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Gov’t aims fire against US senators

Capitanich, Kicillof say lawmakers do not represent majority opinion

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government reacted angrily yesterday to comments by US senators who challenged President Barack Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Argentina.

Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman called Sens. Marco Rubio and Robert Menéndez “extremists” who don’t represent the will of the Senate, the US government nor the US people.

Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said both senators should show more respect.

Both senators disagreed Thursday with nominee Noah Mamet’s statement that Argentina is a mature democracy and an ally, and suggested that the US needs a more experienced diplomat in Buenos Aires.

“There is a very high likelihood that if you are confirmed, while you are in that post, you are going to have another similar collapse in Argentina to what you saw economically just a decade ago,” Rubio, a Republican who is often touted as a possible presidential candidate, warned.

Local officials reacted angrily to the criticism, without mentioning what the senators said about the nation’s economic woes.

Rubio and Menéndez “are widely criticized for their extreme positions,” Timerman said, calling them ideologically opposed not only to many of Argentina’s priorities, but also to those of their own US citizens.

“In Argentina, the citizens and residents enjoy full democracy and social inclusion,” Capitanich said. “So what I would like to communicate to this Republican legislator is that he have respect for the offices that each of us have, just as we have respect for the United States.”

During the confirmation hearing on Thursday, Mamet acknowledged that he had never been to Argentina, a fact that Rubio said concerned him because Argentina would face an “economic crisis” soon.

“This is — with all due respect — you have an impressive resume of work and so forth ... but ... I think this is a very significant post,” Rubio said, before going on to add that Argentina was moving in an “anti-democratic direction.”

Rubio also said that “it looks like they’re headed for another default, because all the actions they’re taking today seem to be designed to avoid a short-term default, but long term, their structural problems are extraordinary.”

Mamet retorted that he considered Argentina an “ally with whom we have fundamental disagreements,” to which Rubio replied, “They must be the most peculiar ally in the world, because neither do they pay their debts nor cooperate militarily.”

‘Full democracy’

Early yesterday morning, Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich was the first to fire back against the criticism lobbied against the country in the US senate a day earlier.

Argentina “is a paradigm of freedom of expression,” Capitanich said, noting that the administration “tolerates the aggresive action” of media that are opposed to the government.

Capitanich also highlighted that the source of the criticism was not particularly credible considering that the Republican Party is the home of powerful special ineterests that “defend vulture funds and unilaterallypropose measures to get involved in the affairs of other countries.”

Capitanich also criticized Menéndez for saying that Argentina did not properly combat narcotrafficking, noting that the accusation came from “the number one consuming country in the world.”

For his part, Timerman also tied Rubio to the hedge funds that are embroiled in a long legal battle with Argentina for the repayment of defaulted bonds. And to further emphasize how the influential Republican senator is behind the times, Timerman noted that Rubio opposes marriage equality and “attacked Obama for having shaken the head of (Cuban President) Raúl Castro” during a memorial service for the late Nelson Mandela.

Rubio went as far as arguing that “not even North Korea has dared to mock us in this manner,” after saying that Argentina does “not accept US courts’ (verdicts), they do not want to pay, and will enter another default.”

Timerman was particularly offended by the comparison.

“Comparing Argentina to North Korea, as they did in the hearing, is a ridiculous statement that one could smile about if it weren’t for the fact that in Argentina they put it on the front page of a newspaper but that affirmation characterizes the person that issues that opinion,” Timerman said.

US State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, dismissed speculation that the senators’ comments would affect relations with Argentina. “I think we speak from here on US Government policy. And obviously, there are a range of comments on a range of issues that are made every day from not just members of Congress but officials around the country,” she said.

Herald staff with DyN, Télam

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