May 22, 2013
No freedom for Libertad
Confirmation of Argentina’s United Nations Security Council membership next year in the midst of the dire straits surrounding the naval training frigate Libertad stranded in Ghana perhaps points to the direction in which resolution of this crisis should be heading — namely, breaking out of this country’s recent isolation instead of deepening it. While the culprits for the Libertad ‘s plight have so far been limited to military spheres, the pundits unanimously agree that the Defence Ministry is in much deeper political trouble than the Foreign Ministry (the more so after Thursday’s resignation of DINIEM National Military Strategic Intelligence Directorate chief Lourdes Puente Olivera, a department under Arturo Puricelli’s portfolio) but is this the correct conclusion to draw? Puricelli has done infinitely more for ties with the United States than the Foreign Ministry (or Security Ministry for that matter), mending fences after Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman so egregiously impounded US police training equipment under an assistance programme 20 months ago (just a couple of months after Puricelli moved into his current post). Given how toothless Argentina’s diplomatic counteroffensive has proven (the mission headed by the deputy ministers of both the Foreign and Defence portfolios returned empty-handed from West Africa yesterday) with zero support from any global heavyweights, might not Puricelli’s pro-Washington stance make more sense than Timerman’s sterile grandstanding?
As things now stand, there is no exit strategy for the Libertad other than the almost endless path of recourse to international tribunals (for which Argentina has often shown scant respect on other fronts) or trying to override the pro-creditor ruling impounding it within Ghana — while the cadet vessel remains stranded, it is an all too visible precedent for hostile action against far more regular activities than an annual round-the-world training voyage, such as Aerolíneas Argentinas flights. The government’s hands are tied by the 2010 “padlock law” prohibiting any foreign debt settlement outside the 2003-5 haircut — the “bail” of 20 million dollars has thus been adamantly rejected (even if money has been offered under the table, according to some rumours). Nor does the waiver of sovereign immunity when the bonds now in the hands of NML “vulture fund” were originally sold in 1994 help Argentina’s case.
In short, a situation where it is much easier to find scapegoats than solutions but such political cannibalism will not bring the Libertad home