Sergio Paneque

Sergio Paneque

Desaparecido scandal a setback for Macri as Argentina votes

The killing of the indigenous liberation solidarity activist Santiago Maldonado comes at an extremely inopportune time for Argentine President Mauricio Macri. 

Maldonado had been missing for over two months when his body was found last week. And many Argentines believe that the activist  was disappeared by the military. In Argentina, the term "desaparecido" conjures up memories of the people who were abducted and killed by regime henchmen during the military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. The fate of many of the people who were disappeared remains unresolved.

Fifty-five coroners are examining Maldonado's corpse under the close scrutiny of about 30 observers and journalists. The death is potentially so politically damaging that not even a sliver of doubt about the results of the autopsy can be allowed.

Many Argentines are upset that Macri rejected the UN's offer of additional forensics experts to assist with the autopsy. Maldonado's family also lashed out at Macri when the president called the victim's mother to express his condolences. The activist's brother called the sympathy expressed by Macri "hypocritical" and the president's entourage "shameless." What angered him most was that the telephone call came shortly before Argentines were set to go to the polls to elect candidates to a third of the seats in both chambers of the legislature.

Photo of missing activist Santiago Maldonado surrounded by candles

"Santiago, your solidarity has made you the son of all," this message says

Reform and renewal

The image that Macri has attempted to build as a vigorous reformer has taken a serious hit with the discovery of Maldonado's body — and just as the president had hoped to increase the number of seats held by his right-wing Cambiemos party (Let's Change) on Sunday.

When he was narrowly elected in a runoff two years ago, Argentines expected Macri to reimpose ethics in national politics and put an end to corruption and politicians' evading of accountability for their offenses.

Macri's immediate predecessor, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, saw a number of scandals during her time in office from 2007 to 2015. She now has immunity from prosecution, and preliminary polls more or less guaranteed her a place in the Senate after Sunday's vote.

Demonstration in Buenos Aires against Macri

Macri's economic policies have triggered many protests

The president, too, has faced allegations of impropriety. When the Panama Papers were published last year, they revealed that Macri had remained active in finance during his time as mayor of Buenos Aires from 2007 to 2015. The documents showed that Macri, the son of one of Argentina's richest businessmen and himself a financial analyst, had acted as the director of two private companies — a fact that he had chose not to mention when he took office.

The numbers game

As president and staunch free-marketeer, Macri has continued to focus on finance. In less than two years in office, he has freed up the exchange rate of the peso and gradually relaxed trade restrictions.

Inflation is one of the financial factors that has so far proved beyond Macri's control. This year, it could reach over 25 percent. It is predicted to be about 18 percent next year.

Incomes have lost their real value. Macri has thus raised the ire of many less-wealthy Argentine, as well as labor unions. He has promised an economic boom that will cause incomes to rise.


But, according to surveys, Argentines feel that Macri is capable of getting a grip on rising prices in the long term: Cambiemos is expected to emerge from the current elections as the most powerful force in parliament.

  • Published in World

Eurasian council plans joint projects with Cuba and Thailand

The collegium of the Eurasian Economic Commission has approved signing of the memorandum on cooperation between the commission and the Governments of Cuba and Thailand, reports EEC.
The economic cooperation of EEU with Cuba and Thailand is developing in fast pace.

"In the first half 2017 the trade turnover of EEU with Thailand has increased by 34% in comparison to the same period last year and amounted to $1.19 bn. Export volume from the states of the union to Cuba in the first half 2017 increased by 70% in comparison to the same period last year and exceeded $190 mln," the message reports.

"The parties are performing the projects in industrial cooperation, supplies of mechanical engineering equipment. The agreement will provide system exchange with information about the rules and norms of technical regulation, veterinary and phyto-sanitary control, customs administration and other requirements of business activity in EEU," said the message.

"The parties will focus on interaction in the field of advanced technologies, protection of intellectual property rights, formation of stimulus for performance of joint projects in such fields as transport, energy, industrial and agricultural production," reads the message.

  • Published in Cuba

Cruise line to offer trips to Cuba from Port Canaveral

Central Floridians will be able to take a cruise ship to Cuba from Port Canaveral for the first time.

The four-night trips to Cuba will be on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship.

Norwegian is one of the cruise lines that regularly serves Port Canaveral, at one of the several cruise terminals.

The cruise line has been looking at ways to serve Cuba ever since President Barack Obama lifted a travel and trade ban to the island a year and a half ago.

A few other cruise lines are offering Cuba cruises, but none of them from Port Canaveral.

Norwegian will home port a ship, the Norwegian Sun, for the sole purpose of making the trips to Cuba every Monday.

The cruises will include an overnight stay in Havana.

President Donald Trump’s recent changes to the travel rules are not expected to affect cruises.

The new trips to Cuba will begin in May of next year.

  • Published in Cuba

NASA images show new crack in Greenland's Petermann Glacier

NASA's Operation IceBridge, as part of an airborne survey of changing polar ice, flew over the chasm and captured more detailed images. The team posted the images to Facebook on Friday.

The rift was first spotted by Stef Lhermitte, an associate professor at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands who studies satellite remote sensing.

Mr Lhermitte posted satellite images on Twitter alerting a Petermann Glacier expedition team of the crack and questioning whether it was a prelude of a new island, or simply ocean forcing creating the rift.

The chasm opens near the centre of the glacier's floating ice shelf — the tongue of ice extending into the water from the glacier on land.

It appears relatively close to another, older, curved rift that has spread from the flank of the shelf.

If the two cracks meet, part of the ice shelf could break off, calving an iceberg.

In the Facebook post, NASA flagged a medial flowline near the new rift "whose presence may exert a stagnating effect on the propagation of the new rift toward the older one".

Covering about 1,295 square kilometres along the north-western coast of Greenland, Petermann Glacier's floating ice tongue is the Northern Hemisphere's largest, and it has occasionally calved large icebergs.

Between 2000 and 2001, the glacier lost nearly 87 square kilometres and in July 2008 alone, the glacier lost another 29 square kilometres.

In 2008, NASA reported concerns at the presence of a rift which, if extended completely across the glacier, could see it losing another 160 square kilometres — one third of its current length.

  • Published in World
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