Argentina: Hedge funds to blame for woes

Jan. 11, 2013 at 9:02 AM
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BUENOS AIRES, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner says economic predators and hedge funds are to blame for the country's financial troubles.

Fernandez launched a spirited attack on international financial community and market players as she led a lavish celebration to welcome Argentine naval ship Libertad, which sailed home from Ghana after more than two months of an acrimonious detention in the West African country.

Libertad was seized in Ghana following legal action by an investment company seeking to recover money owed by Argentina since its 2002 debt default.

Argentina is still denied access to international markets. Delays in repaying debts since the default have earned Argentina the ire of U.S. President Barack Obama, who withdrew preferential trade privileges for the country.

Fear of creditors has also led Fernandez to avoid use of the presidential jet in case it is impounded the same way as Libertad was through creditor action.

Thousands of people lined the Argentine harbor at Mar del Plata to welcome the ship. Release of the vessel from Ghana came after a U.N. court ordered its release.

The vessel was prevented from leaving Ghana Oct. 2, 2012, following a complaint from NML Capital, one of Argentina's numerous creditors.

Fernandez said the Libertad's return was a victory for Argentina's struggle against what she called international extortion.

"We're going to keep on fighting because no one's going to get anything out of Argentina with extortion," Fernandez told a cheering crowd.

NML Capital, a subsidiary of U.S. hedge fund Elliot Capital Management, says it is owed $370 million since Argentina's default. It tried and failed to recover $20 million of the reported debt in return for the ship's return.

Argentina's defense that the naval ship had immunity as a military vessel won it the argument that led to Libertad's release but creditors are poised to seize Argentine assets whichever way they can.

Fernandez said her government was "accustomed to external, internal and even underground pressures" but declared "no one will ever obtain anything from Argentina by extortion and by force."

Fernandez also used the celebration to rail against Britain over Argentina's territorial claims over the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory. Argentina claims sovereignty over the islands, which its military-led government invaded in 1982.

A resulting conflict with Britain caused the deaths of 649 Argentine troops, 255 British military personnel and three Falkland Islanders.

Argentina appears to have torn up the official surrender document at the end of that war, reviving Falklands claims with a more energetic international campaign.

In her latest speech, Fernandez said Britain is militarizing the South Atlantic territory, and accused Britain of threatening Argentina.

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