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Fear of creditors keeps Argentine forces away from regional maneuvers

Nov. 18, 2013 at 5:11 PM   |   Comments

BUENOS AIRES, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Argentina's worries over creditors' backlash to its 2001 sovereign default and scant cash resources threaten to isolate the Latin American country's forces in regional military collaboration networks.

This month, Argentina stayed away from Cruzex 2013, the largest air maneuvers by regional air forces. Buenos Aires said it canceled its participation to avoid international creditors pouncing on its military assets in ongoing claims from the debt default.

Analysts said that cash-strapped Argentine armed forces appeared unwilling to take part in international events where their hardware and technical inferiority could be questioned.

Cruzex this year featured U.S. forces alongside air fleets from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay and even Venezuela, despite its rancorous ties with Washington. Most of the maneuvers took place in northern Brazil, with Brazilian forces forming the largest contingent.

At least 90 military aircraft and "several thousand" military personnel from the participating countries took part, officials said.

Argentina pulled its small team, comprised of a Hercules KC130, several A4-AR fighter jets and about 115 personnel, at the very last minute.

Reacting to a news media uproar, Argentine Defense Minister Agustin Rossi said he wasn't sure what all the fuss was about. He said procedural delays had led to problems seeking legislative approval and forcing Argentina to opt out of the maneuvers.

Industry analysts said Argentine sensitivity over the current state of its armed forces also played a part in the country's abrupt withdrawal from the maneuvers. Argentine military commanders have been calling for more funding for a military regeneration program.

President Cristina Fernandez's administration is locked in a struggle to beat inflation and control foreign exchange spending. Several spending plans for the military have been revised downward in recent years.

In later comments, Rossi admitted the government worried there could be a replay of an international incident in Ghana last year, when Argentine navy frigate Libertad was impounded in the west African country following a claim filed against Argentina by a financial fund. The fund's claim dated back to 2001, when Argentina defaulted on $95 billion of its debt.

After two months' detention in Ghana, the Argentine navy ship won reprieve after U.N. intervention. Since that incident, even Fernandez has acted cautiously when flying out of Argentina, fearing her presidential jet to be at risk from the country's creditors.

Rossi said the government was keen to avoid any "inconvenience" arising from creditor action against the country over its 2001 sovereign default.

During this month's military exercises, the air forces taking part simulated various combat situations in a real war scenario, AirShows said on its website. They learned from each other during the training and shared their techniques, AirShows said.

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