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CFK seeks anti-vultures support in Venezuela

Caracas, Venezuela, prepares for today’s Mercosur summit of regional heads of state.

President expected at Mercosur summit, where Paraguay reappears after suspension

Just days from a possible default, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will today travel to Venezuela to partake in the Mercosur summit where she is expected to rally support from her regional colleagues for the country’s battle against holdout hedge funds. Her departure leaves embattled Vice-President Amado Boudou as the country’s acting head of state.

CFK spent the weekend in Santa Cruz province with her family before today’s departure to Caracas. The head of state is scheduled to return Tuesday evening, just hours before a deadline for interest repayments on debt is due to expire. The country risks default if negotiators in New York cannot reach a deal with “vulture” funds, who are seeking repayment on debt from the 2001-2002 financial crisis.

After similar moves at the recent BRICS emerging economies summit in Brazil, the president is expected to huddle with fellow heads of state to secure a joint declaration supporting Argentina in its battle in US district court judge Thomas Griesa’s court.

The president’s departure leaves her number two, Boudou, as acting head of state for a second time since he was indicted on charges of bribery and of conducting business incompatible with public office, in the so-called Ciccone case.

The scenario prompted strong reactions in opposition political circles, who this time will see the vice-president in the driver’s seat two times in the same week, since CFK is also scheduled to attend a ceremony in Bogotá for incumbent Colombian President Manuel Santos as he reassumes his presidency.

Also on today’s agenda, Brazil is set to propose that the bloc condemns Israel’s military offensive on the Gaza Strip. In a strange turn of events, Brazil last week found itself at the centre of a diplomatic quarrel with Israel, when it recalled a diplomat from Tel Aviv and after principal adviser to the Brazilian presidency in international affairs, Marco Aurélio García, earlier described the Israeli offensive as “genocide.”

Paraguay

Paraguay returns to the Mercosur summit today after a diplomatic fall-out with its neighbours that emerged in 2012 as a result of the impeachment of then president Fernando Lugo.

Mercosur suspended the country over the decision to ouster the left-leaning leader, citing the bloc’s so-called “Democratic Clause.” On the lead of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Mercosur leaders had suggested it was the equivalent of a coup d’état.

The bloc only allowed Paraguay to return after presidential elections in April 2013 saw current President Horacio Cortes voted into office. The country had previously refused to return because of Venezuela’s incorporation to Mercosur in 2012 while Paraguay was suspended and thus unable to vote. However, the country’s Senate approved Venezuela’s incorporation in last December, clearing the way for improved relations among members states.

Close ties

Unlike the team negotiating on Argentina’s behalf in New York, the summit in Caracas will see CFK acting in an environment far from hostile, with most countries in the region on good terms with each other.

Regional leaders have rallied behind the president, with many having chosen strong language to denounce the actions of the so-called “vulture funds.”

Not always on the best terms with Argentina, Uruguay’s President José Mujica claimed earlier this month the legal battle in US courts that Argentines is facing “is related to the discovery of Vaca Muerta because what they (the holdout hedge funds) want to negotiate is how to eat up Argentina’s petroleum on the cheap.”

“And they’re going to end up proposing that the debt is paid using those natural resources,” he said.

For his part, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has described the holdouts as “looters,” while more reserved leaders like Chilean President Michelle Bachelet have also stood by Argentina. Bachelet outlined her “concern over the hurdles Argentina is facing in the renegotiation of its supreme debt” at an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting in Washington earlier this month.

Today’s summit had first been scheduled for December 17, but was postponed on multiple occasions, first as a result of CFK undergoing surgery for a subdural haematoma in October, and later due to the social unrest that took hold across politically divided Venezuela earlier in the year.

Herald staff with DyN

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