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Macri administration orders 60,000 new bassinets for poor infants destroyed in Argentina.

Argentine Federal Judge Claudio Bonadío, a close ally of right-wing President Mauricio Macri, has ordered that over 60,000 bassinets intended for low-income expecting mothers be incinerated.

These items were part of Plan Qunita, a program to distribute 150,000 maternity kits that included a complete bassinet and 40 other infant care items. The program was launched in July 2015 by the Argentine Health Ministry under Macri's populist predecessor, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

The Macri administration sought Bonadío's approval for their incineration citing "the significant costs their custody and storage currently generate." Critics, however, charge that Macri, who has frequently sought Bonadío's rulings in cases directed against Kirchner-era officials, resorted to forum shopping.

The decision has been condemned by pediatricians, children's rights activists, and clergy as none of the studies cited by Judge Bonadío or the Health Ministry recommend that the bassinets be recalled or disposed. The Health Ministry has not issued a recall for the 74,408 that have already been distributed.

The 60,000 kits have sat in storage since April, when Macri rescinded the program by decree after Judge Bonadío indicted former Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández, former Health Minister Daniel Gollán, and 22 other former officials and contractors for alleged overpricing. Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal, Macri's chief political ally, was the first to cease delivery of the kits in February, long before the Ministry of Health issued an opinion.

Former Health Minister Daniel Gollán pointed out that Bonadío annulled the results of the accounting investigation he himself ordered. While the Macri administration claims that "1.1 billion pesos ($70 million) were spent," their own published documentation shows that the six contractors involved were paid a total of 468 million pesos ($30 million).

Infants at risk

"The program had been operating perfectly, and its goal was to prevent 2,000 infant deaths and 100 maternal deaths a year," Gollán said in an interview with local news daily Página/12. "There is undisguised class hatred in Bonadío's ruling because it is the poorest who will stop receiving the benefit."

Some 8,200 Argentine infants (10.6 per 1000 live births) died before their first birthday in 2014. Pediatricians generally agree that bed sharing in households too poor to afford a crib or bassinet was a leading cause of preventable infant deaths in Argentina.

Dr. Alicia Benítez, Chief of Neonatology at the Sardá Maternity Hospital in Buenos Aires, noted that the 0800 line made available for customer service inquiries related to Plan Qunita "received around 20,000 calls, and not a single one involved a hazard." Each kit, she remarked, was distributed solely through the 289 participating maternity wards nationwide, where parents were instructed on their use and given follow-up appointments as a requirement for their Universal Pregnancy Entitlement (AUE) benefit.

The percentage of newborns having access to optimally safe sleeping conditions, according to Dr. Benítez, rose from 89% to 94% in just five months.

The Health Ministry cited a National Industrial Technology Institute (INTI) study from 2015, and a more recent one by the Argentine Pediatric Society (SAP) showing that the blankets "present a suffocation and overheating hazard" - but only if used incorrectly. None of the studies recommend the bassinets be recalled or disposed.

Dr. Alejandro Jenik, Chief of Neonatology at the Italian Hospital in Buenos Aires and internationally recognized authority on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), repudiated Bonadío's interpretation of the studies. "Before these cribs are destroyed, an interdisciplinary team should be formed to determine the feasibility of distributing the cribs with very strict recommendations for parents - primarily that they not be used after six months," he said.

The politics of children

Congresswoman Carolina Gailliard of the center-left FpV submitted a draft declaration in Congress to express concern over the decision to destroy the bassinets, and announced that next week the Health Committee in the House will summon Health Ministry officials to address the issue.

Dr. Gollán compared the decision to the systematic destruction in 1955 of everything from bed sheets to medical equipment and even entire orphanages because they bore the insignia of the Eva Perón Foundation; thousands of children died in a 1956/57 polio epidemic solely because iron lungs purchased by the foundation had been destroyed.

The historical parallel to the violent, right-wing coup against President Juan Perón and its aftermath was echoed by Pope Francis in March, when he told visiting Argentine clergy that "you are very young and weren't there to see it; but what is happening in Argentina is a kind of revenge towards the popular sectors and workers - much like in 1955."

"This discussion must be depoliticized," Dr. Jenik concluded. "Children's needs are urgent and children have no political factions."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2Fdiario%2Felpais%2F1-309345-2016-09-14.html

Argentina marks 10 years since disappearance of Dirty War trial star witness Jorge Julio López.

Ceremonies were held today in numerous Argentine cities to honor Jorge Julio López, the retired, soft-spoken bricklayer whose testimony was key in the 2006 conviction of former police inspector Miguel Etchecolatz for crimes against humanity during the Dirty War in the 1970s. López, who was 76 at the time, disappeared ten years ago today.

Prosecutors investigating López's disappearance have so far collated over five million phone records and examined the DNA of 98 John Doe bodies found between 2006 and 2015. The case, however, remains one of Argentina's most prominent unsolved mysteries.

López disappeared from his home in the the working-class suburb of Los Hornos, just south of La Plata, on September 18, 2006. His harrowing testimony was decisive in the trial against former Buenos Aires Provincial Police Chief Inspector Miguel Etchecolatz for crimes against humanity three decades earlier.

He was scheduled to give be the closing witness in Etchecolatz's trial at the First District Federal Court of La Plata the day of his disappearance, and was first noticed missing by his son. The court, headed by Judge Carlos Rozanski, sentenced Etchecolatz to life in prison the following day, September 19. He was only the second Dirty War defendant convicted following President Néstor Kirchner's signature of a bill rescinding amnesty for such perpetrators in 2003.

López's witness testimony was based on his experience as a political detainee between October 1976 and June 1979, during which time he was held without charges in three clandestine detention centers and repeatedly tortured. A bricklayer for many years, he was able to recognize at least two of his former places of captivity from masonry elements peculiar to each, even when some of them had been remodeled.

López's second disappearance was widely believed to have been carried out by former Provincial Police officers with ties to the dictatorship. Its intent, according to the governor at the time of the incident, Felipe Solá, was to “intimidate future witnesses or prevent their participation in other trials against dictatorship-era repressers.” A similar case, the murder of 84 year-old pianist Myrtha Raia days before was to testify in a case involving 41 former officers and 222 deaths, took place on January 29, 2013; all defendants were found guilty a year later.

“In those years it was inconceivable for us, in a democracy, to receive such a mafia-like message. One of such magnitude - the second disappearance of Jorge Julio López,” Judge Carlos Rozanski told the Buenos Aires Herald in an interview.

In sentencing Etchecolatz, Rozanski became the first judge to use the term “genocide” to describe the the crimes that took place under the fascist military dictatorship that ruled Argentine between 1976 and 1983. Around 300 secret detention centers were maintained nationwide, and an estimated 30,000 people were killed or disappeared in these between 1975 and 1979.

Etchecolatz, who responded directly to the Provincial Police Director Ramón Camps, managed at least 30 such detention centers. He was granted a transfer to house arrest by a La Plata tribunal on August 20 on account of his advanced age (87). The ruling has been appealed by plaintiffs - but not by the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration, whose Justice Minister, Germán Garavano, was revealed to have held secret talks with Argentina's most prominent Dirty War apologist, Cecilia Pando.

Etchecolatz remains unrepentant, and has since twice been photographed in court writing intimidating messages to witnesses in other trials. The messages read simply “Jorge Julio López.”

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/221716/jorge-julio-l%C3%B3pez-no-answers-10-years-on

And: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.infonews.com/nota/301716/a-diez-anos-la-justicia-no-tiene-pistas&prev=search


Jorge Julio López[/center]

Argentina marks 40th anniversary of 'Night of the Pencils' disappearance of eleven high schoolers.

The "Night of the Pencils" - the abduction of eleven high schoolers in the city of La Plata by security forces in retaliation for organizing protests in favor of a bus fare discount booklet for students - took place 40 years ago. The incident would become one of the most emblematic in the Dirty War being waged in the mid-to-late 1970s against dissidents, violent or non-violent, by the dictatorship at the time.

The students, whose ages ranged from 16 to 19, were all classmates at the Normal (teacher's) School N° 3 in La Plata, about 30 miles Southeast of Buenos Aires. They had earlier organized a mobilization that in October 1975 succeeded in having the Provincial Government implement a Secondary Student Ticket Book that allowed students to ride local buses at half fare. The benefit was demanded to help needy students, whose parents did not generally own cars, meet the soaring cost of public transport during that highly inflationary period.

The benefit was rescinded in August 1976, however, as the right-wing military dictatorship that had taken power that March implemented an austerity program featuring public sector layoffs, sharply higher interest rates, and reduced social spending. The students called a protest in response, and within days a Provincial Police Commissioner, Alfredo Fernández, presented a report calling for their disappearance as part of "a hotbed of a subversive potential."

Commissioner Fernández's 1976 report, found years later during the National Commission on Disappearances (CONADEP) investigation launched shortly after the dictatorship stepped down in 1983, was entitled Noche de los Lápices - the "Night of the Pencils."

The abductions were carried out in a joint operation by the Buenos Aires Provincial Police (based in La Plata) and the Army Battalion 601 over the course of two nights - September 16 and 17, 1976.

Due in part to the many inquiries by their parents and other loved ones, the students were transferred among several detention centers in La Plata and the southern districts of metro Buenos Aires. The dictatorship maintained around 300 such facilities nationwide, and an estimated 30,000 people were killed or disappeared in these between 1975 and 1979.

María Clara Ciocchini, Claudio de Acha, María Claudia Falcone (the leader), Francisco López Muntaner, Daniel Racero, Víctor Treviño, and Horacio Ungaro perished by firing squad, after prolonged torture and/or rape, in January 1977. Despite years of work by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), their remains have not yet been identified.

The four that survived - Gustavo Calotti, Pablo Díaz, Patricia Miranda, and Emilse Moller - did so thanks to family connections with police or the powerful Roman Catholic Church, most of whose leadership approved of and helped conceal the Dirty War. The Archbishop of La Plata at the time, Msgr. Antonio Plaza, was aware of these incidents and backed the Dirty War as well as amnesty years later - lest, in his words, "we face something like the Nürnberg Trials or people who might come for us, like they did with poor Adolf Eichmann."

These experiences were recounted by María Seoane and Héctor Ruiz Nuñez in the book La Noche de los Lápices, published in 1985. The book was made into a film of the same name by director Héctor Olivera in 1986.

Calotti was freed in 1977 and later emigrated to France, where he teaches school. Moller and Miranda, who were close friends, were freed in 1978; Moller is now a human rights activist and member of the Provincial Commission on Memory. Díaz, freed in 1980, testified in the historic Trial of the Juntas in 1985, which resulted in jail sentences for most of the former Junta leaders - but not for over 600 subordinates charged at the time, most of whom would enjoy amnesty until it was repealed by President Néstor Kirchner in 2003.

One of them, Buenos Aires Provincial Police Chief Inspector Miguel Etchecolatz, was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 for his role in multiple atrocities - including the Night of the Pencils. The star witness in his trial, 76 year-old Jorge Julio López, was himself abducted days after testifying against Etchecolatz, and remains missing.

Etchecolatz was granted house arrest by a La Plata tribunal on August 20 on account of his advanced age (87). The ruling has been appealed by plaintiffs - but not by the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration, whose Justice Minister, Germán Garavano, was revealed to have held secret talks with Argentina's most prominent Dirty War apologist, Cecilia Pando.

The Students' Ticket Book was ultimately reinstated by former Governor Daniel Scioli in 2015. In recognition of the victims of this tragedy and of their struggle for the sake of their fellow students, September 16 is commemorated in Argentina as the Day of Reaffirmation of Rights of Secondary Students.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.infonews.com/nota/301671/se-cumplen-40-anos-de-la-noche-de-los-lapices&prev=search

Argentine ruling party embroiled in law school exam cheating scandal.

The University of Buenos Aires collegiate chapter of the right-wing PRO, the ruling party in Argentina, is under fire following revelations that a number of its student members, as well as at least one professor, were involved in a cheating ring at the university's prestigious Law School.

The cabal was uncovered by the president of the Student Center at the School of Philosophy and Letters, Maxi Laplagne, who posted several screenshots from a WhatsApp group called "PRO UBA News."

The dialogue, taken from exchanges held on November and March, goes into some detail as to how students affiliated with, or a known supporter of, the right-wing PRO can receive "a guaranteed 7" (similar to a B in the U.S.) if vouched for by a student at the law school, Enrique Javier Guzmán.

Guzmán, described by one of those benefiting from the scheme as having "a black soul but not black skin," explicitly and repeatedly mentions that students in the group are to copy material written by him for use in upcoming exams. He added that students affiliated with the PRO were assured unlimited entry to certain coveted lectures.

Guzmán heads the PRO party list for candidates to the university's Consultative Council; at least two other students who took part in the exchanges, Facundo Arancio and Brenda Fewkes, are also PRO candidates for the Consultative Council and the University federation, respectively.

A history professor at the law school, Fernando Mendoza Cacciatore, was mentioned by Guzmán as a member of the PRO and as being "considerate" with students belonging to the same party. Professor Mendoza Cacciatore did not take part in the exchanges.

Another prominent member of the law school's PRO chapter not named in the incriminating dialogue, Nicolás Pechersky, was recently appointed Coordinator of Digital Projects in the Ministry of Modernization at a salary of 50,000 pesos ($3,270) a month - close to three times the median full-time wage in Argentina. Pechersky, known for his caustic op-eds in right-wing newspapers, had referred to public employees as "moochers" and supported the mass public sector layoffs ordered by President Mauricio Macri in January.

The layoffs were administered by the same Ministry of Modernization (a Macri creation) that hired Pechersky in August.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.infonews.com/nota/301654/escandalo-en-la-uba-denuncian-que-aprueban&prev=search

Chief organizer of Macri's "mini Davos" is among those listed in the Panama Papers offshore scandal

Moroccan businessman Richard Attias, who organized the Argentina Business & Investment Forum at the behest of Argentine President Mauricio Macri, was revealed by the Paris news daily Le Monde to be among those listed in the international Panama Papers scandal this April. Attias' "The Experience," a shell company based in the British Virgin Islands, was active between January 2010 and November 2014.

Touted as a "mini Davos" on account of the large number of international corporate executives and lobbyists in attendance, the forum was reportedly conceived by Attias during a meeting with Macri during the last Davos summit in January. The forum, held in Buenos Aires' Kirchner Cultural Center on September 11-15, is being attended by around 1,900 guests from 65 countries.

The cost of the four-day event, financed at Argentine taxpayer expense, has not been disclosed.

Attias is listed as one of the principals in holding companies in Delaware, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and the Cayman Islands. A registered corporate lobbyist in France, Attias, according to Le Monde, currently lives with Cécilia Ciganer-Albeniz (ex-wife of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy) and has enjoyed direct access to diverse international figures such as Bill Clinton, George Soros, Bill Gates, and, until his death, Yasser Arafat.

Confronted with being a former client of disgraced corporate law firm Mossack Fonseca, Attias justified his use of offshore accounts as a way to avoid "stifling taxes" but nevertheless explained that "I had no business with the company (his offshore firm "The Experience". It was dissolved, plain and simple."

President Macri, one of five current heads of government listed in the Panama Papers, gave a similar response when the scandal broke in April.

Macrieconomic obstacles

The right-wing Macri administration has made attracting more foreign investment a top policy priority, and around $18 billion has been pledged thus far in 2016. Foreign direct investment in Argentina, however, declined in the first quarter of 2016 (the latest available data) by 26.1% to $1.8 billion as a shock devaluation, sharp hikes in rates and fares, and other austerity policies have taken their toll in Latin America's third largest economy.

Led by a collapse in construction of 23.1%, fixed investment as a whole (spending on structures and equipment) has fallen by 9.6% as of June; real GDP, according to official INDEC figures, has fallen by 4.3% and unemployment has reached a ten-year high of 9.3%.

Budget deficits - a key campaign issue last year - declined somewhat initially; but since May have been running at twice the already-record levels in 2015, averaging 36 billion pesos ($2.4 billion) a month.

One bright spot was inflation, with data released today by INDEC showing a 0.2% monthly rate for August. A Supreme Court ruling on August 18 striking down Macri's natural gas rate hikes of around 400% for having been decreed without a public hearing (as required by law) pushed housing related costs down 5.6%; core inflation slowed slightly to 1.7%, roughly in line with the average monthly rate over the last decade.

Inflation, which Macri described in his keynote address as "tame," nevertheless remained at 43.5% in August; real wages were recently estimated by the Social Security Agency to have fallen by 11%.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.ambito.com/854792-el-organizador-del-mini-davos-tambien-tiene-offshore&prev=search

And: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cronista.com%2Feconomiapolitica%2FArrastrado-por-la-construccion-las-inversiones-acumulan-una-caida-de-5-en-2016-20160826-0105.html

Argentine Security Secretary claims that ISIS has infiltrated country, retracts hours later.

Argentine Security Security Eugenio Burzaco, who yesterday claimed that Islamic State (ISIS) militants were training recruits in Argentina, was forced to retract his statements just hours later in a politically embarrassing U-turn.

Speaking to the news daily Misiones Primera Edición in the northeastern Argentine city of Posadas, Burzaco claimed that his office had “detected Argentines who have received training in ISIS.” Just hours later he denied that this was the case through a Security Ministry press release stating the exact opposite.

It was the latest in a streak of unfounded statements from the right-wing administration of President Mauricio Macri which linked Middle Eastern terrorist organizations to activities in Argentina but had to be quickly retracted after being debunked.

Burzaco's original interview had gone into some details regarding the alleged ISIS presence in Argentina. “This is something that really worries us because we know that they have been in heated zones of the conflict, in Syria or northern Iraq. There are citizens that have gone there and came back to the country or to neighboring countries like Uruguay,” he declared.

In the subsequent press release, Burzaco claimed this was but a “general appreciation,” and that he was only referring to an earlier investigation - one which resulted in identifying no present threats. “After a complaint of a potential ISIS presence in Corrientes Province, we followed up on the case and so far found nothing indicating their presence in the country,” the Security Secretary admitted.

The governor of Corrientes Province, Ricardo Colombi, is a close ally of the embattled Macri administration.

Burzaco has, from the outset, been one of Macri's most controversial appointments. His older brother, Alejandro Burzaco, is one of nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives that the U.S. Department of Justice charged on May 27, 2015, with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, and other offenses. FBI documents show the elder Burzaco's broadcast company, TyC, paid $110 million in FIFA bribes to retain lucrative regional football media rights.

TyC is co-owned by the Clarín Group, whose "media bulletproofing" proved critical in Macri's narrow electoral win last November. All three - the Clarín Group, the Macri family, and the Burzacos - were listed extensively in the Panama Papers scandal in April.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/221466/minister-makes-bizarre-uturn-on-islamic-state-in-argentina-claims

Argentine Vice President Gabriela Michetti's right-wing think tank SUMA raided over irregularities.

Argentine Federal Judge Ariel Lijo ordered a raid on the Buenos Aires offices of the SUMA Foundation, a right-wing think tank chaired by the Vice President, Gabriela Michetti.

Judge Lijo's warrant is pursuant to an affidavit showing that the SUMA Foundation received around 4.1 million pesos in undeposited donations during President Mauricio Macri's 2015 campaign ($450,000 at the time). The raid was ordered in an attempt to recover the think tank's accounting books, which were never presented to Argentina's General Inspectorate of Justice (IGJ) as is required for all non-profits.

The case itself originated in the alleged theft of approximately $75,000 in cash from Michetti's Buenos Aires home on election night, November 22, 2015. Police at the time arrested an officer in Michetti's security detail that evening, who was convicted and served six months in prison.

Michetti, who claims that $50,000 of this total were a gift from her boyfriend, businessman Juan Martín Tonelli, and that $20,000 were to be donated to SUMA, did not reveal the incident to the public until July 18 - almost eight months after the fact. Michetti's claim that $20,000 were to be donated to SUMA is likewise incompatible with Argentine law, which forbids cash donations above token amounts to any non-profit organization.

The Vice President was charged by Federal Prosecutor Guillermo Marijuán in August 12 with "the possible commission of a public offense, subject to the qualification that may ultimately apply."

In the tank

The Macri administration is facing numerous probes over its campaign finances from the 2015 election, which Macri narrowly won. His right-wing party, the PRO, declared expenses of 27 million pesos ($2.9 million at that time) and 22 million pesos in private contributions; but they also declared 92 million pesos ($10 million) in unspecified party development expenses. Campaign expenses are, by Argentine electoral law, not to be counted as "party development."

His campaign is also under investigation for almost three million pesos ($320,000) in cash donations from government contractors, which is illegal in Argentina.

Congressmen Juan Cabandié and Rodolfo Tailhade of the opposition, center-left FpV have been leading congressional inquiries into these campaign finance irregularities, as well as into the activities of numerous pro-Macri think tanks such as 'Fundar', 'Creer y Crecer', 'Formar', and Michetti's SUMA.

"Most members of the Macri administration also happen to either control or sit on the board of any number of right-wing think tanks or foundations that carry out political activities in parallel with Macri's political party, the PRO," they pointed out. "These non-profits are in effect used to finance PRO operations."

Books and suitcases

Vice President Michetti has meanwhile hired the noted jurist Ricardo Gil Lavedra as her defense attorney. Her spokesman stated that SUMA's books were not in the foundation's office because, despite the fact that SUMA officially had no employees, the accountant kept them. They pledged to submit them to Judge Lijo in person on Thursday.

The outspoken, 51 year-old Michetti faced a similar controversy on January 29, when she attempted to hide a suitcase full of jewelry on her return from a summit in Ecuador. She claimed the items were "gifts," and despite being barred from accepting valuable gifts while in office, no charges were filed.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.enorsai.com.ar%2Fpolitica%2F19544-la-justicia-ordeno-allanamientos-en-la-fundacion-suma-de-michetti.html

Another massive graft probe opens in Brazil

Brazil’s federal police launched an extensive operation yesterday to investigate massive alleged fraud at state-run companies’ pension funds in a probe forcing business leaders such as the chief executive of meat packer JBS and the president of constructor WTorre to step down from their companies.

Police said they were carrying out seven arrest orders and over a hundred search warrants, while freezing assets worth 8 billion reais ($2.5 billion) — including the confiscation of a plane, 139 vehicles and 90 real estate properties. Prosecutors said the scope of the fraud is comparable to the billions of dollars of kickbacks discovered at state-controlled oil firm Petrobras which has led to the imprisonment of a string of high-profile businessmen and politicians, dubbed “Operation Car Wash.”

Yesterday’s fresh probe into Brazil’s elite has been named “Operation Greenfield” and may threaten future economic and political stability in a country that is still reeling from a deep recession as well as the controversial, divisive impeachment of its first female president, Dilma Rousseff, last week.

Wesley Batista, CEO of meat processing giant JBS SA — the world’s biggest producer of beef and chicken — was called in for questioning about an investment in wood pulp producer Eldorado Brasil SA, where he is on the board of directors, according to a representative for J&F Investimentos, the Batista family’s holding company.

Estado de São Paulo reported on its website that the judge overseeing the case ordered 40 individuals under investigation, including Wesley Batista and his brother, J&F CEO Joesley Batista, to step away from any role at their companies. The dismissals were allegedly a leniency offered in place of their arrest.

The company referred requests for comment to J&F, which declined to comment further on the matter. JBS shares fell over 10% on the report, their biggest daily drop in six months.

The sweeping operation was the latest in a string of anti-graft investigations, which have roiled Latin America’s largest economy for more than two years and been a principal catalyst in its political crisis. The pension funds caught up in yesterday’s investigation are those of state-run banks Caixa Economica Federal and Banco do Brasil, Petrobras, and postal service Correios, police said.

Police said the investigation was focused on 10 cases that had caused enormous losses to pensioners, including reckless or fraudulent investments made through connected investment funds.

Brazil’s securities regulator, known as CVM, said in a statement that the probe that led to yesterday’s operation started a year and a half ago. Secrecy on the operation was expected to be lifted last night, CVM said.

At: http://www.buenosairesherald.com.ar/article/221152/another-massive-graft-probe-opens-in-brazil

University of Buenos Aires ranked best university in Latin America, 85th in the world.

The University of Buenos Aires (UBA) is the best university in Latin America according to the latest QS World University Rankings 2016/2017 study published earlier this week. It climbed 39 places from the 2015 survey to a rank of 85th, while maintaining its place as the best university in the region for the second year running.

This was the highest position ever occupied by a university from the region in the renowned global rankings survey, a list otherwise dominated as in previous years by schools from North America, Western Europe and East Asia. The rankings include 916 universities from 81 countries.

“Latin America struggles, but sees an institution in the top 100 for the first time. The University of Buenos Aires occupies the highest rank ever achieved by a university from the region,” the report said. The UBA ranked well ahead of the next-best-placed universities from Latin America, none of which made it into the top 100. It was followed in the region by the University of São Paulo (120), the National Autonomous University of Mexico (128), the Catholic University of Chile (148), and Campinas State University in Brazil (191).

Other Argentine universities ranked in the survey included Austral University (308), the Argentine Catholic University (310), the University of Belgrano (352), the National University of La Plata (551), and National University of Córdoba (601).

Following the publication of the QS ranking, the UBA Chancellor Alberto Barbieri said that the result reflected a greater emphasis on research and development and highlighted the scale of the achievement. “This university is the flagship of public education and who we are today. We have a tradition, a history to maintain ... There are more than 20,000 universities in the world, of which only 1,000 were analyzed. To be found among the top 100 is a great joy and a reminder that we must continue working,” he told Infobae.

The UBA is publicly funded and tuition free for all students, even international ones (with a quota). With 320,000 enrolled students, it's the largest in Argentina and the second largest in Latin America after the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). The UBA employs 32,000 teaching staff and has produced four Nobel Prize laureates — Carlos Saavedra Lamas (Peace), Bernardo Houssay (Physiology), Luis Federico Leloir (Chemistry), and César Milstein (Medicine). Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, so honored in 1980 for his efforts to uncover the Dirty War a few years earlier, is currently a professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Funding constraints

The UBA, like the other 47 public universities in Argentina, saw it's annual budget increase over seven fold in dollar terms during the administrations of Néstor and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner - from 300 million pesos ($100 million) in 2003 to 6.7 billion pesos ($720 million) in 2015. It also benefited from the PROGRESAR program, enacted in 2014 to help needy students meet costly non-tuition expenses - a leading cause for high dropout rates.

Argentina's public university budget, signed last October, reached 52 billion pesos ($3.5 billion) this year. Budgets, however, remain inadequate given high enrollment ratios (1.4 million students, plus another 400,000 in private colleges). The recent rise in inflation rates and sharp hikes in utility costs as a result of President Mauricio Macri's austerity policies have strained the UBA's budget; electricity charges alone will jump from 19 million pesos ($2 million) in 2015 to 84 million pesos ($6 million) this year.

Following a series of protests by university faculty, the Macri administration granted the public university system a 500 million-peso ($33 million) supplemental appropriation in May to meet higher utility costs.

At: http://www.buenosairesherald.com.ar/article/221194/uba-ranked-as-latam%E2%80%99s-best-university-85th-in-world-

Corporate profits in Argentina down 32% in 2nd quarter, and by 52% in real terms.

Quarterly earnings reports published by companies listed on the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange reflected a worsening economy in the second quarter of 2016. The 45 companies that published earnings reports suffered a decline in their combined profits of 32% compared with the first three months of 2016, and 30% compared to the same time last year.

Taking inflation into account, which averaged 45.3% in the second quarter of 2016, corporate profits were down nearly 52% from the same time in 2015. The decline in dollar terms was even greater: 56%.

This was the worst showing for Argentina's publicly listed corporations since the depths of the international financial crisis in the second quarter of 2009, when profits fell by a combined 47% to 4.2 billion pesos ($1.1 billion at the time). Corporate profits recovered quickly, however, and reached a record 33.9 billion pesos ($3.7 billion) in the third quarter of 2015.

Accelerating inflation, which doubled from 2015 levels, accounted for much of the declining profit margins. An estimated jump in prices of 14% during the second quarter pushed revenues up by 11% from the first quarter; but also led to a 32% collapse in net income.

Compared to the same time last year, revenues rose by 29% - a decline in real terms of 11%. Earnings results nevertheless varied widely from sector to sector.

According to the latest data from the Central Bank, banks and other financial firms saw an annual rise in revenue of 48%, and of net income, 56%. Banking profits rose by 52% during the first half of 2016; but actually doubled in June from the same time a year earlier. These results were mainly driven by the recovery in government securities - which make up about 45% of banks' liquid assets - as well as income from Lebac 35-day treasury bills, whose annualized yields nearly doubled to 38% in the first months of the year before declining to 28% currently.

The nation's oil sector struggled under depressed global oil prices as well as cutbacks in federal price supports, and firms in this sector lost 2.3 billion pesos ($160 million) in the first quarter of 2016. They recorded a net profit of 1.2 billion pesos ($85 million) in the second quarter; but this was due almost entirely to the purchase of a majority stake of Petrobras Argentina by Pampas Energía. The nation's largest oil producer, YPF, saw a 97% collapse in net income in second quarter as the public-private firm reeled from adverse global conditions as well as the politically-motivated dismissal of CEO Miguel Galuccio in March.

Galuccio, appointed CEO upon the partial renationalization of YPF in 2012 by former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had been credited with helping reverse output declines at YPF under its previous Repsol management.

Massive rate hikes authorized by the same right-wing Mauricio Macri administration boosted natural gas distribution profits however. Revenues in this sector increased by 100% year-on-year in the second quarter as the hikes took effect in April. Their net income, even so, grew slightly below inflation (by 44%) as the sharply higher gas rates also affected their own overhead, generation, and distribution costs.

An injunction issued on July 18 by Federal Judge Luis Arias of La Plata, and upheld by the Argentine Supreme Court on August 18, rescinded these hikes however. Macri had refused to submit the rate hikes to a public hearing, as the law requires, and gas utilities were ordered to issue reimbursements for any charges above March 31 rates. The rate hikes will now be subject to a public hearing ordered by the Supreme Court, scheduled for September 16.

Electric utility profits were similarly impacted by the Macri administration's gas rate hikes of 400% or more. Power generation costs skyrocketed by way of sharply higher gas prices, leading to a collapse in net income from 1.1 billion pesos ($75 million) in the first quarter of 2016 to a loss of 2.2 billion pesos ($150 million) in the second.

A separate injunction issued by Federal Judge Martina Forns of San Martín on August 4 has suspended electricity rate hikes as well, all but guaranteeing that the third quarter will also result in losses in the electric utility sector.

Reeling from legal and political setbacks stemming from the precipitous handling of rate hikes, the Macri administration today announced that the Energy Ministry - led by Shell executive Juan José Aranguren, currently facing conflict of interest charges over the hikes - will seek rate increases averaging 203%.

"While the recession won't subside until at least the 4th quarter of 2016," according to the local financial weekly Research For Traders, "growth may return sometime in 2017."

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