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Crime and punishment

The Argentine government charges media owners with crimes against humanity. Obama praises the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Students protest while spring fever breaks into a rather rude spring awakening. And yes, Diego Maradona is still in the headlines.

 

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Last week the Kirchner government charged the country's leading newspaper owners — directors of Clarin Group, Ernestina Herrera de Noble y Hector Magnetto, and the director of La Nacian, Bartolome Mitre — with crimes against humanity. President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner presented a 191-page report saying the newspapers were illegally acquired by the coerced 1976 purchase of Papel Prensa, during the military dictatorship. The CEO of the Clarin Group, who is part of an ongoing feud with the Kirchners over control of the media, said the government is manipulating the facts. The president recently submitted a bill to Congress to declare newspaper print a "national interest" and give the government management over Papel Prensa.

While Kirchner maintains her opposition to media monopolies in Argentina, she doesn't have any problem with her own brand of monopoly on public buildings in Buenos Aires. There's been a bit of grumbling since the government decided to put new posters on all public buildings, featuring the image of Kirchner in a style that Clarin says mirrors a historical picture of Eva Peron.

Meanwhile, the president tried to make her mark in New York at the U.N. assembly. She criticized both the U.K. and the U.N. Security Council for lack of progress on the dispute for oil in the Falkland Islands. She also criticized the Iranian government for failing to extradite suspects in the AMIA bombings for trial in Buenos Aires and proposed they be brought to trial in a third country.

President Barack Obama's speech to the assembly also brought Argentina into the U.N. mix when he praised "the mothers of the disappeared who spoke out against the Dirty War," which Kirchner promptly posted on her new Twitter account.

Back home in Argentina, thousands of young Argentines are still protesting the poor state of schools across the country. For the last two months, students have taken over schools with teachers now joining the rebellion to fix "abysmal conditions, including a lack of heating gas, poor electrical systems, leaky ceilings and broken windows," among other problems. Much of the anger is directed toward Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, who handles financing of high schools.

After the coldest winter in decades, the city of Buenos Aires invited youth to celebrate the coming of spring in the parks of Buenos Aires. But the celebration went horribly wrong with more than 74 people injured, including two pregnant women who were robbed and assaulted, one gunshot victim, and a 20-year-old who was hospitalized with alcohol poisoning. The majority of injuries seem to have been the result of gang violence that then caused stampedes.

Money:

The Argentine economy is on steroids, but generating inflation. Growth is expected to accelerate to 9.5 percent this year, its fastest pace since 1991. The Argentine peso's record low against the Brazilian real and the U.S. dollar is boosting exports of cars and wheat to neighboring Brazil, but fanning domestic inflation. Goldman Sachs estimates inflation could reach 25 percent this year, the second highest in the world after Venezuela.

In a bid to beat that inflation, Argentines are stepping up purchases of cars and televisions, but the middle classes are bearing the burden as salaries have failed to keep up with the increased cost of living.

A U.S federal appeals court upheld steep interest rates owed on millions of dollars of Argentine bonds held by an American company. The ruling is the latest win in a wave of cases brought by holders of Argentina's defaulted debt seeking to collect on Argentine bonds and seize Argentine assets.

Meanwhile, Argentina's president said last week that Argentina has no pressing need to sell bonds on international capital markets as the government taps the central bank’s foreign reserves to pay its debts.

Elsewhere:

Uruguay is now officially the world's biggest beef-eater, as beef consumption has slumped in Argentina. Cattle shortages, the result of drought and government restrictions, have driven beef prices up by 70 percent. Meanwhile Uruguay has seen its herd and its domestic consumption rise. (Argentines are eating more chicken).

But while they've lost the biggest beef-eating crown, Argentines have a new one to be proud of: biggest exporter of professional soccer players. According to a report from sports marketing consultancy Euroamericas, Argentina has replaced Brazil as the leading exporter of professional soccer players to European and Arab soccer leagues.

Yet Diego Maradona doesn't look like he'll get another chance to lead those talented players on Argentina's national team. Maradona said he would be willing to get rid of his assistants to return to coaching, but the Argentina Football Association looks like they favor Sergio Batista to get the job. And 9 out of 10 Argentines don't seem to want him back either, according to recent polls in both the newspapers La Nacion and Clarin.

http://www.globalpost.com/passport/argentina/100927/crime-and-punishment