Outside View: Argentina's Politics of intimidation

Published: Dec. 6, 2012 at 5:56 AM

NANCY SODERBERG, UPI Outside View Commentator

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Experts from Carnegie Mellon University will join Robert J. Shapiro, my co-chair at the American Task Force Argentina, to brief lawmakers and Obama administration officials on U.S.-Argentine relations with a focus on Argentina's current standoff with the International Monetary Fund.

The briefing comes just days before an IMF compliance deadline, by which Argentina must show that it has rectified its false official statistics, including inflation and CPI numbers, or face censure.

To put this in perspective, Argentina is the only leading world economy whose economic data have been repudiated by the IMF and Managing Director Christine Lagarde recently pledged to use the "red card" against Argentina if Argentina failed to correct its numbers.

Argentina's official inflation data has been grossly underreported since 2007. Officially, Argentina's inflation is in the single digits but it's an open secret that the numbers are completely fabricated. Private statisticians calculate that the government underestimates actual consumer prices by as much as two-thirds and predict inflation will soar to 30 percent in 2013.

However, Argentine economists (and journalists) who've challenged official reports have faced harsh intimidation. According to reports in publications such as The Washington Post, the government employs extreme tactics to muzzle critics and suppress data that would call into question the Administration's economic policies. For example, in 2011 the Argentine government fined a group of private researchers 500,000 pesos each for producing data that officials say didn't comply with "appropriate methodological requirements."

This is no way for a G20 country to be addressing its economic challenges, i.e., by suppressing independent analysis and intimidating whistle blowers. It is well past time Argentina lived up to its international obligations. Pressure for action is building.

The Obama administration recently revoked Argentina's preferential trade status and is voting against IADB loans. And in New York, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals placed harsh demands on Argentina to remedy its treatment of U.S. creditors.

And just last week, a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere marked-up legislation, H.R. 1798, Judgment Evading Foreign States Accountability Act of 2011, that would block Argentina's access to U.S. capital markets.

If enacted, JEFSA would prevent foreign states that do business, issue securities or borrow money in the United States and then fail to satisfy U.S. court judgments totaling $100 million or more from further harming U.S. businesses and investors and flouting the rule of law.

The U.S. government's united, no-nonsense posture will not be lost on the Argentine government. Times are too serious to allow a hemispheric ally to behave in any way that undermines the rule of law and international financial institutions.


(Former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg is co-chairwoman of the American Task Force Argentina and President of the Connect U.S. Fund.)


(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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