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Small business used by Argentina's Macri in a propaganda spot reports having laid off all employees.

The administration of Argentine President Mauricio Macri has launched a series of propaganda spots in recent weeks featuring Argentine workers in a number of different sectors and the interrelationship between each.

The cheerful, 60 second spots were designed to counter a growing perception in Argentina that the right-wing Macri administration has been insensitive - even disdainful - toward the concerns of working-class Argentines and small businesses.

One of these ads, entitled Empezás el lunes ("You start on Monday" features Maccari Furniture, a small, family-run furniture maker in the city of Mendoza, and first aired on Tuesday. The owner, Eduardo Maccari, reported however that since the spot was filmed his business has had to lay off all 14 employees - leaving only himself and his family.

"Demand has stopped," he lamented, "and much higher utility rates affect us all."

"We agreed to be part of the spot because we were promised it would serve to encourage young people to find work," Maccari said. "It's a small family business, and now we (the Maccaris) are the only ones left working here. We do sublease space to a few independent carpenters; but we no longer have any employees," he said.

"I am not in favor of anyone, and was promised that the footage would not be used for anything political," Maccari said, adding that he attempted to contact federal government officials about the matter but has not had any of his calls returned.

This is not the first time Macri's use of working-class citizens as props has created controversy since he took office five months ago. His visit to a General Motors plant in Santa Fe Province on May 11 was followed by revelations that a number of "workers" who posed, all smiles, with the president during his visit were in fact hired extras.

An estimated 155,000 Argentines have lost their jobs since Macri enacted a sharp devaluation in December and other austerity policies since then.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.politicargentina.com/notas/201605/14264-el-protagonista-del-spot-del-gobierno-empezas-el-lunes-dijo-esta-todo-parado-y-las-tarifas-nos-afectan-a-todos.html&prev=search

And: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.diarioregistrado.com/politica/denuncian-que-macri-contrato-extras-para-hacerlos-pasar-por-trabajadores_a573c96d87dc32a080ab88dd1&prev=search

Patricia Derian, Carter administration diplomat who made human rights a priority, dies at 86.

Patricia Derian, a civil rights veteran who tangled with repressive dictators as President Jimmy Carter’s chief advocate on behalf of human rights abroad, died on Friday at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C. She was 86.

Her husband, Hodding Carter III (who served as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs during the Carter administration), said the cause was Alzheimer’s disease.

Ms. Derian had been deputy director of Mr. Carter’s 1976 presidential race. The president appointed her in 1977 to coordinate what was then a small State Department bureau that had been created by Congress the year before.

With the support of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, and to signal how seriously the administration would treat human rights, the job was elevated to the level of Assistant Secretary of State. Ms. Derian, who had trained as a registered nurse, earned a reputation for angering despots as well as career State Department diplomats, many of whom viewed her as well-meaning but unsophisticated.

Nevertheless, by most accounts, thousands of lives may been spared because of her work. One big success came during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” when labor leaders and other dissidents were being seized by the country’s ruling junta, held without charges, and in up to 30,000 cases executed as part of a so-called antiterrorism campaign.

Ms. Derian outraged Argentina’s military leaders when she brushed aside their denials of involvement in the abductions and murders of civilians. In one meeting with the head of the Argentine Navy, Admiral Emilio Massera, in 1977, she whipped out a floor plan of the notorious ESMA Navy Schol (the largest of over 300 detention camps used during the dictatorship at the time). “You and I both know that as we speak, people are being tortured in the next floors,” she told Massera.

In the Philippines, under the authoritarian President Ferdinand Marcos, the condemned dissident Benigno Aquino was allowed to leave the country in 1980 in no small measure because of the publicity Ms. Derian had generated on his behalf. Two years earlier, she pointedly left a dinner being held in her honor by President Marcos to visit Mr. Aquino in his death-row prison cell. She wore her evening gown.

Jacobo Timerman, an Argentine journalist who was tortured by the junta, said in 1977 that Ms. Derian had saved him from certain execution. Kim Dae-jung, the South Korean dissident whom Ms. Derian attempted to free in 1980, who was elected president in 1997 and invited her to his inauguration as a special guest.

Ms. Derian was supported by Secretary of State Vance and President Carter; but often clashed with National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and others in thadministration. “You got the argument that ‘these were cultural standards’  - that you can’t expect other countries to accept our values. All those mindless arguments,” she said.

Charlie Clements, who worked with Ms. Derian in Central America and today lectures at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, said in an interview in 2012 that President Carter had undoubtedly known that his appointing Ms. Derian, who was known as Patt, would cause tension in the State Department. But President Carter, he said, “wasn’t looking so much for diplomacy as moral fiber.”

“Patt,” he said, “had moral fiber in excess.”

At: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/21/us/patricia-derian-diplomat-who-made-human-rights-a-priority-dies-at-86.html?_r=0


Here's to you, Patt Derian.[/center]

Pope Francis receives Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo founder Hebe de Bonafini.

Pope Francis received the renowned co-founder and president of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Hebe de Bonafini, at the Vatican on Friday. The private meeting, held at the pontiff's Santa Marta residence, lasted over an hour.

The meeting, held at Pope Francis' invitation, was almost three times as long as the one he had on February 27 with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, an encounter remembered as much for its brevity as for its visible coldness.

While the nature of the meeting has not as yet been disclosed, there is speculation that Francis may have intended it as a show of support for the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in their dispute with the right-wing Macri administration over its tacit opposition to ongoing human rights trials.

Francis' invitation was issued on May 11 - the same day that Argentine news media revealed that Macri's Justice Minister, Germán Garavano, had held a secret meeting on April 25 with the country's most prominent Dirty War apologist, Cecilia Pando. Pando openly advocates for the acquittal of all 632 officers convicted of 1970s-era crimes against humanity while Macri's center-left predecessors, Néstor and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, were in office between 2003 and 2015.

Macri had referred to human rights as a "scam" during his 2015 campaign, and labeled the Kirchners' support for such trials "a culture of vindictiveness." At six least such convicts have been released by Argentine courts since Macri took office in December; one (Alejandro Duret) took the liberty of flashing his middle finger to the news cameras as he left prison.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.politicargentina.com/notas/201605/14267-el-papa-francisco-recibio-durante-mas-de-una-hora-a-hebe-de-bonafini.html&prev=search

Fearful of protests, Argentina's Macri closes Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo on Independence Day.

Buenos Aires residents were surprised today with the sight of the city's iconic Plaza de Mayo - the square facing the Casa Rosada presidential offices and other national landmarks - cordoned off by a contingent of Federal Police and largely closed to the public.

The sight was all the more surprising because today, May 25, is one of the two Argentine Independence days.

President Mauricio Macri, who has been facing political backlash over austerity policies that have led to 155,000 layoffs and a doubling of inflation to 42% since taking office five months ago, reportedly made the decision to limit public access to the Plaza de Mayo (as well as other city landmarks such as the Obelisk) for fear that instead of the traditional Independence Day celebrations there might be protests.

Macri's Security Minister, far-right former Congresswoman Patricia Bullrich, justified the day-long closure of the square by citing the president's attendance at the neighboring Metropolitan Cathedral's Te Deum, a brief religious ceremony traditionally held on this day. The only members of the public allowed outside, were a pre-selected group of schoolchildren for the flag-raising ceremony.

"It's important the president be kept safe," Bullrich said.

The Plaza de Mayo has long been the focal point of political life in Buenos Aires. Its very name commemorates the May Revolution of 1810, which led to the country's Declaration of Independence from Spain in 1816.

The square is probably best known in Argentina for the mass demonstrations held on October 17, 1945, to demand the release of the recently arrested populist Vice President at the time, Juan Perón. The Plaza de Mayo has been the site of spirited - and occasionally violent - political rallies ever since. The most tumultuous such demonstration, held to protest harsh austerity policies and an economic collapse on December 21, 2001, led to the resignation that afternoon of President Fernando de la Rúa (a Macri supporter).

Macri's predecessor, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, hosted public celebrations featuring Argentine rock and folk musicians every Independence Day during her 8-year tenure.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1902297-cerraron-al-publico-la-plaza-de-mayo-por-el-primer-tedeum-de-mauricio-macri&prev=search


Independence Day celebration in 2015[/center]


and Independence Day desolation in 2016.[/center]

Argentina to raise minimum wage by 33%; but still falls below projected inflation of 45%.

The Argentine National Wage Council agreed yesterday to increase the minimum wage by 33% by January 2017. The current minimum wage of 6,060 pesos ($430) for up to 200 hours of work a month will be raised to 6,810 pesos in June, 7,560 pesos in September, and 8,060 pesos by next January.

The National Wage Council, established by former President Néstor Kirchner in 2004, is made up of representatives from the Labor Ministry, as well as leading business councils and labor federations.

The current agreement will help keep Argentina's minimum wage as the highest in Latin America in dollar terms: a projected $571 a month (compared to $367 in Chile, $353 in Uruguay, $253 in Brazil, and $100 in Mexico).

The increase nevertheless falls below an annual inflation rate projected to reach 45% by October, which would represent an 8% loss in purchasing power for the estimated 200,000 full-time minimum wage workers. Up to 5 million part-time and unregistered workers who are believed to earn the minimum or less are also impacted, since the legal minimum is known to serve as a guideline for their wages as well.

The Wage Council decision prompted harsh criticism from leaders of the CTA labor federation, which voted against the increase offer at the Pink House meeting. Its leaders, Hugo Yasky and Pablo Micheli, have asked for a 9,000-peso minimum effective next month (rather than by January, and in installments).

“We can’t set a minimum wage close to 8,000 pesos when the basic budget for a family is now at 16,000 pesos,” Micheli said. “The increase will be out of date in January as all forecasts say that inflation this year will be over 40%. It means losing purchasing power.”

President Mauricio Macri, who had initially backed a raise of 20 to 25%, defended the agreement. “We know we are going through a difficult transition,” he conceded to business and union leaders at the meeting. “But people have hope in us. The less you need of the government to reach wage increases, the better. It will mean Argentina is getting back on the right track.”

President Macri also pointed to a sharp increase in unemployment insurance benefits from 400 to 3,000 pesos a month - the first such increase since 2006. An estimated 155,000 employees have been laid off since Macri enacted fiscal and monetary austerity within days of taking office last December.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/214642/minimum-wage-to-increase-by-33-percent

Saudi Arabia: Legal expert says U.S. Government blew up Twin Towers on 9/11.

Source: Inquisitr

Saudi Arabia is livid over the recent passage of a bill in the U.S. Senate that would allow 9/11 victims’ families to sue the Middle Eastern nation. The bill was recently passed by a unanimous vote, and while President Obama has vowed to veto it, that hasn’t stopped the Saudi Arabian media from coming out swinging against the U.S. government.

An article written by Katib al-Shammari, a Saudi legal expert, is now claiming that the U.S. planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon to create the war on terror. It calls out the United States for its recent threats to “expose documents” proving that Saudi Arabia funded the 9/11 attacks, as well as detailing the involvement of Saudi Arabia in the worst terrorist attack in history on U.S. soil. According to the piece, these threats fall in line with a United States policy he calls “victory by means of archives.” The article was published in Al-Hayat, which is based in London.

According to the author, the intent of the 9/11 attacks, which he says were perpetuated by the U.S. government against its own citizens and not by Saudi Arabia, was two-fold. First, it allowed the U.S. government to create a shadow enemy – terrorism. It then allowed the U.S. government to blame terrorism for “all their mistakes” and to use the “phantom” terrorist threat as an excuse for military operations and covert secret wars the world over.

The U.S., according to Al-Shammari, often plays a game of withholding information only to use it as a later date. He cited the invasion of Iraq in 1991. The Saudi claims that the U.S. opted to keep Hussein alive and in power so he could be used as a “bargaining chip” against other nations in the region. Ultimately, according to al-Shammari, the U.S. chose to get rid of Saddam Hussein only after Shi’ism began to permeate the Middle East and Saddam became more of a liability than an “ace up their sleeve.”

Al-Shammari says that the 9/11 attacks have been used in much the same way and have allowed the United States to lay the blame for September 11 directly on the shoulders of whoever is most convenient at any given time. Initially, according to the Saudi Arabian expert, the U.S. blamed the radical Islamic groups Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, then Saddam, and now Saudi Arabia.

Read more: http://www.inquisitr.com/3130396/saudi-arabia-legal-expert-says-that-u-s-government-blew-up-the-twin-towers-on-911/

That would still make the Saudis accomplices though.

Buenos Aires' famous British clock tower celebrates centennial.

Appropriately enough, bearing in mind the weather of the two countries, it was a cold yet bright day in Buenos Aires as the Torre de los Ingleses (“English Residents’ Tower”), that iconic landmark of the Retiro neighbourhood, celebrated its centenary. Scores of people gathered at the clock tower yesterday to celebrate the longstanding Anglo-Argentine friendship.

Dedicated by British inhabitants of Buenos Aires, the tower was completed exactly 100 years ago yesterday in 1916. The 248-foot monument has long been one of the stand-out features of sprawling San Martín Plaza. British and Argentine residents of the City alike came out in force yesterday to celebrate.

“We wanted to celebrate the Tower’s 100th birthday so we got in touch with the City of Buenos Aires authorities and our joint efforts have made today a real success,” John Hunter, Chairman of the Anglo-Argentine Community Council (ABCC), told the Herald.

“This tower was donated by the British residents in Argentina, it wasn’t a gift from the King or the Parliament or the British government, and I think that’s important for our relations,” he added.

Among those speaking at the ceremony were Roddy Cameron, the grandson of Ben Gardom (who helped build the tower itself); British Embassy Counsellor Richard Barlow (soon to be chargé d’affaires); and Gregory Venables, the British Anglican archbishop for Southern Argentina, who praised the “important and stunning day” in the sunshine before offering a short prayer with the assembled congregation.

While acknowledging an at times uneven state of affairs in Anglo-Argentine relations over the years, Hunter told the Herald that his organization’s visibility had been dulled since the 1982 Falklands War; but that it remained a robust and active community hub now finding its foothold again. “It’s a very big community. Britain had such an influence here in so many different aspects, and it’s our task to make that legacy known and to let British people know there’s an entity they can join and come to our events and keep connected,” he said.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/214928/ba%E2%80%99s-famous-clocktower-celebrates-centennial


Argentina's Macri vetoes anti-layoffs law.

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

Argentine President Mauricio Macri yesterday vetoed the Emergency Labor Law passed by Congress. The veto was widely anticipated, with Macri having repeatedly vowed to veto this first significant piece of legislation passed by Congress that his administration opposed.

The bill was passed on Thursday by the Lower House yesterday with 147 votes in favor, three votes against and 88 abstentions by the right-wing 'Let’s Change' coalition. A two-thirds majority (172 votes) is necessary override a veto in the Lower House. Although the opposition in the Senate has close to a two-thirds majority, the margins are smaller in the Lower House.

The bill, which had the backing of unions concerned over dismissals in both the public and private sectors, imposed double severance for laid-off workers for 180 days. An estimated 155,000 have been laid off in Argentina since Macri imposed austerity measures by decree just days after taking office in December. A 40% devaluation has meanwhile caused inflation to double to 42% according to private estimates, leading to an erosion in purchasing power of nearly 20%.

Arguing that anti-layoff provisions are counterproductive because they can limit new investment, Macri defended the veto and listed a number of policies his administration has implemented since he took office. “There are over one million more kids reached by family allowances, new benefits for pensioners, the reimbursement of value added tax on the basic goods, among others.”

While the CGT labor federation did not publicly comment yesterday, the more combative CTA responded to the veto with a vow to organize a national strike and underlining that an “immediate response” is required. CTA leader Pablo Micheli and rival Hugo Yasky of the CTA de los Trabajadores have been working together on the legislation and yesterday reiterated that they would be joining forces to plan the strike. The leadership of the three CGT factions, which also supported the bill, are set to meet next week in order to agree on a unified response.

The populist Justicialist Party (Peronist) opposition remains divided in various factions without a clear leader however. Nevertheless, a statement issued by the Justicialist Party made it clear that Macri's first veto did not sit well. “President Macri, just as he vetoed over 100 laws approved by the City Legislature when he was mayor of Buenos Aires, has once again used the prerogative of a veto to ignore popular will and is denying workers the benefit of job stability.” Labor lawyer Héctor Recalde, chair of the Victory Front (FpV) caucus in the Lower House, challenged the veto and said that the “president was going to the suffer the veto of workers.”

Read more: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/214714/macri-vetoes-%E2%80%98antilayoffs%E2%80%99-law

At least the IMF's happy.

Dispute between Monsanto and Argentine farmers escalates.

Farmers in Argentina are locked in a fierce battle against the local branch of the St. Louis-based agroindustrial conglomerate Monsanto over the payment of royalties on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

The administration of President Mauricio Macri is accusing Monsanto of abusing its dominant market position and has moved to prevent it from using exporters as fiscal agents simply because they detect at least 10% of GMOs in the seeds they trade.

Private experts say that both sides’ claims of foul play are not totally groundless. Farmers claim, however, that the company continues to “punch below the belt.” They say that after having failed to get paid on the basis of the Seeds Law, Monsanto bypassed it and resorted to the Patents Law, something that they claim is illegal as by Argentine law patents cannot be applied to living organisms.

According to the experts, the government has proposed a new Seed Law to solve the dispute as the current one was introduced in 1976, when there were no GMOs; but Omar Príncipe, Chairman of the small farmers lobby FAA, insists that the law is not at fault. “Under that law Argentina more than doubled its soybean output and doubled that of maize over the past 15 years,” he told the Herald in an interview. “The problem is precisely that Monsanto is bypassing the Seeds Law and forcing farmers to pay on the basis of the Patents Law. It has signed contracts with all exporters and silo-owners, who were then pressured into becoming payment retention agents.”

Príncipe praised Agriculture Minister Ricardo Buryaile’s efforts in search of a solution to the dispute with Monsanto. He said that farmers are still waiting a response from the administration to anti-trust charges of 'abuse of dominant position' they filed last year against Monsanto before the Competition Defense Board. Príncipe said that Monsanto is the only seed company resorting to that practice in Argentina.

Arturo Navarro, former chairman of the CRA farming federation, and Fernando Vilella, Director of the University of Buenos Aires Agribusiness and Food Program, said that Monsanto is “an easy target as the bad guy in the movie” due to its having “overreached somewhat its efforts to get paid.” But both agree that Argentine farmers have a cultural tradition of dodging payment. “Monsanto’s claim is not totally groundless and it has even been accepted by some producers,” Navarro said. “Regrettably, someone at the company is interfering in grain commerce by blocking some shipments to Europe.”

Navarro and Vilella also agreed that the current Seed Law gives enough protection to small producers by allowing them to reuse GMO seeds they harvest, without having to pay for biotech improvements again. Argentine agriculture, Navarro, noted, is still mostly in the hands of large producers, with 80% of farm output coming from 20% of producers.

Asked about a Wall Street Journal report last week that Monsanto was considering pulling its biotech unit from Argentina, both Vilella and Navarro dismissed that as “just bravado amid the conflict.”

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/214389/spat-between-monsanto-farmers-escalates

10% of Argentine small businesses have either closed or become inactive since Macri took office.

The Economic Federation of the City of Buenos Aires (FECIBA) has released a report indicating that so far this year over 10% of small and medium businesses in Argentina have either closed or become inactive.

Among the 10% of businesses under severe distress, 4.4% have become inactive and 5.6% have ceased operations altogether. This segment of Argentine business has shed over 8% of its employees over the same period of time according to the report. The data come from an internal survey conducted by FECIBA and its associated business chambers, from January 1 to May 10.

The report explained that higher inflation, indexing of invoices by large firms, sharp increases in public utilities rates and fuel charges, a high tax burden, and a decrease in sales, rank among the top causes behind the recent deterioration of small business balance sheets. Among those that have closed, up to 93% listed these issues as a factor.

The first three problems are directly attributable to austerity policies enacted by the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration, including a 40% devaluation that led to a sharp jump in prices and deep cuts in subsidies that raised utility rates by an average of 300%.

Other small business challenges that, per the report, have worsened during 2016 include free trade policies that have increased imports, judicial uncertainty triggered by poor labor laws that enrich lawyers and consultants, unfair competition from larger firms, and the increase in interest rates in recent months to no less than 40%. Up to 73% of affected businesses mentioned one or more of these issues.

Raúl Zylberzstein, president of FECIBA, welcomed recent announcements by the Macri administration that enhance tax incentives and roll back austerity to some degree as a "major advance" package; but he acknowledged that "that alone is not enough."

He noted as well that "the situation is further exacerbated by "upcoming wage hikes that companies will face, as well as the payment of June bonuses."

Zylberzstein stressed that in this context, "the immediate enactment of an emergency small business bill is needed." Such a bill must be "an emergency law that protects small businesses by easing payroll and value-added tax burdens, and introduces a simplified and progressive tax rate scale for small businesses." This, he pointed out, "would be the best way to guarantee comprehensive protection for workers, their jobs, and the companies that generate them."

The Argentine Congress is currently debating a Layoff Prevention Law that would mandate that all employers pay a double indemnity to those laid off. President Macri, however, has indicated he would veto the bill, which is currently being delayed in the Senate as a result of legislative maneuvers from Macri's right-wing PRO party and their junior coalition partners, the centrist UCR. The bill has 64% approval according to most polls.

Zylberzstein supports the bill in principle, with the caveat that it "pertain only against the layoffs of large companies, as these already employ a disproportionately high percentage of the overall labor force." Such limits, he hopes, might persuade President Macri to sign the bill.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.politicargentina.com/notas/201605/14037-en-lo-que-va-del-ano-ya-se-fundieron-mas-del-10-de-las-pymes-del-pais.html&prev=search
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