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12-15 round-up: Airport closures and political fights

Shutdown of El Palomar airport brought suspicions of favoring old players

By | [email protected] | December 15, 2020 12:44pm

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-The announcement by the ORSNA air transport regulatory agency that the El Palomar airport would no longer be used for commercial flights has stirred up political conflict. ORSNA argued that it is “irrational” to keep “three operative airports in Greater Buenos Aires”, but many saw it as a move against new players in the country’s aviation market, born under former president Mauricio Macri’s government that looked to foment competition in the area with the introduction of low-cost flights.

-Macri went on the offensive with a public letter saying the decision to close the airport was “ideologically-based”, arguing that his policy with the sector allowed “a million Argentines to fly for the first time”, and saying it confirmed that Peronism did not “return better”, as its slogan promised on the campaign trail.

-In the meantime, one of the two remaining commercial airports near Buenos Aires city, Ezeiza, saw its main access route blocked by workers and former workers of Latam, the Chile-based aviation company that announced the closing of its Argentine operation shortly after the start of the pandemic. The company says it has already reached an agreement with 1,200 of the 1,700 employees it had under contract at the time of the announcement, but protesters complained about only being paid half of their salary since the start of the conflict. Macri’s former Security minister Patricia Bullrich said they “never allowed protests to stop Argentines from travelling” while they were in charge, but that “pictures of tourists running around picket lines with their luggage” were now back with the Fernández administration.

-Speaking of letters and protests, the Kirchnerite faction of the ruling coalition seems to be increasingly focused on its conflict with courts. In line with the letter published last week by VP Cristina Kirchner, most of which was focused on attacking the current members of the country’s Supreme Court, some of the most hardline Kirchnerite groups gathered around the country’s central courthouses yesterday to demand that former officials be freed from jail. Former vice president Amado Boudou, former Infrastructure minister Julio De Vido, former Transport secretary Ricardo Jaime and indigenous leader Milagro Sala are all currently imprisoned with corruption charges.