwhile, weird weather spread across the southern cone. A polar freeze brought snow to over half of Argentina's provinces as well as parts of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. In Argentina, the freeze was blamed in  over 40 deaths from hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning.


The cold snap left thousands of travelers stranded in the Argentine capital and  put record demands on gas and electricity, but its long-term effects will be felt at the grocery store. The deep freeze in the agricultural regions killed both cattle and crops. Prices for fresh fruit and vegetables are expected to rise


After a seven-year pollution controversy, Argentina and Uruguay have agreed to a joint environmental monitoring program along the Uruguay RiverJuly marked the first month in three years that traffic between Uruguay and Argentina flowed freely across the bridge linking the two countries. Argentine environmentalists had blockaded the bridge between the two countries alleging a Finnish paper mill on the Uruguayan side was polluting the river. Last April, the International Court of Justice ruled that the plant was not polluting the river, but recommended both countries agree to a joint monitoring system.   


The Diego Maradona coaching novela (sniffle) comes to a close after the Argentine Football Association decided not to renew his contract. The AFA executive committee claimed Maradona rejected their requests to change his staff and would not extend Maradona's tenure. In classic response, Maradona claimed hey was"lied to" and "betrayed" by  AFA President Julio Grondona and national team manager, Carlos Bilardo.  Interim coach Sergio Batista is rumored to be his replacement. Yet no worries, Diego might just have a job in Venezuela.     


Money: The latest on Argentina's  "default" credit rating: it's gone! For the first time since 2001, Fitch Ratings removed the "restricted-default" rating on the Argentina's sovereign debt and upgraded it to a speculative-grade "B" rating, with a stable outlook.


During the Mercosur Presidential summit this week, Argentina and Egypt will be signing a new free trade agreement, along with Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. In fact, Egypt will be attending the Mercosur summit in Argentina and will become Mercosur's first non-Latin American member. And it's a good group to be a member of. Mercosur trade has soared to a total of $41 billion among its original four members, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Still there is internal strife between its two leading members, Argentina and Brazil. Argentina has been "unofficially" banning certain Brazilian imports. We'll see whether everyone plays nice this week. 


Elsewhere: In the World Professional Boxing Federation championship, Argentina's Hector Velazco got knocked out by Ghanian boxer, Brimah Kamoko, popularly know as Bukom Banku. Not everyone in Argentina noticed, but Ghanians were pretty excited. 


But some Argentine prison guards did notice that two men escaped from jail in Neuquén, but it took awhile.  Facing a severe staff shortage, the prison had resorted to using a dummy, made with a soccer ball and a prison officer's cap, to staff its prison towers.  They even named the dummy "Wilson" like the volleyball friend Tom Hanks's character constructs in "Cast Away." Prison staff told the Diario Rio Negro newspaper that they hope the incident will alert attention to their lack of resources. Only two  of the15 guard towers can be staffed at a given time and the prison's video surveillance system has been broken for months.