June 18, 2013
Gov't orders Libertad ship be evacuated
The government ordered today that the naval training frigate Libertad stranded in Africa be evacuated, following the warning made yesterday that complaints would be taken to the UN over the issue.
Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and Defence Minister Arturo Puricelli made the demand in a press conference this evening reading a communiqué sent by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Timerman said the President has “decided to evacuate the whole of the Libertad ship’s crew, Argentines and foreigners, leaving the captain behind with a small crew."
There are 326 sailors aboard the ship.
The Libertad was detained in the Ghanaian port of Tema on October 2 under a court order obtained by NML Capital Ltd, an affiliate of investment firm Elliott Management.
The frigate was seized in Ghana to help bondholders try to recoup debts from the South American country's 2002 default.
The firm says Argentina owes it over US$300 million on defaulted sovereign bonds and it will only release the ship if the country pays it at least US$20 million.
President Cristina Fernandez, according to Argentina's foreign ministry, said the crew's human rights were being violated because the judge had prohibited fuel deliveries to the ship - leaving it without power needed for plumbing, electricity, keeping food fresh and responding to emergencies such as a fire.
Argentina has condemned the seizure, said it could not be targeted by creditors due to the ship's military nature, and vowed to press its case at the United Nations. A Ghanaian court ruled that Argentina forfeited such immunities when it issued the bonds.
Argentina declared a massive sovereign default a decade ago at the height of an economic crisis and now faces a raft of lawsuits in US courts by so-called holdout bondholders seeking state asset freezes to recover the value of defaulted bonds.
The bondholders, which the Argentine government calls vulture funds, normally target foreign bank accounts held by state-run companies or government agencies.
“Neither the judge,’ vulture funds’ nor Argentine associates will succeed in twisting the decision of a nation and its government over extortion measures,” Timerman said today.
The government official is set to meet with the head of the United Nation’s Security Council at 10 am on Monday, where Argentina recently obtained a temporary seat.