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Argentina: pro-Macri candidate trounced in first electoral test of the year

Gubernatorial primaries held in La Pampa Province, in central Argentina, yielded a resounding defeat for President Mauricio Macri tonight.

Carlos Mac Allister of Macri's right-wing PRO was defeated in the "Let's Change" coalition primary by Congressman Daniel Kroneberger of the centrist UCR.

Kroneberger, 57, defeated Mac Allister by 65% to 35%, and will face off in the May 19 general election with Peronist candidate Sergio Ziliotto - who is favored to win.

Mac Allister, 50, had served as Macri's Secretary of Sports until last October, and his earlier fame as a left-back for some of Argentina's top football clubs had made him one of Macri's most popular surrogates.

His defeat tonight - in a province that narrowly went for Macri in the 2015 presidential runoff - underscores not only growing disapproval; but increasing friction between the PRO and UCR, the main partners in the "Let's Change" coalition that brought Macri to power.

In Santa Fe Province, Argentina's third-largest, a UCR provincial convention this Thursday approved by 93% a motion to withdraw the party from the coalition, bucking an order from UCR President Alfredo Cornejo - a Macri loyalist - that the Santa Fe UCR remain in "Let's Change."

I'll call you if I need you

Numerous UCR leaders have openly called for the party to field its own candidate for president in 2019, rather than endorse Macri.

They cite his disregard for the UCR - on whose votes he won but whose party received just 3% of federal appointments and is seldom consulted on policy matters.

"Let's Change was never established as a true coalition of government but merely as an electoral coalition," UCR Vice President Federico Storani lamented.

"We're useful in (Macri's) search for power but can't discuss social policies. When they're in a pickle, they call you for a photo-op and then disappear."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F175662-derrota-para-mac-allister-y-macri-en-la-pampa

La Pampa gubernatorial primary candidates Daniel Kroneberger (UCR - centrist) and Carlos Mac Allister (PRO - right-wing).

Kroneberger's landslide (65-35) over Mac Allister, who's closely tied to Macri, underscores not only disapproval for the Argentine president; but growing friction between the PRO and UCR - partners in the "Let's Change" coalition that brought Macri to power.

Macri narrowly won in 2015 on UCR votes but has largely ignored them, relying instead on his hard-right PRO entourage.

200,000 protest in Barcelona against Catalan separatists' trial

Around 200,000 people marched through Barcelona on Saturday against the high-profile trial of Catalan separatist leaders that started this week, which they dismiss as a farce.

"Self-determination is not a crime," read a banner at the front of the protest led by regional president Quim Torra which municipal police said was attended by 200,000 people, while organisers countered 500,000 had taken part.

Demonstrators waved blue, red and yellow Catalan separatist flags and carried banners reading "Freedom for political prisoners."

The trial of 12 Catalan separatist politicians and activists over their role in the 2017 attempt to break Catalonia from Spain started on Tuesday at Madrid's Supreme Court.

They face up to 25 years behind bars on charges of rebellion and other offences for pushing an independence referendum in October 2017 in defiance of a court ban, and for a brief declaration of independence.

The independence bid sparked Spain's deepest political crisis since the transition to democracy in the 1970s after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.

At: https://news.yahoo.com/200-000-protest-barcelona-against-catalan-separatists-trial-180734459.html

Argentina's Macrisis: Buenos Aires police quashes produce giveaway

Police in Buenos Aires quashed a produce giveaway organized by local growers earlier today as a form of silent protest, leading to several injuries from rubber bullets and pepper spray.

Hundreds of people lined up this morning in Constitución Square, in Buenos Aires'
working-class southside, to receive a wide selection of free produce.

Produce giveaways, known in Argentina as verdurazos, are organized by independent growers from the orchard belt southeast of Buenos Aires led by the Union of Land Workers (UTT) as a protest against rising costs and taxes.

These have became recurring events since the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration took office in late 2015 - though today's incident marks the first time police have moved to quash a verdurazo.

Running scared

Election year politics may have motivated today's order.

Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta belongs to Macri's right-wing party, the PRO - and despite mostly friendly local news media coverage, both face uncertain re-election prospects amid the worst recession since 2002.

Real wages in Argentina have fallen by 17% since Macri was elected, as inflation has doubled to nearly 50%.

Family farms, too, have suffered amid declining sales, sharply higher input costs, and utility rate hikes which under Macri have averaged around 2500%.

Macri's decision in July to rescind the Social Agricultural Contribution (MSA), through which the roughly 10,000 family farms who grow 60% of the metro area's fruits and vegetables could access retirement and other benefits, have intensified discontent in the once thriving sector.

Recent data show that Argentina's recession, which began in May after a brief carry-trade debt bubble imploded, deepened during the final months of 2018, with GDP falling 7.5% as of November.

"In the face of crisis and hunger, we propose solidarity among workers and direct merchandise from the producer to the consumer at popular prices," UTT delegate Nahuel Levaggi said.

"The government proposes night sticks, tear gas, and rubber bullets."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F175194-con-la-represion-como-respuesta-a-la-necesidad

A senior citizen picks up spilled eggplants during today's police attack on a produce giveaway in Buenos Aires.

Known in Argentina as verdurazos, these giveaways are organized by independent produce growers as a protest against rising costs and have became a frequent sight since the right-wing Macri administration took office in 2015.

Argentina: Evidence of shakedown scheme puts pro-Macri prosecutor in spotlight

A federal probe was authorized today in Argentina against Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli after video and audio evidence was presented to the court showing a close associate of his demanding large bribes from local businessmen in Stornelli's name.

The bribes, per audio recordings, were demanded in return for sparing the victim from "having your life and your children's lives ruined" by way of malicious prosecution on Stornelli's part.

The recordings, made by Buenos Aires businessman Pedro Etchebest, 70, captured numerous such exchanges since December 28 with Marcelo d'Alessio, a frequent guest on right-wing news media as an "expert on drug trafficking issues" and, both video and audio show, a close collaborator of Stornelli's.

d'Alessio has close links to right-wing President Mauricio Macri, himself facing numerous tax evasion and self-dealing charges.

His uncle, Carlos d'Alessio, was appointed presidential notary public by Macri the day he took office, and his law office partner, José Fernández Ferrari, is the trustee for Macri's blind trust - which are illegal in Argentina.

d'Alessio claimed in the recordings to be both a DEA and NSA asset - something U.S. Ambassador Edward Prado promptly denied.

Everything but the photocopier

Stornelli, 58, is a federal prosecutor best known currently for handling the "notebookgate" case - the centerpiece of Macri's strategy of winning reelection this year by driving up negatives against Kirchner and other center-left opponents, amid his 30% approval and the worst recession since 2002.

The case emerged last August after photocopies of several notebooks belonging to a former Ministry of Public Works chauffeur were published, which appeared to detail a long-running bribery scheme during former President Cristina Kirchner's 2007-15 tenure.

The notebooks themselves, however, have never been produced, and by Argentine law photocopies are not admissible evidence in court as they've been shown to be easily forged.


The Etchebest tapes, moreover, suggest that lucrative shakedowns have motivated notebookgate at least as much as politics.

They show d'Alessio admitting that numerous businessmen charged in connection with notebookgate were lured by bad-faith promises of a "pass" into paying him - and, he added, Stornelli - large bribes.

" (Argentine billionaire Eduardo) Eurnekian paid $600,000 to prevent a raid on his house, and two hours later they (Stornelli) raided it. Another businessman paid $1.5 million, and they told him that nothing was going to happen; they threw him in jail. Paolo Rocca (whose Techint steel conglomerate is the country's largest private firm) paid $2.6 million - and was indicted just the same."

d'Alessio was shown demanding $500,000 from Etchebest - of which $15,000 was paid.

Maximiliano Rusconi, attorney for the most prominent former Kirchner official currently in jail, former Public Works Minister Julio de Vido, said today he intends to file a motion to have Judge Claudio Bonadío and Stornelli recused and to vacate the case.

"Stornelli has for years been known among his colleagues as 'Extornelli'," journalist Horacio Verbitsky, who published the Etchebest tapes yesterday, noted. "We've just never had such glaring proof of that before."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.elpais.cr%2F2019%2F02%2F08%2Ffiscal-argentino-es-sospechoso-de-extorsionar-a-empresarios-a-traves-de-abogado%2F

Judge Claudio Bonadío and Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli.

The public face of Macri's weaponized judiciary against opponents, audio and video evidence published today of large-scale extortion by a close associate has led to calls for their removal and prosecution.

News channel critical of Argentina's Macri blocked from paying salaries

C5N, Argentina's top-rated cable news channel and a leading critical voice against the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration, had a judicial lien issued against its operating account by a Buenos Aires tribunal today.

The ruling, made at the request of the Federal Revenue Agency (AFIP) over a $250 million tax debt owed by an ex co-owner of C5N's former parent company on an unrelated business interest (a chain of service stations), made no exception for operating budgets needed to meet payroll, as Argentine law mandates.

Some 350 employees, many of whom earn as little as 20,000 pesos ($514) monthly, are affected by today's decision. C5N News anchor Antonio Fernández Llorente stated that station attorneys intend to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

"The Law of Freedom of Expression bars the AFIP or any other state agency from jeopardizing payrolls at any media outlet, by way of collecting a debt or otherwise," union delegate Alexis Szewczik noted.

"It's the exact opposite of what this government is doing."

C5N, whose prime-time news program, Minuto Uno, has eclipsed an array of pro-government news channels in ratings since 2017, has earned the ire of state officials through reports into alleged self-dealing, campaign finance violations, and other wrongdoing by the Macri administration, of whose trickle-down policies its anchors and guests are largely critical.

The implosion last May of a carry-trade debt bubble promoted by Macri in 2016 and '17 has led to the most severe recession in Argentina since 2002.

"It's evident this government wants to corner C5N," Congressman Leopoldo Moreau, chair of the Press Freedom Committee, said. "And they're doing it in an electoral year, in hopes of silencing critical voices."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F173627-bloqueo-a-c-5-n-a-pedido-de-la-afip

Employees gather outside C5N studios in Buenos Aires.

Despite rising to the top in ratings, the cable news station has struggled financially under a series of lawsuits filed by the government since Macri took office three years ago.

Argentine law prohibits state agencies from placing liens on media payroll or other operating accounts. The case is likely to be heard by the nation's Supreme Court.

United Artists turns 100

Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith were all heavyweights in the rapidly growing motion-picture industry by 1919.

All four, however, were seeking to gain more financial and artistic control over producing and distributing their films. On February 5, 1919, they joined forces to create their own film studio, which they called the United Artists Corporation.

United Artists quickly gained prestige in Hollywood, notably with Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925), as well as the work of actors such as Buster Keaton, Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson. Chaplin directed UA films as well as acted in them, and Pickford concentrated on producing after she retired from acting in the 1930s.

With the rise of sound during that decade, UA was helped by the talents (and bankrolls) of veteran producers like Joseph Schenck, Samuel Goldwyn, Howard Hughes and Alexander Korda.

The corporation struggled financially in the 1940s, however, and in 1951 the production studio was sold and UA became only a financing and distributing facility.

By the mid-1950s, all of the original partners had sold their shares of the company; but UA had begun to thrive again. In addition, the company was responsible for the James Bond and Pink Panther film franchises. UA went public in 1957 and became a subsidiary of the TransAmerica Corporation a decade later.

UA films garnered four Best Picture Academy Awards over the course of the 1970s. Soon after that, however, five top executives left the company in a disagreement and formed the Warner Brothers-backed Orion Pictures.

Following the big-budget flop Heaven’s Gate, directed by Michael Cimino, MGM bought the company in 1981, merging with it in 1983 to become MGM/UA Entertainment. In a highlight of those relatively dark years, UA did release another Best Picture winner, Rain Man, in 1988.

In 1992, the French bank Credit Lyonnais acquired UA and changed its name back to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

MGM changed hands and was reorganized repeatedly over the next decade and a half, during which UA was repositioned as a boutique producer of smaller, so-called “art house” films such as Bowling for Columbine (2002), Hotel Rwanda (2005) and Capote (2006).

That November MGM gave the actor/producer Tom Cruise and his production partner, Paula Wagner, control over the United Artists production slate, announcing the decision as a “reintroduction” of the UA brand in the spirit of its founders.

At: https://www.historyinorbit.com/today-history-united-artists-founded/

Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks form their own production studio, United Artists, today in 1919.

Key Macri ally faces murder charges after forcing 12 year-old rape victim to give birth; baby dead

Gerardo Morales, governor of Argentina's remote Jujuy Province and a close ally of President Mauricio Macri, faces potential murder charges for having used his office to force a 12 year-old rape victim to give birth - a decision leading to the infant's death days later.

The decision has been condemned by both pro-choice and pro-life activists, who announced they intend to file murder charges against Morales and Health Minister Gustavo Bouhid today.

The young mother, who had sought an abortion at the provincial maternity hospital, became a rallying cry for pro-life groups and Argentina's influential Catholic Church.

But despite support from her parents and the hospital's decision to carry out the abortion, Governor Morales reportedly ordered hospital staff to effect the birth against the mother's wishes.

Accordingly, a cesarean section was carried out on January 18. Born severely premature (23 weeks) as a result, the 703 gram (24.7 oz) baby died just four days later.

The obstetrician who carried out the cesarean birth, Dr. Gustavo Briones, resigned his post in protest on January 30, noting that Morales and Bouhid ignored all medical recommendations and forced her to give birth.

Morales claimed on January 21 that "a prominent Jujuy family was interested in adopting the baby." The infant died the next day.

Legal but illegal

Numerous leading Argentine pro-life groups - traditional allies of the right-wing Morales - have declared their intent to pursue the governor's impeachment.

Morales' interference, activists note, was unjustified even under current law: Abortion in Argentina, while still illegal in most cases, has been legal in cases of rape or to save the mother's life since 1921.

According to the Ministry of Health, around 370,000 abortions are performed in the country annually - up to 50,000 of which result in complications, and, in 2017, in 30 deaths.

A bill legalizing abortion on demand up to the 14th week passed the lower house of Congress last June but was defeated on August 8 in the Senate.

Two-thirds of Macri's "Let's Change" coalition - to which Morales belongs - voted against the bill.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.tiempoar.com.ar%2Fnota%2Fimpulsan-denuncia-penal-y-juicio-politico-contra-el-gobernador-gerardo-morales

Jujuy Province Governor Gerardo Morales (left) and his Health Minister, Gustavo Bouhid.

Both face murder charges for forcing a 12 year-old rape victim to gave birth - and without her or her family's consent.

The baby, still premature at 23 weeks, died four days later.

The right-wing Morales has likewise been condemned by human rights groups for his use of arbitrary detention against political prisoners.
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