Argentina, Fernández Rejects Infectatorship Accusations

On 2 June Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández rejected accusations that his government was exploiting the coronavirus (Covid-19) emergency to undermine the division of powers in the country and establish an ‘infectatorship’.
Argentina Fernández Rejects Infectatorship Accusations

Analysis:

The accusation has been raised by a group of opposition figures and intellectuals critical of the official response to the public health emergency. They argue that the government has been abusing the national quarantine that it declared to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, undermining the national democratic system by eroding constitutional guarantees and evading accountability. The accusations have fuelled a public debate over whether it is now time to start easing restrictions for the sake of the national economy, which Fernández staunchly opposes. 

  • The Fernández government imposed a 15-day national quarantine on 20 March, which has been extended three times. While restrictions have been relaxed in provinces with low infection rates, strict restrictions remain in place in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area and other major urban centres, which still have high infection rates.
  • An open letter released on 30 May and signed by 300 public figures criticises the handling of the pandemic, warning that the continued extension of the quarantine without a clear end date is anti-democratic. The letter highlights that due to the quarantine the national congress is only able to operate intermittently, while the judiciary has been forced to declare an extended recess. It argues this has allowed the government to avoid answering questions about its response and the potential violation of constitutional guarantees (such as to freedom of movement and other civil liberties).
  • The letter accuses the executive of exploiting this lack of oversight to overstep its remit, upsetting the balance of power between the three branches of government; and demands that the Fernández executive be made accountable for its actions and puts “an end to this abnormal situation”.
  • President Fernández addressed these accusations for the first time yesterday. Speaking at a press conference he insisted that the quarantine has succeeded in limiting the number of Covid-19 infections on a national level; and that maintaining it is necessary until all localised outbreaks are under control.

Looking Ahead:

The emergence of the letter points to growing division within Argentina over the quarantine. There have already been public demonstrations against the quarantine in recent weeks and these could re-emerge, upping the pressure on the government to find an alternative.

In brief: Pandemic affects Argentina’s tax revenue in May

* According to Argentina’s federal tax agency (Afip), tax revenue for May fell in real terms, due to the slowdown in economic activity as a result of quarantine measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Tax revenue increased by 12.4% compared with May 2019, to a total Ar$499.54bn (US$6.57bn), which amounts to a significant drop in real terms once the annual inflation rate (which stood at 45.6% in April) is taken into account. The Afip notes that a significant drop in revenue from value-added tax, which increased 3.6% year-on-year before adjusting for inflation, was a major contributing factor.

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