An Argentine magistrate ordered the Executive to present official reports on the extent of poverty and indigence in the country, figures which allegedly the much questioned stats office, Indec ceased to release almost two years ago. However cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez ironically downplayed the order arguing the judge was 'meddling' in something she does not know.
Federal Judge from Federal Administrative Contentious jurisdiction, Maria Jose Sarmiento decided on the issue following on a request from lawmaker Victoria Donda, belonging to the opposition Broad Progressive Front.
The magistrate also ordered the Ministry of Economy to release the ”absolute value of consumer prices, which are used to calculate the percentage variations of the IPCNU index (National Urban Consumer Prices), since last February.
Sarmiento recalled that 'access to public information from the Executive branch in Argentina is constitutionally regulated.
The main foundation of access to information in the hands of the State consists in the right which every citizen has to know the way in which its rules and civil servants are performing”, added judge Sarmiento.
Poverty has become an issue of the Argentine current presidential campaign following the death of a 14-year old Qom aborigine child, who weighed eleven kilos, and all indicates despite several diseases that malnutrition was the main determining factor.
Besides, the Argentine Catholic Church has a Social department which regularly surveys poverty and indigence in the country, also supported by figures from a net work of dining halls for the needy, and they indicate that almost one in three Argentines live below the poverty line. This is particularly true for children from poor houses holds or backgrounds.
Cristina Fernandez administration officials have come out to deny such percentages and insist they are totally wrong of bias.
The Argentine president last June, in Rome, and addressing a FAO conference put a figure to Argentine poverty saying the rate was “below five percent” with destitution standing at 1.27%.
If that was correct Argentina's poverty rate is below that of OECD rich league members. In effect later that same week her faithful 'fire-fighter' Anibal Fernandez added that poverty in Argentina was below the percentage reported in Germany.
The figures quoted by Cristina Fernandez were almost identical to those issued by the Indec statistics bureau in 2013, when it last published poverty estimates. Since then Argentina has been awash with competing figures on poverty and destitution, as some opposition estimates claim the rate could reach as high as 36%. The Argentine Catholic University put the figure at 27.5% in 2013, and Argentine unions estimates are between 18% and 29%.
But on Wednesday in Buenos Aires, cabinet chief Anibal Fernández questioned Judge Sarmiento and said she was meddling in something she does not have to meddle in.
“That index does not exist anymore because it was discontinued; it is no longer linear, not only income is measured; so (the judge) is meddling in what she must not be meddling in, she talks about what she does not know,” Fernández affirmed.
“I would like to know if the judge knows what the index is; what the judge is doing is harassment or, in the worst of the cases, creating a future claim by holders of bonds that are adjusted to inflation, putting in doubt the National Urban Consumer Price… what she is doing is to provoke a lawsuit by holders of bonds that are adjusted by inflation, increasing the debt of Argentines,” he warned.
“I would love to ask her to tell me what she thinks the poverty rate is to know what she is seeking to find,” the minister affirmed considering the judge’s request “dangerous,” paving the way for a legal action by bondholders against the country.