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Fernandez, Biden hold talks amid Argentina's economic strain

Source: Washington Post

President Alberto Fernández of Argentina used a White House meeting Wednesday to spotlight the economic strain his country faces as he looks for President Joe Biden to back Argentina’s effort to renegotiate with the International Monetary Fund on terms of $44 billion debt.

The United States has veto power in the IMF, so any sign of support from Biden to revise requirements to the debt agreement would be seen as a positive for Argentina while talks continue.

In comments to reporters at the start of their meeting, Fernández noted that Argentina’s economy has endured the “worst drought” in the country in more than 90 years.

He also noted the Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused rippling effects on his country’s economy and others.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/03/29/biden-argentina-alberto-fernandez-imf-debt-economy/b08be8cc-ce6e-11ed-8907-156f0390d081_story.html

Argentine President Alberto Fernández and U.S. President Joe Biden at the Oval Office this afternoon.

Biden lauded Fernández's stand on democracy, human rights, and against Russia's invasion of Ukraine - which has hit Argentina's already-stressed balance of payments hard.

Fernández thanked Biden for his donation of millions of Covid vaccine doses during the depths of the pandemic in 2021, and for Biden's support in Argentina's efforts to refinance a nearly $200 billion foreign debt inherited from the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration.

“I think we have an enormous opportunity to increase our economic interchange, our economic integration on everything from clean energy to critical minerals to technology to security,” Biden said.

Biden and Argentina's Fernandez meet in Oval Office, celebrate 200 years of bilateral ties

Argentine President Alberto Fernández and U.S. President Joe Biden held a bilateral meeting today in the White House’s Oval Office at 2.40 p.m.

The meeting - which also marked 200 years of bilateral relations - had an open agenda, and they were later joined by high-ranking officials from both administrations.

Fernández left Argentina on March 24 to start a week-long tour, starting with the Ibero-American Summit in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

He then made a two-day stop in New York City, where he held a meeting with over 30 investors, banking managers, and businessmen at the Council of the Americas on Monday night.

Yesterday, Fernández was joined in D.C. by Economy Minister Sergio Massa. Fernández flies back to Argentina later today - but Massa will remain in the US to meet with International Monetary Fund (IMF) director Kristalina Georgieva on Thursday.

Given the United States’ key role in IMF decisions, Massa and Fernández hope to secure support for their economic plan for Argentina during the trip.

Fernández argued that this summer’s drought, which has devastated Argentina’s harvest and subsequent exports, has changed this year’s macroeconomic panorama - depriving the hard currency-strapped country of up to $20 billion in export income for 2023.

At: https://buenosairesherald.com/world/international-relations/fernandez-and-biden-to-meet-in-oval-office-this-afternoon

Argentine President Alberto Fernández and U.S. President Joe Biden at the Oval Office this afternoon.

Biden lauded Fernández's stand on democracy, human rights, and against Russia's invasion of Ukraine - which has hit Argentina's already-stressed balance of payments hard.

Fernández thanked Biden for his donation of millions of Covid vaccine doses during the depths of the pandemic in 2021, and for Biden's support in Argentina's efforts to refinance a nearly $200 billion foreign debt inherited from the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration.

Former Argentine President Mauricio Macri opts out of running in presidential primary

With just 90 days before the deadline to confirm his candidacy, former president Mauricio Macri announced that he will not run for president in a 5-minute video this morning.

In his video, he praised his 2015-19 administration — which ended in his re-election defeat and in a severe foreign debt crisis which has since saddled President Alberto Fernández’s administration.

“Never again will we be represented by a puppet,” he said in reference to Fernández, who was selected by Vice President Cristina Kirchner to run for president in May 2019.

“Never Again” (Nunca Más) is a motto used by Argentina’s human rights movement calling for the horrors of the last military dictatorship (1976-83) to never be repeated.

Macri, 64, has referred to human rights campaigns as a “scam” — and as president lobbied the Supreme Court to grant the over 1,000 convicted of dictatorship-era atrocities reduced sentences (which they did, before reversing their own ruling).

This message came amid uncertainty among his right-wing coalition, Together for Change (JxC), as Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and PRO party president Patricia Bullrich head to what seems to be a strong competition in primaries — Larreta representing a more moderate faction, and Bullrich supporting far-right policies.

By stepping down from the presidential race without explicitly supporting any of the JxC presidential candidates, he leaves the game open for them to run against each other in the August primaries.

At: https://buenosairesherald.com/politics/national-politics/macri-announces-he-will-not-run-for-president

A downcast former Argentine President Mauricio Macri announcing this morning that he will not run for president this year.

His decision was widely lauded in his right-wing Together for Change coalition — who see Macri as the least electable of their major potential candidates.

Macri, whose 2015-19 tenure resulted in a massive foreign debt crisis, has drawn frequent comparisons to his personal friend Donald Trump — who reportedly pressured the IMF to lend Argentina a record $45 billion in hopes of salvaging Macri's failed, 2019 re-election effort.

President Alberto Fernández, who defeated Macri in 2019, is himself dealing with low approval ratings over his handling of the “Macrisis” — and may reportedly opt out of running as well.

Buenos Aires Herald returns after six-year hiatus

The Buenos Aires Herald, closely associated with Argentina’s British and American communities, as well as tourists, returned as an online daily after shutting down in 2017.

The English-language journal, founded in 1876, later earned internal renown for its coverage of the “disappeared” – people who were forcibly abducted, tortured and murdered by the state during Argentina's last dictatorship in the late 1970s – when much of the country’s media stayed silent.

The Herald, which - like most Argentine newspapers - had suffered steadily-declining circulation since the 1970s, was purchased by the owners of the country's largest business daily, Ámbito Financiero, in 2008 - and in 2015 by the Indalo Group, which owns Argentina's top-rated progressive cable news network, C5N.

The Indalo Group is currently pursuing litigation against members of the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration (2015-19) for political persecution, including alleged attempts to use pro-Macri courts to seize the group.

A key defendant in the case, Macri fixer Fabián “Pepín” Rodríguez Simón, has had an Interpol Red Notice issued against him in 2021 for avoiding subpoenas to testify. Rodríguez Simón, 64, is reportedly living in neighboring Uruguay - whose courts are still mulling his extradition.

The Herald's main competition in this new chapter will be the centrist Buenos Aires Times, owned by the Perfil Group.

At: https://buenosairesherald.com/op-ed/editorial/the-buenos-aires-herald-is-back

A sign of the times, a 2016 headline in the Buenos Aires Herald, Argentina's best-known English-language daily, presages its closure a year later.

Its owners revived the daily - long a favorite among Argentina's English-speaking community - this Friday.

The Herald earned international renown for helping expose Nazi activities in Argentina in the 1930s and '40s - and for raising awareness of the country's disappeared during the last dictatorship in the late 1970s.

It later earned the ire of Argentina's largely right-wing media for its criticism of former President Mauricio Macri, whose sharp utility rate hikes - and alleged use of allied courts against the Herald's owners - helped lead to its closure in 2017.

Right-Wing Radio Host Calls For Execution of Obama and Others if Trump's Indicted

Source: Mediaite

Pete Santilli, a right-wing radio host, advocated recently on his show for the execution of former President Barack Obama along with former Attorney General Eric Holder and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice if former President Donald Trump is indicted this week — as Trump has claimed he will be.

This comes after Trump’s post on Truth Social over the weekend where he alleged that he will be arrested Tuesday stemming from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation over a hush-money payment to adult star Stormy Daniels.

The video was posted by Right Wing Watch on Twitter Monday and shows Santilli raging for the military’s involvement so that the “criminals” can be held accountable.

Read more: https://www.mediaite.com/politics/right-wing-radio-host-calls-for-execution-of-obama-and-others-if-trumps-indicted/

Fascist firing squad fan Pete Santilli

After brutal assault, Yanis Varoufakis urges progressives to focus on 'what really matters'

Recovering from a brutal assault that left him with a broken nose and cheekbone, leftist Greek lawmaker Yanis Varoufakis on Tuesday urged progressives "not get distracted" from the railway accident that killed 57 people last month or the neoliberal "privatize everything doctrine" he blames for the disaster.

Appearing on ANT1's Kallimera Ellada ('Good Morning, Greece') on Tuesday, Varoufakis — the parliamentary leader of the left-wing MeRA25 party and former finance minister in 2015 — said he needs to "thank the public hospital staff" because "they worked miracles" to treat his fractured cheekbone and nose, which was broken in six places during the Friday evening assault by a group of young men the lawmaker described earlier as "hired thugs."

"The oligarchic establishment is trying to exploit my injuries in the most hideous, Goebbels-like manner."

"I will recover," he said, brushing off more questions about the attack. "But those 57 from the train accident in Tempi won't, and their families' pain cannot be treated" — a reference to the February 28 collision of passenger and freight trains in Larissa.

At: https://www.commondreams.org/news/yanis-varoufakis

Former Greek Finance Minister and leftist leader Yanis Varoufakis speaks to the media in Athens on Tuesday.

He was brutally attacked three days earlier in an Athens restaurant by men he described as "hired thugs."

Varoufakis had earlier blamed rail privatization for a recent rail accident that cost 57 lives.

"Without evidence but without doubt": the unusual grounds for banning Cristina Kirchner

Argentina’s vice-president and former president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was sentenced on December 6 to six years in prison - plus a lifelong ban on holding public office - after being found guilty of steering public works to a supporter.

The ruling - published three months later, only last Thursday - includes 1,600 pages, which for many in Argentina's right wing-dominated media was in itself "proof."

The ruling, however, was phrased by the court itself as one in which: "we have no evidence, but nor do we doubt" or "it is very difficult to obtain evidence in this type of organization, but it is evident that..." or "all the indications point to..." - seasoned with hundreds of superlative adjectives.

The case itself was marred by violations of due process, notably double jeopardy (Kirchner had already been acquitted on the same charges) and the court's allowing Federal Prosecutor Diego Luciani to introduce evidence in closing statements: text messages which seemed to implicate relatives of her arch-rival, former President Mauricio Macri, far more than Kirchner-era officials.

The federal tribunal overseeing the case - led by judges Andrés Basso, Jorge Gorini, and Rodrigo Giménez Uriburu - thus limited the political rights of millions of citizens, given that most polls show that Vice President Kirchner, 70, would give the ruling, center-left Front for All coalition its best chance in elections this October should she be the nominee.

And the political benefit to banning Kirchner has not been lost on Argentina's right-wing Together for Change coalition - who are seeking to return to power after being swept out in 2019 on the heels of a foreign debt bubble crash known locally as the "Macrisis."

Kirchner's defense counsel, Carlos Beraldi, had sought to recuse Judge Rodrigo Giménez Uriburu and Luciani after photos emerged in August showing the two beaming after playing soccer on Macri's estate.

Beraldi also sought in August to recuse Judge Jorge Gorini after proof emerged he had conferred with Macri's hard-line former Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich - was was similarly rebuffed by the tribunal itself.

Bullrich's top adviser during Macri's 2015-19 term, Gerardo Milman, is currently under investigation for potential links to a fascist "Federal Revolution" plot to assassinate Kirchner last September.

A history of coups and lawfare

To Mrs. Kirchner, the assassination attempt - together with her conviction and banning three months later - jeopardizes the democratic pact between the political parties, and seeks to end what has been the first forty years of uninterrupted democracy in Argentina's 207 years of independence.

And as if to underscore the authoritarian intent of the ruling, Judge Giménez Uriburu is the son-in-law of the late Army Chief of Staff Cristino Nicolaides - the leading opponent of the last dictatorship's decision in 1983 to hold elections.

Argentina has had a long and sordid history of "lawfare" - the use of the judiciary to persecute political opponents.

The country's three most prominent founding fathers - José de San Martín (Argentina's George Washington), Manuel Belgrano (its Thomas Jefferson), and Mariano Moreno (its Thomas Paine) - all endured baseless corruption allegations once the local landowning elite deemed them to be too reformist.

Argentina's first democratically-elected president, Hipólito Yrigoyen, was similarly smeared by conservative opponents before and after the 1930 coup against him - the first in a series of increasingly tragic coups until 1976, which ushered in a fascist dictatorship that worked lock-step with landed elites but killed up to 30,000 and bankrupted Argentina.

The 1930 coup was endorsed by the country's Supreme Court - which even today is closely aligned with right-wing interests, to the point of unilaterally ordering changes to the federal budget and reinstating laws rescinded by Congress years earlier.

Few doubt that should Kirchner run for president this year, her conviction (currently under appeal) is likely to be confirmed within weeks or even days of the election - all but guaranteeing the pro-Macri opposition's return.

Macri's first central bank president, Federico Sturzenegger - who himself had fraud charges dismissed after Macri took office in 2016, over a ruinous 2001 debt swap - was called to testify today over public threats to "seize (progressive cable network) C5N" and Kirchner's own assets should Together for Change win this October.

At: https://www-pagina12-com-ar.translate.goog/530635-sin-pruebas-pero-sin-dudas?_x_tr_sl=es&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner waves to supporters shortly before her conviction last December of steering public works during her 2007-15 tenure.

Convicted, and banned from holding public office, on a circumstantial case - as the court itself admitted, noting in its ruling that "we have no evidence" - Kirchner's ban has been compared to similar cases against Brazilian President Luiz "Lula" da Silva and former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.

da Silva was convicted of bribery on the eve of the 2018 election, based on a waterfront property he never owned and the testimony of a contractor kept in a rat-infested dungeon; the sentence was later vacated by Brazil's Supreme Court.

And Correa's 2020 sentence - like Kirchner's - was based, that court conceded, not on evidence but on "psychological pressure."

From the days of the Inquisition, Latin America has a long and sordid history of "lawfare" against figures who run afoul of landed elites.

SVB collapse: Peter Thiel's role scrutinized as spark of bank run

Tech mogul and Republican campaign donor Peter Thiel is being accused of sparking the run on the bank that forced regulators to close down Silicon Valley Bank.

Journalists and critics have turned their focus on Thiel in the wake of SVB's collapse, accusing him of influencing businesses to withdraw their funding from the bank. His efforts are thought to be the first that eventually sparked the bank run, leading to California regulators intervening.

"To be clear, SVB did not properly hedge its risks against two threats, 1) concentration of influence by Peter Thiel, 2) rising interest rates," tweeted investigative journalist Dave Troy.

"That was mismanagement, but it still wasn't fraud, and they still have sufficient assets to meet nearly all of the bank's obligations."

At: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/business/svb-collapse-peter-thiel-silicon-valley-

Soft coup?

On Thursday night, Founders Fund - the venture capital fund co-founded by Peter Thiel - advised companies to pull money from the now-insolvent Silicon Valley Bank.

Popular but facing opposition, Pope Francis marks 10 years as pontiff

Pope Francis marks 10 years as head of the Catholic Church on Monday, hugely popular but facing internal dissent after a decade of reform, even if he has left basic doctrine intact.

When he appeared at the balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013, in his plain white papal robes, the newly elected Jorge Bergoglio immediately presented an image of a different kind of papacy.

The smiling, outspoken Jesuit was in sharp contrast to his reserved, intellectual predecessor Benedict XVI, who shocked the world by becoming the first pope since the Middle Ages to resign.

And Francis had a plan – to reform the governance of the Church plagued by inertia, clean up its murky finances and turn its focus outwards.

While he has not deviated from some staunch Catholic beliefs – he has called abortion murder and homosexuality a sin – he has shown a more compassionate and less dogmatic approach, including condemning the persecution of gay people.

"No more demonisation of homosexuality, debates on extramarital relations or the contraceptive pill... all that has been taken off the table," noted Italian Vaticanist Marco Politi.

Instead, the 86-year-old pontiff – who is seemingly never happier than when among his flock – has emphasised social justice, inter-religious dialogue, the environment and the rights of refugees.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/world/popular-but-facing-opposition-pope-francis-marks-10-years-as-pontiff.phtml

Pope Francis in an interview with Argentine publisher Jorge Fontevecchia on Friday.

On the eve of his 10th anniversary as Pontiff, Francis said that he's in good health, though he's been “thinking a lot” about his mortality and admitted that he misses “strolling around the streets” of Argentina’s capital - which he hinted that he might visit after elections this October.

While he criticized “gender ideology,” he emphasized that “the exaggerated, rootless right wing is very dangerous, it worries me.”

Uruguayan-born Rafael Vinoly, New York's prolific and polarizing architect, dies at 78

Rafael Viñoly cut more or less the perfect figure of the New York City architect — serious-minded but amiable with an indulgent smile that could give way to a cool, impassive stare.

He may have been born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and spent the earliest years of his career in Argentina (he graduated from the University of Buenos Aires in 1968); but his assumption of the role as a New York designer appears to have been total.

“A relatively small, rocky island,” he once called Manhattan, “with this urban experiment, which is so unique and irreproducible.”

What Viñoly — who died on Thursday of an aneurysm at the age of 78 — left scattered across that island and its adjacent territories is pretty astonishing.

Since emigrating to the U.S. in the late 1970s, the designer’s eponymous firm completed no less than a dozen major projects in all five boroughs: from courthouses in the Bronx (two of them) to a performance venue in Manhattan (the interiors for Jazz at Lincoln Center) and academic buildings in Harlem, Brooklyn, and beyond.

But Viñoly did not, it often seemed, make much effort to duck the clothesline of public opinion.

Infamously, both his 20 Fenchurch Street tower in London from 2014 (known, not quite affectionately, as the Walkie Talkie) and his Vdara resort complex in Las Vegas from 2009, were discovered on completion to have a magnifying glass–like effect — reflecting sunlight with sufficient intensity to zap the odd parked car.

At: https://www.curbed.com/2023/03/rafael-vinoly-obituary-architect-new-york-city-432-park.html

Renowned Uruguayan-American architect Rafael Viñoly, 1944-2023, at the Carrasco International Airport terminal (2009) he designed for his native Montevideo.

From modest office, apartment and public buildings in Buenos Aires, Viñoly went on to design a prolific number of landmark, post-modern high-rises in Manhattan and elsewhere - including two "super-talls": 432 Park Avenue and 125 Greenwich Street.
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