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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
December 1, 2023

Argentina's Milei picks former neo-Nazi to key Treasury Solicitor General post

Argentine President-elect Javier Milei announced that right-wing lawyer and one-time neo-Nazi Rodolfo Barra was tapped as the nation's next Treasury Solicitor General upon taking office on December 10th.

Barra, 75, had earlier served as Justice Minister during the freewheeling Carlos Menem administration, until evidence emerged in 1996 that he had belonged to the neo-Nazi Nationalist Union of Secondary School Students (UNES) during his teens in the 1960s.

Barra then joined the fascist Tacuara Nationalist Movement - of which UNES was a high-school chapter - and on at least one occasion hurled tar balls at a Buenos Aires synagogue.

Tacuara attacked numerous Jewish temples and synagogues following the 1960 detention of Nazi fugitive Adolf Eichmann. Following a string of robberies and murders, they disbanded in 1966.

Barra's nomination was condemned by DAIA (the nation's foremost Jewish federation), the Argentine Jewish Appeal - and even the Argentine Forum Against Anti-Semitism, which is made up mostly right-wing Jews whose 'Together for Change' coalition has largely joined Milei's incoming far-right regime.

The key post - known in Spanish as the Procuración del Tesoro de la Nación - oversees the country's bar associations and the Argentine federal government's litigation powers, particularly in regards to economic disputes.

The office had most recently been at the center of controversy during right-wing President Mauricio Macri's 2015-19 tenure, when then-Procurador Carlos Balbín was sacked in 2017 after objecting to a $750 million payout to toll road operators in which Macri was a shareholder - and after which he sold his shares at a large profit.

At: https://www-pagina12-com-ar.translate.goog/690992-si-fui-nazi-me-arrepiento-quien-es-rodolfo-barra-el-procurad?_x_tr_sl=es&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

"Herr Minister": A 1996 Noticias newsweekly cover features then-Justice Minister Rodolfo Barra (in Swastika, and in lower inset) after evidence of his high school-era membership in neo-Nazi groups emerged - leading to his resignation days later.

Relegated mostly to academia in later years - largely in institutions run by the right-wing Catholic sect Opus Dei - Barra re-emerged in public life this week when President-elect Javier Milei tapped him to lead the key Treasury Solicitor General post.
November 29, 2023

Argentina's Milei picks Luis Caputo - author of 2018 Macrisis - to lead key Economy Ministry

Argentine President-elect Javier Milei announced that offshore banker Luis Caputo would lead the nation's Economy Ministry upon Milei's inaugural on December 10th.

Caputo, 58, had earlier served in the same post in 2017-18 under right-wing former President Mauricio Macri - presiding over a disastrous "financial bicycle" carry-trade bubble, whose collapse in April 2018 led to a foreign debt crisis requiring a record, $45 billion IMF bailout that saddles the country to this day.

He is also a cousin of local industrialist Nicolás Caputo, 65 - Macri's best friend.

Luis' sister Rossana, 67, was revealed to have transferred 7 million pesos in 2022 (around $50,000 at the time) to far-right extremist Jonathan Morel - two of whose fellow "Federal Revolution" acolytes carried out an assassination attempt against Vice President Cristina Kirchner that September.

Rossana Caputo was never called to testify in what Kirchner's attorneys point to as one of many examples of how Judge María Eugenia Capuchetti - a Macri appointee - has "sat" on the case.

Messy finances

Touted as the "Messi of finances" by Argentine right-wing media, Caputo has likewise enjoyed a long record of impunity from Argentina's largely discredited judiciary.

Appointed Finance Secretary when Macri took office in late 2015 and later Finance Minister, Caputo was among numerous Macri officials and relatives found to have purchased millions in dollar futures contracts ahead of Macri's 40% devaluation that December.

While the devaluation led to 45% inflation by mid-2016 and a severe recession, Caputo's Axis fund made $50 million from betting on the move - a devaluation he himself arranged - plus at least $700,000 at the expense of the nation's social security agency, ANSES.

Caputo, like Macri, was later listed in the 2017 Paradise Papers scandal - and was found to have managed a Miami-based offshore wealth fund, Noctua Partners, and three Caribbean affiliates with a combined portfolio of over $100 million.

Their existence was confirmed in March 2018 by the U.S. SEC - but had not been declared in his financial disclosure, as mandated by Argentine law.

Noctua Partners was found to have offices just two stories above those of JPMorgan - whose timely sale of its Argentine investments in April 2018 helped touch off the "Macrisis."

Appointed Central Bank president in June 2018, Caputo presided over the loss of the $15 billion drawn from the IMF credit line in just three months to prop up the peso - which nevertheless lost nearly half its value.

The trend largely continued after the IMF forced Macri to sack Caputo in September, with an estimated 80% of the $45 billion ultimately lent to Argentina - reportedly at then-President Donald Trump's behest - being lost to capital flight.

Each of these controversies resulted in federal fraud charges - but were all either dropped or remain stalled in court.

At: https://www-pagina12-com-ar.translate.goog/688530-la-historia-de-luis-toto-caputo-el-messi-de-tomar-deuda-a-ci?_x_tr_sl=es&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en-US&_x_tr_pto=wapp

Far-right Argentine President-elected Javier Milei gives a thumbs up ahead of his U.S. visit this week, with incoming Chief of Staff Nicolás Posse and Economy Minister-designate Luis Caputo in tow.

The loan-seeking mission, however, left Milei largely empty-handed.

Caputo had earlier served as Finance Minister and Central Bank President under right-wing President Mauricio Macri - during which the public foreign debt more than doubled to $197 billion.

Caputo, a longtime offshore banker, was largely responsible for the deregulation that helped lead to a massive capital flight crisis - some $86 billion of the roughly $100 billion in net added public foreign debt during Macri's 2015-19 tenure.
November 25, 2023

Pope says some 'backward' conservatives in US Catholic Church have replaced faith with ideology

Source: AP

Pope Francis has blasted the “backwardness” of some conservatives in the U.S. Catholic Church, saying they have replaced faith with ideology and that a correct understanding of Catholic doctrine allows for change over time.

Francis’ comments were an acknowledgment of the divisions in the U.S. Catholic Church, which has been split between progressives and conservatives who long found support in the doctrinaire papacies of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, particularly on issues of abortion and same-sex marriage.

Many conservatives have blasted Francis’ emphasis instead on social justice issues such as the environment and the poor, while also branding as heretical his opening to letting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive the sacraments.

Read more: https://apnews.com/article/pope-francis-vatican-conservatives-abortion-us-bbfc346c117bd9ae68a1963478bea6b3

Pope Francis meets relatives of hostages taken by Hamas militants from Israel in his residence at the Vatican on Wednesday.

The Pontiff criticized “a very strong, organized, reactionary attitude” among conservatives the U.S. Catholic church.

He warned that such an attitude leads to a climate of closure, which was erroneous.
November 23, 2023

New Argentine Foreign Minster on gay marriage: "If you don't bathe and have lice, don't complain if someone dislikes it"

Far-right Argentine President-elect Javier Milei wasted no time in announcing his first cabinet picks - with the first names being announced the day after his stunning 11-point victory on Sunday's runoff over embattled centrist Economy Minister Sergio Massa.

Perhaps his most controversial thus far has been his Foreign Minister-designate, business school academic Diana Mondino.

Mondino, 65, had already raised eyebrows with her support for Falkland Islanders' "self-determination" - and if confirmed, she would be the first Argentine Foreign Minister to openly endorse Kelpers' desire to remain U.K. citizens (a view Milei himself does not share).

But like Milei, Mondino has openly supported the privatization of Argentina's organ and tissue transplant system - which for the past 30 years has been managed and regulated by the world-renowned INCUCAI agency.

Critics have condemned proposals for an "organ market" - warning that said procedures, which for years have been most widely available in the region, would largely become limited to wealthy patients under such a scheme.

Of lice and pumas

Mondino added a new dimension to these controversies when on November 3rd, she was asked about her views on same-sex marriage by prominent local interviewer Luis Novaresio (who is himself openly gay). She replied that:

"I agree with each person's life project - it's much broader than same-sex marriage. Let me exaggerate: If you prefer not to bathe and be full of lice and that's your choice - that's it. Then don't complain if there is someone who doesn't like that you have lice."

This view has been tacitly echoed by Milei - who scoffed at the issue by suggesting that "if you perceive yourself as a puma, fine - just don't make me pay for it, and don't impose it on me through the state."

Milei's openly fascist running mate, Victoria Villarruel, 48, has likewise expressed her opposition to same-sex marriage - dismissing it as "too much - since with civil unions, their rights were already guaranteed."

Argentina in 2010 became the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex marriage and same-sex adoptions nationwide.

At: https://www-pagina12-com-ar.translate.goog/645649-quien-es-diana-mondino-la-canciller-del-gobierno-libertario-?_x_tr_sl=es&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

Argentine Foreign Minister-designate Diana Mondino and President-elect Javier Milei.

A graduate of Spain's University of Navarre - founded and controlled by the right-wing Catholic sect Opus Dei - Mondino's nomination as Argentina's next Foreign Minister threatens to further isolate Argentina from the international community, which has largely embraced same-sex rights.
November 19, 2023

Argentina's Economy Minister Sergio Massa concedes defeat to populist in presidential runoff

Source: AP

Argentina’s Economy Minister Sergio Massa has conceded defeat to populist Javier Milei in Sunday’s presidential runoff before the country’s electoral authority released official results.

Because the voting is conducted by paper ballots, the timing of the final result is unpredictable.

The highly polarized election will determine whether South America’s second-largest economy will continue with a center-left administration or elect a freshman lawmaker who describes himself as an anarcho-capitalist and has often been compared to former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Read more: https://apnews.com/article/argentina-election-president-milei-massa-a4811c5229d35551f8dbf7056d87aae6

Argentine presidential candidates Sergio Massa, 51, and Javier Milei, 53, vote in today's presidential runoff in Argentina.

Representing the center-left governing coalition, the pragmatic Massa fell short against a neo-fascist Milei - whose runoff campaign was bolstered by an endorsement from the third-place candidate, Patricia Bullrich.

With 90% of precincts reporting, Milei led by 55.9% to 44.1%.

Milei has pledged to enact shock devaluation - leading to a likely jump in inflation from the current 8% monthly, to 55% monthly per his campaign's own prospectus.
November 19, 2023

Argentina elects far-right firebrand Javier Milei as president

Argentines headed to the polls on Sunday in a closely contested presidential runoff, with two starkly different visions for the country's future on offer and an electorate simmering with anger at triple-digit inflation and rising poverty.

The election pitted centrist Peronist Economy Minister Sergio Massa, 51, at the helm for the country's worst economic crisis in two decades, against radical far-right outsider Javier Milei, 53 - the slight favorite in pre-vote opinion polls.

With 86% of precincts reporting, Milei was ahead by 56% to 44%. Massa conceded the election at just after 8:00 p.m. local time.

With many Argentines unconvinced by either candidate, some have characterized the election as a choice of the "lesser evil": fear of Milei's painful economic medicine of shock devaluation and sharp cuts, or anger at Massa over the economic crisis.

In the first-round vote on October 22nd, Massa won 36.7% of the votes compared to 30% for Milei - who since won public backing from the third-place candidate, right-wing former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich (23.8%).

He faces a divided Congress, with no one coalition holding an absolute majority in either house - but with Peronists holding pluralities in each.

Popular discontent in the economically troubled nation of 46 million had depressed turnout somewhat in the two previous rounds - but in today's runoff approached the 81% registered in 2019.

Debt and democracy

Outgoing President Alberto Fernández, 64, opted out of running for re-election amid rock-bottom approval ratings and annual inflation of over 140% - partly the result of a foreign debt "Macrisis" inherited from his right-wing predecessor, Mauricio Macri - who backed Milei.

This was the 10th presidential election held in Argentina since 1983, following a 7-year fascist dictatorship that presided over 30,000 "disappeared" and a foreign debt debacle that burdens to the country to this day.

Milei and his running mate, Victoria Villarruel, 48, have openly praised the last dictatorship.

At: https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/argentina-readies-vote-likely-presidential-election-thriller-2023-11-19/

Argentine presidential candidates Sergio Massa and Javier Milei vote in today's presidential runoff in Argentina.

Representing the center-left governing coalition, the pragmatic Massa fell short against a neo-fascist Milei whose runoff campaign was bolstered by an endorsement from the third-place candidate, Patricia Bullrich.
November 10, 2023

Economists warn electing far-right Milei would spell 'devastation' for Argentina

More than 100 economists including Thomas Piketty and Jayati Ghosh published an open letter ahead of the country’s 19 November election.

The election of the radical rightwing economist Javier Milei as president of Argentina would probably inflict further economic “devastation” and social chaos on the South American country of 46 million, a group of more than 100 leading economists has warned.

The economists said they understood the “deep-seated desire for economic stability” among voters, given Argentina’s frequent financial crises and recurring bouts of very high inflation.

Four in 10 citizens currently live in poverty and annual inflation is close to 140% – a crisis Milei has vowed to fix by defeating his rival, Argentina’s finance minister, Sergio Massa, and taking dramatic measures such abolishing the central bank and dollarizing the economy.

“However, while apparently simple solutions may be appealing, they are likely to cause more devastation in the real world in the short run, while severely reducing policy space in the long run.” warned the letter.

At: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/nov/08/argentina-election-javier-milei-economists-warning

Far-right Argentine presidential candidate Javier Milei brandishes a chainsaw - his unofficial campaign symbol - ahead of the general election on October 22nd, in which he placed second.

He faces centrist Economy Minster Sergio Massa in the November 19th runoff.

While some of Milei's more extreme pledges - such as eliminating most of the federal budget, abolishing the central bank and dollarizing the dollar-starved economy - are unlikely to be implemented without congressional approval, others such as capital flight deregulation and shock devaluation (by 200% or more) are likely to push Argentina into a collapse at least as severe as its traumatic 2001 crash.
November 7, 2023

New York dedicates street corner to Argentine rock great Charly Garcia

On the 40th anniversary of his seminal 1983 album Clics Modernos, Argentine rock great Charly García was immortalized on the Manhattan street corner where its famous cover photo was taken.

A plaque was placed at Walker Street and Cortlandt Alley, in Lower Manhattan, on Monday at 11 a.m. to commemorate the spot.

While García, 72, was unable to attend, his sister Roxana was there for the occasion and pulled the string alongside Argentine cultural representatives to reveal the new “Charly García Corner” plaque.

“It’s an honor to be here representing my brother. I want to tell you that he’s watching us and sends us an enormous hug. This is a dream for him — we spoke earlier and he was so excited,” she said.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who loves his music and loves him. This is a celebration.”

The street art behind García in the 1983 photo was later destroyed during the construction of a hotel. For Monday’s unveiling, it returned in the form of a large poster hanging below the new plaque and street sign.

At: https://buenosairesherald.com/culture-ideas/music/new-york-to-dedicate-street-corner-to-charly-garcia

November 6, 2023

Uruguay government members resign over passport scandal probe

Uruguay's interior minister and two other members of the government resigned on Saturday over a case that has already prompted the foreign minister to quit, involving a passport issued to an internationally wanted drug-trafficking suspect.

Interior Minister Luis Alberto Heber, a cabinet undersecretary and a chief adviser to President Luis Lacalle Pou will no longer be in the coalition government from Monday, the president announced on Saturday evening.

Uruguay's presidency did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Heber's resignation.

The investigation is examining how Sebastián Marset, the alleged drug trafficker, received a Uruguayan passport while detained in the United Arab Emirates over forged documents in late 2012. He was ultimately released by UAE authorities.

Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo resigned on Wednesday after the publication of a November 2022 phone call in which he appeared to suggest that his undersecretary withhold evidence related to the passport investigation.

Marset is wanted in Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and the United States on drug charges.

At: https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/uruguay-government-members-resign-over-passport-scandal-probe-2023-11-05/

Uruguayan Interior Minister Luis Alberto Heber and Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo testify during a recent hearing in the country's Senate over their involvement with drug kingpin Sebastián Marset.

Amid plummeting approval for right-wing President Luis Lacalle Pou, the two were forced to resign in recent days.

The Lacalle Pou administration was already reeling from the Alejandro Astesiano scandal - a wide-reaching extortion, surveillance, influence peddling, and passport sale web allegedly run by Lacalle's longtime family head of security.
November 5, 2023

After a cascade of Republican states left ERIC, what comes next?

Since the 2020 presidential election, Republicans nationwide have passed restrictive legislation harming voters, predicated on baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud.

In a twist of irony, the one voting system that effectively reduces voter fraud is the Election Registration Information Center (ERIC), which has seen a cascade of departures from Republican states.

Once uncontroversial and little known, ERIC is an organization comprised of both Democratic and Republican states that is used to ensure accurate voter registration rolls.

States that opt-in to the coalition submit voter registration and department of motor vehicle licensing data to ERIC, which then produces a handful of maintenance reports. These reports can show voters who have died, moved states, possess duplicate registrations and those who are eligible to vote but have not yet registered.

Following the release of a glaringly false article attacking ERIC on the Gateway Pundit, a far-right website, that alleged numerous falsehoods about the coalition, a wave of departures ensued.

By July 2022, nine states, all Republican-controlled, had exited or announced their departure from ERIC.

At: https://www.democracydocket.com/analysis/after-a-cascade-of-republican-states-left-eric-what-comes-next/

Louisiana voters line up to cast ballots in New Orleans during the 2022 mid-terms.

The state was the first of nine red states to have so far abandoned the Election Registration Information Center (ERIC) - following a false article attacking ERIC on the Gateway Pundit, a far-right website.

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