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‘Consistent approach’ helped Paris Club deal

Victory Front (FpV) Senator Ruperto Godoy speaks at Congress earlier this year.
By Tomás Brockenshire
Herald Staff

Victory Front Senator Ruperto Godoy talks to the Herald about BRICS, Iran MOU

Argentina scored two diplomatic victories in as many days last week - an invitation from Russia to attend the BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil in July was quickly followed by a comprehensive deal with the Paris Club — developments that left many scratching their heads.

While several analysts rushed to describe the events as isolated victories, Senator Ruperto Godoy, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insists they form part of a larger context.

Argentina’s “consistent approach to paying its debts without negotiating its sovereignty” has succeeded, Godoy told the Herald in his Senate office last week hours after the Paris Club deal was unveiled. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s invitation to the BRICS summit, meanwhile, amounts to recognition of the country's increasing strategic importance in a “multipolar world,” in part due to its potential to become a large unconventional hydrocarbon producer thanks to the resources trapped inside the Vaca Muerta field.

But in a week of victories there was also some recognition of a continuing setback for the government as it was forced to appeal a Federal Court ruling that declared the Memorandum of Understanding with Iran unconstitutional. Godoy emphatically defended the MOU, calling it “the best tool available at this time” to bring to justice those responsible for the 1994 AMIA Jewish community centre bombing that killed 85 people.

Paris Club

Senator Godoy, a member of the ruling Victory Front (FpV) caucus and representing the mining-intensive province of San Juan, said the deal to pay a US$9.7 billion debt owed to the Paris Club within five years, closes the door on one of the “pending issues” of the Kirchnerite goal to pay off the country’s debts.

The lack of International Monetary Fund (IMF) monitoring of the deal — an issue that Argentina has long said would have been a deal-breaker for any agreement — demonstrated how the government’s efforts to reduce the country’s indebtedness would come without sacrificing political or economic autonomy.

Understanding the BRICS invitation

Godoy also sees the BRICS invitation as one more piece of evidence that “opposition criticism that Argentina is isolated from the outside world is unfounded.” The senator noted that the grouping’s economic and demographic significance — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa hold 40 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of its GDP — is part of a multipolar world that could include an expanded role for an Argentina rich in energy, mineral resources and food.

The invitation to the Fortaleza summit comes as Moscow and Buenos Aires appear to have been particularly close recently, following President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s sharp criticism of Western “double standards” after the United States and the United Kingdom questioned the Crimean referendum while they gave a green light to a vote by the Malvinas population last year in which they overwhelmingly chose to remain a British territory.

“The relationship with Russia has always been good,” Godoy said, pushing back against claims that the unity was a recent development.

Godoy is also relatively certain that recent overtures by YPF chief executive Miguel Galuccio will be successful and Russian companies will invest in the country’s promising Vaca Muerta shale formation.

Even though the invitation to the Fortaleza summit is not an invitation to join the group, Godoy sees that as a distinct possibility in the future.

“One can foresee Argentina joining Brazil as representatives for Latin America,” much in the way that India and China doubly represent Asia, he said.

No advances on MOU

Although a loyal government ally who declined repeated invitations to discuss any shortcomings in the administration's foreign policy, Godoy seems to implicitly recognize the Memorandum of Understanding sealed with Iran last year to investigate the AMIA bombings, is far from perfect. But alternatives are difficult to come by.

“I’m open to finding other solutions but for now this is the only one we have,” Godoy said. “The opposition has only proposed striking down the current MOU, which doesn't get us anywhere.”

Part of the deal would allow Argentine judges to travel to Iran and question suspects and that is important because “we simply cannot legally proceed with trials in absentia,” Godoy said.

What about Tehran’s failure — and seeming disinterest — in implementing the deal?

“That's Iran's problem.”

@tbrockenshire

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