Argentina Basic Political Developments

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Basic Political Developments

  • The Olympic torch reached Argentina amidst protests, say April 11 reports.

  • The agricultural sector called their recent meetings with the government “positive”, according to April 11 reports.

  • Argentine Economy Minister Martin Lousteau will not participate in talks with the agricultural sector April 11 because he is in the US where he is scheduled to meet with U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

  • The U.S. is eager to find a solution to Argentina's long-standing debt default with the Paris Club of official creditors, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Tom Shannon said April 10.

National Economic Trends

  • Argentina’s Indec reported inflation of 1.1 percent in March, due to the agricultural strike.

Business, Energy or Environmental regulations or discussions

  • The chief of Argentine-Venezuelan steelmaker Sidor wrote to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to seek a ``constructive solution'' after the government took control of the facility, according to an Italian daily that did not indicate where it got the information. He also contacted Argentine President Cristina Kirchner to ask her intervention in the takeover.

Activity in the Oil and Gas sector (including regulatory)


Basic Political Developments

Olympic Torch Draws Buenos Aires Protests for Boycott (Update3)

April 11 (Bloomberg) -- The Olympic torch world tour moves to the streets of Buenos Aires today and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon became the latest world leader to say he'll miss the opening ceremony of the games in Beijing.
Protesters against China's alleged human rights abuses vowed to peacefully press world leaders for a boycott of the ceremonies. Mayor Mauricio Macri said 5,000 police officers and volunteers will help protect the torch's 13-kilometer (8.1-mile) relay route through the Argentine capital. The torch's arrival in Buenos Aires, its only stop in South America, is a ``moment of pride'' for the entire country, he said.
China's crackdown on unrest in Tibet and its links to the government of Sudan led protesters in London, Paris and San Francisco to seek to disrupt the flame's 137,000-kilometer, 21- city tour. International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge called the protests a crisis, adding that the IOC had weathered bigger storms. He said the 1972 Munich games, in which he was an athlete, were ``the biggest crisis ever'' for the IOC.
``We're going to undertake some `surprise' actions across Buenos Aires, but these will be done peacefully,'' said Jorge Carcavallo, an organizer with the Free Tibet group, which will join a counter ``Human Rights Torch'' relay. ``We will not try to snuff out the torch.''
Scheduling Conflict

Ban won't attend the opening ceremony because of a scheduling conflict, conveyed to the Chinese some months ago, spokeswoman Marie Okabe said yesterday in New York. The European Parliament has urged EU leaders not to attend. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has already decided not to go and Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said he would be ``glad'' if European politicians don't go. U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown will attend the closing ceremony.

Hillary Clinton has urged President George W. Bush not to attend the games and Barack Obama, Senator Clinton's rival to become the Democrats' presidential nominee, said the president should consider skipping the opening ceremonies.
The torch's journey has become a focal point for demonstrations against China's human rights record since a crackdown on protests in the Tibet region last month. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, called yesterday for an investigation into the clashes between Chinese troops and protesters that may have killed hundreds of people.
``We're in favor of human rights here, in China and every other country but we shouldn't transform an event that tries to unite different cultures and promote dialog and youth sport into a political act,'' Macri, the former president of the Boca Juniors soccer team, said April 8.
Dalai Lama

China blames the Dalai Lama for instigating the biggest protests in Tibet in almost 20 years and says his supporters are trying to sabotage the Beijing Games. ``I am sure the Dalai clique will plan something to try to disrupt the torch relay in Lhasa,'' Qiangba Puncog, chairman of Tibet's regional government, said yesterday.

China's dealings with the government of Sudan, which is fighting rebels in its western region of Darfur, have also drawn attention to the torch.
London police arrested 37 people during the torch procession April 6. The next day in Paris, the torch was extinguished and relit at least once and then bused across the city as activists demanding independence for Tibet blocked the runners. The relay route was diverted in San

Francisco to avoid confrontations, Mayor Gavin Newsom said April 9.

The Buenos Aires relay will begin at 1:15 p.m. New York time. Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona is scheduled to be the first of 80 torch bearers, with former tennis star Gabriela Sabatini running the final leg.
Olympics Spirit

Victor Wang, the chief executive officer of Buenos Aires- based China Trade, Investment & Tourism Center SA, said he doesn't think protests should distract people from the ``spirit'' of the Olympics.

``People have a right to protest and express their views,'' he said in a phone interview. ``But they should do that within the limits of the law.''
The Olympic Games have served as a forum for politics at least since the 1936 games in Berlin and possibly as far back as their founding in Greece 3,000 years ago.
German Chancellor Adolf Hitler's efforts to turn the quadrennial event into a showcase of white racial superiority were upended by black U.S. sprinter Jesse Owen's haul of four gold medals. Three millennia earlier, the games were used to help honor Zeus and ``encourage good relations

between the cities of Greece,'' according to the IOC's Web site.

Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich games, while the 1980 and 1984 Olympics in Moscow and Los Angeles, respectively, suffered boycotts stemming from Cold War disputes between the U.S. and the USSR.
`Mother Flame'

The torch relay, based on a ceremony held at the ancient games in Greece, was started by the Nazi organizers of the 1936 Olympics. The flame is lit with the sun and a parabolic mirror during an elaborate ceremony in Greece, on the grounds of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, and then placed in an urn and taken to the host city via a relay.

The ``mother flame'' is carried around the world in a ``safety lantern'' used to light the torch on each leg.
IOC President Rogge ruled out curtailing the international relay because of the protests and said the Aug. 8-24 games shouldn't be used to make political points.
``We are studying measures to improve the torch relay,'' Rogge said yesterday in Beijing. ``If we let athletes or coaches or officials use the opening or closing ceremony or podium ceremony as a way to express these divides, this will be the end of the spirit of the Olympic Games.''

US Envoy: US Supports Argentina Paris Club Debt Resolution

April 11, 2008 7:41 a.m.
BUENOS AIRES (Dow Jones)--The U.S. is eager to find a solution to Argentina's long-standing debt default with the Paris Club of official creditors, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Tom Shannon said Thursday.
The visiting U.S. diplomat didn't give details of any plans to resolve the long-running deadlock over debts totaling more than $6.3 billion, which have been in default since 2002. However, he indicated that for its part, the U.S. wants the involved parties to find a solution.
"The Paris Club has various members and, yes, our voice has weight, but there are other heavyweights in the club," Shannon said during a press conference after meeting President Cristina Fernandez. "So it is a process and the process is moving."
"But from our point of view, we are in favor of a resolution to this problem," he added.
Earlier, Shannon described relations with the "friendly nation" of Argentina as "excellent." That was seen as a sign that the bilateral relationship has improved since a Miami case involving alleged agents of the Venezuelan government indirectly entangled Fernandez in a corruption scandal, prompting her to accuse the U.S. of "garbage" tactics to undermine Argentina's relationship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Shannon was speaking before Economy Minister Martin Lousteau flies to the U.S. to attend the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. As part of that trip, he will call upon U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Friday morning for a meeting in which

the Paris Club debt will again be on the table, according to Economy Ministry officials.

The U.S. is an important member of the club of rich-nation creditors, whose rules generally require that debtor nations wishing to restructure their debts must be in an economic monitoring program with the IMF.
The insistence on this precondition by the creditor club has so far been unacceptable to the Argentine government, which doesn't wish to have its economic policies once again subject to IMF oversight.
Both Fernandez's government and that of her predecessor and husband, Nestor Kirchner, have taken a hostile posture toward the IMF, which they blame for much of the financial crisis of 2001-2002. Kirchner abruptly ended Argentina's last program with the Fund in January 2006 when he made a surprise one-off payment to clear all of its $9.5 billion debt to the multilateral lender, unwittingly complicating his government's efforts to restructure its Paris Club debt in the process.
Faced with the impasse that then arose, Argentina has so far been content to do nothing.
But as the unpaid arrears accumulate and the debt remains officially in default, challenges are mounting for Argentina, especially in the realm of infrastructure investment. That's because many government-run insurers and lending institutions from the Club's creditor counties -

such as the U.S. Export Import Bank - are prohibited by other rules from underwriting investments in countries that are in default to their government.

That means that companies in those countries that require such backing are unable to commence work on some key energy and transportation projects for which they Argentine government has contracted them.

El campo calificó de positiva la reunión con el Gobierno

Las entidades rurales anunciaron que desde el lunes se pondrá en marcha una mesa de trabajo para buscar una salida al conflicto; antes de recibir al agro, Cristina Kirchner había hecho una fuerte defensa de las retenciones

Viernes 11 de abril de 2008

En un encuentro que duró casi tres horas, las cuatro entidades del campo y la presidenta Cristina Kirchner mantuvieron la esperada reunión para destrabar el conflicto que se extendió por 21 días contra la última suba a las retenciones de granos.
Tras la reunión, el presidente de Confederaciones Rurales Argentinas, Mario Llambías, calificó de "positivo" el encuentro y anunció que el lunes próximo continuarán el diálogo con la conformación de una mesa de trabajo de la que participará el jefe de Gabinete.
En conferencia de prensa, el ruralista señaló, además, que la Presidenta propuso "un diálogo permanente".
De la reunión, que se realizó en el despacho presidencial, participó, además de Cristina Kirchner, el jefe de Gabinete, Alberto Fernández. El ministro de Economía, Martín Lousteau fue es de la partida: viajó a Washington para reunirse con el jefe del Tesoro.
Por el campo, estuvieron en la audiencia los presidentes de la Sociedad Rural, Luciano Miguens; de Confederaciones Rurales Argentinas (CRA), Mario Llambías; de Coninagro, Fernando Giono, y el de Federación Agraria, Eduardo Buzzi, que habían llegado a Balcarce 50 a las 12.30.
Al filo. Minutos antes de abrir las puertas de su despacho a los ruralistas, la Presidenta volvió a ensayar una férrea defensa del sistema de retenciones. Fue durante un acto que encabezó en la Casa Rosada para anunciar un plan sanitario, justo antes de la cita con las entidades del campo.
Cuando promediaba su discurso, la Presidenta hizo una descripción detallada de cómo se componen los ingresos del Estado y se detuvo en el aporte del sector agropecuario.
Afirmó que las retenciones ocupan el cuarto lugar entre los impuestos que más contribuyen a las arcas nacionales (detrás del IVA, el impuesto a las ganancias y los aportes patronales) y precisó que representan un 13 por ciento del total de lo que se recauda.
"De ese 13 por ciento, el 7, 9 por ciento proviene específicamente del sector agropecuario y de ese total sólo el 3,9 corresponde a los productores", especificó.
Sin mencionar específicamente al campo, añadió: "Es bueno que los argentinos sepamos exactamente lo que cada uno aporta para el resto de los argentinos que no tienen la suerte de tener trabajo para lograr una soc mas justa y equitativa". Y remató: "Quienes mas aportan siguen siendo los que menos tienen".
"Rigor intelectual". En este punto, pidió a “todos los que tienen responsabilidad en la toma de decisiones” que “pongan la mirada en lo que aporta cada uno y lo que aportan los demás”. Dirigió el reclamo a gobernadores, intendentes y a “quienes representan a sectores en defensa de determinados intereses”. Una vez más, no hizo falta que nombrara al campo.
Antes de terminar, llegó el pedido de “rigor”. “Estamos acostumbrados a escuchar que se habla sin rigor intelectual, pero lo que no podemos seguir aceptando es la falta de rigor a la hora de gobernar”, deslizó.
Una vez más, sin menciones directas al conflicto con el agro o a la reunión con los ruralistas, remató: “Para empezar a ponerse de acuerdo hay que tener rigor intelectual y honestidad”.
El encuentro será el primero después de que los ruralistas dispusieran una tregua de un mes en la medida de fuerza para sentarse a negociar con las autoridades, aunque con la amenaza de retomar las protestas si el diálogo no produce resultados concretos. Pese a que esa es la aspiración de los líderes agropecuarios, no se esperan definiciones tajantes como resultado de esta primera reunión.
La audiencia con las entidades del agro se concreta a diez días del comienzo de la tregua y pocas horas después de que el ex presidente Néstor Kirchner acusó a los ruralistas de "intolerantes" y cuestionó con dureza los piquetes que se multiplicaron en el país durante el paro y el desabastecimiento de varios alimentos.
Posiciones en juego. Las posturas y propuestas con las que las partes llegan al encuentro están claras. Mientras que el Gobierno pondrá sobre la mesa mayores precisiones sobre cómo instrumentará el sistema de reintegros para pequeños productores que anunció el 31 de marzo pasado, el campo insistirá con la exigencia de que se anule la última suba a las retenciones que llevó ese valor del 35 al 44 por ciento en promedio.
Además, el agro pretende extender el espectro y presentar las propuestas que formularon en los últimos tres años para distintas actividades (principalmente para trigo, carne y leche). Sin embargo, los ruralistas no esperan abordar cuestiones específicas.

Ante este panorama, la reunión aparece como un primer acercamiento más destinado a producir gestos de distensión que avances concretos.

Cruces previos. En la antesala del encuentro, aún antes del discurso de Cristina Kirchner, Alberto Fernández había rechazado tajantemente la posibilidad de anular la suba a las retenciones.
Además había vuelto a acusar a los ruralistas de no haber querido dialigar con el Gobierno antes de decidir el paro que se extendió durante tres semanas.
Cancha embarrada. También antes de la reunión, el presidente de la Confederación de Asociaciones Rurales de Buenos Aires y La Pampa (Carbap), Pedro Apaolaza, cuestionó a Néstor Kirchner por su discurso de ayer.
"Se embarra un poco la cancha", deslizó el dirigente en declaraciones a radio América. Cuando se le preguntó si se refería a las declaraciones que ayer hizo el ex presidente, no dudo: “"Exactamente. A 24 horas de la reunión que la Presidenta convoca no debería haber dicho absolutamente nada", se quejó.
Urgencia. Por su parte, el vicepresidente de CRA, Néstor Roulet, instó a buscar una rápida salida al conflicto. "Hay que superar este trance urgente. El productor está en plena actividad económica y no sabe qué hacer: no se vende, se empezó a resentir la cadena de pagos y eso no es bueno", advirtió en declaraciones a radio América.

Argentina Econ Min To Meet US Treasury Secretary Friday, Miss Farm Mtg

Thu, Apr 10 2008, 21:01 GMT
BUENOS AIRES -(Dow Jones)- Argentine Economy Minister Martin Lousteau, the architect of the soy export tax system that provoked a massive farm strike last month, won't join President Cristina Fernandez in a critical meeting Friday to discuss the matter with agriculture leaders.
Instead, an official at the Economy Ministry said, Lousteau will be in the U.S., where he is scheduled to meet with U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to discuss, among other matters, Argentina's long-defaulted debt to Paris Club official creditors.
On Wednesday, farm leaders confirmed that Fernandez agreed to meet with the four farm groups that coordinated the three-week strike last month to discuss their demand for a reversal of the soy tax increase and other matters. The meeting will take place at the presidential palace.
Last Wednesday, farmers announced a 30-day suspension of the strike, which produced food shortages in Argentine cities and evolved into a major political crisis. But they have vowed to restore the measure if a successful solution to their demands isn't met within that time frame.
Lousteau, whose office drafted and initiated the new sliding-scale tax on soybean exports on March 11 - which at the time jacked the rate up to 46% from 35% - was expected to be a key figure in the negotiations.
But in Washington, where Lousteau heads later Thursday for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, there will be other pressing matters to attend to.
According to the Economy Ministry official, who asked not to be named, Lousteau will also meet with World Bank officials Friday to discuss new lines of credit.
And on Saturday, he will call in on IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in a meeting at which Argentina's problematic consumer price index data are likely to come up for discussion.
In its annual world economic outlook report released Wednesday, the IMF noted doubts about the reliability of Argentina's official inflation figures, although it opted to cite those contested government numbers in its statistical tables.
Still, the Paris Club debt is the most pressing issue.
The U.S. is an important member of that club of rich-nation creditors, which has been insisting that if Argentina wishes to restructure that debt - worth more than $6.3 billion and in default since 2002 - it must first enter into an economic-monitoring program with the IMF.
But the Argentine government, which is highly critical of the IMF and which ended its last program with the institution by making a $9.5 billion one-off payment to clear all of its outstanding debt in January 2006, refuses to accept that condition.
Meanwhile, as the unpaid arrears accumulate and as long as the default isn't cleared, state-insurers and government-lending institutions in creditor countries are prohibited by internal rules from underwriting investments in Argentina. That means that companies in those countries are unable to commence work on some key Argentine infrastructure projects for which they have been contracted.

National Economic Trends

Pese al paro del campo, para el Indec la inflación fue 1,1%

Según el organismo, el desabastecimiento sólo hizo subir 1,3% los alimentos en marzo

Viernes 11 de abril de 2008

El paro del campo y el desabastecimiento de productos que generó no tuvieron consecuencia alguna en los precios de los alimentos. Al menos ésa es la lectura que hizo el Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos (Indec), que ayer informó que la inflación de marzo fue de sólo 1,1%, muy lejos de la mayoría de las proyecciones privadas, que hablaban de un alza real del 2,5 por ciento.
Con la suba de marzo, además, se completó un primer trimestre con un incremento acumulado de 2,5%, que se encuentra apenas tres décimas por encima de la inflación del mismo período de 2007.
Para las estadísticas oficiales, el desabastecimiento que sufrieron los consumidores argentinos en las últimas dos semanas del mes pasado no se tradujo en un alza de los precios y, de hecho, según el organismo, el rubro alimentos y bebidas cerró el tercer mes del año con un alza del 1,1%, mientras que la canasta básica registró una suba apenas superior del 1,3 por ciento.
Este último dato es el que se utiliza para establecer la línea de indigencia, con lo que, según el Indec, una familia tipo (dos adultos y dos menores) en marzo necesitó 455,58 pesos para cubrir todas sus necesidades alimentarias. Por su parte, la canasta que se utiliza para medir la pobreza, y que además de incluir los alimentos básicos también reúne algunos servicios y el rubro indumentaria, en marzo tuvo un incremento del 1,18%, y de esta manera una familia para no ser considerada pobre debió contar con un presupuesto mensual superior a 982,38 pesos.
A la hora de analizar las estadísticas oficiales, el dato más cuestionado por los consultores privados fue precisamente el de los alimentos. Para el Indec, el rubro carnes tuvo un alza del 3,4%, mientras que el pollo subió 1,6 por ciento. Las frutas, por su parte, directamente registraron una fuerte baja del 10,4 por ciento.
Estos datos contrastan con todas las mediciones privadas a cargo de consultoras y asociaciones de consumidores, que denunciaron subas superiores al 10% en los alimentos frescos como producto del proceso de desabastecimiento.
"Si el Indec hubiera reflejado datos un poco más reales, como un aumento del 5% en el rubro carnes, la inflación del mes se hubiera ubicado en torno del 2,5 por ciento", explicó Fausto Spotorno, economista del estudio Orlando J. Ferreres.
Turismo, en baja
El otro rubro más cuestionado por los analistas privados fue el del turismo. Para los registros oficiales, el fin de semana largo de Semana Santa y del feriado del 24 de marzo no provocó un aumento de los paquetes y servicios turísticos, que incluso habrían registrado una deflación del 1,7 por ciento.
Por repetida, la manipulación de las estadísticas oficiales no causó mayores sorpresas, aunque en los últimos días se había especulado con la posibilidad de que el Gobierno "blanqueara" algunas subas en los precios de los alimentos aprovechando la situación para echarle la culpa al campo. "El problema era que si blanqueaban el dato de este mes tenían que seguir blanqueando para más adelante", explicó el economista Pablo Rojo.
En cambio, lo que no era esperado era que más allá de lo sucedido con los alimentos y el turismo, en el resto de las categorías y rubros que integran el Indice de Precios al Consumidor (IPC) que mide el Indec las manipulaciones fueran relativamente menores.
"Tan llamativo como que los alimentos para el Indec hayan subido apenas un 1,1 por ciento es que el rubro educación en las estadísticas oficiales haya tenido un alza del 7,6 por ciento", explicó Mariano Lamothe, economista del estudio
Otro de los rubros que también mostraron datos llamativos para los analistas privados fue el de indumentaria. Según la medición oficial, la ropa en marzo bajó un 0,8% como producto del cambio de temporada. "La verdad es que en nuestras mediciones teníamos una baja más pronunciada", explicó Spotorno.
Junto con la inflación minorista, el Indec también dio a conocer el índice de precios mayoristas, que también mostró un alza muy por debajo de la esperada.
Según las estadísticas oficiales, en marzo los precios mayoristas registraron un alza del 0,9 por ciento, como producto de un incremento del 0,2% en el rubro de artículos primarios y del 1,3% en los manufacturados. La suba fue aún menor en el rubro de la construcción, que registró un alza del 0,6% y desde principios de año acumula un incremento del 2,1 por ciento.
En este caso, la mayor suba correspondió al costo de los materiales, que tuvieron un incremento del 0,9%, superando ampliamente el alza del 0,3% que registró la categoría mano de obra.

Business, Energy or Environmental regulations or discussions

Tenaris's Rocca Writes Chavez on Sidor Takeover, Corriere Says

April 11 (Bloomberg) -- Tenaris SA Chief Paolo Rocca wrote to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to seek a ``constructive solution'' after the government took control of a local steelmaker, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported without saying where it got the information.
Venezuela this week moved to nationalize Luxembourg-based Ternium SA's Siderurgica del Orinoco, or Sidor, the country's only maker of flat steel products. Techint Group, an Italian- Argentine company controlled by the Rocca family, owns 60 percent of Sidor and is also the parent of Tenaris.
Rocca pointed to Sidor's hiring and salary policies as some of the most favorable in the country, the newspaper reported. Rocca also wrote Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner seeking support in dealing with Venezuela, Corriere reported, citing Argentine newspaper Clarin.

Techint asks Argentina to intercede with Venezuela

BUENOS AIRES, April 11 (Reuters) - An executive of Argentine conglomerate Techint met with President Cristina Fernandez to ask her intervention in the Venezuelan government's takeover of its Venezuelan unit, newspapers reported on Friday.
Late on Thursday, Fernandez met with Luis Betnaza, head of institutional relations at Techint, the Argentine conglomerate that controls Ternium (TX.N: Quote, Profile, Research), parent company of Venezuelan steel maker Ternium Sidor, three newspapers said.
Fernandez, a close leftist ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has not commented publicly on the Venezuelan nationalization of Ternium Sidor since it was announced on Wednesday.
Planning Minister Julio De Vido was at the meeting and will spearhead any contacts with Venezuela, newspapers said. Clarin reported that Fernandez has already spoken with Chavez two times regarding the nationalization.
Analysts have said the takeover is probably a done deal, but they think Fernandez's government could weigh in during negotiations between Techint and Venezuela regarding the terms of compensation for the company, which produces more than 4 million tonnes of steel slabs a year.
Ternium's American Depositary Receipts have plunged almost 15 percent since the announcement. Its Argentine unit Siderar SID.BA has fallen 4 percent.
Ternium Sidor has been in a long-running dispute with its workers in Venezuela and the government has threatened in the past to take over the company.
Last year Fernandez's husband and predecessor, ex-President Nestor Kirchner, reportedly called Chavez on behalf of Techint and helped put the brakes on government takeover plans.

Activity in the Oil and Gas sector (including regulatory)

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