This month I have been trying to learn a bit more about Argentina through the stories running in the press there.
On 22 August, El Clarín was relating the anguish of the father of one of three passengers who died when a bus swerved off the road and crashed into a lagoon (Tragedia en Mar Chiquito). Musician Claudio Fazio, who had been tracking the progress of the bus using a mobile app, turned up at the scene unaware of the accident only to find emergency services desperately working on the site; among the debris later recovered was his teenage son’s beloved skateboard.
In the opinion pages on the same day, law professor Andrés Gil Domínguez was angrily denouncing the senators who voted out draft legislation which would have legalized abortions up to the fourteenth week of pregnancy (Presente y futuro de la interrupción voluntaria del embarazo). Domínguez argues that the law on this area is now in a state of chaos as local and regional authorities have piled in with their own rules, in contravention of the constitution; he believes, however, that there has been a sea change in attitudes among women which cannot now be reversed and will inevitably lead to reform.
But the lead on 23 August was the latest twist in a major story about corruption: the so-called notebooks scandal involving an alleged bribery ring at high levels of former President Cristina Kirchner’s government. In Claudio Bonadio tiene la autorización del Congreso y emite las órdenes de allanamiento a Cristina Kirchner, the paper reports on a successful application by the judge leading the investigation on the case to search properties belonging to Cristina Kirchner, now an opposition senator; the aim, according to the paper, was to check the credibility of claims by witnesses that they were the collection points for suitcases full of money from construction and energy industry contractors.
A few days earlier, news website LaPolíticaOnline was asking what impact the scandal was having on the political landscape of Argentina and in particular on President Macri, fighting to preserve popular support in the face of the current economic crisis; the answer seemed to be surprisingly little. According to a private opinion poll seen by the site, Kirchner’s ratings have actually improved since the scandal broke, while Macri’s have done little more than stabilise (Cuadernos: según Poliarquía, Cristina subió siete puntos desde que estalló el escándalo). The survey found that while the affair may be contributing to a general disillusionment with politics and politicians, corruption is a second-order issue for many voters in Argentina, who are preoccupied by the state of economy. The article argues caution however: despite Kirchner’s relatively positive standing at the moment, on the current showing it is still extremely unlikely, they think, that this would translate into success for her in the 2019 Presidential elections.