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COMO EL MUNDO ESTA MIRANDO A ARGENTINA

1. ARGENTINE OFFICIAL: U.S. NOT NEEDED IN PROBE (The Washington Post)

 
By Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger
11 February 2015
 
The foreign minister of Argentina, caught in the middle of a scandal in which he and his government are accused of brokering an illegal deal to cover up Iran’s alleged role in a deadly terrorist attack, said this week in a rare interview that the charges were “ridiculous.”
 
Moreover, Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman said, he has no knowledge of what happened to the prosecutor found shot to death the night before he was to present allegations of the secret deal to lawmakers. And the foreign minister expressed deep reservations about the possibility of U.S. assistance in determining how prosecutor Alberto Nisman died – despite calls by some Argentine and U.S. legislators for the FBI to help investigate and an offer of help from the U.S. government.
 
“There are some problems in the United States that the FBI cannot solve,” Timerman told The Washington Post in a telephone interview from Buenos Aires. “I don’t know why they think the FBI can solve problems all over the world.”
 
Timerman made his comments during one of his first lengthy interviews on the topic amid the controversy that has plunged Argentina into turmoil. A State Department official said the U.S. government had offered to assist Argentine authorities in their investigation of the prosecutor’s death, though Timerman said he was not aware of the offer.
 
Nisman was killed with a bullet to the right temple hours before he planned to lay out his findings alleging that Timerman, acting on behalf of President Cristina Fernà¡ndez de Kirchner, had agreed to absolve Iran of involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center that killed 85 people. In exchange, Nisman was to allege, Argentina would sell grain to Iran and Iran would sell oil to Argentina as part of a broadening commercial relationship between the two countries.
 
Ever since Nisman’s body was found on Jan. 18, Argentina has been seized by speculation. Did Nisman commit suicide or was he murdered and, if so, by whom?
 
Last week, Argentine officials confirmed that draft criminal indictments for both Fernà¡ndez and Timerman had been found in the trash at Nisman’s apartment after his death.
 
Speaking with The Post on Monday, Timerman, a Jew whose father was a crusading journalist jailed by the regime governing Argentina in the 1970s, spoke in personal terms to reject the core of Nisman’s allegations. He said he would not have sought any deal to cover up Iran’s role in the bombing of the center, which remains a Jewish landmark in the country.
 
“I will not throw out of the window my history, the history of my family, the history of my government, the history of my friends who were killed during the dictatorship. I will not do that,” he said. “For what? To get what? Oil?”
 
Nisman, who had led the investigation into the bombing since 2004, had concluded that Iran masterminded the attack in cooperation with the Lebanese-based Hezbollah militia.
 
In 2007, at Nisman’s urging, the international police agency Interpol issued “red notices,” international arrest warrants, for Iranian suspects.
 
Before his death, Nisman was preparing to allege that Fernà¡ndez and Timerman had secretly agreed to seek the withdrawal of the red notices as part of a publicly announced 2013 deal with Iran to establish a joint judicial panel between Argentina and Iran to interview suspects.
 
Timerman vigorously disputed the claim, saying he opposes the idea personally and philosophically and had no legal authority to make such a request. He noted that the head of Interpol has publicly rejected the claim and said no Argentine official sought the withdrawal of the arrest warrants. The 2013 deal, Timerman said, was intended to provide a way to move the case forward given that Iranian law prohibits extradition and Argentine law does not allow for suspects to be tried in absentia.
 
“That is why we decided it might be a possibility, maybe, to convince the Iranians, the government of Iran to allow the judge to go to Tehran to investigate suspects,” he said.
 
He said the goal was to find a legal process to allow the case to proceed.
 
“We are not going to put a bomb under the car of an Iranian,” he said – a veiled reference to the 2008 car bombing that killed Imad Mughniyah, the Hezbollah leader who was one of those Nisman had sought to charge in the Jewish center bombing. The Post recently reported that he was killed in a joint operation between Israel’s Mossad and the CIA.
 
“The only thing in which Argentinians believe is in the judicial system,” Timerman said.
 
Fernàndez, a colorful and controversial president, at first said she believed Nisman had committed suicide. Later, she said he had been murdered by elements of the Argentine intelligence community in an effort to discredit her government.
 
Timerman declined to repeat those allegations. He said neither he nor Fernà¡ndez stood to gain from the death, which prevented Nisman from appearing before Argentina’s National Congress, where tough questions might have been lodged about his claims.
 
“Who gained by having Mr. Nisman dead?” he asked. “Not me. Not the president.”
 
By Cecilia Nahon
11 February 2015
 
The Jan. 25 editorial “An Argentine mystery,” about the tragic death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, contained grave accusations against top Argentine officials based on unfounded speculation, not facts.
 
Any claim that this government was involved in covering up the terrorist attack against the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) is baseless. The fight against international terrorism and impunity has been a pillar of the governments of President Cristina Fernà¡ndez de Kirchner and former president Néstor Kirchner. Their dedication to bringing truth and justice to the AMIA attack is unprecedented.
 
The goal of the judicial cooperation agreement signed with Iran was to allow the Argentine judge to question the accused in Tehran.
 
Ronald Noble, Interpol’s former secretary general, wrote to Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman: “in connection to the AMIA case, you stated that Interpol should keep the Red Notices in force. Your position and that of the Argentinean government was consistent and unwavering.”
 
The facts contradict the alleged oil-for-grain plot: Argentina does not import Iranian oil (Argentine refineries cannot process it because of its sulfur content), while its exports to Iran are insignificant and managed by the private sector.
 
In 2013, Argentina requested that the United States include the AMIA case in its renewed dialogue with Iran. Regarding the call for an independent probe, the investigations are conducted by Argentina’s independent judicial system with full cooperation from the executive branch. Beyond the families affected, no one stands to benefit more from truth and justice than the government and the people of Argentina.
 
The writer is the Argentine ambassador to the United States.
 
By Jonathan Gilbert
11 February 2015
 
 
BUENOS AIRES — The judge overseeing an investigation into the mysterious death of a federal prosecutor here last month has asked forensic experts to identify DNA traces found at his home, it was revealed on Tuesday.
 
The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was found dead of a gunshot wound last month at his apartment, hours before he was expected to talk to lawmakers about his accusations that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had conspired to derail his investigation into the fatal bombing of a Jewish community center here in 1994.
 
In the case, which has convulsed Argentina, it is unclear whether Mr. Nisman committed suicide or was killed. Judge Fabiana Palmaghini said the DNA did not belong to Mr. Nisman. The traces were found on a coffee cup in the kitchen sink, according to local news reports.
 
Diego Lagomarsino, an aide to Mr. Nisman, says he made himself coffee when he visited the prosecutor the day before he was found dead to take him a .22-caliber Bersa pistol. Mr. Lagomarsino, who is charged with lending Mr. Nisman the pistol, which fired the bullet that killed him, says Mr. Nisman had sought a weapon for protection. Until now, only Mr. Nisman’s DNA traces had been found on items taken from his apartment for laboratory tests.
 
Local news media reported that tests found no gunpowder residue on Mr. Nisman’s hands, corroborating previous results. But ballistics experts say the Bersa pistol might not have left residue.
 
February 9, 2015
 
Sir, I have to disagree with John Paul Rathbone’s article “A democracy dented by mysterious murder” (Comment, February 6). Prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s tragic death, which is under judicial investigation, neither dents nor puts Argentina’s democracy at risk.
 
As Argentines we have lived for many years under cruel military dictatorships — many of them supported by foreign powers — and we are well aware of the value of democracy. For the first time in Argentina’s history we have enjoyed 30 years of continuous democracy. Our democracy is young but not fragile.
 
Mr Rathbone also states that “no Argentine” believes the case will be solved. This is a gross generalisation. As Mr Rathbone rightly points out, Argentina’s judiciary is independent. Our judicial system boasts a well established reputation for delivering justice in complex cases. A good example of this is the investigation and condemnation of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the last military junta. Argentina’s model of transitional justice has been recognised as an example by the international community, as has our government’s human rights policy.
 
Mr Rathbone’s assertion that there is “a conspiracy” involving the Argentine state to prevent the case from being solved is entirely false: President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has taken all necessary steps to facilitate the judicial investigation, among them, the opening of all classified intelligence files possibly related to this investigation.
 
To describe Argentina as a “flawed democracy” or a “rogue state” is a most groundless and offensive accusation. Our country is a dynamic and progressive democracy, as are all the democracies in our region, united in upholding the values of peace, truth and justice.
 
Alicia Castro
Ambassador of Argentina to the UK
 
By Eliana Raszewski
10 February 2015
 
 
BUENOS AIRES, Feb 10 (Reuters) – Argentina has failed to pay interest to holders of defaulted debt who agreed last year to receive payment locally instead of abroad in order to sidestep U.S. court rulings, an investor association said.
 
The South American country tipped back into default in July after refusing to settle with a small group of U.S. hedge funds that were awarded full payment by a New York court on junk debt left over from Argentina’s 2002 default.
 
Argentina responded in September by approving legislation to allow bondholders to receive interest payments via a state-run Argentine bank, in defiance of the U.S. court’s orders. The government said the move would fix the default.
 
“We have bondholders in our group who entered into the restructuring and who have not been able to collect their coupon payments,” Horacio Vazquez, head of the Association of Victims of the Pesification and Default, told Reuters.
 
The Argentine bank appointed to process the payments, Nacion Fideicomisos, did not reply to multiple phone calls and emails from Reuters seeking details. Officials at the Economy Ministry declined to comment when asked if any payments had been successfully completed.
 
Experts had cautioned the debt payment initiative was fraught with massive legal and logistical hurdles. .
 
On Tuesday, Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said the government would not cave in to the demands of the U.S. investors, which it denigrates as “vultures”.
 
“What they’re demanding can’t be paid. You can’t mortgage the country like that,” Kicillof told Radio del Plata. “That’s not going to happen again, at least not under this government.”
 
U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa has ordered Argentina pay the so-called “holdout” funds $1.33 billion – equivalent to 100 cents on the dollar – plus accrued interest.
 
But the cash-strapped government is adamant it won’t better the terms of bond swaps in 2005 and 2010, which saw investors accept huge writedowns. The holdouts have scoffed at the offer.
 
“While Mr. Kicillof ‘fiddles’ with political gamesmanship, the holdout debt grows by about $500 million per year, borrowing costs throughout the country are greatly elevated, and the economy spirals into recession,” said Mark Brodsky, chairman of Aurelius Capital Management, one of two funds spearheading the legal battle in New York.
 
 
By Charlie Devereux
February 10, 2015
 
 
(Bloomberg) — Argentina won’t meet the demands of a group of holdouts from its 2001 default that won a New York court ruling ordering the South American nation to pay them in full, Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said today.
 
The group of litigants led by billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management are “obstinate” and only offered Argentina a 15 percent discount on the $1.6 billion a New York-based judge ruled they are owed, Kicillof said today in a radio interview. Settling at those terms would trigger further demands from other holdouts, meaning Argentina could have to pay as much as $20 billion.
 
“We can’t mortgage the country like they did in the ’90s which ended in the biggest bankruptcy in Argentine history,” Kicillof said on Radio Del Plata. “The president has said ‘not with this president’ and I agree with her.”
 
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa has been blocking interest payments to holders of restructured bonds issued under foreign law since July when President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner refused to comply with his ruling. Kicillof said the legal conflict and default isn’t impairing access to financing.
 
Still, with presidential elections scheduled for Oct. 25 and Fernandez unable to run for re-election, investors have held on to government bonds on the expectation the next administration will resolve the conflict. Restructured bonds due 2033, which are in default, are trading at 92.75 cents on the dollar, above the 83-cent average over the past year.
 
A currency swap of $11 billion and long-term loans for infrastructure projects with China have given the country financial stability in spite of “apocalyptic” predictions made by the holdouts to spook Fernandez into paying, Kicillof said.
 
‘Rotten Fish’
 
“They are throwing rotten fish to see if the president or the minister or someone gets spooked and pays the millions they are demanding, which isn’t going to work,” Kicillof said. “We have long-term credit that we’re going to use to build houses, to build wind parks, to build reservoirs, ports and roads.”
 
Mark Brodsky, chairman of Aurelius Capital Management, a hedge fund involved in the litigation against Argentina, said in a statement today that the government’s unwillingness to cooperate with the holdouts is putting the economy at risk.
 
“Like the Roman Emperor Nero and his fiddling, Mr. Kicillof seems so preoccupied with speech-making that he makes no effort to prevent a serious problem from getting much worse,” Brodsky said in an e-mail. “While Mr. Kicillof ‘fiddles’ with political gamesmanship, the hold-out debt grows by about $500 million per year, borrowing costs throughout the country are greatly elevated, and the economy spirals into recession.”
 
By Charles Newbery
10 February 2015
 
 
Buenos Aires (Platts)–10Feb2015/1044 am EST/1544 GMT  Argentina’s natural gas imports rose 28% to 24.8 million cubic meters/d in December, compared with 19.4 million cu m/d in the same month of 2013, while crude imports fell to zero over the same period, the Energy Secretariat said Tuesday.
 
The imported gas supplies, which accounted for one-fifth of the 126 million cu m/d average consumption, were up from 20.9 million cu m/d in November, the Energy Secretariat said in a monthly data report.
 
Argentina, which relies on gas to meet half of its energy needs, imports supplies by pipeline from Bolivia and LNG from global suppliers.
 
Bolivian gas imports fell to 15.1 million cu m/d in December from 15.2 million cu m/d in December 2013, and were up compared with 14.2 million cu m/d in November.
 
LNG imports rose to 9.7 million cu m/d in December from 4.2 million cu m/d in the year-earlier period and 6.7 million cu m/d in November.
 
Argentina has been boosting gas imports as domestic production declines after a decade of limited exploration, maturing reserves and few finds. Gas production dropped 20% to an average of 114 million cu m/d in 2014 from a record 143.1 million cu m/d in 2004, Energy Secretariat data shows.
 
Consumption surged 33% to an average of 126 million cu m/d in 2014 from 2013 on a growing economy and price controls that have made gas the cheapest source of energy in the country, according to the national statistics agency Indec.
 
Argentina plans to ramp up Bolivian gas imports to 27.7 million cu m/d in 2017 as more pipeline capacity comes online.
 
LIQUID IMPORTS
 
The Energy Secretariat said no crude was imported in December, compared with 6,712 b/d in the year-earlier period and 4,992 b/d in November.
 
Argentina had not imported crude for years until 2012, when it had to turn to overseas suppliers to make up for dwindling domestic production, in particular during times of higher demand in the May to September cold season and the December to February crop harvest period and summer holidays. Crude production fell 37% to 532,000 b/d in 2014 from a record 847,000 b/d in 1998, according to the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute, an industry group.
 
Refinor, a smaller refiner in the north of the country, handled the crude imports in all of the periods.
 
Diesel imports rose to an average of 30,738 b/d in December compared with 21,135 b/d in November, while those of gasoline rose to 2,232 b/d in December compared with zero in November, according to the report. The secretariat did not provide year-on-year comparisons for these products.
 

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