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Argentine elections: Half the nation's teen voters missing from voter rolls "by mistake"

Argentina's National Electoral Commission (CNE) today announced a one-week extension in the deadline for verification of federal voter rolls until Wednesday, May 29.

The unusual step was taken after the CNE confirmed widespread reports of gaps in the voter rolls. Up to half the nation's voting-age teens were never uploaded to the official voter database by the National Registry of Persons "by mistake."

The right to vote was extended to Argentine 16 year-olds in 2012; over 1.1 million 16 and 17 year-olds were registered to vote by 2017 (80% of the total).

Recent polls show right-wing President Mauricio Macri losing to center-left Peronist candidate Alberto Fernández by 23% among younger voters.

Among all voters Fernández is currently leading by 11% despite having announced his candidacy just this Saturday. Former President Cristina Kirchner, who governed Argentina from 2007 to 2015 and who remains popular, is Fernández's running mate.

Narrowly elected in late 2015 on promises to jump-start sluggish growth with tax cuts and deregulation, Macri's policies have instead led to a massive debt crisis, an IMF bailout, and the deepest recession since the 2001-02 collapse.

Now you see it, now you don't

Today's incident underscores wider concerns over the integrity of Argentina's federal elections, scheduled for October 27.

University of Buenos Aires Professor Ariel Garbarz, a cybersecurity expert, warned that Macri's policy of having precinct summaries scanned and transmitted via e-mail to an electronic tabulation center, rather than having them visually verified, makes the process vulnerable to alteration and thereby fraud.

Mid-term elections in 2017 were marred by irregularities, with evidence surfacing of doctored precinct summary pdf files showing zeroed-out counts for Kirchner's Citizen's Unity in a number of cases.

The presiding electoral court judge at the time, Juan Manuel Culotta, was a high-school friend of Macri's. He struck down all complaints, and resigned shortly after the 2017 elections.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=pt&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.politicargentina.com%2Fnotas%2F201905%2F29169-el-gobierno-impide-que-los-jovenes-de-16-anos-puedan-votar.html

An Argentine high-schooler votes in the last presidential election in 2015.

President Mauricio Macri, who opposed extending the right to vote to 16 year-olds, is down 23 points among young voters in the latest polls.

"Now there are problems in the voter rolls," according to student leader Ofelia Fernández, "because our voting obviously bothers them."

As Argentina's Macri senses defeat, charges against opponents revived

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner appeared in court today to face charges related to alleged cost overruns in public works contracts during her 2007-15 administration.

The charges, one of at least eight facing the center-left former president, come as the 2019 presidential campaign season in Argentina gets underway.

Kirchner, 66, is currently a running mate for Peronist candidate Alberto Fernández - whom polls show defeating right-wing President Mauricio Macri by 11% amid a debt crisis and the most severe recession since the 2001-02 collapse.

Earlier today, three days after the Fernández-Kirchner ticket was announced, Mariana Zuvic of the pro-Macri Civic Coalition announced that she intends to file an unspecified complaint against Fernández in relation to the case - though he has never been named in any of the charges pressed against Kirchner.

Zuvic and two fellow Civic Coalition lawmakers have been implicated in the recent Extortiongate scandal - a federal case involving Argentina's Federal Intelligence, millions in ransom payments and false testimony coerced against political opponents.

Road to nowhere

The Vialidad ('Roads') case does not involve federal contracts; but instead those granted in remote Santa Cruz Province to Austral Construcciones, whose former CEO, Lázaro Báez, is a family friend of the Kirchners and has been the focus of intense media coverage.

Báez was jailed on money laundering charges in 2016, and following Macri's rescission of numerous Austral contracts by decree the firm declared bankruptcy in 2017.

The 'roads' case has been impugned by Mrs. Kirchner's defense as legally void not only because she was never governor of Santa Cruz; but also because of the 51 Austral contracts the courts ordered prosecutors to examine, only five were - and all five are incomplete.

Prosecutors have stated that their report on the five contracts, will be ready "sometime in June to September." The first round of presidential elections will be on August 11, and the second, on October 27.

The prosecution is led by Anti-Corruption Office head Laura Alonso - a pro-Macri hard-liner who once confessed "being in love" with the president; but who lacks a law degree as required by the office.

Critics of the Macri administration have pointed to the 'roads' charges as the latest in a series of lawfare attacks carried out against opposition figures for political purposes - particularly against Kirchner, whom Macri sees as his principal obstacle to re-election.

Defense attorneys, who were not allowed to speak in today's trial, have also impugned the case for double jeopardy:

The public works contracts granted to Austral had already been investigated in federal courts in 2011 and 2015, by Santa Cruz courts in 2012-13, and in 2016 (after Macri took office) by the National Highway Bureau. None found irregularities.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.eldestapeweb.com%2Fjuicio-cristina-kirchner%2Fjuicio-cristina-kirchner-que-se-trata-la-causa-que-impulsa-comodoro-py-medio-la-campana-n60250

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner during today's trial.

Decade-old charges alleging road construction cost overruns in her home province, which have been found without merit on at least four occasions and for which no evidence has emerged, were recently revived by the Macri administration ahead of elections this October.

Recent polls show the center-left Alberto Fernández-Cristina Kirchner ticket defeating Macri by 11%.

Argentina: Alberto Fernandez-Cristina Kirchner ticket announced

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández Kirchner announced she will run as a vice presidential candidate in elections this October, a surprise move by the firebrand former leader who had been widely expected to be the main challenger to incumbent Mauricio Macri.

Kirchner, 66, has endorsed fellow Peronist Alberto Fernández, who is little known outside Argentina, for president.

Alberto Fernández, 60, served as chief of staff from 2003 to 2007 for former President Néstor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández's late husband, and for a few months during her first term.

A law professor, he is considered a moderate within the broad Peronist political flank and is not related to the former president.

The two have had their differences, with Alberto Fernández supporting the Renewal Front, a centrist Peronist faction, for most of the last few years.

But they also have known each other for over two decades, and in the past 18 months have become close allies.

The unexpected move will shake up an election race many thought would be a choice between Macri and the more fiery populism of Mrs. Kirchner, who governed Argentina from 2007 and 2015.

Rebuilding the country

Polls show Macri losing against almost any Peronist opponent by nearly double digits.

Narrowly elected in late 2015 on promises to jump-start sluggish growth with tax cuts and deregulation, his policies have instead resulted in a massive debt crisis, and IMF bailout, and the most severe recession since the 2001-02 collapse.

"The debt taken on by Macri in just three years is larger than the one Néstor received, defaulted, in 2003 - aggravated by the fact that 40% of it is now owed to the IMF," Mrs. Kirchner noted in her announcement video today.

"To my fellow Argentines, who are anxious about losing their job, inflation and unpayable public utility rates. Who are also worried because the government continues to indebt the country to finance obscene financial gambling, I ask them not to give up. We know that a better country is possible because we've already lived it."

"Rebuilding a country for all must be not only our dream but our goal. I love you all very much."

At: https://www.yahoo.com/news/argentinas-cristina-fernandez-run-vice-presidential-candidate-2019-125422478--sector.html

Former Chief of Staff Alberto Fernández and former President Cristina Kirchner.

Widely expected to run for president this year, Mrs. Kirchner will instead be on Alberto Fernández's ticket as his running mate.

Fernández is known as a moderate within Argentina's big-tent Peronist movement, in contrast to the more left-leaning Kirchner.

The two become instant front-runners in a country suffering from Macri's carry-trade debt crisis and its worst recession since the 2002 collapse.

F-16 fighter jet crashes near March Air Reserve Base in California; pilot safely ejects

An F-16 fighter jet crashed into a warehouse west of March Air Reserve Base in Southern California on Thursday. The pilot safely ejected but at least three people were injured on the ground.

The pilot was able to walk after ejecting from the jet, according to reports from the scene.

The three people hurt at the crash site were taken to Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley for treatment of minor injuries, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The crash happened as the pilot was landing following a routine training mission, March Air Reserve Base Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Holliday said. Witnesses reported seeing the jet shutter and roll moments before it plummeted to the ground.

“The pilot was having hydraulic problems,” Holliday said. “He started losing control of the aircraft.”

The armed Fighting Falcon, a part of the 114th Fighter Wing, went down about 3:45 p.m. and crashed into the See Water Inc. warehouse, near Interstate 215.

At: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/05/16/f-16-fighter-jet-crashes-march-air-reserve-base-california/3700934002/

Our tax dollars at play: The See Water warehouse in Moreno Valley, CA, after today's incident.

Three civilians on the ground were hurt.

Chief suspect in homicide of Mapuche protester Rafael Nahuel arrested in Argentina

A federal court in Argentina ordered the arrest of Gendarmerie Sargent Francisco Pintos as the chief suspect in the 2017 homicide of indigenous protester Rafael Nahuel.

Nahuel, 22, was shot in the back on November 25, 2017, as he and others fled a court-ordered eviction of the Lof Lafken Winkul Mapu protest camp, near the shores of scenic Lake Mascardi.

The court found that contrary to repeated assertions by Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, neither Hahuel nor any of his fellow protesters were armed - nor were weapons located in repeated searches of Mapuche properties.

Arrests made last year in neighboring Chile in connection to prosecutorial fraud in "Operation Hurricane," conducted against Mapuche activists by Chilean police and intelligence forces with the support of President Sebastián Piñera, revealed that Chile's Carabineros and Argentina's Gendarmerie colluded to concoct and publish false evidence against Mapuches.

Numerous demonstrations by the Mapuche people have taken place in recent years in and around Argentina's scenic lake district, the nation's leading winter tourism destination - and of growing interest in recent decades to foreign investors.

Santiago Maldonado

This was the second such case in Argentina in three months, after artist and activist Santiago Maldonado, 28, disappeared on August 1, 2017, during an unauthorized Gendarmerie raid on a Mapuche protest camp further south.

Bullrich later promoted the main suspect, Gendarmerie Corporal Emmanuel Echazú.

The Maldonado and Nahuel deaths earned the right-wing administration of Argentine President Mauricio Macri a rebuke from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) over excessive and indiscriminate use of force - as well as over the use of indefinite detention against critics and opponents.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F193969-ordenan-la-detencion-del-prefecto-acusado-del-crimen-de-rafa

Mapuche protester Rafael Nahuel and pro-Mapuche activist Santiago Maldonado.

Their 2017 deaths at the hands of National Gendarmerie (militarized police) focused international attention on the excessive and indiscriminate use of force against protesters under Argentine President Mauricio Macri, as well as over the use of indefinite detention against critics and opponents.

Maldonado's family still seek justice, and may ask that Santiago's case be reopened following today's ruling.

Alabama state Senate passes near total abortion ban in direct challenge to Roe v. Wade

Source: NBC News

The Alabama state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill essentially banning abortion in the state, a move specifically aimed at challenging over 40 years of federal abortion protection under Roe v. Wade.

The bill, which passed 25-6, would make it a felony for a doctor to perform or attempt an abortion during any stage of pregnancy.

The House approved a version of the bill that had an exception for the mother's health, passing 74-3, then a Senate committee added an exception for rape and incest. Republicans in the Senate, however, suddenly tabled the rape and incest exemptions last week, leading to swift and vocal opposition from Democrats.

Democratic Sen. Bobby Singleton put up an amendment to make exceptions in the case of rape and incest again on Tuesday night. Four Republicans joined the seven Democrats present to vote for the exceptions, but the measure failed in a roll call vote.

Singleton then accused proponents of the legislation of having "raped the state of Alabama with this bill." Governor Kay Ivey is expected to sign the bill into law.

Read more: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/alabama-state-senate-passes-near-total-abortion-ban-direct-challenge-n1005556

Argentina's Extortiongate: Investigating judge to retain case, in a blow to Macri

Argentine Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla, who oversees a case of a massive extortion scheme involving millions in ransom payments and false testimony coerced against political opponents, was confirmed as the presiding judge in the wide-reaching case, known locally as "Extortiongate."

A Federal Appeals Court ruled that transferring the case to Buenos Aires, as requested by Federal Prosecutor Juan Curi, would be "premature, given the early stage of the investigation and the shortage of elements with which as yet to judge the true nature of the illicit organization."

The ruling is a blow to President Mauricio Macri, whose Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) is deeply implicated in Extortiongate.

Macri, who is seeking the judge's impeachment, has close ties to both principals in the alleged extortion ring:

To Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli through the Boca Juniors football club (which Macri headed until entering politics); and to AFI agent Marcelo d'Alessio through d'Alessio's uncle (whom Macri appointed presidential notary public), and through d'Alessio's former law partner - who administers Macri's blind trust.

Those charged thus far include d'Alessio, fellow AFI operatives Ricardo Bogoliuk, Aníbal Degastaldi, Rolando Barreiro, and Claudio Álvarez, as well as Buenos Aires Province D.A. Juan Bidone.

In addition, those named as persons of interest include Stornelli, Federal Judge Claudio Bonadío (to whose court Macri sought to transfer the case), and pro-Macri Civic Coalition lawmakers Elisa Carrió, Paula Olivetto, and Mariana Zuvic.

Carrió, like Zuvic, is well known as a right-wing media firebrand and, according to witness testimony, relied on d'Alessio and Bidone for material.

Shakedown breakdown

Extortiongate began when, on February 8, 22 hours of incriminating tapes collected by farmer Pedro Etchebest, from whom d'Alessio sought a $300,000 ransom, were published by investigative journalist Horacio Verbitsky.

The tapes, made throughout January, show d'Alessio boasting that some $12 million in bribes had been coerced from victims since August 2018, that political opponents had been “framed,” and that Stornelli “managed” the enterprise.

Audio, video, and WhatsApp messages show a close working relationship between the two - as well as with Security Minister Patricia Bullrich and the chief judicial affairs writer for the right-wing daily Clarín, Daniel Santoro.

Santoro, according to the tapes, wrote hit pieces at his behest against those refusing to pay.

The operation, according to testimony from numerous witnesses and d'Alessio himself, also sought false testimony against Macri's opponents - particularly former President Cristina Kirchner, her allies, and Santa Fe Governor Miguel Lifschitz.

Amid a imploding debt bubble and severe recession, Macri is facing job disapproval of 70% and had relied on corruption allegations against Kirchner and her former officials to boost his reelection chances this year.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.infonews.com%2Fnota%2F323378%2Fla-justicia-ratifico-a-ramos-padilla-al

Federal Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla (left), faces stonewalling from Macri, as well as attempts to have the Extortiongate case transferred to a close ally, Federal Judge Claudio Bonadío (right).

Today's ruling stops the push to have the case transferred - though perhaps only temporarily.

Bonadío, known as a "napkin" judge for his willingness to follow the president's agenda, is the public face of Argentina's weaponized judiciary against opponents.

Intelligence operative Marcelo d'Alessio played a key role by coercing false testimony (and payouts) from witnesses, coaching others, and helping concoct evidence.

Right-wing Congresswoman Elisa Carrió (middle) has been named by witness testimony as the principal launderer for d'Alessio's material, mostly by way of high-profile media "denouncements" against opponents.

Trump to welcome Hungarian PM Viktor Orban

Tomorrow President Trump will receive Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán in the Oval Office.

It's the first visit by a Hungarian prime minister to the White House since 2005. The Obama administration limited diplomatic contacts with Orbán's government over concerns that it was eroding democratic norms.

As president Trump prepares to receive Orbán at the White House, we look at the Hungarian prime minister's so-called "illiberal democracy."

Orbán was once a hero of democracy. As a young anti-Soviet activist, he founded a political movement that helped transition his country out of communism.

In 1998, when he was just 35, he was already prime minister and visiting Bill Clinton's White House.

Four years later, his party lost elections, and he was out of power. When he became prime minister again in 2010, he was a changed man. Political analyst Gabor Gyori noticed ruthlessness.

"Viktor Orbán is famous for his view that politics is war," Gyori noted. "This is destroy or be destroyed."

Under Orbán, Hungary rewrote its constitution to strengthen his control over Parliament. With Parliament, he's weakened the courts. And Orbán supporters have taken control of most of the media.

He told supporters in 2014 that he wants to remake Hungary into what he calls an "ill-liberal democracy."

At: https://www.npr.org/2019/05/12/722647668/trump-to-welcome-hungarian-pm-viktor-orb-n

Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Orbán's visit to the White House tomorrow highlights Trump's policy of supporting hard-right heads of state - such as Brazil's Bolsonaro, Colombia's Duque, and Argentina's Macri - whose administrations have been marked by intolerance and abuses of power.

Eighth straight loss for Macri's 'Let's Change' renews calls to break with unpopular president

Elections in Córdoba Province - Argentina's second-largest - gave incumbent Governor Juan Schiaretti a resounding victory, and President Mauricio Macri's right-wing "Let's Change" coalition its eighth straight defeat so far this year.

With 91% of the vote in, Schiaretti won reelection today with 57%, with Macri's candidate, Mario Negri, with 19%, and Ramón Mestre of the centrist UCR (junior partners in 'Let's Change') at just 12%.

While Schiaretti, a centrist within the Justicialist Party (founded by the late populist leader Juan Perón), was widely expected to win today, his lopsided victory was a political sting for Macri, whose surrogates had campaigned extensively for Negri.

Negri, moreover, was unable to run on a united 'Let's Change' ticket because on March 11, the Córdoba UCR broke with the coalition over disaffection with Macri and his handling of the deepest economic crisis since the 2001 collapse.

The UCR fielded Mestre separately instead, and in turn lost control of the city of Córdoba (Argentina's second largest), which elected a Justicialist mayor - Martín Llaryora, who won by 19% - for the first time since 1973.

Tonight's defeat in Córdoba marks the eighth straight defeat in provincial polls for Macri since a February 17 'Let's Change' primary in La Pampa Province yielded an unexpected rebuke for the president's hand-picked candidate, Carlos MacAllister of Macri's hard-right PRO, by UCR Congressman Daniel Kroneberger - and by a lopsided 32%.

The defeat in La Pampa was followed by seven more so far:

∙ Neuquén Province on March 10, where 'Let's Change' lost by 25%
∙ San Juan Province on March 31, by 22%
∙ Chubut Province on April 7, by 18%
∙ Río Negro Province, the same day, by 47%
∙ Entre Ríos Province on April 14, by 21%
∙ Santa Fe Province (the nation's third-largest) on April 28, by 14%
∙ And today's defeat in Córdoba, by 26% (by 38%, taking Negri alone).

Radical departure

This trend, plus Argentina's deepening economic crisis and Macri's 24% approval ratings, have renewed calls by many in the UCR (known in Argentina as "Radicals" despite their moderate politics) to break with Macri entirely when the party meets for their convention on May 27.

Ricardo Alfonsín, who as the son of former President Raúl Alfonsín (elected in 1983 after a ruinous, 7-year dictatorship) wields considerable influence in the UCR, is among those who supports endorsing economist Roberto Lavagna instead - as the UCR already once did in 2007.

"The UCR must form a new front that recovers the confidence and expectations of the people, and that includes socialists, GEN (a small centrist party), and sectors within Peronism," Alfonsín advised.

"If the electoral choices in 2019 are the same as those in 2015, the winner this time will be United Citizens" - in reference to the center-left party founded by former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whom recent polls show winning against any potential rival despite not yet announcing her candidacy.

The sentiment was echoed in February by UCR Vice President Federico Storani, a Córdoba Province native.

"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%2F193472-elecciones-en-cordoba-arraso-el-peronismo

Re-elected Córdoba Province Governor Juan Schiaretti (left) and Martín Llaryora, candidate for mayor of the city of Córdoba (Argentina's second-largest), celebrate their victories tonight.

Their Justicialist Party easily defeated candidates endorsed by President Mauricio Macri, whose right-wing administration - despite staunch support by most corporate media in Argentina - may be denied a second term this October by the sharpest recession since the country's 2001-02 collapse.

The trend - and the crisis itself - has renewed calls among the ruling coalition's junior (and largely ignored) partners, the UCR, to break with Macri altogether.

Argentine lawmaker fights for life after shooting

An Argentine lawmaker has been seriously injured and another man has been killed after being shot in a brazen attack near the congressional building in the country's capital, authorities said Thursday.

Congressman Héctor Olivares, 61, was shot at around 7 a.m. local time. Olivares, who represents La Rioja Province, is being treated at a hospital in Buenos Aires and is in critical condition.

The man killed was identified as Miguel Yadón, 58, a federal electricity agency official for La Rioja. Yadón, an adviser to Olivares and friends since their teenage years, was shot at least six times.

A video of the shooting released by the security minister showed that a parked car was waiting for Yadón and Olivares. The assailants appeared noticeably unhurried and took no precautions against being identified; one exited the car and left on foot.

Olivares belongs to the centrist UCR - junior members of President Mauricio Macri's right-wing "Let's Change" coalition. Before he was shot, he had been discussing a bill against hooliganism in Argentine soccer, which produces some of the best players in the world - but is plagued by entrenched corruption and violence.

Macri, a former head of the Boca Juniors football club (one of the country's most important), has long been dogged by allegations of ties to soccer gangs - known locally as barras bravas.

Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli and Boca Juniors head Daniel Angelici - both longtime Macri confidants - are known to be close to Rafael di Zeo, a top soccer hooligan gang leader. Stornelli was recently charged in the "Extortiongate" scandal involving Argentine intelligence attempts to extract false testimony against opponents, as well as payoffs.

Attacks on politicians are unusual in Argentina, a country of 44 million people, where the news usually centers on an ongoing economic crisis since Macri's carry-trade debt bubble imploded a year ago.

At: https://www.yahoo.com/news/argentina-lawmaker-shot-injured-apparent-attack-132704587.html

Argentine Congressman Héctor Olivares, who remains in critical condition after being shot from a parked vehicle.

The day before, Olivares has sponsored a bill against hooliganism in Argentine soccer - whose ties include those to President Mauricio Macri, a longtime principal in the Boca Juniors football club.
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