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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
January 22, 2024

Piedad Cordoba, an outspoken leftist who straddled Colombia's ideological divide, dies at 68

Piedad Córdoba, an outspoken Colombian lawmaker who for decades championed the rights of her fellow Afro-Colombians while undertaking huge risks as a go-between to leftist rebel groups, has died. She was 68.

The senator’s death was confirmed Saturday by President Gustavo Petro, who praised Córdoba as a true liberal who “fought all her mature life for a more democratic society.”

No cause of death was given but Colombian media reported she was found dead Saturday by her bodyguards at her home in Medellín from an apparent heart attack.

Known throughout Colombia for her colorful turbans evoking her African heritage, Córdoba stood out as a leftist stalwart in one of Latin America’s most conservative countries and paid dearly for her vociferous defense of some of the country’s most dispossessed.

Whether kidnapped by right-wing paramilitary groups, or expelled from Congress for promoting the country’s last remaining rebel army, Córdoba never shied away from conflict and frequently bounced back from adversity in remarkable ways.

A trusted ally of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Córdoba played a key behind-the-scenes role in bringing leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to the negotiating table that resulted in a historic 2016 peace deal ending a half century of guerrilla conflict.

At: https://apnews.com/article/cordoba-obit-colombia-leftist-afrocolombian-aa74d5c98f8130e911100a3c4b6c17a1

Colombian senator and peace activist Piedad Córdoba, 1955- 2024.

As tireless as she was controversial, Córdoba was instrumental in bringing peace to Colombia after three decades of civil war.
January 14, 2024

Milei appointee to PAMI (Argentine Medicare) office: "Covid might be a solution to the Argentine pension deficit"

Senior advocates and opposition lawmakers have raised alarms over the recent appointment to an important PAMI (Argentine Medicare) office, of a businessman who in 2020 tweeted that "Covid might be a solution to the deficit in the Argentine pension system."

Guido Orlandi, 38, a restaurant owner with no experience in social security or public health, was appointed to manage PAMI's Local Management Unit IX - which oversees service in Rosario, Argentina's third-largest city.

Rosario is home to some 1.35 million people - of which over 175,000 are senior citizens.

"The coronavirus imported from China may be the solution to the deficit in the Argentine pension system," Orlandi expressed on his Twitter account on March 10, 2020 - in the earliest days of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 took over 130,000 lives in Argentina - the majority of them people over 60.

The tweet was visible until the online journal La Política Online reported it this Friday - after which it, and Orlandi's Twitter (X) account, were deleted.

His restaurant hosted election-night rallies for President Javier Milei's "Forward Liberty" (LLA) far-right party last year. Milei has pledged to privatize both PAMI and the nation's social security agency (ANSES).

Both PAMI and ANSES enjoy a surplus - and as of 2023, ANSES had a trust fund of US$76 billion. The two agencies serve over 7 million retired and disabled persons.

Milei has been denounced by opposition lawmakers for sneaking a provision in his first of two "mega-decrees" that would transfer the trust fund to treasury accounts - where it would likely be raided to finance the federal budget.

At: https://www-lapoliticaonline-com.translate.goog/santa-fe/karina-puso-al-frente-del-pami-rosario-a-un-empresario-que-dijo-que-el-covi-era-la-solucion-al-deficit-jubilatorio/?_x_tr_sl=es&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

Restaurant owner Guido Orlandi - who was given a thumbs up this week from the far-right-Javier Milei administration to manage the Argentine Medicare office in the country's third-largest city.

Orlandi, who lacks any experience in social security or public health, had tweeted in 2020 that "Covid might be a solution to the deficit in the Argentine pension system."

Like President Milei, Orlandi had frequently taken to social media to both attack Covid abatement measures during their height in 2020, as well as to to laud then-U.S. President Donald Trump.
January 14, 2024

Iowa high school principal who was shot while trying to protect students dies from his injuries

Source: ABC News

The Iowa high school principal who was shot and wounded while trying to protect his students during a school shooting earlier this month has died from his injuries, according to the school district.

Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger was among seven people injured in the Jan. 4 shooting. One student, 11-year-old sixth grader Ahmir Jolliff, was killed, authorities said.

The suspected shooter -- a student at the high school -- died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.

Read more: https://abcnews.go.com/US/iowa-perry-high-school-principal-dan-marburger-shot-protecting-students-dies/story?id=106366186

Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger 1967-2024.
January 12, 2024

Argentina's Mileise: Monthly inflation hits 25.5% in December - the highest in the world

Argentina’s monthly inflation rate reached 25.5% in December 2023, according to the National Institute for Statistics and Census (INDEC).

The figure, which more than doubles November’s rate, is the first to reflect part of President Javier Milei’s administration and last month’s 54% devaluation. The monthly rate, published on Thursday, is the highest since February 1991.

Cumulative inflation for 2023 was 211.4%, the country’s highest annual price hike since 1990. It was also the highest 2023 inflation rate in Latin America, surpassing Venezuela’s 193%.

The economic sector that saw the biggest increase was “other goods and services” which includes toiletries and personal care services (32.7%).

It was closely followed by a 32.6% increase in health, driven by price hikes in medicines and health insurance - prompting many middle-class households to drop private insurance, and seek care in already overburdened public hospitals.

Transportation went up by 31.7% due to increases in gasoline - which jumped 80% after Milei's decree deregulating the fuel market.

The end of price agreements also contributed to higher food prices.

Food and non-alcoholic beverages jumped 29.7%, driven by increases in meat and derivatives, lemons, bread, flour, vegetable oil, rice and cereals - all subject to price and supply pressures from the agro-export sector.

A report by the Center of Argentine Economic Politics (CEPA) said that the 118% exchange rate jump was the main reason behind December’s inflation rate. The report added that some prices had, moreover, been adjusted to the parallel dollar exchange rate (currently 34% above the official rate).

At: https://buenosairesherald.com/economics/mileis-first-inflation-rate-hits-25-5

A Buenos Aires senior citizen leaves a typical neighborhood greengrocer recently.

Produce prices per kilo reflect an affordability crisis for even basic food items - considering that minimum wages were left unchanged at 156,000 pesos, and basic pensions were actually slashed by 22,000 pesos to 160,000.

Buoyed by a record devaluation and price deregulation, December's inflation rate in Argentina (25.5%) was the highest on earth for that month - dwarfing the 4.7% registered in Zimbabwe.
January 10, 2024

Argentina's Mileise: Argentines bought a fifth less at food and drink stores in December, report finds

Sales of basic goods such as food, medicine and gasoline dropped significantly in December compared with the previous year, reports have found. This came in a month during which newly-inaugurated President Javier Milei’s administration devalued the peso by a record 54%.

Retail sales dropped by an average of 13.7% year-on-year in December, according to the Argentine Confederation of Medium-Sized Companies (CAME); for all of 2023 real sales fell 3.4%.

Sales at food and drinks stores were down by a fifth (19.8%) in what is normally a strong month as households stock up for Christmas and New Year. That sector was followed by pharmacies (-19%) and hardware and construction materials stores (-14.2%).

Retail sales were impacted by both a spike in inflation - which doubled to 21.1% monthly in Buenos Aires alone - as well as a sudden labor market downturn: Unemployment - which reached a 36-year low of 5.7% in the third quarter - is now expected to reach double digits as reports of layoffs mount.

Bleak outlook

The Argentine Dealerships Association (ACARA) reported a 10.2% growth in new vehicle registrations for all of 2023 - but a 6.2% drop in December.

“We now see a market of 340,000 by 2024 (a 25% plunge), although we may also have to adjust that number downwards again in the coming months,” ACARA president Sebastián Beato lamented.

Construction materials sales likewise fell 17.4% year-on-year in December, according to the latest report by the construction association Construya. Most of that decline took place in December, with their “Construya” Index showing a 14.8% drop compared to November.

“This is a consequence of the uncertainty associated with the change in government, and is likely to go on during the summer,” the Construya report noted.

Shop owners surveyed by CAME said the drop in sales was unexpected, linking it with price increases and shortages of certain products. “[Sales] were restricted to the bare minimum,” a hardware store owner from the northern city of Santiago del Estero told CAME.

If they don’t revive, we won’t be able to keep going.”

At: https://buenosairesherald.com/economics/argentines-bought-a-fifth-less-at-food-and-drink-stores-in-december-report-finds

Argentines protest high prices - as well as far-right President Javier Milei's high-handed decrees - in the city of La Plata recently.

Milei's record one-day devaluation of 118% just after taking office a month ago has sent already-high inflation soaring to 200% and rising - while a barrage of austerity and deregulation decrees has prompted a deep recession and a wave of layoffs.

Social aid organizations are bracing for what they believe could be a repeat of the country's well-publicized 2002 debacle - when unemployment exceeded 20% and income poverty, 54%.

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