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Argentina's Macri purchasing over $2 billion in U.S. military equipment.

An investigation by the top-rated Argentine news program El Destape revealed that on the administration of Argentine President Mauricio Macri made a formal request to the United States Government to approve a purchase of well over $2 billion in military equipment.

The procurement, which included fighter jets, war tanks, medium and long range missiles, missile launchers, attack helicopters, and a wide variety of munitions and other equipment typically used in a war theater, was reportedly made on June 16, 2016, through the offices of Argentine Ambassador Martín Lousteau with the stated purpose of "combating terrorism."

El Destape obtained the complete list of weaponry requested by the Macri administration by way of an official Argentine Embassy letter to Congressman Pete Visclosky, a senior Indiana Democrat and the Ranking Member on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Some of the material, El Destape found, has in fact already been purchased.

The request, the largest single Argentine military order since shortly before the ill-fated Falklands/Malvinas War waged by the last dictatorship in 1982, was far in excess of the request presented to the Argentine Congress during the FY2017 budgetary process last year.

The Lousteau letter revealed, moreover, that while the list was not revealed to Congress as a whole, it was known to at least two congressmen belonging to Macri's right-wing "Let's Change" caucus: Eduardo Amadeo and Luciano Laspina, who according to the letter personally lobbied Congressman Visclosky in April 2016 for approval.

Amadeo, in particular, is known for his far-right views and for his links to ultra-nationalist elements in the local media and Argentine Armed Forces.

Congressional subpoenas

The leader of the opposition, center-left FpV caucus, Héctor Recalde, announced he will seek to subpoena Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and Defense Minister Julio César Martínez.

"This was done behind everyone's backs. It's imperative we know if the administration is seeking conflict with one of our neighbors," Recalde said. "Or if, as the administration claimed, this is about terrorism, to what 'terrorism' are they referring to."

"This administration insists on persecuting opponents and criminalizing the right to protest, and our fear is that they are transitioning to outright repression."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.eldestapeweb.com%2Fexclusivo-la-escalofriante-lista-armamento-que-argentina-le-pidio-estados-unidos-n27058&edit-text=

Democratic write-in candidate Emilio Vazquez wins special election

Democratic write-in candidate Emilio Vázquez has won Tuesday’s special election to fill a seat in the state House of Representatives, according to unofficial numbers released today.

The election, held in North Philly’s 197th District, garnered widespread controversy earlier this week following complaints — including from Green Party write-in candidate Cheri Honkala and Republican Lucinda Little, the sole candidate on the ballot — of illegal voter assistance and other questionable poll activities.

Commissioner Al Schmidt said the unofficial write-in count, tallied this morning, put Vázquez at 1,970 votes and Honkala at 282 votes. According to unofficial numbers released earlier this week, Little received less than 8 percent of votes. Voter turnout was about 5%.

“The voters of the 197th have spoken and they have decisively chosen hope over the politics of division and fear,” Vázquez said in a statement. “In these troubling times for our country and our Commonwealth, it is important that people see they can still stand up and be counted. It is now time that we turn the page and come together. I look forward to being sworn in and representing the people of the 197th in Harrisburg, where I will join the fight to fully fund our schools, create good jobs, and raise the minimum wage.”

At: http://www.phillymag.com/news/2017/03/24/democrat-emilio-vazquez-special-election/

Despite massive teachers' union march in Argentina, Macri rejects collective bargaining talks

Hundreds of thousands of teachers from all over the country took to the streets of Buenos Aires yesterday, demanding that the government hold wage negotiations at a national level.

The nation's six teachers' unions, which together represent over 500,000 teachers at the primary and secondary levels, are demanding wage increases of close to 30% following a 45% jump in prices within a year after President Mauricio Macri's narrow runoff win in November 2015.

The Macri administration, which held successful collective bargaining talks last year, has refused to hold them this year. They argue that because teachers’ minimum wages were raised last year by 35% and because extra funds were earmarked to the nation's 23 provinces to pay for wage hikes, each province has to deal with its own teachers.

Most provinces, however, are currently strapped for cash amid the most serious recession since 2009, and have offered wage hikes averaging 15%. The six provinces that have reached an agreement with the unions are raising wages by an average of 25%.

The federal education budget for FY2017 was raised by 17%; inflation so far this year in Argentina, however, has been running at an annualized rate of 30%.

President Macri himself, who attended elite private schools and as Buenos Aires mayor had a record of underspending his own public education budgets by 30% or more while doting subsidies on private and parochial schools, inadvertently exacerbated tensions with teachers by describing education in Argentina as having “a terrible inequity between those who can go to private school and those who have to ‘fall’ into public education.”

The city's leading news daily Clarín, which supports the conservative Macri, went further, publishing an article on March 18 making an apocryphal comparison between a second-grader in a private school (a blonde boy) and a public school student (a darker-skinned boy) who was “falling behind.” The article was widely condemned by both teachers' unions and children's rights activists.

“These people behind us - the President, the Education Minister - have insulted us all,” said CTERA union leader Sonia Alesso. “They've insulted both teachers and students, because none of us ‘fell’ into a public school.”

At: http://www.thebubble.com/despite-massive-teachers-unions-march-national-government-wont-hold-national-wage-negotiations/


Falling in against Macri's public education budget cuts, Argentina's teachers' unions rally in Buenos Aires.

Hawaii State Rep. Beth Fukumoto is Leaving State GOP

Source: Honolulu Magazine

Hawai‘i Rep. Beth Fukumoto, the millennial woman lawmaker who once led Republicans in the state House, today (Wednesday, March 22) announced that she is leaving the state GOP to pursue membership in the Democratic Party.

This comes after a tumultuous year that included her being ousted from leadership, sworn at by a colleague on the House floor and blasted for speaking critically about President Trump at the Women’s March on the state Capitol.

“I am going to leave the Republican party and pursue membership as a Democrat,” Fukumoto says. First elected in 2012, she says the party no longer aligns with her views or those of most of the state, who continue to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

Having just been re-elected in this past year’s election, Fukumoto, 33, says she sent a letter to her district because she wanted to hear from people she represents before making the final decision. “Most people responding said either they’re independent or they’re Democrat or they’re Republican but, at the end of the day, my party affiliation doesn’t matter to them as long as they feel I’m looking out for their best interests when I vote.”

Read more: http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/March-2017/Breaking-News-Hawaii-State-Rep-Beth-Fukumoto-is-Leaving-State-GOP/

Four dead in London vehicle and knife attack; 20 hurt.

A knife-wielding man went on a deadly rampage at the heart of Britain's seat of power Wednesday, mowing down pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge before stabbing an armed police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament.

Four people were killed, including the attacker, and about 20 others were injured.

Lawmakers, lords, staff and visitors were locked down as the man was shot by police within the perimeter of Parliament and just yards from entrances to the building itself. He died, as did two pedestrians on the bridge, and the police officer.

Police said they were treating the attacks as a terrorist incident and had launched a full counterterrorism investigation. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

"We are satisfied at this stage that it looks like there was only one attacker," said Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley. "But it would be foolish to be overconfident early on."

The threat level for international terrorism in the United Kingdom was already listed at severe, meaning an attack is "highly likely."

Wednesday was the anniversary of suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people, and the latest events echoed recent vehicle attacks in Berlin and Nice, France.

At: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-british-parliament-attack-20170322-story.html

Noam Chomsky, Danny Glover, and 88 others sign open letter against Argentina's Macri

U.S. writer Noam Chomsky and actor Danny Glover joined 88 other academics, artists, and activists from 22 countries to protest against “the neoliberal policies” of Argentine President Mauricio Macri and the corruption scandals that have emerged from him and his administration.

The letter, titled “Against Macri's Abuses: The World Stands with Argentina,” was sponsored by Intellectuals and Artists in Defense of Humanity.

“He triggered thousands of layoffs in the public and the private sectors, devalued the currency, stripped workers of labor rights as well as benefits for retirees and their free prescription drugs,” stated the document among other issues.

“The steep decline of economic activity, particularly in industry, is evident as poverty continues to grow with two million new poor since the beginning of Macri’s presidency.”

Macri’s neoliberal economic reforms have also seen the price of goods and services skyrocket in the South American country. Inflation in Argentina rose sharply, from 23% in November 2015 - the last full month before Macri took office - to 45% a year later.

Inflation has since eased to 36%; but the affordability of key staples such as beef and dairy have fallen by one third, while that of vegetable oil and bread has plummeted by half despite record harvests.

The signatories criticized Macri for his involvement in corruption scandals such as the Panama Papers, the Odebrecht scandal, as well as for agreements with Avianca airline and the Argentine postal company Correo Argentino that amount to self-dealing.

They also condemned the illegal detention of Indigenous leader Milagro Sala and expressed their solidarity with former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who “suffers from an attack from the justice system and the media that gets worse and worse, turning into a serious attack against democracy.”

At: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Noam-Chomsky-Danny-Glover-Sign-Letter-Against-Argentinas-Macri-20170320-0024.html


Former Spanish Premier Felipe Gonzalez accuses Macri of using courts to eliminate political opponent

The administration of Argentine President Mauricio Macri and one of its chief backers, the top Buenos Aires news daily Clarín, were forced to retract a claim made that former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González pressed Macri to have his predecessor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, "jailed" in order to "encourage foreign investment."

The widely-publicized claim, published in Clarín by their chief business writer Marcelo Bonelli on March 17, was based on a meeting Macri and González held in Madrid just hours before the Argentine president concluded his state visit to Spain on February 24.

González's spokesman, Joaquín Tagar, called on Clarín to "rectify the article, which reflects neither the conversation itself nor Mr. González's thinking." Hours later, the former prime minister appeared via telephone at the Buenos Aires evening news program Minuto Uno to further repudiate the story.

"This is totally false," González told Minuto Uno host Gustavo Sylvestre. "It reflects neither the conversation itself, my own opinions, or my way of thinking. (Bonelli) put words in my mouth, as I never spoke to him or anyone else at Clarín."

Unnamed sources

The article cited only unnamed sources for the quote, which was corroborated by no one present at the meeting. Bonelli promptly issued a retraction, albeit an ambiguous one that seemed to impugn González's word while upholding the "trustworthiness" of his own sources.

Neither Macri nor anyone in his right-wing administration responded publicly to either González or Mrs. Kirchner, or to reports that Macri officials privately admitted to the news journal La Política Online that the exchange never in fact took place.

Macri himself had already created a similar controversy on September 20, when he falsely claimed British Prime Minister Theresa May had agreed to discuss the issue of sovereignty over the disputed Falkland Islands.

Eliminating political opponents

Plagued by severe recession, the Panama Papers revelations, and a number of high-dollar conflict-of-interest scandals, Macri and his surrogates have pursued charges against their embattled but still popular predecessor, Cristina Kirchner. Mrs. Kirchner leads polling for the key upcoming Senate race in Buenos Aires Province, the nation's largest, and remains a a top contender for the presidency in 2019 should she choose to run.

Support from the Clarín Group, part of the country's largest media conglomerate, was key to Macri's narrow electoral win in 2015, and both Clarín and its cable news arm, TN, routinely call for Mrs. Kirchner to be jailed while giving the increasingly unpopular Macri positive coverage.

For González, however, the controversy goes beyond merely lying. "Using the courts to eliminate political opponents is undemocratic and goes against my deepest convictions," he said.

"I just turned 75, and have been in politics for 50 years; but I'm still amazed sometimes."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.infonews.com%2Fnota%2F306549


Former Spanish Premier Felipe González: still amazed sometimes.[/center]

Ecuador's right-wing candidate linked to 49 tax haven companies

Ecuadorean presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso is connected to 49 companies in offshore tax havens, Buenos Aires news daily Página/12 reports, presenting challenges to his campaign ahead of the April 2 runoff election.

The companies, based in Panama, the Cayman Islands and Delaware, have diverse names that hide Lasso's role.

Página/12 reports that between 1999 and 2000, around the same time former Ecuadorean President Jamil Mahuad dollarized the country's economy and Lasso served as Minister of Finance, Lasso's fortune jumped from US$1 million to US$31 million.

The right-wing banker candidate is believed to have boosted his fortune by speculating on government bonds ahead of dollarization, which left millions of Ecuadoreans in poverty.

"The financier tried in recent years to tidy up his businesses in order to enter the political arena," the investigative report says. "However, the magnitude of the offshore companies and their profits could implicate him in tax evasion."

Last month, Ecuador became the first country in the world to pass a plebiscite to ban public officials from having assets or capital in tax havens.

At: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Ecuadors-Right-Wing-Candidate-Linked-to-49-Tax-Haven-Companies-20170316-0001.html

[center]Here's a link to the translated article from Página/12 for more detail into Lasso's offshore maneuvers: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=es&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F25889-lasso-el-magnate-de-las-offshore&edit-text=

A tangled web indeed.[/center]

Irish boat skipper convicted over 80m cocaine cargo

The Irish skipper of a fishing boat has been convicted of trying to smuggle around a tonne of cocaine into Britain.

The drugs haul – the biggest seizure of cocaine in Britain in 2016 – had a potential value of nearly £84 million.

Michael McDermott, 68, from Co. Waterford, was found guilty by a jury at Bristol Crown Court today following a one week trial.

National Crime Agency and Border Force officers arrested McDermott on August 18, 2016 alongside shipmates David Pleasants, 57 of Peppercorn Walk, Grimsby, and Gerald Van de Kook, 27 of Amersfoort, Netherlands.

Both Pleasants and Gerald Van de Kooij admitted drug importation offences, but McDermott had denied the charge, claiming he knew there were drugs on board but had been forced into shipping them.

Following McDermott’s conviction today all three men will now be sentenced on April 6.

At: http://irishpost.co.uk/irish-boat-skipper-convicted-over-80m-cocaine-cargo/

Why did Argentina's players go on strike? And how did it get resolved?

The second half of the 2016-17 season was supposed to get underway in Argentina on March 3. Instead, after a week of arguments and confusion, the weekend's top-flight fixtures were called off late that day, even after the first two games should have been played.

After days of protracted and difficult negotiations, the players' union and Argentine Football Association (AFA) eventually signed a deal to end the strike around lunchtime on Wednesday, March 8, and Thursday night first division football resumed with an 89th minute goal by Mariano Pavone that gave Vélez Sarsfield (of Buenos Aires) a 3-2 home win over Estudiantes de La Plata.

Why did the players go on strike?

Late last Thursday night, the players' union Futbolistas Argentinos Agremiados voted to strike for the weekend games over unpaid wages. Not all players are owed money - River Plate's treasurer confirmed to ESPN FC that their squad's wage bill is up to date, for example - but those who had been paid chose to stand with those who hadn't.

Agremiados wrote an open letter to the AFA when they first threatened strike action saying that "numerous clubs owe salaries, in some cases dating back four months."

In short, in most cases the money didn't seem to be there. In mid-January, the AFA published a list of 14 clubs (out of 60 professional clubs) who would be forbidden from registering new signings until their debts with the association were paid off. Some 30 clubs owe the AFA a total of 1.1 billion pesos ($70 million) between them.

Among the causes for this sudden shortfall are a sharp decline in stadium revenues during 2016, coupled with higher overhead costs, as a sharp devaluation and austerity policies decreed by President Mauricio Macri have led to a nearly 10-fold hike in public utility rates and higher inflation in general.

Football for none

AFA finances have also been impacted by Macri's decision to discontinue the Fútbol Para Todos (Football For All) TV-rights-as-state-subsidy program, which resulted in a 350 million peso ($22 million) unpaid debt on the part of the federal government plus 40 million pesos ($2.5 million) from the program's chief private sponsor, local oil firm Axion Energy. Once the strike was announced, Macri ordered payment of said debt.

Enacted by former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in 2009, the program nationalized TV rights for professional football and made game broadcasts, which had previously been available mostly to cable subscribers willing to pay pay-per-view fees, universally available.

Budgeted at $180 million annually, Football For All (FPT) was often criticized by opponents for its cost - particularly the media conglomerate Clarín Group, which controlled the top private sports broadcaster in Argentina (TyC) and which frequently made use of its cable and print news arms to lambaste the program.

Its supporters, however, pointed out that the cost per viewer (72 U.S. cents each for 250 million+ viewers annually) was a small fraction of pay-per-view fees that ranged from 15 to 30 dollars per game. Argentines, most of whom are avid football fans, often organized at-home tailgates or crowded their nearest bar.

The quality of the broadcasts themselves - which before FPT often deliberately refrained from showing goals in order to force viewers to watch the post-game analysis shows - likewise improved.

The government's rescission of FPT has meanwhile opened Argentine football broadcasting to bids from private companies again and three broadcasting giants (ESPN, Fox Sports, and Spanish group Mediapro) are currently having their bids analyzed. A 1.2 billion peso ($75 million) advance "key" payment for the broadcast rights is built into all three bids, further bolstering financial prospects for the AFA.

At: http://www.espnfc.com/blog/espn-fc-united-blog/68/post/3074116/argentina-season-missed-restart-date-due-to-players-strike-and-here-is-what-you-need-to-know


Facing pay-per-view charges of 30 dollars a game, crowded bars were a common sight in Argentina on football nights until the state-run FPT broadcasts were enacted in 2009.

Macri, elected largely thanks to corporate media support, has now reinstated pay-per-view.[/center]
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