3. ARGENTINE COURT REJECTS ALLEGATIONS CRISTINA KIRCHNER TRIED TO HEAD OFF IRAN PROBE (The Wall Street Journal Online)11. FALKLAND ISLANDS’ CONFLICT RISKS REMAIN NEGLIGIBLE BUT UK-LINKED OPERATORS FACE HEIGHTENED DISRUPTION AND VANDALISM RISKS (IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis)
By Jonathan Gilbert27 March 2015BUENOS AIRES — An Argentine appellate court dismissed a criminal case Thursday against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her political supporters that accused them of conspiring to hide Iranian officials’ involvement in a bombing here in 1994.Reiterating the harsh tone of a previous dismissal, a three-judge panel threw out the case, ruling that evidence presented by Alberto Nisman, the longtime lead investigator into the deadly attack on a Jewish community center, was too flimsy to open an investigation. Mr. Nisman made the accusations against Mrs. Kirchner in January, shortly before being found dead of a gunshot wound to the head.Highlighting fierce debate over the case, however, one of the judges voted in favor of pursuing Mr. Nisman’s allegations.The judges who voted to dismiss the complaint, which had been revived by a second prosecutor, Gerardo Pollicita, struck out at Mr. Nisman, saying that there were no grounds to accuse Mrs. Kirchner and that he had groped for evidence to back up his accusation of a cover-up.”It is the presence of evidence that must drive a criminal investigation, not the inverse,” wrote Judge Jorge Ballestero. He added, ”Witness stands are not stages for theater, and judicial files are not filmstrips.”The investigation into Mr. Nisman’s death has agitated Argentina, and it has not been established whether he was killed or committed suicide. A third forensic team will start work next week to compare stark differences between the official investigation into his death and another one commissioned by Mr. Nisman’s former wife, which said he was murdered.Mr. Nisman’s original complaint said that Mrs. Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman had conspired to shield Iranian officials from charges that they had planned the 1994 bombing, which left 85 people dead. He said the government had hoped for trade benefits in exchange. One judge on the panel, Eduardo Freiler, said Mr. Nisman had ”capriciously chained together” extensive telephone intercepts on which he based his complaint to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.Germán Moldes, the prosecutor who brought Mr. Nisman’s case before the appellate court, called the situation ”unprecedented” but would not say Thursday in a telephone interview whether he would appeal the ruling. He has 10 working days to do so. A new prosecutor would then decide whether to bring Mr. Nisman’s case before a higher criminal court.The decision to throw out the case represents a partial victory for the government, which has claimed Mr. Nisman was manipulated as part of a plot to destabilize Mrs. Kirchner’s government. But the split vote ”sends an ambiguous message,” said Martín Böhmer, a law professor at the University of Buenos Aires.The dissenting judge, Eduardo Farah, said that an investigation was needed to ”clarify remaining unanswered questions.” Mr. Pollicita suggested dozens of investigative leads, but none of these have been pursued.The ruling may fuel political fissures. After a silent march last month in Mr. Nisman’s honor, Mrs. Kirchner accused a group of prosecutors that includes Mr. Moldes of using the case for political gain.Government supporters will be bolstered by the ruling, Mr. Böhmer said, while opponents may question the impartiality of the appellate court judges.By Taos Turner27 March 2015An Argentine federal appeals court on Thursday rejected accusations that President Cristina Kirchner conspired with Iran to cover up its alleged role in a 1994 terrorist attack.The three-judge appellate court ruled 2-to-1 to dismiss the case, which had been filed in January by Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor who was found dead the day before he was set to detail allegations to Congress. Two of the court’s judges said a lower court had been right to dismiss the accusations as baseless. The ruling eases pressure on Mrs. Kirchner, whose government was thrust into crisis by Mr. Nisman’s accusations and mysterious death.German Moldes, a federal prosecutor who last week urged the court to open a probe into the allegations, is expected to appeal the decision to another appellate court.3. ARGENTINE COURT REJECTS ALLEGATIONS CRISTINA KIRCHNER TRIED TO HEAD OFF IRAN PROBE (The Wall Street Journal Online)By Taos Turner26 March 2015Judges reject deceased prosecutor’s accusations that president and others conspired with TehranBUENOS AIRES—In a split-decision, an Argentine federal appeals court on Thursday rejected accusations that President Cristina Kirchner conspired with Iran to cover up its alleged role in a 1994 terrorist attack.The three-judge appellate court ruled 2-to-1 to dismiss the case, which had been filed in January by Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor who was found dead just days after making the allegations. Two of the court’s judges said a lower court had been right to dismissthe accusations as baseless.The ruling eases pressure on Mrs. Kirchner, whose government was thrust into crisis by Mr. Nisman’s accusations and mysterious death.German Moldes, a federal prosecutor who last week urged the court to open an investigation into the allegations, is expected to appeal the decision to another appellate court. Mr. Moldes is the second prosecutor to arguethat Mr. Nisman’s allegations merit a full investigation. His office couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday.Mr. Nisman had accused Mrs. Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and others of sabotaging his yearslong probe into the bombing that killed 85 people at the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires. It was the worst attack on Jews in this hemisphere and one of the worst world-wide since the genocide during World War II.Argentine officials, including Mrs. Kirchner and Mr. Timerman, have called the accusations absurd. Top officials have also said that Mr. Nisman was manipulated by both local and foreign intelligence services to make the Kirchner administration look bad.Iran has long denied involvement in the attack. The country’s embassy in Argentina couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday.“The case presented by Dr. Nisman is characterized by a fanciful concatenation of facts that don’t, by themselves, seem to have any relevance. But they are presented in such a way as to simulate the idea that a crime has occurred,” appellate Judge Eduardo Freiler wrote in his opinion backing Mrs. Kirchner..In a dissenting opinion, Judge Eduardo Farah said that what merited an investigation was the plausibility of a possible crime, not conclusive evidence that one has been committed. As a long as it is plausible that a crime has been committed, one should investigate to determine if this is indeed the case, the judge wrote.“We have to appeal to common sense here,” Judge Farah wrote. “Without investigating anything we leave room for but one thing, uncertainty. Only by initiating an investigation will we be able to answer all of the questions raised here. Not investigating this is not only incorrect but it is contrary to the law.”Mr. Nisman had said that while working on the original bombing investigation, he inadvertently came across what he characterized as an immense quantity of evidence indicating Mrs. Kirchner had used intermediaries to carry out clandestine negotiations with Tehran.He said that while Argentine officials publicly condemned Iran, in private they were secretly trying to improve geopolitical ties and exchange Iranian oil for Argentine grains. In return, Mr. Nisman said, Argentina’s government would have moved to withdraw accusations that Iranian officials had been involved in the bombing.Mr. Nisman said his evidence was based largely on more than two years of intercepted phone calls between people close to the Kirchner administration. He said, however, that none of the conversations directly involved Mrs. Kirchner or Mr. Timerman.Though Mr. Nisman filed a criminal complaint against the president and others, charges haven’t been filed against any of the accused.Mr. Nisman accused Iran of masterminding the plot and said the militant group Hezbollah carried out the 1994 bombing. Based on Mr. Nisman’s work, Argentina’s government arranged with Interpol, the international police organization, to issue arrest notices for Iranian suspects in 2007. The arrest notices are still in effect, and the subjects of those warrants haven’t been apprehended. Hezbollah also has denied involvement.Mr. Nisman, who had spent more than a decade investigating the bombing, was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment a day before he was due to testify about his allegations to Congress. Investigators looking into his death haven’t determined if he was murdered or whether he committed suicide.A team of forensic experts hired by Mr. Nisman’s ex-wife, who is a federal judge, concluded he was killed, likely shot from behind by an unknown assailant.Despite the controversy, Mrs. Kirchner’s approval ratings rose to 36% this month, up from about 30% in February, according to a new poll by Management & Fit.By Laurence FletcherMarch 26, 2015*Hedge fund’s recently launched Argentina offering is up by about 12% this yearHedge fund Brevan Howard Asset Management LLP’s Argentina fund, which launched in December, has chalked up double-digit gains this year.The $220 million fund is up about 12% in 2015, according to performance numbers reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.The fund, which invests in sovereign debt, GDP warrants and equities, was helped by an 8.5% gain in February, said two people familiar with the matter. During the month Argentina’s Merval equity index gained 13%.Brevan Howard, headed by secretive billionaire Alan Howard, is one of Europe’s biggest hedge-fund firms, with $27 billion in assets. But it has experienced a tough time of late.The firm recently closed its commodities fund, while its flagship macro fund has seen billions of dollars of outflows and last year posted its first-ever calendar year loss.This year the macro fund is up 3.7%, helped by bets on European bonds and against the euro.Write to Laurence Fletcher at email@example.comCorrections & Amplifications:The $220 million fund is up about 12% in 2015 An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the fund was up by about 12% in 2014.March 27, 2015MOSCOW — A senior Russian government official says Moscow hasn’t held negotiations on leasing a dozen of supersonic bombers to Argentina, but would be willing to consider it.Alexander Fomin, the head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, a government agency tasked with coordinating arms trade, denied media reports claiming that Russia was in talks on offering Argentina a batch of 12 Su-24 bombers on lease.Fomin said Friday in remarks carried by Interfax news agency that “regrettably, the issue isn’t being discussed, but we are ready to discuss it.”The reports of the possible deal raised concerns in Britain that Argentina could use the bombers capable of high-speed, low-altitude raids to attack the Falkland Islands. Argentina launched a botched attempt to seize the South Atlantic territory in 1982.By Davide Scigliuzzo and Paul Kilby26 March 2015NEW YORK, March 26 (IFR) – Clearing houses Euroclear and Clearstream have closed trading bridges on some US$9.4bn of Argentine bonds issued under local law, a source familiar with the situation told IFR on Thursday.The action will prevent Euroclear customers from settling their trades with Clearstream clients and vice versa, but it will not affect trading between customers belonging to the same clearing company, the source said.“Any instructions to receive or deliver the aforementioned securities from/to a Clearstream Banking Luxembourg customer will be rejected with immediate effect,” Euroclear said in a note to clients seen by IFR.The note came in response to a similar action taken by Clearstream on March 25 after a US court judge Thomas Griesa allowed Citigroup’s local branch to make payments on such bonds but prevented other intermediaries from doing so.The decision was part of Argentina’s decade long court battle with holdout investors seeking some US$1.33bn plus interest from the South American country.Holdouts led by Elliott Management’s NML Capital unit have won a series of legal rulings against Argentina, which ultimately led the country’s second default in a little over a decade last year, when Griesa blocked coupon payments on nearly US$30bn of restructured bonds.Earlier this month, Griesa said the US dollar, local law notes were covered by an earlier injunction that prevented Argentina from servicing its restructured bonds unless it also made holdout creditors whole.The closing of the trading bridge came as a surprise to several market participants, who said trading in the securities will now become more complex.“It fragments the market,” said Jorge Piedrahita, CEO of brokerage Torino Capital. “Investors should be thinking about moving their bonds to a local custodian to make sure their bonds get paid.”Argentine bonds weakened across the board on Thursday amid fears that the country’s default might spread to at least some of its local-law notes.Local-law Boden 2015 and Bonar 2024, which are denominated in US dollars but not covered by the US injunction, dropped by as much as one point in afternoon trading to cash prices of 102.0 and 106.5 respectively mid-market.“Argentina’s default just got a little bigger. (But) people are looking beyond President Kirchner’s term and that is what is keeping the bid in the market,” said Piedrahita.The securities affected by the halt in the trading bridge have the following ISIN codes: ARARGE03E097, ARARGE03E113, ARARGE03G704, ARARGE03G688, ARARGE03E154.By Hugh BronsteinMarch 26, 2015(Reuters) – Last month’s court decision that cleared Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez of charges that she tried to derail the investigation into a deadly 1994 bombing was upheld by an appeals court on Thursday.The late Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman had accused Fernandez of trying to cover up Iran’s alleged involvement in the truck bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community center in Buenos Aires. He alleged that she attempted to whitewash the attack in order to clinch a grains-for-oil deal with Tehran.A court cleared the two-term president of the charge last month and Iran denies any involvement in the bombing.The judges who make up Argentina’s Federal Appeals Chamber voted 2-1 to reject the appeal “due to lack of evidence” against Fernandez, according to the official ruling. A second attempt at re-opening the case could be made to another appeals court, or brought directly to Argentina’s Supreme Court.Nisman was found shot dead in his apartment on Jan. 18, four days after lodging his complaint against Fernandez. His mysterious death spawned a slew of conspiracy theories, some involving Fernandez, whose last months in office could be overshadowed by the case.Nisman’s death has weighed on the popularity of the 62-year-old leader, who is constitutionally barred from running for a third term in the October general election.The government last week made accusations that Nisman received salary kick-backs from the IT specialist who had been working with him on his original investigation into the AMIA bombing.Fernandez’s cabinet chief said Nisman spent the embezzled money on champagne, women and lavish vacations. The accusation prompted outrage from the opposition, adding fuel to a scandal that has rocked Argentina for more than two months.Polls show the Nisman case has increased voters’ thirst for political change starting in December, when the next president is sworn in. The increasing pro-change sentiment has mostly benefited presidential candidate Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires.Macri and other leading presidential hopefuls are seen as more orthodox than Fernandez, whose trade and currency controls have slowed the economy to a crawl while inflation stays in the double digits.By Hugh BronsteinMarch 26, 2015BUENOS AIRES, March 26 (Reuters) – Argentina’s waterlogged soy lands will get much-needed sun over the 10 days ahead, firming soils and allowing growers to drive harvesting combines into fields turned to mud by heavy early-March storms, meteorologists said on Thursday.With about 5 percent of the 2014/15 crop already in, the soy exporting powerhouse remains on track for a record high harvest of 56 to 60 million tonnes, after floods in the northern farm belt threatened a significant output cut.A big crop from Argentina – the world’s top source of soymeal livestock feed and No. 3 supplier of beans – could pressure international food prices already sagging under the weight of expected record U.S. and Brazilian grains output.Demand from commodities-hungry China should keep the price of soy from collapsing as world production climbs to an expected record 315.1 million tonnes this season.“Starting today or tomorrow a window of sunny weather will make soils firm enough to allow harvest machines to enter fields that had been too wet,” said German Heinzenknecht, a meteorologist with local consultancy Clima Campo.“Tomorrow (Friday) they will be harvesting in some of the areas that have been most complicated. The open window for harvesting should last until about April 3. After that we expect more rains, but not of the high intensity that caused the flooding in February and early March,” he said.Areas hardest hit by floods are in central-west Santa Fe and central-east Cordoba provinces. The Pampas farm region also includes Buenos Aires and Entre Rios provinces, which have been spared from flooding this season.In Cordoba alone, 400,000 hectares have been lost. But areas not completely under water should recover over the days ahead, promising yields of around 4 tonnes per hectare versus 3.6 tonnes last year, according to the Rosario grains exchange.The Buenos Aires exchange says it is seeing average yields of 4.0 to 4.5 tonnes per hectare in the central Pampas.Meteorologist Antonio Deane, of consultancy Weather Argentina, said the Pampas is in for good weather for the rest of this month, but he expects another rain-related harvesting slowdown in April.“In the first 25 days of April there will be nine days of bad weather in the core soybean region,” Deane said. “Cloudiness and light rains will not give soy plants time to dry, causing a decline in the speed of harvesting.”By Charlie DevereuxMarch 26, 2015(Bloomberg) — An Argentine appeals court upheld a judge’s decision to dismiss charges of a cover-up against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, first levied by deceased prosecutor Alberto Nisman.The three-judge appeals court voted by majority to uphold Judge Daniel Rafecas’s dismissal of the allegations, Supreme Court spokeswoman Maria Bourdin wrote on Twitter. Nisman had accused Fernandez of trying to cover up for Iranian officials accused of masterminding the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center. He was discovered dead from a gunshot wound to the head Jan. 18.Nisman’s accusations and his unexplained death have dominated headlines in a year in which the country will elect a new president since Fernandez is barred by the constitution from running for a third consecutive term. Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli, who is seeking to win the nomination to run as candidate for Fernandez’s Victory Front alliance, has drawn level with rival Mauricio Macri in the past month.In a document filed to a federal court, prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita said Fernandez, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, lawmaker Andres Larroque and other government supporters tried to remove international search warrants out on Iranian officials, in exchange for trade preferences on grains and oil. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in 2013 to set up a joint probe into the bombing that killed 85 people, enabling the Iranian officials to give evidence in Iran.No CrimeIn dismissing the case four weeks ago, Judge Daniel Rafecas argued that since the truth commission was never convened, no crime was committed. The separate accusation of seeking to annul Interpol red notifications is refuted by the evidence, including a statement by former Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble, who said Argentina never made any such request, Rafecas wrote in a 63-page report.Investors have been piling into Argentine bonds on speculation the scandal would be detrimental to Fernandez’s alliance in elections and pave the way for a more market-friendly government.While opposition candidate Mauricio Macri has risen in the polls, Scioli has regained the losses he suffered in February, according to a Management & Fit poll.Scioli gained 7.4 percentage points to 29.5 percent of voter intention against 28.8 percent for Macri, the current mayor of Buenos Aires and 14.6 percent for lawmaker Sergio Massa in a survey carried out March 14-21. The nationwide poll of 2,400 cases had a margin of error of two percentage points.The attack on the Jewish center was the worst in Argentina’s history. It eclipsed a similar, unsolved bombing two years earlier of Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29.Coming less than a decade after democracy was restored to Argentina following a dictatorship that used extra-judicial killings and “disappearances” on as many as 30,000 of its own citizens, the attack traumatized the nation. While then-President Carlos Menem called the perpetrators “beasts,” neither his government nor any in the past 21 years has secured a conviction in the case.By Daniel CancelMarch 26, 2015(Bloomberg) — Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced a series of plans to subsidize consumer goods as the government looks to stimulate the economy ahead of presidential elections in October.The government will spend 3 billion pesos ($340.7 million) to subsidize bottled gas for 2.5 million users, offer fixed rates for new taxi cabs, provide 25 percent discounts on energy-efficient household appliances with up to 12 monthly installments and expand the use of a transport card with 8 million users to provide discounts at shops, Fernandez said.“These are measures to stimulate the economy, an intervention of the state in the economy not to take anything away from anyone but to promote industry and commerce,” Fernandez said during a nationwide speech from Buenos Aires.Argentina, South America’s second-largest economy, last year grew at its slowest pace since 2009 as a drop in imports to shield dwindling international reserves and a fall in investment left government spending as one of the few growth motors. While Fernandez, who can’t run for a third consecutive term, has yet to publicly support a successor from her Victory Front alliance, Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli is leading the latest polls.Fernandez’s government approval rating rose to 36.1 percent in March from 29.8 percent in February, according to a Management & Fit poll taken March 14-21 with 2,400 people and a margin of error of 2 percentage points.Under Fernandez and her husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner, the government has subsidized utilities to maintain consumer demand and promote industrial production. Those policies, along with a growing energy deficit, have caused the fiscal deficit to widen to an estimated 4.05 percent of gross domestic product in 2014 from about 3 percent in 2013.Even with the highest denomination bill of 100 pesos only worth about $8 at the black market rate and with consumer prices above 20 percent, Fernandez also announced a new series of the bill to commemorate the victims of the nation’s military dictatorship to be printed this year.11. FALKLAND ISLANDS’ CONFLICT RISKS REMAIN NEGLIGIBLE BUT UK-LINKED OPERATORS FACE HEIGHTENED DISRUPTION AND VANDALISM RISKS (IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis)By Laurence Allan26 March 2015Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has criticised the UK government’s intention to strengthen its military capacity on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). Speaking on 24 March, Fernández objected to UK Minister of Defence Michael Fallon describing Argentina as a “live threat” to the security of the Islands, which overwhelmingly voted in favour of remaining a UK Overseas Territory in March 2013. Argentina has had discussions in the past 12 months with Brazil, China, and Russia over boosting military co-operation and equipment, although substantive boosts to Argentina’s military capacity remains pending. The Argentine armed forces have seen very steep long-term cuts in funding and operational capacity since the 1982 conflict. Overstretching as a result of a lack of resources means the Argentine navy faces difficulties fulfilling its principal role of safeguarding Argentine sovereignty.The same applies to the air force, which lacks a credible bomber capability, and its fighters would not pose a significant challenge to RAF’s Typhoons. Argentina would not currently present a viable threat to the Falklands, while its constitution explicitly prohibits military action to regain sovereignty over the islands.Risks: Interstate war; Protests and riotsSectors or assets affected: Banking; Marine and ports; Hotels and entertainmentBy Charles Newbery26 March 2015Buenos Aires (Platts)–26Mar2015/1017 am EDT/1417 GMT The government of Chubut, the biggest oil-producing province in Argentina, has vowed to take more steps to maintain crude output and jobs in the sector, two months after cutting production royalty taxes.“I am going to take the necessary measures to sustain activity levels and jobs in the oil industry,” Governor Martin Buzzi said late Wednesday, according to a statement. “In these complex times, we need a very active state.”He made the comments at a rally in the port city of Comodoro Rivadavia by oil unions to defend jobs that they fear are at risk as a more than 50% drop in global oil prices since June threatens to slow investment and production.Buzzi did not give details on what new measures his administration could take. In January, he cut the royalty tax on production to as low as 7.5% from 15% for companies that increase output or start new developments.“We prefer to bring in less money at a certain time if this guarantees jobs,” he said.Buzzi said his government will sign a deal April 8 with Companias Asociadas Petroleras (Capsa), the country’s ninth-biggest oil producer with a 2.1% share of the 530,000 b/d national output.The agreements give producers more time to develop their field licenses in exchange for commitments to step up investment and production.The extensions “guarantee jobs and production,” Buzzi said.Extensions have been granted for the field licenses of Argentina’s Tecpetrol and state-run YPF, while modifications have been made to the licenses of BP-controlled Pan American Energy. Chile’s Enap Sipetrol is also due to sign an extension to its field licenses, Buzzi said.Chubut produces 30% of the country’s crude and 8.3% of its 114 million cu m/d of gas. The province exports about a third of its crude production.By Jessica Contrera27 March 2015A humble, hard-working soccer superstar draws fence-jumpers and bus-chasers during first D.C. visit.The fence dividing the superstar from his superfans was tall, thick, metal — and flexible.“If we pull two of the bars wide, I bet I can fit through,” one of the fans said as he looked onto the soccer field. On the other side of the bars stood one of the world’s great athletes. Lionel Messi, hero of Barcelona and Argentina, four-time world player of the year, living proof that soccer is a sport and an art, here in the District for the first time in his career.Here, too, was Brian Pacheco, 21, a Best Buy employee, college student and Argentina fan since birth. And so the bars bent, and in went Pacheco’s arm, then his leg, then the light blue No. 10 jersey, and then he was off, sprinting toward his hero.The hundreds who surrounded the closed practice at the Georgetown University field — or rather, the fences and gates blocking off the field — watched him run, hoping he might succeed for the rest of them.“Go, go, go, go, man!”Lawyers and janitors,stay-at-home moms and social media consultants, preschoolers and store owners — all ditching work or any other plans for a glimpse of Messi.He is in Washington with the Argentina national team for the week, practicing at Georgetown during the days before a game against El Salvador on Saturday at FedEx Field.The game itself probably will lack excitement, given that the teams are so unfairly matched. But just the presence of No. 10 has been enough to launch Messimania across the city, with fans hiding behind trees to sneak into his practices, running after his van at the Ritz-Carlton and angling to snap photos of themselves with the star in blurry distance at a Washington Wizards game.They know that the only time to spot Messi is when he’s with his team. The 27-year-old isn’t the type of star jock to hang out at bars or nightclubs. You won’t even catch him on a mid-range shopping spree, like members of Spain’s national team at a D.C. Victoria’s Secret last summer. And that’s exactly why he is loved.Messi fans share a set of words to describe him: humble, hard-working, a family man. He’s said to be devoted to his parents, his hometown buddies, his longtime girlfriend and their young son. The image of Futbol Club Barcelona — the team he plays for when not representing his home country of Argentina — is all about humility, effort and clean aesthetics. This was the team that prided itself for years on not having advertising on its jerseys, explains Aaron Plantenberg, vice president of D.C.’s Barcelona fan club. The way Messi plays — low to the ground, weaving through spaces other players wouldn’t see, gliding passes with exact timing — is the style the community prides itself on now.“If you said that one person in the organization has to leave the club — the president, the coach, the longest-serving player — the last person who would be chosen to leave would be Messi,” Plantenberg said.Eager to distinguish Messi from rival superstar Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid, fans tout their hero’s humble beginnings.As a quiet but talented child, he was diagnosed with a hormone deficiency that would stunt his growth. His steelworker father couldn’t afford the treatment. Despite the prowess he had shown on the field, no local team would pay. But after a former Barcelona player flew to Argentina to scout the young Messi, the team agreed to move his family to Spain, enter the 13-year-old into its training program and pay for his treatment. He never grew much past 5 1/2 feet tall, but his size has only made him more endearing.“Now, he appreciates everything he has today,” said Othman Chebli, a Moroccan-born Department of Transportation engineer watching Messi from a campus building. “Because it almost didn’t happen.”When he walked on the field Wednesday, Messi waved an arm at the insistent screaming of Giovanni Nicolacci of Chevy Chase, Md. Messi! Messi! Mirar por aquí! Look over here!Nicolacci had pulled his twin sons out of kindergarten to witness how Messi moved his feet, how Messi treated his fans, how Messi was the ultimate humble role model, even for 6-year-olds.“This is a culture I want them to learn,” he said, his son Marco in a little Messi jersey, perched on his shoulders. “This sport is a tool to bring happiness to people of all cultures. You have English, French, Italian, Spanish, and soccer is our universal language.”In D.C., that language is more common than ever. While it was once difficult for Nicolacci to find a place to watch soccer in the area, last summer it was hard to find a bar that did not have the World Cup on TV. Dupont Circle’s Lucky Bar and Foggy Bottom’s Elephant & Castle are among the establishments known as “soccer bars” year-round. At home, the Internet has made it simple to watch games in Europe and South America at any time of day. Even the interest in playing the rest of the world’s favorite sport seems to be at a peak. The adult soccer league District Sports had more than 6,000 participants last season. Director Alex Bearman said that the more they play, the more they get into the global soccer phenomenon.“We’re catching up with the rest of the world,” Bearman said. “People are living it more than ever before.”At Georgetown, they lived it by watching Messi commanding the ball like it was an extension of his foot. They lived it by zooming their iPhone cameras to capture blurry proof that they had seen him in real life. And they lived it by watching, open-mouthed, as a 21-year-old Best Buy employee barreled around the bleachers, past security and into Messi’s open arms.Messi laughed as Pacheco gave him a two-armed hug.“They’re gonna get you, man,” the player said, accepting a black Sharpie marker to sign the jersey on Pacheco’s chest. Pacheco managed to get the signature of Messi’s teammate Carlos Tevez, too, then sprinted back to his friends waiting at the gate before security could manhandle him out.He spent the next hour accepting high-fives and posing for photos taken by envious fans.“You’re my hero, dude!” one told him.Pacheco beamed and made sure to say thank you. He had learned from his hero how to stay humble.
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http://www.perfil.com/columnistas/La-hora-de-los-jueces-20150306-0070.html es otro interesante análisis
3. OFFICIAL FIGURES REPORT 18TH CONSECUTIVE MONTHLY FALL IN ARGENTINE PRODUCTION, HIGHLIGHTING DOWNWARD TREND AND LOWER EXPECTATIONS (IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis)6. SOVEREIGN DEFAULT AND DEBT RESTRUCTURING: WAS ARGENTINA’S ‘HAIRCUT’ EXCESSIVE? (VOX CEPR’s Policy Portal)By Nick Brown3 March 2015NEW YORK, March 3 (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Tuesday said he would not yet rule on whether Citigroup Inc can process interest payments by Argentina on bonds issued under its local laws following the country’s 2002 default.U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa told the lawyers for Citigroup and holdout investors in a hearing in New York that he would not issue a decision on Tuesday afternoon.The hearing marked the latest courtroom tussle over whether Griesa has authority to block Citigroup’s branch in Argentina from processing payments on bonds issued under the country’s local laws.Argentina defaulted in July after refusing to honor Griesa’s court orders that it pay $1.33 billion plus interest to holdout bondholders when it paid holders of bonds swapped during the country’s 2005 and 2010 debt restructurings.While the injunction has been in place, Griesa has since last year allowed Citigroup to process three interest payments while holding off on a final determination on whether it can always do so.On Tuesday he said: “The injunction does not just enjoin the Republic, but also the participants in the bonds. The issue before me is to decide whether Citibank is a participant.”Legal counsel for Citibank, Karen Wagner of Davis, Polk & Wardwell told U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa that the injunction would put Citibank at risk of breaking Argentine law.“There’s nothing to be gained from enforcing the injunction. There will be no benefit to the public and Citibank will be in danger. It seems fundamentally unfair and inequitable to put Citi in that position,” Wagner argued.Edward Friedman, counsel for holdout bond investors, said the debt in question was offered not just to Argentine investors.“Were these bonds offered exclusively in Argentina?’ And what the evidence shows is overwhelmingly they were not,” said Friedman, of Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman.He said offers were made in countries include Denmark, Italy, Spain.Griesa, at the end of the 2-1/2 hour hearing, noted the challenge before him of determining Citibank’s role in an environment where there was no “set of financial transactions in the regular way.”3 March 2015BUENOS AIRES, March 3 (Reuters) – Argentina’s economy minister said on Tuesday “me-too” investors who want compensation for debt owed since the country’s 2002 default have lodged claims for between $7 billion and $8 billion in the hope of gaining from its legal battle with other holdouts.A U.S. judge ordered Argentina in 2012 to pay a group of hedge funds that did not participate in its 2005 and 2010 debt restructuring, including Elliott Management Corp’s NML Capital Ltd and Aurelius Capital Management, $1.33 billion plus interest.Argentina refused to pay, calling the creditors “vulture funds” for seeking to pick clean the carcass of Latin America’s third-largest economy after its devastating 2002 default on $100 billion in debt.The country now says it wants to reach a deal, after its legal battle with the holdouts pushed it into default on its restructured debt in July. But it wants to settle claims from all creditors who refused the swaps at the same time.U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa in New York said he would deal with “me too” claims filed by March 2 on the same schedule as those of the hedge funds.“Those who presented new claims to Griesa worth $7 or $8 billion are also vultures,” Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said in a radio interview on Tuesday.Separately, Kicillof criticized Griesa for preventing Argentina’s payment of interest on restructured bonds under Argentine law, ahead of a hearing later on Tuesday in New York on whether Citigroup Inc can process such payments.In November, Griesa put off a determinative ruling while allowing the bank temporarily to process payments.“Argentine legislation makes clear that bonds under Argentine law are a question of Argentina,” the minister told state broadcaster Radio Nacional.“Griesa is trying to extend his arm further than it actually reaches. … (He) has created a legal mess that is very difficult to solve.”Citigroup has said it faces regulatory and criminal sanctions by Argentina if it cannot process the interest payment on U.S. dollar-denominated bonds issued under Argentine law.BNP Paribas said in a research note on Tuesday that if the court decides to define “external” debt as any dollar-denominated bond, rather than a foreign law instrument, “there will be negative implications, as this would put any new issuance by the government at risk.”3. OFFICIAL FIGURES REPORT 18TH CONSECUTIVE MONTHLY FALL IN ARGENTINE PRODUCTION, HIGHLIGHTING DOWNWARD TREND AND LOWER EXPECTATIONS (IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis)By Paula Diosquez-Rice, Mario Guillen3 March 2015According to Argentina’s National Statistical Office (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos: INDEC), industrial production in January fell by 2.1% year on year (y/y), or 1.8% y/y after correcting for seasonal factors. On a monthly basis, the report indicated growth of 1.1% month on month (m/m). The biggest contraction was in the automotive industry, down by 28.7% y/y, followed by the textile industry, down by 10.8% y/y. The food industry grew 1.6% y/y, while the tobacco industry contracted by 9.2%. A strong fall was also recorded in the rubber and plastics industry, down by 9.5% y/y, with tyre production contracting 33.3% y/y. Oil refining rose by 3.7% y/y. The monthly estimate of economic activity for December 2014 reported a rise of 0.6% y/y and, after correcting for seasonality effects, an increase of 0.1% m/m.Although official polls suggest that a large majority of the industrial sector expects stability in economic indicators over the next quarter, trends have been shifting in the last few months. Data indicate a fall in expectations regarding a rise in internal demand among companies; this is also the case for exports and imports. Compared to the January poll, more companies expect stocks to fall in the next quarter, while expectations for working hours and personnel have shown no relevant variation.Significance: A closer look at the different industrial sectors in Argentina reveals a strong contraction affecting several industries, besides anaemic growth or downright stagnation of the productive sector in general. Lack of foreign currency and high levels of government intervention make a recovery in production unlikely in the short term, despite government efforts such as the allocation of more US dollars to the automotive industry in the coming months ahead of the October elections. According to expectations, major changes in economic policy remain unlikely despite the country’s current woes.By Andrew Osborn3 March 2015LONDON, March 3 (Reuters) – Britain derided a new Argentine banknote featuring the disputed Falkland Islands as a stunt on Tuesday and said it had no intention of discussing sovereignty over the archipelago with Buenos Aires.Tensions over the Falklands, known as Las Malvinas in Argentina, still crackle more than 30 years after Argentine forces seized them and the then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher sent a task force to retake them. More than 600 Argentine servicemen and 255 British died in the brief war.Hit by high inflation, Argentina issued a new 50-peso banknote this month described by the central bank as a reminder of the South American country’s “undying claim” to Las Malvinas.“On the issue of the 50-peso banknote, we can’t stop the Argentinian government from these stunts,” Hugo Swire, a minister of state at the British Foreign Office, said when asked about the note in parliament.“It’s worth a whopping 3.72 pounds ($6) according to today’s exchange rate,” he added. “And I think it probably has the equivalent political value.”The note features a map of the islands, 300 miles off the Argentine coast and 8,000 miles from Britain, on one side and an image of a gaucho who rebelled against British rule there in 1833 brandishing an Argentine flag on the other.Swire said the Argentine embassy had recently sent a book and a letter to the British parliament, complaining about a lack of dialogue on sovereignty.“It (the book) ignores the inconvenient truth that some people on the islands can trace their Falklands ancestry back through nine generations, longer than the current borders of Argentina have existed,” said Swire.There would be no sovereignty talks with Argentina in line with the islanders’ own wishes, he added.6. SOVEREIGN DEFAULT AND DEBT RESTRUCTURING: WAS ARGENTINA’S ‘HAIRCUT’ EXCESSIVE? (VOX CEPR’s Policy Portal)By Sebastian Edwards04 March 2015Sebastian Edwards: Henry Ford II Professor of International Economics at the University of California, Los AngelesBetween 1997 and 2013 there were 24 sovereign bond defaults and debt restructurings in the global economy. According to Moody’s (2013: 6):“[T]he losses imposed on creditors in sovereign restructurings have frequently been very large… Further, the variation around the average sovereign loss has been extremely high – losses have varied from as low as 5% to as high as 95%.”What explains these large differences in ‘haircuts’? Why, for example, did investors in Uruguayan bonds suffer a 7% haircut in 2003, while those that had invested in neighbouring Argentina had losses in excess of 75% in 2005?In a recent paper (Edwards 2015) I use data on 180 debt restructurings – for both sovereign bonds and sovereign syndicated bank loans – to analyse the determinants of recovery rates and haircuts. I use the results from the empirical analysis to evaluate whether some well-known episodes resulted in ‘excessively high’ losses. In particular, I focus on the Argentine restructuring of 2005, an episode that has generated controversy and that resulted in a US Supreme Court decision that is changing the way in which foreign debt contracts are written.The analysis is in the spirit of the ‘excusable default’ model developed by Grossman and Van Huyck (1988). According to this work, sovereign debt is never repudiated. It is restructured when the debtor faces (very) bad states of the world. In this setting, investors may lose some of their money, but (almost) never all of it. The extent of losses, and the size of the haircut, depends on the severity of external shocks that hit the sovereign debtor.BackgroundOn 23 December 2001, Argentina defaulted on its debt. Two weeks later the peso was devalued by 30%, and a ten-year experiment with a currency board and a fixed exchange rate ended. In September 2003 the Argentine government made an offer to investors to exchange defaulted bonds for new ones. This proposal became known as the ‘Dubai guidelines’, and implied an average reduction of the face value of the debt of approximately 75%. Investors balked at the stiff losses, and asked for better conditions. Negotiations ensued, and a new offer, very similar to the original one, was formally made in June 2004 under the moniker of ‘Dubai plus’.When the exchange window closed on 28 February 2005, 76.2% of bondholders had tendered their defaulted bonds and had accepted new bonds in exchange. In 2010, Argentina reopened the bond exchange and offered identical terms as in 2005 to those that had not presented their defaulted securities. An additional group of investors decided to exchange their bonds. But not everyone came into the fold – bondholders representing approximately 7% of the original debt decided to hold on to the old securities and to press for better terms. On 16 June 2014 the US Supreme Court decided to leave in place a lower court ruling mandating Argentina to make a payment to the ‘holdouts’. After this ruling, frantic negotiations between the holdouts and the Argentine government began. By 30 July 2014, the deadline imposed by the Court, no agreement had been reached, and on 1 August 2014 the International Swaps and Derivatives Association declared Argentina to be in default.Using a ‘net present value’ approach, Cruces and Trebesch (2013) estimated that the average losses (across different bonds) incurred by investors that participated in Argentina’s 2005 exchange amounted to 76.8%. In Edwards (2015) I adjusted this figure to take into account the value of a GDP-linked warrant that was offered with the new bonds. My calculation results in a haircut of 74.8%.International comparisonsIn Table 1 I provide summary statistics on haircuts for the complete sample (180 episodes) and for a number of subsamples. I also include the estimate for the Argentina 2005 haircut. As may be seen, Argentine losses were significantly higher than the mean and median across all episodes (37% and 32% respectively), as well as across any of the subsamples.Table 1. Summary statistics for haircuts, 1978–2010
Mean Median Standard deviation All episodes 37.0% 32.1% 27.3% Bank loans 37.1% 37.6% 21.6% Bond exchanges 36.9% 31.7% 27.9% Africa 46.5% 39.5% 29.4% Asia 32.6% 34.0% 17.9% Europe 30.0% 19.7% 26.4%In Figure 1 I present a histogram for the 180 haircuts. The value of the Argentine 2005 haircut (74.8%) is shown with a vertical black line. An analysis of Figure 1 and of the data behind it indicates that the distribution is ‘bimodal’, suggesting that the data may come from two different populations.Figure 1. Haircuts histogram, all episodesExplaining haircutsIn Edwards (2015) I use an empirical model in the spirit of Grossman and Van Huyck (1988) to explain the variation of ‘haircuts’ across restructuring episodes. The following covariates were included:(a) An index of ‘bad states of the world’ computed as the sum of four shocks – wars and coups d’état, output collapses, massive terms of trade declines, and currency crises;(b) The ratio of debt restructured to GDP;(c) Whether the country is poor;(d) A number of global economy variables at the time of the debt exchange (recession, Treasury yields);(e) Binary variables that capture the nature of the restructuring; and(f) Regional dummy variables.The regression results are satisfactory and are broadly in agreement with the ‘excusable default’ model. They indicate that countries that have suffered very severe shocks – including wars, armed conflicts, coups d’état, output collapses, and major declines in the terms of trade – end up having larger haircuts than countries that have not faced these major disturbances. Very poor countries and nations with larger debt burdens also have larger haircuts. The results are robust to variables’ definitions, periods considered, specifications, and estimation methods (White-corrected least squares or instrumental variables). The fit is quite adequate with the R-squared hovering around 0.6.Was Argentina’s 2005 haircut excessive? A residuals analysisThese estimates may be used to inquire whether haircuts in particular episodes conformed to the predictions of the model, or if, on the contrary, they were excessively high or excessively low. This is what I do in this section for the Argentine exchange of 2005.A good starting point is the analysis of fitted values obtained in the regression analysis. For Argentina’s 2005 exchange, the fitted values go from a minimum of 36.0% to a maximum of 60.1%. This range doesn’t include the actual haircut of 74.8%. The mean for fitted values from 20 regressions with different specifications is 47.1%, and the median is 45.7%; the standard deviation is 7.3%. Although these numbers are quite high – indeed, significantly higher than the mean and median for all episodes reported in Table 1 (37% and 32%) – they are still much smaller than the actual haircut imposed by Argentina on investors in the 2005 and 2010 debt exchanges.I rely on two ‘influence statistics’ to investigate formally whether Argentina 2005 is an outlier in the empirical analysis: I use the R-student standardised test and the DFFITS test. In order to provide some context I also analyse the residuals from debt restructuring episodes in two of Argentina’s neighbours: Chile in 1984–1990 and Uruguay in 2003. In addition, I discuss briefly, and in light of these results, the Greek restructuring of 2012.I computed 26 ‘influence statistics’ for the Argentine 2005 episode. The results obtained from this analysis are quite revealing. In 21 out of the 26 tests the Argentine 2005 debt restructuring is a statistical outlier. In Figure 2 I present, as an illustration, the two residual tests – including the critical 95% bands – for a particular regression; see Edwards(2015) for details. According to the R-student standardised test, only three episodes are outliers: Argentina 2005, Bosnia and Herzegovina 1997, and the Ukraine 1998. Only the latter has negative residuals and, thus, an ‘unusually low’ haircut. The DFFIT test, on the other hand, identifies four outliers: Argentina 2005, Bosnia and Herzegovina 1997, Cote d’Ivoire 1998, and Iraq 2006. As may be seen, Argentina appears in both lists, indicating that the haircut imposed on investors in in 2005 was ‘excessively high’ from a comparative perspective.Figure 2. Influence statistics and outliers
The residuals analysis shows that the haircuts in Chile’s (1984–1990) restructurings were ‘appropriate’, in the sense that the fitted values are very close to the actual haircuts. This is also the case for Uruguay’s debt exchange of 2003. In addition, an out-of-sample forecast suggests that for Greece in 2012, a haircut of 63% was consistent with the historical evidence and with the empirical model; this figure is very similar to the actual ‘haircut’ of 64% calculated for Greece by Zettelmeyer et al. (2013).References at: http://www.voxeu.org/article/argentina-s-haircut-outlierBy Pascal-Emmanuel GobryMarch 4, 2015You may have heard that Argentina is in the grip of an all-consuming political affair that sounds more like something out of a paperback thriller than real life.Let’s wind back. An Argentine special prosecutor named Alberto Nisman had claimed that he had evidence that the country’s government — including President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman — had covered up evidence related to the 1994 Jewish Community Center bombing which killed 85 and injured hundreds. According to Nisman, Iran had ordered the bombing and had it carried out by Hezbollah after Argentina canceled a nuclear technology transfer, and the Argentine government later agreed to cover it up in exchange for oil. Nisman was found dead with a bullet to the head on the morning that he was set to present his evidence to Argentina’s Congress.This happened in January, and I argued at the time that international attention to the case was important because Argentina’s often erratic political institutions might not be able to bring justice to this sordid matter on its own.What has happened since then?Unfortunately, it seems that I was right in predicting that the Argentine political process would not cover itself in glory.The Nisman Affair has been thoroughly politicized. A funeral rally that was supposed to honor Nisman was so co-opted by political opposition figures that some members his family refused to attend. Supporters of the government, bizarrely, later staged a counter-rally. (Counter to what, exactly? Justice and truth?)President Kirchner, who already had a history of erratic behavior and of blaming setbacks on conspiracy theories, seems to have taken it to 11. She has at various times speculated that Nisman might have been killed by himself, or an aide, or Israel, or Iran, or her political opponents, or rogue intelligence operatives.The most depressing part of the whole affair is that seemingly nobody in Argentina ever expects light to be shined on either Nisman’s death or the Jewish Community Center bombing — and with some good reason.It is widely assumed that the Argentine justice system is thoroughly politicized — the only question is who owns it. A judge has thrown out Nisman’s evidence in a decision peppered with strange laudatory remarks about President Kirchner’s political record. It is sure to be appealed. Whatever judicial resolution is eventually announced will be seen as political, rather than the truth, and evidence only of who was lucky enough to control the judiciary at the time.All in all, it is a depressing pattern. Argentina is a wonderful country, with tremendous resources not only natural but cultural thanks to successive waves of immigration, that has been beset by terrible governing institutions. To this Frenchman, the Latin mix of conspiracy theorizing, politicized judiciary, lack of accountability, and even the whiff of anti-semitism is depressingly familiar. It was not long ago at all that my country had maybe-suicides-maybe-murders, the truth of which we’ll never uncover, and shadowy political-judicial dirty tricks. And yet, despite all its problems, France is still a liberal democracy with a reasonable rule of law, better today than it was decades ago. It’s worth remembering that Argentina has had four military coups within living memory — perhaps the fact that only one shot has been fired so far in the whole affair is something to be grateful for.Not that we should give up on hope completely. Uncovering the truth about Nisman is not yet impossible — nor is it impossible that whatever light is shed on the affair could also provoke some sustainable and badly needed changes to Argentina’s political culture.
2. ARGENTINA POLITICS: QUICK VIEW – JUDGE DISMISSES COMPLAINT AGAINST PRESIDENT (Economist Intelligence Unit – ViewsWire)4. S&P AFFIRMS CITY OF BUENOS AIRES ‘CCC-‘ RTGS, OUTLOOK STILL NEGATIVE (Dow Jones Institutional News)By Linette LopezMar 2, 2015In a speech on Sunday, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner completely detached from reality in two ways. First, she speculated wildly about Israel’s connection to terrorist attacks in Argentina. Second, she claimed the economy was on the upswing — something one Financial Times journalist was only too happy to call her out on.In her speech, Fernandez said a prosecutor who died under mysterious circumstances had actually complimented her in documents found in a safety box in his apartment. That prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was found dead just before he was to testify that the Argentine government had helped to cover up Iran’s involvement in a decades-old terrorist attack in Buenos Aires.She also asked Israel to answer questions about the attack Nisman was investigating — it killed 84 people at the Jewish center AMIA in 1994 — and another attack against the Israeli embassy in Argentina in 1992.“Those documents say the exact opposite of what he said in his report … The case should be called Nisman vs. Nisman,” Fernandez said. “Which Nisman do you believe, the one who accused without proof on January 14, 2015 or the Nisman … who uplifted my actions in the United Nations, who recounted … every single one of my speeches and recognizes that textually is it not the best to get the accused to sit in front of a judge in Tehran and be interrogated because if they’re not interrogated there can be no justice?”She went on to say that she didn’t believe Nisman wanted to accuse her at all — that in fact he only wanted to bring the case to the international stage and was using her name to do so.Nisman’s death worsened an already tenuous political and economic situation in Argentina. Inflation is high, capital flight is rampant, and the head of Fernandez’s cabinet just left her administration.In this climate, Nisman’s death crossed an invisible line. Argentines remember vividly the violence and lies of dictatorships past, in which people disappeared and children were taken from parents who dared to question the government.Fernandez is not a dictator — she is out of office at the end of 2015 — and despite her attempts has not been able to change the constitution to run again. Still, the Nisman case is a terrifying flashback to those times.No one has ever answered for the catastrophe Nisman was investigating, and it is becoming increasingly likely that no one will ever answer for Nisman’s death either. Last week an Argentine judge ruled that the country would not investigate Fernandez for the latter incident.And so, to put the Argentine collective consciousness at ease, Fernandez pointed to Israel.“In 1992, the Israeli embassy was attacked, 29 people died, 249 were injured,” she said in her speech. “This was an attack on the territory of Israel, because the embassy is Israeli territory itself. It’s always caught my attention, and I still can’t understand why the state of Israel is upset over the attack on AMIA and not one on its own embassy.”It’s unclear what she meant by that, but that’s the point. The Fernandez tactic is to obfuscate, to sow the seeds of conspiracy theories in Argentina’s fertile ground. Since Nisman’s death theories have abounded — connecting his murder to things as far-fetched as Charles Manson and Nazis. That is what corruption in society does; it makes it impossible to trust and thus impossible to find truth. Fernandez’s rhetoric capitalizes on that chaos.Nisman is hardly the only example of that chaos in her speech either. Argentina’s economy is in horrible condition and investors have been shying away for years, in part because The Republic has been recalcitrant about paying its debts.When Joseph Cotterill, a journalist for the Financial Times, tweeted at the president, sarcastically congratulating her for the fact that Argentina’s bonds were finally trading above par, she responded with more fiction in her speech.She said the bonds were increasing in value because of the country’s resilience after it was ruled in “selective default” of payment to bondholders last fall.Cotterill had the perfect response:Thanks for the mention in your speech, @CFKArgentina. But I fear that the bond’s price is going up the less time you have left in office.— Joseph Cotterill (@jsphctrl) March 1, 20152. ARGENTINA POLITICS: QUICK VIEW – JUDGE DISMISSES COMPLAINT AGAINST PRESIDENT (Economist Intelligence Unit – ViewsWire)2 March 2015EventThe judge overseeing the criminal complaint brought by prosecutors against the president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, dismissed the allegations on Thursday, a move that gives respite to the government during a period of turmoil.AnalysisDaniel Rafecas, a judge who was appointed to evaluate the case put forward by Alberto Nisman, a federal prosecutor who mysteriously died last month of a gunshot to the head, said that Mr Nisman’s allegations that Ms Fernández had conspired to shield Iranians from responsibility for a fatal bombing in the capital, Buenos Aires, in 1994, were completely unfounded. Mr Rafecas said that he will not open an investigation into Ms Fernández. After Mr Nisman’s death, another prosecutor, Gerardo Pollicita, revived the criminal complaint, and he is expected to appeal the decision by Mr Rafecas, who did not follow up on his requests to collect extra evidence.In an emphatic rebuke of the criminal complaint, Mr Rafecas said in his ruling that there was no evidence whatsoever pointing to Ms Fernández and that allegations of a criminal cover-up did not hold up. The decision is a big boost to Ms Fernández during the fallout from Mr Nisman’s death, which has roiled Argentina. Many Argentinians believe that the government moved to bury Mr Nisman’s explosive allegations by ordering him to be killed or forcing him to suicide. But Mr Rafecas’s decision could help to ease that damaging perception in an election year. The appeals process is expected to be lengthy, which will also help Ms Fernández and her government to disassociate themselves from the allegations.The decision hands the initiative back to Ms Fernández after nationwide marches in mid-February to honour Mr Nisman and express anger with Argentina’s political establishment. The government has struggled to confront the escalating crisis, resorting to populist rhetoric. Adopting an increasingly combative tone in national broadcasts and open letters, Ms Fernández has accused the judiciary of coup-mongering and outside influences of meddling in Argentina’s affairs. However, now, with Mr Rafecas’s decision, Ms Fernández has concrete ammunition to tackle the issue.By Hugh Bronstein2 March 2015BUENOS AIRES, March 2 (Reuters) – Argentina will keep an eye on how much soy is being hoarded on farms throughout the country by requiring that the sales of “silo-bags” be reported to tax authorities, according to a government resolution announced on Monday.The oblong industrial-strength plastic bags have come to dot the Pampas grains belt over recent years, as growers in the world’s No. 3 soybean exporting country hang on to stocks as a hedge against double-digit inflation.The government, long at loggerheads with the farm sector over President Cristina Fernandez’s interventionist policies, has complained that soy hoarding is cutting into tax income. This is especially problematic for the government as it ramps up spending ahead of October’s general election.“Sales of plastic silo-bags directly to farmers or to third-party venders will be registered … every calendar month,” the resolution says.“What it aims to do is collect information about the universe of buyers of silo-bags, to have buyers clearly identified,” Ricardo Echegaray, the head of Argentina’s AFIP tax agency, told a news conference.Argentina puts a 35 percent tax on soybean exports.“This resolution is an additional control meant to increase pressure on growers to sell the soybeans that they have in reserve. The government needs the money,” said local farm sector analyst Pablo Adreani.Another new rule announced on Monday tightens reporting requirements on all grains transaction between farmers and buyers, as the government seeks to keep a closer eye on the movement of strategically important crops such as soy and corn.The Agriculture Ministry has estimated Argentina’s recently harvested 2014/15 soy crop at a record 58.0 million tonnes, up from 53.4 million tonnes in the previous season. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts Argentina’s soy harvest this season at 56 million tonnes.4. S&P AFFIRMS CITY OF BUENOS AIRES ‘CCC-‘ RTGS, OUTLOOK STILL NEGATIVE (Dow Jones Institutional News)2 March 2015The following is a press release from Standard & Poor’s:OVERVIEW— We cap our long-term rating on the city of Buenos Aires at the same level as the transfer and convertibility (T&C) assessment on Argentina.— The city issued $500 million in senior unsecured notes in February 2015, which will cover the $475 million notes due April 6, 2015.— We are affirming our ‘CCC-‘ foreign and local currency ratings on the city.— The negative outlook reflects Argentina’s stagnant economy, including the city’s potentially restricted access to foreign currency following the sovereign’s selective default in 2014.RATING ACTIONOn March 2, 2015, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services affirmed its ‘CCC-‘ foreign and local currency ratings on the city of Buenos Aires. The outlook remains negative.RATIONALEThe creditworthiness of the city of Buenos Aires is constrained by Argentina’s “volatile and underfunded” intergovernmental institutional framework, a strained macroeconomic environment and “weak” liquidity levels, although these levels are somewhat compensated by the city’s recent issuance of $500 million in senior unsecured notes. On the other hand, the city’s “moderate” debt burden, which we expect to be about 27% of the city’s operating revenues by the end of 2015, “average” budgetary performance with an expected operating surplus of 14%-15% of operating revenues for the next two years despite high inflation, and its “average” budgetary flexibility, with 90% own-source revenues and capital expenditures (capex) of more than 15% of total expenditures, support its creditworthiness.Regardless of factors that influence the city’s stand-alone creditworthiness, we cap our long-term ratings on Buenos Aires at the same level as the ‘CCC-‘ T&C on Argentina (foreign currency: SD/SD; local currency: CCC+/Negative/C). We do so to reflect the likelihood that the sovereign could restrict the domestic entities’ access to foreign currency for their debt service obligations. In our view, the city doesn’t meet the criteria under which the foreign currency rating on a local or regional government (LRG) could be higher than the related T&C assessment (see “Ratings Above The Sovereign-Corporate And Government Ratings: Methodology And Assumptions,” published Nov. 19, 2013).Due to the cross-default clauses included in some of the city’s debt obligations, we don’t believe it has sufficient liquidity to meet all of its foreign and local currency debt obligations, if a cross-default clause were to be activated amid stagnant macroeconomic conditions after Argentina’s selective default on July 30, 2014. Therefore, we also cap the local currency rating on the city at ‘CCC-‘.A weak economy-low growth, high inflation, a dual exchange rate, and uncertainty over medium-term prospects, which further exacerbate Argentina’s volatile and underfunded intergovernmental institutional framework-limits the creditworthiness on the city of Buenos Aires. Though its GDP per capita is high for Argentina, the city’s economy is subject to the same limited growth prospects and volatile performance as the national economy.The low economic growth, which we expect this year and next, will present challenges to the city’s weak financial management. Mauricio Macri of the center-right Propuesta Republicana (PRO) political party was reelected as mayor on July 10, 2011. During his second term, Macri oversaw reforms to gradually increase revenues amid increasing expenditure demands due toinflation, new expenditure needs, and the limited external financing access that has been characteristic of entities operating in Argentina. However, the relations between the city government and the federal government have been fractious given that the mayor is the leader of one of the main opposition parties and a key presidential candidate in the 2015 elections. As Macri is illegible to run for a third term in 2015, it remains unclear if the PRO party will once again win the mayoral elections.The city of Buenos Aires has historically maintained a solid budgetary performance. In 2014, the city had a high operating surplus of 16.4% of operating revenues and a deficit after capital accounts of 2.6% of total revenues. However, we expect some volatility due to still high inflation and the upcoming local and national elections. In 2015, we expect an operating surplus of about 14.6% of operating revenues and a deficit after capital accounts of about 3% of total revenues.The city’s moderate debt burden underpins the city’s creditworthiness. We expect its debt level to be about 27% of operating revenues by the end of 2015. Although the city managed to issue a $500 million bond in international capital markets in February 2015 (See “City of Buenos Aires’ Proposed Notes For Up To $500 million Rated ‘CCC-‘,” published Feb. 9, 2015), we expect this will only temporarily increase the city’s total debt relative to operating revenues, given that Buenos Aires faces a $475 million bond amortization on April 6, 2015. Nevertheless, Buenos Aires’ debt burden could be potentially volatile given that about 99% of it is denominated in foreign currency.Given that the city generates about 90% of its operating revenues and its capex of more than 15% of total expenditures, it has ample budgetary flexibility. However, due to the recent extensive tax reforms, we believe that it has limited leeway in further raising taxes given their high political cost during an election year. Additionally, similar to other LRGs in Argentina, thecity of Buenos Aires is subject to ongoing public-sector wage increase demands because of high inflation. We believe that these demands will continue to pressure the city’s operating expenditures over the next two years, hampering its ability to cut expenditures.Buenos Aires has “moderate” contingent liabilities. Its largest asset is its fully owned bank, Banco de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. The city guarantees the bank’s liabilities under its statuary terms. During the past five years, the bank has been strengthening its financial profile thanks to good asset quality and improved solvency.LiquidityOverall, the city’s liquidity is “weak” because its estimated free cash and reserves are insufficient to cover the 2015 projected debt service. In addition, the city has large upcoming external debt amortizations-for $475 million in April 2015 and for $415 million in 2017–which will add volatility to its liquidity levels. Furthermore, because almost all of its debt is denominated in foreign currency (about 99%), it will also add volatility to the city’s debt service due to the volatile exchange rate in Argentina.We estimate the city’s debt service in 2015 will be about ARP7.8 billion. We also estimate that the city has free cash of about ARP817 million, covering only about 10.5% of the estimated 2015 debt service. However, the city’s recent $500 million bond issuance will cover the $475 million bond amortization in April.OUTLOOKThe negative outlook reflects the potential implications that further restrictions to foreign currency access could have on the city’s ability to continue to pay its debt service in a timely manner amid limited external financing due to the sovereign’s selective default in 2014. We could lower the ratings on the city if we perceive the central government might further tighten its exchange control regime, which could impair the city’s ability to service its foreign currency debt. On the other hand, we could raise our ratings if the risks of the sovereign’s limited access to foreign currency diminish.RATINGS LISTRatings AffirmedBuenos Aires (City of)Issuer Credit Rating CCC-/Negative/–Senior Unsecured CCC-By Bryan LlenasMarch 02, 2015Argentina is using the 1957 Hollywood classic, “12 Angry Men,” to teach the public about how juries function, just days before the country’s largest province begins its first ever trial by jury.Some 2,000 copies of the film are being shown and distributed in small villages, towns and universities throughout the province of Buenos Aires in a campaign launched by the government last summer to educate the population as well as convince skeptical lawyers and judges that juries can actually work.“It’s a very popular movie here in Argentina,” said Dr. Andres Harfuch, vice president of the Argentinian Association of Trial by Juries, who first saw “12 Angry Men” when he was 14.“The movie instills this enormous sense of responsibility about how an ordinary citizen is empowered with the most extraordinary decision of their lives – to decide whether a citizen is guilty or not,” Harfuch told Fox News Latino.Next week, a jury made up of 12 Argentinians will begin to put what they’ve learned, from the film and beyond, to the test. The jurors will decide the fate of a man accused of murdering his sister’s ex-boyfriend.It’s a high-stakes trial for all involved. Buenos Aires province, which does not include the capital city, is home to 20 million people, nearly half the country’s population, and for many this will be their first taste of a trial by jury. Whether or not the national congress decides to pass legislation establishing a jury system throughout the nation may very well depend on its success here.The black-and-white drama, known in Argentina as “12 Hombres en Pugna,” was directed by Sidney Lumet. It takes place inside a deliberation room where 12 men try to reach a unanimous decision over whether a young immigrant is guilty of murdering his father.The jury is all but ready to convict the suspect but for the courage and tenacity of one juror, played by Henry Fonda, who voices his doubts about the evidence.The movie, based on a play with the same title, is widely considered a love letter to the American justice system.“Every person that watches this movie can feel this universal heroic, epic sense of justice,” Harfuch, who is also a professor in Criminal Law at the University of Buenos Aires, told Fox News Latino. “I think there is nothing worse than sending an innocent man to prison.”Since 1853, Argentinian justice has been dispensed solely by a judge, who has the power to convict and sentence the accused, even though the country’s national constitution guarantees a jury trial. But over the past two decades, a movement to adopt a jury system has grown stronger.Since the 1990s, two Argentinian provinces— Córdoba and Neuquén – have adopted the jury system for only the most serious crimes. While the jury system in Buenos Aires is the most similar to what is practiced in the United States, there are still clear differences – mainly that there is only a jury trial in cases with a minimum penalty of 15 years in prison.Distrust of judges in Argentina is matched by an overall sense of distrust for the government.“The judges tend to be the most hated persons in society,” Harfuch says. “Every year, we measure the public trust of certain institutions and for the first time in the history of Buenos Aires judges are the lowest,” he said, “below the unions, police, and the hooligans.”Recently a judge dismissed a criminal complaint – and the demands of tens of thousands of protesters — accusing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and others of covering up Iran’s involvement in a 1994 terrorist bombing that killed 83 people in Buenos Aires.“I think the justice system is going through a very serious crisis of legitimacy,” said Harfuch, one of Argentina’s foremost jury advocates. “People in my country do not believe in justice. They can’t understand the sentencing of judges, and this is very dangerous for the democracy.”Buenos Aires Minister of Justice and Security, Ricardo Casal, said he came up with the idea to use the 60-year-old movie 17 years ago.Then a lawyer, Casal was lying in a hospital bed after back surgery and chose to watch one of his favorite films from his days in college – “12 Angry Men.” He watched the film more than four times and took notes while in bed.“I always said that the day we had an opportunity to have a debate in this country about trial by jury, this would be the film that the people should see,” Casal said.After receiving permission to show and distribute the film, Casal now hosts conferences throughout Buenos Aires province showing pivotal scenes of the movie to groups of 50 to 300 people at a time.The minister loves every minute of the 96-minute film, but says he only shows six pivotal minutes from the film to audiences made up of the general public, judges, and lawyers. The scenes include the moment in which the jury is read the court instructions, the first time the jurors hastily vote for a verdict in the deliberation room, a scene showing how the jurors analyze the evidence and the final scene, when they declare the defendant not guilty.The majority, about 70 percent, of those who have signed up to Casal’s forums are judges and lawyers whose entire professions have now been turned upside down. A lawyer must now learn the art of showmanship, and public speaking, in an effort to persuade a jury. No longer can lawyers depend solely on legal speak and documents to persuade a judge.For the judges, they must now relinquish power and learn to trust the opinion of common Argentinians – a concern Casal hears all the time but one he believes is answered best by ’12 Angry Men.”“How can a butcher or a baker declare someone innocent or guilty if they are not a lawyer?” Casal says people ask. “The movie answers that beautifully.”The implementation of jury systems in the other two provinces of Cordoba and Nanquen have already proven, Harfuch believes, that juries are the answer to restoring trust in government. People are not questioning the legitimacy of a jury’s decision nearly as much as they have questioned a judge, Harfuch says.“After being a juror, and serving as a juror, that very cynical person emerges as a different person as a better part of the democratic system,” Harfuch says. “Many say, ‘I have been criticizing judges my entire life, but now I must admit how difficult it is to be a judge. That commentary is synonymous with building a bridge between the judicial system and the people.”Unlike the American judicial system, where many search for excuses to avoid jury duty, in Cordoba and Neoquen provinces, serving as a juror is celebrated and revered. Jurors are given certificates of completion after they serve as jurors, many of which end up being hung up on walls as though they were diplomas from prestigious universities. Jurors pose for photos with judges after the trial is over.During the first trial by jury in Oken, Argentina, the first day of court was after the province experienced its worst flooding in history – yet all 12 jurors arrived in court before the judge himself arrived. One woman, who was nursing her baby, brought a friend to take care of the baby so she could perform her civic duty.Still, there are mixed opinions about the jury system in Argentina as many begin to understand the jury system and come to grips with businessmen, store keepers and construction workers applying justice without having studied law.Florencia Poblet, the first forewoman in Argentina’s history, remembers the pressure and weight of responsibility in having to decide someone’s guilt or innocence. At just 25 years old, she read aloud the unanimous decision of convicting a man her age for stabbing a 23-year-old man to death.“It was a difficult decision,” Poblet told Fox News Latino. “The hardest part was reading out the verdict, I was flooded with anxiety and pressure. In front of me, a mother heartbroken for losing her son and on the other side a mother of the accused who cried and begged for her son not to be convicted.”“Some are afraid to participate, others don’t want the grand responsibility,” Poblet said, “but many of us believe in the benefit of including the people.”All eyes now turn to the first trial-by-jury in Buenos Aires, where the jury will not only decide the fate of a man accused of murder but its actions can go a long way in implementing a jury system into federal law.And while the country is watching them, the jurors are busy studying Lumet’s classical movie for clues on how to do things right.“It is a thriller, shot between four walls ,” Harfuch said, adding that no other movie depicts a jury deliberation better than “12 Angry Men.”It’s the kind of drama that, to many Argentinians, can only be thought up in Hollywood
1. CASE AGAINST ARGENTINE PRESIDENT, BROUGHT BY PROSECUTOR WHO DIED, IS DISMISSED (The New York Times)11. ARGENTINE EXPORTS REACH FIVE-YEAR LOW AMID RISING DISCONTENT AND BLEAK OUTLOOK AHEAD OF ELECTIONS (IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis)12. ARGENTINA AND D.C. UNITED MATCHES SCHEDULED FOR SAME DAY AT SEPARATE VENUES (Washington Post.com)1. CASE AGAINST ARGENTINE PRESIDENT, BROUGHT BY PROSECUTOR WHO DIED, IS DISMISSED (The New York Times)By Jonathan Gilbert27 February 2015BUENOS AIRES — An Argentine judge on Thursday dismissed criminal allegations against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner that had been brought by a prosecutor who had accused her of conspiring to shield Iranian officials from responsibility for the deadly bombing of a Jewish community center here in 1994.Judge Daniel Rafecas decided that the criminal complaint the prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, put forward before his mysterious death last month was not sufficient to open an investigation of the president. In the 63-page decision, Judge Rafecas said that the allegations did not ”minimally hold up” and that there was ”not even circumstantial evidence” pointing to Mrs. Kirchner.The criminal case, which had been revived by another prosecutor after Mr. Nisman’s death, sought to charge the president, the foreign minister and other political supporters of Mrs. Kirchner.The original complaint by Mr. Nisman, the lead investigator into the attack on the Jewish center, which left 85 people dead, had described a complex web of back-channel negotiations, accusing Mrs. Kirchner of directing an effort to reduce pressure on Iranians wanted in connection with the bombing in exchange for trade benefits.The judge’s decision to dismiss the case can be appealed by the prosecutor who revived Mr. Nisman’s criminal complaint, Gerardo Pollicita, said María Bourdin, a spokeswoman for the judiciary.In a speech Thursday night after swearing in ministers in a cabinet reshuffle, Mrs. Kirchner did not mention the decision by Judge Rafecas.But on Twitter, Florencio Randazzo, the interior minister, said: ”We always said Nisman’s complaint against the president was nonsense. A judge confirmed that today.”Investigators are trying to determine whether Mr. Nisman was killed or committed suicide. The lead investigator said Wednesday that Mr. Nisman’s death was still ”a great unsolved mystery.”Mr. Nisman’s body was found just a day before he was scheduled to appear before Congress to discuss his criminal complaint against the president and several top supporters. He had also drafted a request for Mrs. Kirchner’s arrest, but he did not include it in his complaint.The sudden death of Mr. Nisman, who was found on the floor of his apartment with a gunshot wound to the head, stunned Argentina and exposed deep rifts in the nation.Tens of thousands of Argentines poured into the center of Buenos Aires last week for a demonstration in honor of Mr. Nisman, and a sweeping array of theories have swirled around the country ever since his death, with many Argentines saying in polls that they believed that the government had a hand in it. Analysts said Thursday that Judge Rafecas’s decision could help assuage the damaging perception that the government was involved in Mr. Nisman’s death.Mrs. Kirchner made it clear in January that she believed Mr. Nisman had been killed. She and her inner circle have cast suspicion on various figures, including the assistant who lent Mr. Nisman the gun that was found underneath his body and the ousted spymaster who worked with Mr. Nisman during his investigation.Much of Mr. Nisman’s complaint was based on telephone calls that appear to have been intercepted by Argentine intelligence agents.This week, Congress approved a bill, at the urging of Mrs. Kirchner, to dissolve the Intelligence Secretariat and create a new intelligence agency with limited surveillance powers. Mrs. Kirchner said the agency no longer served the nation’s needs, but the opposition claimed the changes were politically motivated.Mrs. Kirchner and the foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, have both rejected assertions that they conspired with Iran, pointing to statements from Interpol’s former secretary general that they never sought to lift arrest warrants for Iranian officials wanted in connection with the 1994 bombing.Still, the federal prosecutor who took up Mr. Nisman’s case this month sought to charge Mrs. Kirchner in connection with the claims of secret negotiations with Iranians.In his decision to dismiss the case, Judge Rafecas wrote that the assertion that the foreign minister had tried to get Interpol to lift arrest warrants against the Iranians was unfounded. The evidence, he wrote, contradicted the accusation ”categorically and conclusively.”Some of Mrs. Kirchner’s political opponents immediately sought to question the judge’s impartiality.Jorge Lanata, an influential broadcast journalist who openly opposes the government, said in televised comments that Judge Rafecas was behaving ”like a soldier of Kirchnerismo,” the name given to Mrs. Kirchner’s political movement.Martín Böhmer, a law professor at the University of Buenos Aires, said the decision — and the breathing room an appeals process could bring — would enable Mrs. Kirchner to retake the initiative in her annual speech to Congress on Sunday.”The president will be better armed for the congressional address,” Mr. Böhmer said.Aides to Mr. Pollicita, the prosecutor who revived the case, refused to say Thursday whether he would appeal the decision.Mr. Nisman received death threats in 2012 and 2013, according to emails leaked to the local news media on Thursday. In one email, Mr. Nisman was told his body would end up riddled with bullet wounds. In a separate case, a judge has been investigating threats made in recent years against Mr. Nisman and his family.By Taos Turner27 February 2015Justice rules no evidence supports alleged plot by leader to cover up Iran’s role in a terrorist attackBUENOS AIRES — A federal judge on Thursday rejected allegations that Argentine President Cristina Kirchner plotted with Iran to cover up its alleged role in a 1994 terrorist attack here, saying there was no evidence whatsoever of any crime.The 63-page ruling by Judge Daniel Rafecas, which can be appealed, is a big boost to Mrs. Kirchner and a setback to supporters of Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who filed the criminal complaint in January only to be found dead days later.“The evidence collected, far from even minimally supporting the prosecutor’s claim, undermines it in a robust and harsh manner, leading to the conclusion that there was no crime,” the judge wrote.Mr. Nisman’s complaint accused Mrs. Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, and others of sabotaging his years-long probe into the bombing, which killed 85 people at the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, or AMIA — the worst attack on Jews in the hemisphere and one of the worst world-wide since World War II.Mr. Nisman said at the time his evidence was based largely on more than two years of intercepted phone calls involving associates of the president.Argentine officials, including Mrs. Kirchner, have denied the allegations, calling them absurd. Iran has denied any involvement in the attack.Mr. Nisman, who had tried to untangle the bombing for more than a decade, was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment a day before he was due to testify about his allegations to Congress.The case has thrust Argentina into its worst political crisis in more than a decade, with polls showing that a majority of Argentines believe Mr. Nisman’s accusations were true. An autopsy determined that Mr. Nisman fired a gunshot into his head, but most Argentines don’t believe the 51-year-old prosecutor killed himself, according to an Ipsos poll.Almost a month after Mr. Nisman’s death, another federal prosecutor, Gerardo Pollicita, took up the case and said his colleague’s findings merited investigation — asking Judge Rafecas to charge Mrs. Kirchner with trying to obstruct Mr. Nisman’s investigation.The judge’s ruling “is an important step for Kirchner in trying to regain some sort of momentum in public opinion,” said Sergio Berensztein, a political analyst.The ruling is a harsh rebuke of Mr. Nisman’s claims. It says that not only were some of Mr. Nisman’s accusations patently false but that the evidence he provided to the court contradicts them.“There is not a single proof, not a single indication that backs up the prosecutor’s grave and mortifying hypothesis that Hector Timerman instigated or prepared the path to cover up the attack on the AMIA,” the judge wrote.In an interview at his office, the judge said he listened to all of the intercepted calls that Mr. Nisman presented to the court, but said the calls don’t prove a crime was committed.Few, however, expect the controversy to subside after the judge’s ruling. Mr. Pollicita, the prosecutor, can appeal the judge’s decision. An appeals court would then determine how the case should proceed, if at all.“We will have to wait and see. This saga is not over yet,” Mr. Berensztein said.Santiago Canton, an Argentine who heads the human rights program at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington, D.C., said Judge Rafecas has a good reputation with respect to cases involving human rights. The judge also wrote a well-received book about the Holocaust.“In general there is a great respect for him,” Mr Canton said. He added, however, that even if there is no legal case against the administration, Mr. Nisman’s accusations indicate “highly improper” behavior by people close to it who were allegedly interacting by phone with one of the top suspects behind the bombing.Mr. Nisman had concluded years ago that top Iranian officials used Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group, to carry out the suicide bombing. In 2007, based largely on Mr. Nisman’s work, Interpol issued international arrest notices for Iranian suspects.In January, Mr. Nisman alleged that Mrs. Kirchner had been plotting with Iran to guarantee Iranian suspects impunity as part of a broader geopolitical realignment with the country. In exchange, Mr. Nisman said Argentina aimed to obtain Iranian oil.In 2013, Argentina and Iran’s government signed a memorandum of understanding to create a so-called Truth Commission, a move which outraged Argentina’s Jewish community, which accused the government of trying to whitewash Iran’s involvement by getting it to take part in the probe.27 February 2015BUENOS AIRES – A federal judge on Thursday dismissed allegations that Argentine President Cristina Fernàndez de Kirchner tried to cover up the purported involvement of Iran in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center, easing a crisis for her government fed by the death of the prosecutor who brought the case.Judge Daniel Rafecas said the documents filed by Alberto Nisman, the late prosecutor, failed to meet “the minimal conditions needed to launch a formal court investigation.”“There is not a single element of evidence, even circumstantial, that points to the actual head of state,” the judge said.Nisman had filed the complaint just days before he died Jan. 18 under mysterious circumstances. Polls show that many Argentines suspect officials had a hand in the death, though Fernàndez and her aides have suggested that the death was aimed at destabilizing her government.Tens of thousands of Argentines marched through the capital last week, demanding answers in the death of Nisman, who was found in his bathroom with a bullet in his right temple.Nisman had asked judges to authorize a formal criminal investigation of the president, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and other figures on allegations that they agreed to grant impunity to eight Iranians accused in the attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, in which 85 people died. In return, he said, Iran would increase trade with Argentina.The prosecutor who took over the case after Nisman’s death, Gerardo Pollicita, renewed his request.Investigators say they are trying to determine whether Nisman was killed or committed suicide.The president initially suggested that the 51-year-old prosecutor had killed himself, then did an about-face a few days later, saying she suspected he had been slain.She suggested that he might have been manipulated by disgruntled intelligence agents. After his death, she pushed through a law to reform the spy service. Congress gave final approval to the measure earlier Thursday.“I think the accusations themselves have weakened her government, and Argentines are still open to conspiracy theories. Even with the dismissal of the charges against her, there are still questions about who killed Nisman,” said Shannon O’Neil, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S.-based think tank.Fernàndez also shuffled her cabinet on Thursday, replacing three ministers with close aides.By Helen ReganFeb 27, 2015Ruling comes after the lead prosecutor died in suspicious circumstances last monthAn Argentine judge dismissed a controversial case on Thursday against the country’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, citing a lack of evidence.Kirchner and her foreign minister Héctor Timerman were accused of covering up the alleged involvement of Iranian officials in a bomb attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994, reports the New York Times.The criminal case was brought against the duo and other officials by prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died mysteriously last month.Judge Daniel Rafecas said the case filed by Nisman did not “minimally hold up” and said there was not enough evidence to launch a court investigation.Nisman’s body was found in his apartment on Jan. 18, with a gunshot wound to the head. He was due to testify against Kirchner the following day in Congress.The circumstances surrounding his death have not been established.Both Kirchner and Timerman have denied they had any hand in shielding the Iranians from responsibility in the attack.Also on Thursday, Argentine legislators approved a bill scrapping the country’s existing intelligence agency. In its place, a new federal investigative agency will be established.By Benedict ManderFebruary 26, 2015An Argentine judge has dismissed an accusation by prosecutors that President Cristina Fernández conspired to hide Iran’s alleged role in a deadly 1994 bombing.The decision provides a needed fillip for the embattled leader but also raises more questions about the credibility of Argentina’s judicial system.Judge Daniel Rafecas ruled on Thursday that he would “discontinue” the case, which had been revived after its initial prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was found shot dead on Jan 18 in mysterious circumstances that have sparked political turmoil.“The evidence gathered far from meets the minimal standard,” said a statement from the country’s court system about the decision, which can be appealed.Ms Fernández, her foreign minister and several other senior officials had been accused of impeding a probe into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in order to put through a grains-for-oil deal with Tehran.Ms Fernández has called the claims against her “absurd” while Jorge Capitanich, the cabinet chief, has called the case “judicial putschsim”.But the government’s often insensitive handling of the case has only inflamed local opinion, and on Thursday the twittersphere lit up with derogatory comments about the judge’s decision.“I thought for a moment I was wrong in being pessimistic about Argentina’s future. No more,” read one tweet.Last week some 400,000 protesters, including opposition politicians and state prosecutors, marched in silence through Buenos Aires to the presidential palace to demand truth and justice over Nisman’s death.“Cristina has completely failed to grasp the dimension of the problem,” commented Alberto Fernández, no relation, who served as cabinet chief for Ms Fernández’s late husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner.Mr Fernández described the president’s insensitive response to Nisman’s death — she suggested he had commit suicide and then that he was murdered by rogue spies — as a “huge mistake”. It has prompted a backlash that has hit her popularity and reinvigorated a divided opposition ahead of October’s presidential election.“The opposition has charged against the government with everything it has, with the help of the media,” said Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, a human-rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for campaigning against Argentina’s military dictatorship.Echoing government claims that opponents want to engineer a “soft coup”, he argues that certain sectors want to destabilise the government, describing accusations by some opposition figures that Ms Fernández is guilty of murder as “delirious”.Alejandro Catterberg, a director of local pollster Poliarquia, said the crisis has knocked about five points off Ms Fernández’s approval ratings, which have oscillated below 40 per cent recently. While significant, he says such a fall is similar to previous crises during her tenure, with most Argentines already having made their mind up about the polarising leader who cannot run for a third term.“This [crisis and the protests] are not a game changer,” said Mr Catterberg, who sees October’s presidential contest, which has three roughly equally strong contenders, as wide open. He said Daniel Scioli, the expected candidate for the ruling Peronist party, may be initially harmed because of his association with the government, but that he could recover when campaigning gets under way in July.Moreover, he added, whichever of the three leading candidates wins will be an improvement on Ms Fernández’s “populist, unpredictable and often aggressive” style of government.A recent rally in Argentine bond prices suggests foreign investors agree. Market optimism has been reinforced by the government’s commitment to protect precariously low foreign exchange reserves, despite other economic problems.These include a fall in commodity prices that has hit Argentine soya exporters, which the government depends on for foreign exchange, and Ms Fernandez’s apparent refusal to settle a long running legal dispute with a group of US hedge funds that has blocked access to international capital markets.Nevertheless, the Nisman affair is likely to reinforce a more general distrust in Argentine institutions that transcends current discontent. Most Argentines fear the case will join a long succession of unsolved crimes, such as the 1994 bomb attack on the Jewish AMIA centre that Nisman had been investigating.Mr Pérez Esquivel accuses Ms Fernández of “political autism” but says Argentina’s flawed judiciary — weakened by continued executive interventions over past decades — is ultimately responsible.“Twenty years have passed and absolutely no one has been punished for the AMIA bombing,” said Pérez Esquivel. “You cannot build a democracy on impunity.”By Peter Eavis27 February 2015A New York hedge fund that is suing Argentina over its debt is moving swiftly to try to stamp out any effort by the country to issue new bonds in international markets.Argentina is seeking to sell roughly $2 billion of new bonds to investors and has employed JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank to handle the deal. But the banks have now suspended the deal, at least temporarily.The bonds were being marketed outside of the United States to non-American investors. If the deal were to be called off completely, it would underscore the remarkable reach of a small group of investors armed with favorable court rulings.In response to a request by NML Capital, a unit of Elliott Management, Judge Thomas P. Griesa of the Federal District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday ordered JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank to produce documents that would describe how money from the bond sale might pass to Argentina. He also ordered the banks to have witnesses present at a deposition about the bond deal at 3 p.m. on Thursday.The court’s demands led the banks to put their deal preparations on hold, according to two people briefed on the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the transaction.Elliott Management’s legal moves are the latest installment in its long-running legal battle to gain full repayment on bonds that Argentina defaulted on in 2001. Most of the bonds involved in that default were later exchanged for new securities, known as exchange bonds, that were worth far less than the original debt.Elliott and other investors gained the name ”holdouts” after refusing to accept the exchange bonds in return for their securities. The holdouts scored a pivotal victory in 2012, when Judge Griesa ruled that Argentina had to pay the holdouts in full whenever it made payments on the exchange bonds.A United States court had power over the exchange bonds because many of them were issued under New York law. And the judge’s ruling had teeth because global banks did not want to fall afoul of the order by passing money from Argentina to holders of the exchange bonds. Argentina, for instance, has in recent months not been able to get money to holders of its exchange bonds.Argentina’s attempts to sell the new bonds form an important test for the country. The bonds were going to be denominated in dollars and Argentina may need the foreign currency to pay off other debts coming due. What is more, a successful sale would demonstrate that the country was able to borrow billions of dollars in international markets even as the holdouts pursued it.Lawyers at JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank would almost certainly have taken steps to try to prevent the new bonds from falling afoul of Judge Griesa’s order. As well as being sold outside of the United States, the new bonds would be registered under Argentine law. At the deposition, the banks’ representatives may seek to show that their deal complies with the judge’s order.Still, the holdouts have had success in gaining courts outside the United States to seize Argentine assets. A court in Ghana, for instance, ruled that the country could impound an Argentina naval vessel in 2012. (Under international maritime law, the boat was later released.)A document relating to the deal suggests that it is being arranged in London. The holdouts may be hoping that a British court will support their efforts and threaten to seize any money that Argentina might raise through the bond sale. In a 2011 ruling on a case brought by NML Capital, a British court ruled that governments like Argentina could not claim immunity from certain civil judgments in courts outside of Britain.A document relating to the sale of new bonds includes a lengthy passage detailing potential legal challenges to the sale. Specifically, it raises the possibility of legal attempts to ”attach assets of Argentina.”By Matt Wirz and Christopher Whittall27 February 2015A bid by two global banks to sell bonds for Argentina in London collapsed, delivering a fresh setback to the cash-strapped South American nation amid a long-running feud with creditors.Deutsche Bank AG and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. approached bond-fund managers on Wednesday to gauge interest in an auction of the country’s debt in London, people familiar with the matter said. The banks believed they had found a way to sell Argentine bonds without running afoul of a U.S. court ruling last year, the people said.The banks suspended the plans Thursday after legal action taken by a group of creditors who have been battling with Argentina for payment on defaulted bonds. Late Wednesday, the U.S. District Judge in the case, Thomas Griesa, ordered an emergency hearing to discuss the proposed London sale.The sale would have been the first of its kind outside Argentina since the country defaulted in 2001, and would have helped it replenish dwindling foreign-currency reserves. It isn’t clear whether the banks had an official mandate from Argentina, which has been fielding bond sale proposals from banks for over a year.A spokeswoman for Argentina’s Economy Ministry said the government studies all debt-issuance proposals submitted to it that are in accordance with Argentine law.The developments show that “Argentina will find it extremely difficult to use international banks to help it raise funds and will likely not be able to issue new local-law bonds to foreign investors,” said Jane Brauer, an emerging-markets analyst at Bank of America Corp.Though short-lived, Argentina’s latest attempt to borrow outside its borders marks a new phase in the cat-and-mouse game it has been playing with some creditors for years.Judge Griesa ruled in June that Argentina can’t pay holders of its restructured debt until it pays a group of hedge funds known collectively as holdout creditors. They own bonds that Argentina defaulted on in 2001 and are seeking repayment; they have refused to participate in the country’s 2005 and 2010 debt restructurings.The judge said anyone that helped Argentina pay other bondholders would be in contempt of court. As a result, bond trustees and payment-clearing firms have been reluctant to pass along payments from Argentina to restructured bondholders.Investors have snapped up Argentine bonds in recent months, effectively wagering that Argentina will soon find a way around last year’s ruling by Judge Griesa or that the country will settle with the holdout creditors after general elections scheduled for October.The yield of Argentina’s dollar bonds that mature in 2024 has fallen to 7.86% this week from 10.48% in December, according to FactSet. Yields fall when prices rise.A successful sale of new bonds in international markets would give Argentina the upper hand in the long-running legal battle with the holdouts, led by hedge funds Elliott Management Corp. and Aurelius Capital Management LP.Lawyers working for Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan crafted the new bond sale in a way they thought would conform to Judge Griesa’s directives, according to people familiar with the matter.On Wednesday the banks’ salespeople approached fund managers to gauge interest in a new bond to be issued in London through an auction format, according to investors who received sales pitches. The new debt would have been issued by reopening a pre-existing bond governed by Argentine law rather than U.S. law.Elliott first subpoenaed Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan about a planned $2 billion bond sale for Argentina on Feb. 9 but they failed to respond, prompting Judge Griesa this week to force them to comply.The banks are now in a holding pattern to see whether the judge will agree that their plan doesn’t violate his earlier ruling blocking bond payments. No deal had officially been launched and the plans were at an early stage, people familiar with the matter said.Elliott said through a spokesman Wednesday that it was “dismayed” that Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan were participating in the attempted deal.Some of the investor optimism comes from lawsuits challenging Judge Griesa’s ruling filed in Belgium and the U.K. by other hedge funds that in August held about 1.3 billion euros ($1.48 billion) of euro-denominated bonds Argentina issued in exchange for bonds it defaulted on over the past decade.Argentina tried to pay at least 226 million euros on its euro-denominated bonds last year, but Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and Euroclear PLC, the trustee and clearing house administering the payments, refused to transfer the funds because of Judge Griesa’s order.The hedge funds, including Knighthead Master Fund and George Soros’s Quantum Partners, won a victory on Feb. 13 when the London Chancery Court ruled the bonds are governed by U.K. law and that Bank of New York Mellon’s obligations as trustee “are unaffected” by the U.S. court decision.By Davide Scigliuzzo26 February 2015NEW YORK, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Argentina has suspended a planned sale of dollar-denominated bonds intended to raise at least $2 billion, two investors with direct knowledge of the deal told Thomson Reuters IFR on Thursday.The suspension, if lengthy, could hamper Argentina’s financing of bonds worth over $6 billion that mature later in the year as the government fights to shore up low foreign reserves.The decision to suspend the sale came after U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa ordered Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase & Co to hand over documents relevant to the Bonar 24 bond sale.Griesa said late Wednesday, according to a court transcript of an emergency hearing on Wednesday, that the order he signed did not restrain any transaction. “It simply asks for discovery,” Griesa said.The South American country, a pariah in global debt markets for more than a decade, said on Wednesday it had a “window of opportunity” to raise debt internationally and began marketing the new Bonar 24 bonds.The proposed reopening of the sale of new Bonar 24 bonds, with a coupon of 8.75 percent, was estimated to be at least $2 billion, according to the hearing transcript that cited a letter to potential investors prepared by the banks.Lawyers for JPMorgan said in court that the bond sale was merely “contemplated,” despite the contention by lawyers for the hedge funds it was imminent.“There was never a confirmation of a sale, therefore it can’t be suspended. Argentina yesterday just confirmed that it was open to study all proposals that it may get,” Argentina’s Economy Ministry told Reuters in a statement.The new debt was to be issued under Argentine law to non-U.S. investors to avoid legal risks in the United States. Argentina is embroiled in a drawn out legal battle with a small group of New York-based hedge funds over unpaid debt held under U.S. law stemming from its 2002 default.Two sources familiar with the matter said Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan decided to put the bond sale on hold as a precaution while they respond to the court’s request.“Argentina is not prevented from raising funds,” a source said. “Any restrictions (from the U.S. courts) apply to the coupon payments on its bonds, not to its ability to raise capital.”The same source said the deal could be back on, depending on the outcome of the legal proceedings.Argentine bonds have rallied in the past two weeks, partly driven by investor confidence that the Oct. 25 presidential election will usher in a more market-friendly government. President Cristina Fernandez cannot run for a third straight term.Investors appeared to take the latest developments in stride. The price of the Bonar 2024 rose 0.191 percent to a bid of 104.85 cents.“Investors believe that with a change of administration there will be greater opportunities to access international funding, and at these interest rates there is money available,” said Roberto Drimer, an economist at the Buenos Aires-based consultancy VaTnet.According to court documents dated Feb. 25, NML Capital, one of the firms suing Argentina, served subpoenas on the banks seeking information on the issuance of Bonar 24 bonds on Feb. 9.Argentina tipped back into default in July after Griesa blocked it from servicing its performing debt until it settled with the litigating hedge funds.By Linette LopezFeb. 26, 2015If you’re going to invest in Argentina, you’d better put on your big-boy pants and be prepared to lose them.That’s the tone of a letter JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank sent potential investors in a proposed Argentine bond offering that was “suspended” less than 48 hours after it was announced.Earlier this week the country said that it had hired the banks to issue its bonds on the international market. That’s a big deal, as Argentina has been the black sheep of international markets since its 2001 default.Basically no one wanted to buy Argentina’s debt after that disaster. After over 10 years of paying back debt, though, Argentina had only one major credit problem left — it refused to pay a specific group of its bondholders over $1.3 billion of defaulted debt because the bondholders wouldn’t take a 70% cut to their payout.Those bondholders were led by hedge fund manager Paul Singer, and he sued the country until it went right back into default.So that’s where Argentina is now — technically. It’s in technical default. Also the economy is in incredibly bad shape. Inflation is hovering over 40%, capital flight is rampant, and women were freaking out earlier this year because Argentina’s weird import/export policies made it impossible to find tampons.Anyway, the country decided that now was the time for it to issue bonds regardless of its state. JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank signed on to help. They did, however, send potential investors an unusual letter warning them of the dangers of investing, especially because of Singer’s ongoing lawsuit and general doggedness in pursuit of his money.
And also because the banks didn’t want to be sued in the event that something went wrong, of course.“In particular no investor will have any claim and the Sellers will have no liability based on: (i) any difference the purchase price and any subsequent value of the Securities; (ii) the ability of any investor to receive any interest or redemption payment to cover the principle amount of the Securities; or (ii) any circumstances beyond the Sellers control, included where the Securities are not admitted to a relevant clearing system or otherwise delivered,” it said.In other words, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank are saying: Sign here and then do not ask us about this stuff again because you are on your OWN!To be fair, this is what any rational institution would do. Sure, a lot of investors are saying that the country is a buying opportunity once President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s intransigent government is out of power after elections this fall. But you actually never really know in Argentina. She already tried to change the Argentine Constitution once so she could run again and failed.Plus, Singer and his cadre (known collectively as NML) were not happy about any of this. They went to the judge who has been presiding over their case and got an injunction forcing JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank to show them the bond issue documents (including this letter).“Despite our repeated attempts to engage in good-faith negotiations, the Argentine government appears determined to remain in default and in contempt of a US federal court order,” said an NML spokesman regarding the bond issue. “We are dismayed that JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank are participating in the schemes of an international scofflaw, schemes which we believe are an attempt to evade the court-ordered enforcement of bondholders’ rights.As practiced as NML is at waging legal war on Argentina, it’s not crazy to think they would throw JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank in there too if they thought they had a claim. NML still hasn’t gotten its money, so what’s a little more paperwork?That’s probably why this bond issue was dropped. Fast.By Michelle CelarierFebruary 26, 2015Argentina suspended plans for a US dollar bond sale on Thursday following an outcry from billionaire hedgie Paul Singer.Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase were soliciting interest from international buyers in the potential $2 billion bond sale — but put the plans on hold after Singer convinced a federal judge to order the banks to hand over documents related to the expected bond sale and to produce witnesses.Singer has been tangling with Argentina for about a decade in an attempt to collect more than $1.6 billion on bonds defaulted on in 2001. The country has refused to pay Singer — and even defied a judge’s order to do so.“Everyone’s being cautious,” sources close to the banks said, after plans for the bonds were halted.That’s not to say the banks were thrilled with Singer’s action.“Elliott [Paul Singer’s hedge fund] is attempting to interfere in a perfectly legitimate capital raise,” said a source at one of the banks, who said the sale effort could be re-started at a later date.11. ARGENTINE EXPORTS REACH FIVE-YEAR LOW AMID RISING DISCONTENT AND BLEAK OUTLOOK AHEAD OF ELECTIONS (IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis)By Mario Guillen26 February 2015Argentina’s balance of trade reported a surplus of USD73 million in January, an increase of 109% year on year (y/y), according to the latest report by its National Statistical Office (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos: INDEC). Exports posted a fall of 18% y/y, returning to values from five years ago, while imports decreased by 19% y/y. The most remarkable falls in the export sector were in the categories of fuels and energy (down by 58% y/y), manufacture goods of industrial origin (down by 24% y/y), and manufacture goods of agricultural origin (down by 15% y/y). The only category to post an increase was primary products, up by 16% y/y. With regard to imports, the passenger vehicles category fell by 67% y/y, while fuels and lubricants decreased 54% y/y, followed by a contraction of 20% y/y in the pieces and accessories of capital goods category. Imports of capital and consumer goods also dropped, falling by 13% y/y and 12% y/y, respectively.Significance: Despite the balance of trade exceeding the surplus recorded in January 2014, back then the fall in imports and exports amounted to just 4% y/y and 8% y/y, respectively. Put into perspective, this year’s results highlight the continued deterioration of Argentine trade due to internal and external factors. The fall in exports is mainly attributed to weak demand in Brazil, the country’s main commercial partner, as well as the general downturn in the region. This is exacerbated by the effects of a stronger US dollar on the competitiveness of Argentine manufacturing, which increases doubts about the sustainability of the peso’s value. Internally, financing difficulties drove the current administration to reduce imports, tighten the allocation of dollars while blaming the private sector for the recession, and advocate more state intervention. Amid rampant inflation, low commodity prices, and difficult access to international markets, the current administration is left with little room for action ahead of the upcoming presidential election in October.12. ARGENTINA AND D.C. UNITED MATCHES SCHEDULED FOR SAME DAY AT SEPARATE VENUES (Washington Post.com)By Steven Goff27 February 2015Promoters eager to bring Lionel Messi and the powerful Argentine national soccer team to Washington initially targeted March 27 for a friendly against El Salvador at FedEx Field in Landover. Talks dragged on for weeks without an agreement. Then Thursday, organizers announced the game will take place March 28, a Saturday, which is more conducive to ticket-selling, TV programming and transportation.Seems sensible, except one of D.C. United’s marquee home matches of the MLS season, against the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy, falls on the same day at RFK Stadium.The United-Galaxy game, set by the league six weeks ago, will kick off at 7 p.m. The international match is set for 4 p.m.The stadiums are seven miles apart and on the same Metro lines (although FedEx Field is almost a mile from the Morgan Boulevard station). So conceivably, a fan could attend both. Whether they would be willing to pay two admissions is another matter. The ticket price range to see Argentina is $38 to $175, not including service fees. Tickets go on sale Saturday.Such conflicts are bad for the local pro team’s business, and the U.S. Soccer Federation does have the power to decline sanctioning international matches. However, a USSF spokesman said the Argentina-El Salvador game has been approved.“Within U.S. Soccer’s International Games policies,” director of communications Neil Buethe said, “there is no prohibition on staging international games on the same dates or in the same territories as other professional matches.”United officials have yet to comment on the matter.There does appear to be a financial incentive for the USSF, which collects either 9 percent or 9.25 percent of gross gate receipts, and an additional 13 percent of the balance of receipts after the first $200,000. However, the USSF also says it will “use these fees to cover fees due to CONCACAF.”Last summer, a similar scenario played out: Spain planned to play its final World Cup tuneup at FedEx Field against El Salvador on June 7, conflicting with United’s home match that day against the Columbus Crew. The sides ended up negotiating a doubleheader in Landover. To help compensate for lost revenue at RFK, promoters also scheduled a Turkey-Honduras friendly at the East Capitol Street venue.From a logistical and competitive standpoint, United did not enjoy the arrangement. Its game followed the Spain match, and many of the 53,267 had departed by halftime of the MLS event, leaving large pockets of empty seats in the lower sections of the 80,000-capacity venue. In essence, United had surrendered its influential home-field advantage and lost the feverish environment provided by the RFK crowd. Season ticket holders grumbled about poor seat assignments and the hassle of traveling to FedEx Field.While that doubleheader came to fruition after months of discussion and finalized three months ahead of time, United officials were unaware until this week that organizers of the Argentina-El Salvador game were seeking to play on the 28th instead of the 27th. Even if they had, they probably would not have agreed to another doubleheader anyway.The March 28 move has also required promoters to fiddle with El Salvador’s other friendly on its U.S. tour, March 29 against Guatemala at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. That one will now take place March 31.As of Feb. 18, neither international match had been sanctioned by the USSF. Nonetheless, on Feb. 10, StubHub Center formally announced the friendly and accompanying ticket information.Public announcements prior to sanctioning are subject to fines starting at $1,000 and other penalties, USSF operating procedures state.Buethe said Thursday that “no application has been submitted for that match but we have had a conversation with the promoter that an application is forthcoming.”Argentina will also face Ecuador on March 31 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.The last week in March is an official FIFA match period, which allows national teams to summon their best players from around the world. Argentina, the 2014 World Cup runner-up, would likely call in Messi, the Barcelona superstar, and many other European-based regulars. The Argentines have not played in the Washington area since a 1-0 defeat to the United States in 1999 at RFK.By Ryan Dube26 February 2015Argentine President Cristina Kirchner replaced her cabinet chief and health secretary on Thursday, amid a political crisis less than a year before her term ends.The president’s spokesman, Alfredo Scoccimarro, said at a brief news conference that cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich will be replaced by Anibal Fernandez, currently the secretary general of the president’s office. Mr. Fernandez is a long-time ally of President Kirchner, and had previously served as her cabinet chief. Eduardo de Pedro will replace Mr. Fernandez as secretary general of the president’s office.Mr. Scoccimarro said Health Minister Juan Manzur is being replaced in the cabinet reshuffle by Daniel Bazan. He didn’t explain why the cabinet changes were being undertaken.The shuffle comes as Mrs. Kirchner is mired in a crisis following last month’s death of Alberto Nisman, who was found dead in his apartment a few days after accusing Mrs. Kirchner and other government officials of trying to cover up Iran’s alleged involvement in a 1994 terrorist attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Mrs. Kirchner and Iran deny those respective allegations.On Thursday, a federal judge dismissed the charges against Mrs. Kirchner, saying there wasn’t evidence of a crime.President Kirchner is constitutionally-barred from running for reelection in October’s presidential election.By Eliana Raszewski26 February 2015BUENOS AIRES, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Argentina’s state-controlled oil company YPF disappointed the market with its earnings on Thursday but announced that output at a key shale oil and gas field was ramping up.Output at Argentina’s vast but barely tapped Vaca Muerta field has risen to 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd). A report from the formation’s home province of Neuquen last month showed output was about 33,000 boepd at the end of September.YPF, which was nationalized in 2012, is seeking to ramp up production at Vaca Muerta in order to reverse a $7 billion energy deficit that is draining foreign reserves.The company does not publish output data for the formation on a regular basis.“Vaca Muerta is important to us because today it has come to represent production of 40,000 boepd,” YPF Chief Executive Officer Miguel Galuccio said on a call with reporters.“However…it still only represents 4 to 5 percent of total output so it does not yet have a significant impact on our results.”Argentina began running energy deficits in 2011, a year before the government expropriated YPF. President Cristina Fernandez said at the time that former parent company Spanish oil major Repsol was not investing enough in Argentina.Oil output at YPF rose 5.3 percent in 2014 while natural gas production climbed 25.1 percent, YPF said.Net profit was 1.383 billion pesos ($161.7 million) in the fourth quarter. Full-year earnings were 9.002 billion pesos, nearly 60 percent higher than in 2013.Both figures were nonetheless below market expectations for profit of 2.827 billion pesos in the October to December period and 10.350 billion pesos for 2014.But YPF Chief Financial Officer Daniel Gonzalez said fourth-quarter results were distorted by a provision a subsidiary had to make. The year-on-year comparison was further warped by an insurance payout received in the fourth quarter of 2013.Investment at YPF nearly doubled to 58.881 billion pesos in 2014, in part through debt issuance, the company said. It has previously said developing Vaca Muerta and securing energy independence will cost up to $200 billion in the next 10 years.YPF earlier this month sold $500 million of bonds in its first international sale since Argentina defaulted in July.“We once again have a comfortable cash situation, and we will see if it is necessary to return to markets before the end of the year,” Gonzalez said.By Charles Newbery26 February 2015Buenos Aires (Platts)–26Feb2015/632 pm EST/2332 GMT Argentina’s YPF said Thursday its oil production rose 5.3% and natural gas output increased 25.1% in 2014 compared with 2013, as the state-run energy company continued to ramp up investment in squeezing more out of maturing conventional reserves and developing unconventional resources.The company stepped up its total hydrocarbon production by 13.5% to 560,100 b/d of oil equivalent in 2014 from 493,400 boe/d a year earlier, it said in an earnings statement.YPF said the increase was helped by the 2014 acquisition of US-based Apache’s assets in Argentina, which added 38,600 boe/d of production.The company’s crude production rose 5.3% to 244,600 b/d in 2014 from 232,300 b/d in 2013, while gas output rose 25.1% to 42.4 million cu m/d from 33.9 million cu m/d a year earlier, YPF said. Production of natural gas liquids rose 1% to 48,700 b/d in 2014 from 48,200 b/d in 2013.The increase came largely from YPF’s operations in Neuquen, a southwestern basin with huge potential for unconventional oil and gas production, the company said. YPF said there was a large increase in output of tight gas from the Lajas play in that basin.During 2014, the company said it drilled 908 wells, of which 255 were into unconventional formations on its own or in partnerships.YPF is drilling for shale oil and gas in Loma Campana with Chevron, where they drilled 173 wells into the Vaca Muerta shale play.The rest were drilled to target largely tight gas, 44 on the Loma La Lata block targeting Lajas, while 29 were in Rincon de Mangrullo in a partnership with Argentina’s Petrolera Pampa, and nine in El Orejano with Dow Chemical.At the end of 2014, YPF said it had 74 drilling rigs in operation, adding that its spending on exploration surged 145% in 2014 on the year.Upstream investment rose 115.3% to 49.08 billion pesos ($5.6 billion), helping to boost not only production but also its reserve replacement rate to 163%, YPF said.The company said its proven reserves rose 11.9% to 1.212 billion boe in 2014 from 1.083 billion boe in 2013, its fastest increase on record. The previous record had been a 10.6% rise in 2013 on the year.Of the new reserves, much of it came from tight gas in the Lajas and Mulichinco plays in the Neuquen Basin, YPF said.Additions also came from the extension of field licenses in Rio Negro, shale oil reserves in Vaca Muerta, as well as from the consolidation of Apache reserves and advances in secondary recovery and new projects in the southern San Jorge Gulf Basin.REFINERY CAPACITY UTILIZATION RISES FOUR PERCENTAGE POINTSIn its downstream business, YPF said diesel and gasoline consumption rose 4% and 1%, respectively, in 2014 compared with 2013, while the rate of capacity use of its refineries rose to 91% from 87% over the same period. This was helped by a recovery in the utilization capacity of its 189,000 b/d La Plata refinery, which was hampered by a fire and flooding in 2013.YPF ran 290,000 b/d of crude through its refineries in 2014, up 4.3% from 278,000 b/d in the year-ago period.YPF said its average crude price rose 3.2% to $73.70/b in 2014 from $71.40/b a year earlier, while its average gas price rose 13% to $4.29/MMBtu from $3.79/MMBtu in 2013.Domestic diesel and gasoline prices rose 2.1% and 6.9%, respectively, over the same period, it added.YPF produces 42% of Argentina’s 530,000 b/d of crude and 30% of its 114 million cu m/d of gas, according to the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute, an industry group. It also has a 55% share of diesel and gasoline sales.
6. THE REAL-LIFE INSPIRATION FOR ‘WILD TALES’ FROM ARGENTINA ; WRITER-DIRECTOR DAMIAN SZIFRON CHANNELED HIS ROAD RAGE AND FRUSTRATION INTO A BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OSCAR NOMINEE (The Boston Globe)March 1, 2015Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said Sunday the prosecutor who had accused her of a criminal cover-up had also praised her, characterizing the late Alberto Nisman’s actions as contradictory in a sharply worded speech that included a rebuke of Israel over the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center.Fernandez said documents had been found in Nisman’s safe, one written in December and the other in January. She said in both he spoke favorably of the president’s speeches to the United Nations aimed at getting justice for the attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, which killed 85 people.She said that was contradictory to his allegations that she and other top officials in her administration had orchestrated a cover-up with Iran to shield officials allegedly responsible in a grain-for-oil deal. Fernandez has rejected the allegations and Iran has long denied involvement in the bombing.“Which Nisman do I go with?” she said. “With the one who accused us of a cover-up or the one who addressed me, acknowledging all we had done” to bring justice?Nisman was found dead Jan. 18, the day before he was to detail his allegations against Fernandez to Congress. Authorities are investigating whether Nisman committed suicide or was killed.The case has rocked Argentina, creating a scandal that Fernandez’s administration has struggled to confront. The president, constitutionally barred from running in October elections, got a boost last week when a federal judge threw out the case that Nisman had been building, saying it wasn’t solid enough to open an investigation.Fernandez, known for fiery, populist rhetoric, made the comments about the documents at the end of her nearly four-hour speech. When opposition legislators held signs saying “Open the Archives!” on the community center bombing, she launched into a vigorous defense of all she had to bring justice in the case.The bombing had become a “chessboard of national and international politics,” she said.In particular, she took aim at Israel, saying the country had shown tremendous interest in getting justice for the community center bombing but not in the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29.Nobody has been convicted in either attack.“Why does the state of Israel demand (justice) for AMIA,” she said, referring to the Spanish acronym of the community center, “and not for the blowing up of their own embassy?”It wasn’t clear what, if anything, Fernandez was implying. The president often makes vague accusations that other nations are meddling in Argentina’s affairs.In January 2014, Itzhak Aviran, the former Israeli ambassador to Argentina, reportedly told a Jewish news agency that “most of the guilty (for the Jewish community center attack) are in the other world and we did that.” The comments were immediately denied by the Israeli government. At the time, Nisman, who for 10 years headed up the investigation into the bombing, said he would summons Aviran.On Sunday, Fernandez said she would formally request that Israel send Aviran to Argentina to testify so “Argentines can at least know the perpetrators” of the community center attack.A message sent to the Israeli embassy’s press office late Sunday seeking comment was not immediately answered.In the documents, Fernandez said Nisman asked that she demand that the U.N. Security Council order the extradition of the Iranians allegedly responsible. She said the U.N. wouldn’t likely agree, especially when the United States was negotiating with Iran about the future of its nuclear program.By Jonathan Gilbert2 March 2015BUENOS AIRES — President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina made an impassioned defense on Sunday of her role in the investigation into the fatal bombing of a Jewish community center here in 1994, days after a judge dismissed criminal allegations against her.In her annual State of the Union address to Congress, Mrs. Kirchner accused others of using the case for political gain. ”If there are delays or a cover-up of A.M.I.A., look somewhere else, not here,” she said, using the Spanish acronym for the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association, the bombed community center.A judge dismissed on Thursday a criminal complaint brought by a federal prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, shortly before his mysterious death in January of a gunshot wound to the head. Investigators are trying to determine whether he was killed or had shot himself.In an emphatic rebuke of Mr. Nisman’s complaint, which was revived by a second prosecutor, Gerardo Pollicita, Judge Daniel Rafecas wrote that there was no evidence pointing to Mrs. Kirchner and faulted the evidence provided by Mr. Nisman. Mr. Pollicita can appeal the decision.Mrs. Kirchner had been accused of conspiring to shield Iranian officials from responsibility in the bombing, which left 85 people dead, in exchange for trade benefits.Bolstered by the judge’s decision after weeks of turmoil here following Mr. Nisman’s death, Mrs. Kirchner dedicated a large part of her address to Congress, which lasted almost four hours, to defending her record over the investigation into the bombing. Tens of thousands of supporters gathered outside Congress in a show of support for the beleaguered president.Mrs. Kirchner suggested that Mr. Nisman was manipulated by forces trying to destabilize her. She pointed to documents, cited by Mr. Rafecas, in which Mr. Nisman had highlighted her government’s role in helping the investigation just weeks before he filed the criminal complaint.”Which Nisman do I believe?” Mrs. Kirchner said, before questioning the circumstances under which he returned to Buenos Aires from Europe in January to accuse her. ”I don’t think Nisman wanted to attack the president.”There were nationwide marches last month to honor Mr. Nisman and express anger with Argentina’s political establishment. Many Argentines believe the government had a hand in Mr. Nisman’s death. But Mrs. Kirchner and her inner circle have cast suspicion on a former spymaster who worked with him on the bombing investigation.”She painted herself as the hero of the A.M.I.A. case and presented her administration in a triumphant way, but what emerges is a very dubious legacy,” said Federico Finchelstein, an Argentine historian at the New School for Social Research in New York, referring to divided public opinion over Mr. Nisman’s death and economic problems.By Charlie DevereuxMarch 1, 2015Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said in her final state of the union address that opponents are exploiting the death of a prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center.Hundreds of thousands of supporters rallied Sunday outside Argentina’s Congress in Buenos Aires to hear the broadcast of her almost four-hour speech at the same spot where less than two weeks ago a similar number marched in one of the largest protests against her government. In the address before lawmakers, Fernandez also mentioned progress in reducing debt and pledged to nationalize the railroads.The government has been thrown into turmoil since prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead from a gunshot to the head on Jan. 18. He had been due to present allegations that Fernandez sought to cover up, in exchange for trade deals, Iran’s involvement in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center that killed 85 people. Last week, a judge dismissed charges filed against Fernandez in connection with Argentina’s deadliest terrorist attack, saying there wasn’t enough evidence.“I lament his death, just as I lament the death of any Argentine, of any human being,” Fernandez said in reference to Nisman. But she added that “the AMIA case cannot continue to be used as a political instrument.”The state television channel said about 300,000 people waving flags and singing Peronist songs lined the Avenida de Mayo in a show of support for Fernandez.The president said she will leave a country that’s “comfortable” economically with record growth, low levels of unemployment and that has freed itself from debt “definitively.”Bond RallyThat vision is contradicted by bond investors. They are piling into Argentine bonds on speculation Fernandez’s sinking popularity will cost her political party in presidential elections in October and pave the way for a new government that will end the nation’s decade-long dispute with creditors who refused to accept terms of a restructuring.Argentina’s 2024 bonds soared last week to the highest since they were issued in May, data compiled by Bloomberg show.A plan to sell at least $2 billion in bonds came to a halt last week after a U.S. judge cited JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Deutsche Bank AG, the banks managing the sale, for failing to comply with subpoenas, people with knowledge of the matter said.Argentina was attempting to raise debt financing to help pay down more than $6 billion in debt maturing this year. A decade-long legal battle with NML Capital, a hedge fund controlled by the billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Capital Management that resulted in Argentina’s second default in 13 years in July, has hampered the nation’s return to international debt markets.Looking ahead to her final year in office, Fernandez said she is preparing legislation to nationalize the country’s railway system. In 2012, she expropriated Spanish oil company Repsol SA’s share of YPF.By Hugh BronsteinMar. 1, 2015Argentina’s scandal-hit president came out swinging with a fiery speech about justice on Sunday, retaking the initiative three days after being cleared of allegations that she tried to derail an investigation into a deadly 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires.In mid-January Cristina Fernandez was accused of conspiring to cover up Iran’s alleged role in the truck-bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center. Prosecutor Alberto Nisman said Fernandez conspired to whitewash the bombing in order to complete a grains-for-oil deal with Tehran.Days after leveling the charge, Nisman was found dead, a bullet in his head, a gun by his side. His accusation and mysterious death hurt Fernandez’s credibility and sent her government reeling while conspiracy theories multiplied.In her first speech since a judge threw out the cover-up allegation on Thursday for lack of evidence, Fernandez took aim at the rogue intelligence agents she blames for the scandal.“Twenty-one years have passed without a single conviction for AMIA,” the two-term president shouted during her final annual address to Congress on Sunday, in which she claimed to have done everything possible to get to the bottom of the case.Fernandez said fault for the lack of progress in solving the bombing lies with the local courts “and the intelligence services that covered up, and covered up, and did not permit the truth to be known.”“If there have been delays,” she shouted, her voice breaking, “look somewhere else. Don’t look here.”Adding to the confusion over the case, Fernandez said two signed documents were found in Nisman’s safe after he died. One argued the case against her while the other said she had nothing to do with a cover-up.“Which Nisman am I left with?” she said.Fernandez has accused former counterintelligence chief Antonio Stiuso of manipulating Nisman into making the allegation in order to smear her, and then of having a hand in his death.Stiuso, who has left the country, is also accused of operating a smuggling ring from the headquarters of the SI Intelligence agency, which Congress voted to disband last week.Fernandez, constitutionally barred from running for a third term in October’s election, has nine more months in office.Polls show the cover-up allegations and Nisman’s death have damaged Fernandez’s popularity, already strained by a weak economy, and will hurt government-allied candidates in the October vote.By Nicolás Misculin27 February 2015BUENOS AIRES, Feb 27 (Reuters) – Argentina’s government will purge spies it no longer trusts from the state intelligence agency as part of a major overhaul of the security body, sources familiar with embattled President Cristina Fernandez’s thinking said.The move comes after lawmakers passed a law on Thursday disbanding the former Intelligence Secretariat, or SI, parts of which Fernandez has portrayed as sinister and out of control, and established a new agency.The SI has been at the center of a six week-long political storm following the death of state prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who had accused Fernandez of trying to cover up Iran’s alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.Fernandez and her ministers say rogue agents duped Nisman into fabricating unfounded allegations against her in order to destabilize the government, and then needed him dead. Fernandez branded Nisman’s accusations as “absurd” and on Thursday a judge threw out the case.“Many people are going to be fired. There is going to be a serious review,” said one senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.“The idea is to get rid of all those who the state can’t trust or who work for other agencies as well,” the source said, referring to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Israel’s Mossad.The legislation approved on Thursday includes a clause which says “all personnel and property” will be transferred from the SI to the new Federal Intelligence Agency, or AFI.But legal experts have described the law’s wording as loose and officials close to the presidency said agents could be “retired” during a 90-day window the legislation allows for the creation of the AFI.A purge is likely to raise questions over why Fernandez wants to ensure loyalists are in control of the agency when she has just 10 months left in office.The Nisman scandal laid bare both a power struggle within the SI and a festering conflict between the government and factions within the security body.Fernandez portrayed parts of the agency as sinister, out-of-control and accountable to no one, saying it had “not served the interests of the country.”“Let’s not say there will be a purge, it’s an ugly world. Let’s say that some will be retired,” said a second government source familiar with the matter.DIRTY PASTArgentina’s intelligence service played an important role during a “dirty war” directed by the military dictatorship of 1976-83 against Marxist rebels, labor unions and students.Since democracy was restored, successive governments are widely believed to have continued to use the agency to snoop on opponents.A purge would not be without risk. The intelligence service has in the past enjoyed significant power and autonomy and is widely thought to have run extensive wire tappings on politicians, journalists and judges.But cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez has rejected suggestions there may be disenchanted agents holding sensitive information.“That is not something to worry us,” he told reporters.Nisman was found dead on Jan. 18 of a bullet to the head, with a pistol by his side, a day before he was due to detail the evidence behind his accusations against Fernandez.His mysterious death spawned a blizzard of conspiracy theories, with some pointing directly to the president.Top officials have said that a former spymaster, Antonio Stiuso, who was sacked from the SI in December, was the mastermind behind Nisman’s allegations. Stiuso’s spy career spanned four decades and he was viewed as one of the most powerful men in the agency.But dissent within the agency was widespread, said the first government source.“You have to realize there was a rebellion inside the intelligence service,” the source said.6. THE REAL-LIFE INSPIRATION FOR ‘WILD TALES’ FROM ARGENTINA ; WRITER-DIRECTOR DAMIAN SZIFRON CHANNELED HIS ROAD RAGE AND FRUSTRATION INTO A BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OSCAR NOMINEE (The Boston Globe)By Christopher Wallenberg1 March 2015Damian Szifron knows full well that human beings are primal creatures at heart. While civilization has trained us to repress our dark, animalistic instincts, given the right series of nerve- rattling circumstances or cascading provocations, those primal urges can surface, prompting rage, vengeance, destruction, and self- immolation.Such reactions are at the heart of Szifron’s “Wild Tales,” which scored an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film this year (it lost to Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida”) and opens in the Boston area on Friday. Made up of six individual stories — funny, acerbic, and utterly delirious vignettes about people seeking revenge, retribution, or release, “Wild Tales” is a portrait of humanity in extremis, an ode to the art of losing control, shaking your fist at the world, and fighting back against injustice.“For me the main issue is the pleasure of reacting, the pleasure of reacting toward injustice,” Szifron said last week over the phone from Los Angeles, a few days before the Academy Awards.Like most of us, Szifron (pronounced Ziff-ron), an Argentine writer-director, can speak from personal experience about losing control of his emotions. He recalls getting into a road rage standoff with a rich guy in a fancy car who was speeding down the highway and trying to pass him. He also had his car towed multiple times from unmarked “no parking” spaces, taking his anger and frustration out on an innocent clerk at a tow lot. Both incidents were the inspirational seeds for two of the stories in the film. He even ended up in a brawl at a restaurant, in which he punched the chef after Szifron thought the man grabbed his wife’s arm in a violent manner during an argument. A fistfight resulted, the chef’s ear got cut by a broken wine glass, and the police eventually showed up.“I’m a very peaceful guy, and I’ve never been involved in a fight. But I hit my breaking point. And when you hit this breaking point and you’re under a lot of pressure, you suddenly lose your fears, and you’re not measuring consequences. So you’re just driven by your instincts,” Szifron said. “For a neurotic guy like me who’s always very careful, it was very out-of-character. But there is something that changes in our chemistry, your body is releasing these endorphins, when you’re in that kind of situation, so you enjoy that moment without any fear.”The first of the six chapters of “Wild Tales,” co-produced by Pedro and Agustin Almodovar, begins with a bang. A pretty young fashion model and a music critic strike up a conversation on an airplane and discover they both share a past with the same troubled young man — as does everyone else seated around them — which leads to one of the most satisfying freeze-frame shots in cinema history. A waitress working in an empty diner is startled to learn that the man she’s serving is a criminal who wronged her family many years ago, while the female cook encourages her to seek revenge. There’s the blood-soaked story of road rage gone off-the-rails as an obnoxious, Audi-driving yuppie faces off with a brutish, jalopy- driving hothead on a remote stretch of road.After getting his car towed from an unmarked parking spot and missing his daughter’s birthday, an explosives engineer turns to extreme measures when he’s rebuffed by the Kafka-esque bureaucracy that refuses to hear his objection. A wealthy plutocrat tries to negotiate a scheme to keep his son out of prison after a fatal car accident, while corrupt lawyers and lawmen try to take advantage of his desperation. In the film’s horrifyingly funny finale, an exuberant wedding celebration spirals out of control after the bride learns her dashing new husband cheated on her with one of their guests, culminating in a blood-soaked dress, shards of broken glass, and an overturned wedding cake.A critical favorite at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Palme d’Or, “Wild Tales” became Argentina’s biggest indigenous domestic hit of all time, seen by more than 3.5 million people since its premiere in August.While he’s mostly unknown in the United States, Szifron, 39, created the Argentine cult hit “The Pretenders” in the early 2000s. He went on to write and direct two well-received films — “The Bottom of the Sea,” about a guy stalking his girlfriend’s lover, and “On Probation,” a buddy action film featuring a cop and a psychiatrist.But after creating the 2006 television series “Hermanos and Detectives,” Szifron decided to take a break and concentrate exclusively on writing. He penned several film scripts, including a romantic comedy, an ambitious science-fiction film, and a Western. But he was most excited about a series of short yet potent vignettes he began working on, which he realized were united by the themes of vengeance, liberation, and fighting back against injustice. The process was freeing, and he thought of anthology series like “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Twilight Zone.” The result was “Wild Tales.”“I felt like a musician or a painter that can create one track or one painting one day, and then next day they are free to do another one,” he said.The film nods to Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” Steven Spielberg’s “Duel,” the Michael Douglas crime drama “Falling Down,” and the genre-shifting melodramas of Pedro Almodovar. The look and feel of each vignette is slightly different, but each one is marked by shifting tones, with outrageous comedy and savage black humor sliding up against nerve-jangling suspense and Tarantino-style action.He cites the road rage episode as an example. It’s a social commentary about the class system, but it also blends genres and tones.“When I was directing that one, I discovered that I was talking to the actors as if they were in a Michael Haneke film. Everything was very dark and oppressive,” he recalls. “But I was directing the rest of the crew as if we were making a Road Runner episode with Wile E. Coyote.”With its skewering of government and corporate corruption and bureaucratic malfeasance, the film has been viewed by some as a critique of Argentine culture and society. But those themes have a universal resonance, Szi fron says, in a world where power is concentrated in the hands of a small group of wealthy and powerful individuals.“The film is subversive because it’s showing this abuse of power. But I didn’t decide to make the film as a critique. Of course I have a critical view of the system,” he said. “But the themes that are underlying each one of these stories are very primal in a way — man versus a system that’s designed against him, not to facilitate life, but to take things out of you. So I think I could tell that story in any other country and in any other period of time.”Still, mordant black humor is never far away.“The stories don’t begin as comedies, they begin as dramas. The humor is a consequence of what these characters feel in a very dramatic situation. This bride who discovers during her own wedding that her husband is cheating on her, that’s a very dramatic beginning,” he says. “But this girl, she loses it, she explodes, and I think we all enjoy watching that tour de force. She is liberating a huge amount of energy, and that’s funny, because she is reacting toward something that is unjust.”
buenísima escritora y analista!!!
1. ALBERTO NISMAN DEATH: EX-WIFE CRITICIZES PROBE, CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION TO TAKE OVER (International Business Time)1. ALBERTO NISMAN DEATH: EX-WIFE CRITICIZES PROBE, CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION TO TAKE OVER (International Business Time)By Aditya TejasFebruary 13 2015The ex-wife of Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor who died under mysterious circumstances after accusing President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of covering up a 1994 bombing, voiced criticism of the probe on Thursday. Nisman was found dead in his apartment in what was ruled a suicide.Sandra Arroyo Salgado, the prosecutor’s former wife, speaking at a congressional session organized by opposition groups, said the probe had become too politicized and is leaking too much information, calling for the case to be referred to an international commission, Deutsche Welle reported.“Let’s let justice take its course, don’t continue politicizing a case in which so much is still unresolved,” she said. “In my own name and that of my daughters, I ask the national public defenders’ office to consider … the possibility of taking the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.”Nisman, who was investigating Argentina’s response to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center, was probing whether Iran’s alleged involvement in the deal was covered up in exchange for favorable oil deals. He died one day before he was due to testify on the matter.Argentine investigators say they’ve unearthed a draft of a warrant seeking the president’s arrest.Investigators initially said the death was a suicide, before announcing later they were considering the possibility of a homicide. Nisman was reportedly found shot in the head with a pistol in his hand. Authorities say there was no sign of a struggle or intruders, ProPublica reported.After Nisman’s death, Kirchner disbanded the intelligence service and announced plans to reform it with a new agency. She also said she was certain Nisman’s death was not a suicide, but that he was murdered by a conspiracy of former intelligence agents in order to discredit her, Reuters reported.The other official implicated by the warrant is Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, who denied allegations that he discussed the possibility of absolving suspects in talks with Tehran. “I don’t have to prove my history. It is there for you to look at. I don’t need to prove that I support the defense of human rights. The same with my government. So it is ridiculous to think I put forward a deal, an economic deal, to forget about the case,” he told The Washington Post in an interview on Tuesday.The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is a human rights monitoring and advocacy group. It has previously investigated several high-profile incidents in the area, including a series of murders in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and the suppression of democracy in Venezuela.By Hugh Bronstein12 February 2015BUENOS AIRES, Feb 12 (Reuters) – A former inmate of the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay traveled from his new home in Uruguay to neighboring Argentina in recent days on a mission to lobby the government to provide refuge to inmates still imprisoned in Cuba.Jihad Diyab, one of six detainees released in December and resettled in the tiny South American country of Uruguay, told Argentine radio and other media he had come on behalf of prisoners who remain at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.“I will never forget my friends who are still there, and that’s why I’ve come here, to struggle for justice,” Diyab said on Argentine station Radio Madre.“The government of Argentina could accept prisoners from Guantanamo for humanitarian reasons,” the Syrian national added.He did not say how long he would be in the country or who he would be meeting with. Argentina’s interior and foreign ministries declined comment. Diyab’s lawyer, Cori Crider of international rights group Reprieve, had no immediate comment.While jailed, Diyab mounted a legal challenge against the U.S. military’s force-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantanamo.He and five other former Guantanamo prisoners were flown to Uruguay in early December. The Uruguayan government said the six would be treated as “totally free men.”Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said at the time the men – four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian – could leave whenever they wanted or stay as long as they pleased.President Barack Obama’s administration has sped up transfer of Guantanamo detainees in recent months but its efforts to shut the prison have been blocked by lawmakers who think the inmates pose a threat.Obama promised to shut the detention facility, used to imprison people captured after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, when he first took office six years ago.By Larry Rohter15 February 2015As the Argentine film director and screenwriter Damián Szifrón sees it, “what separates civilization from barbarism” is “a complex battery of social inhibitors” that prevent us from retaliating with violence to the many slights and aggravations of daily life. But that’s definitely not the case with the characters he created for his dark and sometimes surrealistic comedy “Wild Tales,” which has been nominated for the Oscar for best foreign-language film and opens Feb. 20.“Wild Tales” — the Spanish-language title is closer to “Savage Tales,” and the opening credits unfurl against a backdrop of tigers, sharks, wolves and other predators in their habitats — consists of six episodes, each with a different cast but all about revenge for offenses real or imagined: Two men on a deserted highway, one in an Audi, the other in a jalopy, are gripped by a bout of what Mr. Szifrón described as “road rage to the fifth degree.” A bride realizes at her wedding that her new husband has been cheating on her. On a stormy night, a waitress at a diner recognizes a customer as the sleazy developer who foreclosed on her family’s home.“What differentiates us from animals is our capacity to restrain ourselves,” Mr. Szifrón, 39, said in an interview last month while on the Oscar campaign trail in New York. “An animal can’t, and is condemned to its instincts. In contrast, we have a fight or flee mechanism, but it comes with a very high cost. Most of us live with the frustration of having to repress oneself, but some people explode. This is a movie about those who explode, and we can all understand why they do. Any time I read about someone who has committed a supposedly irrational or barbarous act, that person doesn’t feel foreign to me.”Indeed, Mr. Szifrón said that the writing of the script, which came in short bursts as he was working on other projects he still intends to film, offered a “cathartic release” for incidents in which he felt aggrieved. And when the script was sent to the actor Ricardo Darín and others who eventually signed on, they felt the same.Mr. Darín, who played the lead in “The Secret in Their Eyes,” which won the foreign-language Oscar in 2010, is probably Argentina’s most popular actor. He was offered a choice of roles but opted for that of Simón Fischer, a demolitions engineer who finds his car towed from an unmarked parking spot in front of the bakery where he has just bought a cake for his daughter’s birthday party.What especially attracted him, Mr. Darín said with a chuckle during a telephone interview from Argentina, was a sentence, “sensible but naïve,” that Mr. Szifrón had written for his character: “Where is the office where they offer an apology after they make a mistake?” That lament comes after the engineer’s proclamations of innocence are mockingly rebuffed by a city employee, a response that precipitates an eruption of anger.“This was my chance to show my disagreement with the bureaucratic labyrinth that tramples on citizens’ rights,” Mr. Darín added. “I’ve been in similar situations myself two or three times, and they always want you to pay first and ask questions later, when I think it should be the other way around.” Though he understands his character’s need to take a stand, “I disapprove of Simón Fischer’s actions.”The six stories vary in style and build in intensity, but “they are vital organs of the same body” Mr. Szifrón said, and “to sustain itself, the movie needed all of them.” Thus the episode featuring Mr. Darín is followed by one in which a rich family tries to cover up a fatal hit-and-run accident with the help of their lawyer and corrupt authorities, and that in turn gives way to a final story in which, Mr. Szifrón said, “we go to the most ancestral and basic conflict there is, the relationship between a man and a woman” and witness a wedding reception that turns into a catastrophe.“When I first read the script, I thought, What a delight it is going to be to play this,” said Érica Rivas, who was cast as the hapless bride, Romina. “I’m not the jealous type the way Romina is, so that was a challenge. But to be able to wreck a wedding, that’s a feat, and something really fun to do, something I’ve wanted to do many times in real life.”In fact, Romina goes on an epic rampage. Agustín Almodóvar, a producer of the movie along with his brother, the Oscar-winning director Pedro Almodóvar, described Ms. Rivas’s volcanic performance as “a revelation,” sure to open doors for her internationally.“We hadn’t seen any of her work before, but she is an actress very much in the Almodóvar style,” he said. “She somehow manages to combine tragedy with a subtext of comedy and irony, transmitting sentiments that are incompatible, and Pedro and I adore that.” He added, “You see her and the other characters acting unconstrainedly, without the slightest social or cultural shackles on their behavior, and it all makes for a great spectacle.”In Latin America and Europe, numerous critics have described “Wild Tales” as a kind of “Characters on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” playing off the title of Pedro Almodóvar’s breakout 1988 hit. Agustín Almodóvar said that he and his brother felt the comparison was apt.“We know that Damián wrote his script not thinking that we would be producers, but when we read it, we immediately saw the linkages,” he said. “It was a script right on the edge, very daring, transgressive, and with a fragmented narrative. So of course it appealed to us.”In Argentina, “Wild Tales” has become both the country’s all-time box office champion and a genuine social phenomenon that has made folk heroes of some characters. Several lines, including the one that captivated Mr. Darín and some spoken by Ms. Rivas, have become catchphrases: To say “I am Bombita,” Simón’s nickname, has acquired a meaning similar to “going postal” in the United States.Ms. Rivas, who was already known to Argentine audiences from her role in a local version of “Married with Children,” said that “people come and embrace me on the street, or beep their car horns at me.” Pulling out their smartphones, “some of them even ask me to recite specific lines of dialogue from the film,” including one spoken to the wedding’s videographer as Romina surveys the havoc she has wrought: “Film this for me, Nestor!”Born in the suburbs of Buenos Aires into a Jewish immigrant family with roots in Poland and Russia, Mr. Szifrón was a cinephile as a boy. His father dealt in electronic equipment, and his son early on acquired a VHS player and a digital camera. As a result, Mr. Szifrón said, “I saw all the classics at a very early age.” He began making his own shorts at the age of 9, and before “Wild Tales,” he had written and directed two movies and a pair of television series that were hits in Latin America.“Wild Tales” contains echoes of some of his childhood favorites, among them Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma, as well as “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” But in the end, the movie is a very personal distillation of “themes that are in the collective unconscious,” Mr. Szifrón said.“There are a lot of different things from daily life being processed and given free rein in ‘Wild Tales,’ violence and vengeance among them,” he continued. “But at its core, what stands out is this pleasure of losing control and the desire for liberation. This is a movie about the desire for freedom, and how this lack of freedom, and the rage and anguish it produces, can cause us to run off the rails.”February 13, 2015Ten-year-old Cloe Barrios spent a year saving for an iPod, a struggle shared by many Argentine youth scrambling to keep up with technology despite economic woes that make such gadgets exorbitantly pricey.The third-largest economy in Latin America, Argentina was one of the most plugged-in countries in the 1990s.But its high inflation, devalued currency and exchange controls have produced infrastructure failures and a dearth of technological gadgetry today.Cloe, who bought her iPod with help from her mother and an aunt in France, is one of her generation’s lucky ones, possessing a “toy” with the coveted Apple label.“There are only four of us in the class who have iPods,” she told AFP. “Six have cell phones and one has an iPhone but only because their mom lends it,” she said of her class of 28.Her particular iPod came from Chile, the Latin American country where technology is most readily available today.Workers in Argentina, which still has no 4G network, must earn far more than people in the region’s other countries—except for Venezuela—to be able to buy the same technological products, according to Marco Marketing Consultants.A notebook computer costs 2.2 times the average monthly salary in Argentina, while in Chile it costs 0.96 times below the average.The consulting firm’s report, published at the end of 2014, argued that “the difference between the average wages needed in Argentina and Chile to buy an average notebook computer is 129 percent. But if high-end notebooks are compared, the gap rises to 166 percent.”“This means that for mid-range products, the comparative situation in Argentina is better, if still poor.”‘Everyone reads newspapers’While Cloe attends public school, Candelaria Zapata lives in the upper-middle-class Buenos Aires neighborhood of Palermo and goes to private school.She loves her cell phone: “It’s my best chum, it takes my selfies, supplies my music videos and connects me,” the 11-year-old said.Although Argentina’s middle and upper classes often complain that it’s “a shame” that there is not a larger supply of Apple products, a fetish among the country’s youth, Candelaria does not stress.She boasts of having a Samsung “that was made in Tierra del Fuego,” the archipelago at the southern tip of South America, where the South Korean tech giant was drawn by generous tax breaks.iPhones are not sold in Argentina.Stores authorized by Apple can sell other products from the company at prices tied to the dollar, with an exchange rate of 8.60 Argentine pesos to the dollar—or anywhere from 12-13.60 pesos per greenback on the black market.That makes Apple products an expensive purchase even for a middle-class American.An iPad is 12,599 pesos or $1,465, compared to $499 in New York or Miami.The most basic MacBook Air—which costs $999 in Chile, Mexico and the United States—costs $2,813 (24,199 pesos) in Buenos Aires.“This explains why everyone reads printed newspapers, that’s what impressed me the most when I came to Argentina,” Mike Snow, an American who arrived in the country last April, told AFP.‘Connect Equality’Since 2010, the government has delivered 4.7 million netbooks under its Connect Equality plan, which made the country the leader in computer distribution in public schools.But a lack of teacher training and the technological smartphone gap are still big issues.Argentine technology analyst Enrique Carrier told AFP the plan was “very valuable at a national level, because in some ways it’s giving a first tool that will help people understand network access, especially in distant areas.”But he acknowledged that smartphones are the tool to bridge the digital divide.In Argentina, a country of 42 million people where 47.5 percent of households have Internet access, “everyone buys a multifunctional cell phone, and most have access to social networks,” according to consulting firm Infolatam, using data from the World Bank.As Candelaria’s mother put it: “Here we are like Cubans. We may lack things, but we always manage.”
Argentina has an important history to share with the world.
Senators call to release drone memos
“If this trend continues for another six years our country would become a colony and we would become slaves,” writes Sirisena in his election manifesto.
1. ARGENTINE OFFICIAL: U.S. NOT NEEDED IN PROBE (The Washington Post)By Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger11 February 2015The foreign minister of Argentina, caught in the middle of a scandal in which he and his government are accused of brokering an illegal deal to cover up Iran’s alleged role in a deadly terrorist attack, said this week in a rare interview that the charges were “ridiculous.”Moreover, Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman said, he has no knowledge of what happened to the prosecutor found shot to death the night before he was to present allegations of the secret deal to lawmakers. And the foreign minister expressed deep reservations about the possibility of U.S. assistance in determining how prosecutor Alberto Nisman died – despite calls by some Argentine and U.S. legislators for the FBI to help investigate and an offer of help from the U.S. government.“There are some problems in the United States that the FBI cannot solve,” Timerman told The Washington Post in a telephone interview from Buenos Aires. “I don’t know why they think the FBI can solve problems all over the world.”Timerman made his comments during one of his first lengthy interviews on the topic amid the controversy that has plunged Argentina into turmoil. A State Department official said the U.S. government had offered to assist Argentine authorities in their investigation of the prosecutor’s death, though Timerman said he was not aware of the offer.Nisman was killed with a bullet to the right temple hours before he planned to lay out his findings alleging that Timerman, acting on behalf of President Cristina Fernà¡ndez de Kirchner, had agreed to absolve Iran of involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center that killed 85 people. In exchange, Nisman was to allege, Argentina would sell grain to Iran and Iran would sell oil to Argentina as part of a broadening commercial relationship between the two countries.Ever since Nisman’s body was found on Jan. 18, Argentina has been seized by speculation. Did Nisman commit suicide or was he murdered and, if so, by whom?Last week, Argentine officials confirmed that draft criminal indictments for both Fernà¡ndez and Timerman had been found in the trash at Nisman’s apartment after his death.Speaking with The Post on Monday, Timerman, a Jew whose father was a crusading journalist jailed by the regime governing Argentina in the 1970s, spoke in personal terms to reject the core of Nisman’s allegations. He said he would not have sought any deal to cover up Iran’s role in the bombing of the center, which remains a Jewish landmark in the country.“I will not throw out of the window my history, the history of my family, the history of my government, the history of my friends who were killed during the dictatorship. I will not do that,” he said. “For what? To get what? Oil?”Nisman, who had led the investigation into the bombing since 2004, had concluded that Iran masterminded the attack in cooperation with the Lebanese-based Hezbollah militia.In 2007, at Nisman’s urging, the international police agency Interpol issued “red notices,” international arrest warrants, for Iranian suspects.Before his death, Nisman was preparing to allege that Fernà¡ndez and Timerman had secretly agreed to seek the withdrawal of the red notices as part of a publicly announced 2013 deal with Iran to establish a joint judicial panel between Argentina and Iran to interview suspects.Timerman vigorously disputed the claim, saying he opposes the idea personally and philosophically and had no legal authority to make such a request. He noted that the head of Interpol has publicly rejected the claim and said no Argentine official sought the withdrawal of the arrest warrants. The 2013 deal, Timerman said, was intended to provide a way to move the case forward given that Iranian law prohibits extradition and Argentine law does not allow for suspects to be tried in absentia.“That is why we decided it might be a possibility, maybe, to convince the Iranians, the government of Iran to allow the judge to go to Tehran to investigate suspects,” he said.He said the goal was to find a legal process to allow the case to proceed.“We are not going to put a bomb under the car of an Iranian,” he said – a veiled reference to the 2008 car bombing that killed Imad Mughniyah, the Hezbollah leader who was one of those Nisman had sought to charge in the Jewish center bombing. The Post recently reported that he was killed in a joint operation between Israel’s Mossad and the CIA.“The only thing in which Argentinians believe is in the judicial system,” Timerman said.Fernàndez, a colorful and controversial president, at first said she believed Nisman had committed suicide. Later, she said he had been murdered by elements of the Argentine intelligence community in an effort to discredit her government.Timerman declined to repeat those allegations. He said neither he nor Fernà¡ndez stood to gain from the death, which prevented Nisman from appearing before Argentina’s National Congress, where tough questions might have been lodged about his claims.“Who gained by having Mr. Nisman dead?” he asked. “Not me. Not the president.”2. LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ARGENTINA SEEKS ONLY JUSTICE (The Washington Post) by the Argentine Ambassador to the U.S.By Cecilia Nahon11 February 2015The Jan. 25 editorial “An Argentine mystery,” about the tragic death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, contained grave accusations against top Argentine officials based on unfounded speculation, not facts.Any claim that this government was involved in covering up the terrorist attack against the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) is baseless. The fight against international terrorism and impunity has been a pillar of the governments of President Cristina Fernà¡ndez de Kirchner and former president Néstor Kirchner. Their dedication to bringing truth and justice to the AMIA attack is unprecedented.The goal of the judicial cooperation agreement signed with Iran was to allow the Argentine judge to question the accused in Tehran.Ronald Noble, Interpol’s former secretary general, wrote to Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman: “in connection to the AMIA case, you stated that Interpol should keep the Red Notices in force. Your position and that of the Argentinean government was consistent and unwavering.”The facts contradict the alleged oil-for-grain plot: Argentina does not import Iranian oil (Argentine refineries cannot process it because of its sulfur content), while its exports to Iran are insignificant and managed by the private sector.In 2013, Argentina requested that the United States include the AMIA case in its renewed dialogue with Iran. Regarding the call for an independent probe, the investigations are conducted by Argentina’s independent judicial system with full cooperation from the executive branch. Beyond the families affected, no one stands to benefit more from truth and justice than the government and the people of Argentina.The writer is the Argentine ambassador to the United States.By Jonathan Gilbert11 February 2015BUENOS AIRES — The judge overseeing an investigation into the mysterious death of a federal prosecutor here last month has asked forensic experts to identify DNA traces found at his home, it was revealed on Tuesday.The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was found dead of a gunshot wound last month at his apartment, hours before he was expected to talk to lawmakers about his accusations that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had conspired to derail his investigation into the fatal bombing of a Jewish community center here in 1994.In the case, which has convulsed Argentina, it is unclear whether Mr. Nisman committed suicide or was killed. Judge Fabiana Palmaghini said the DNA did not belong to Mr. Nisman. The traces were found on a coffee cup in the kitchen sink, according to local news reports.Diego Lagomarsino, an aide to Mr. Nisman, says he made himself coffee when he visited the prosecutor the day before he was found dead to take him a .22-caliber Bersa pistol. Mr. Lagomarsino, who is charged with lending Mr. Nisman the pistol, which fired the bullet that killed him, says Mr. Nisman had sought a weapon for protection. Until now, only Mr. Nisman’s DNA traces had been found on items taken from his apartment for laboratory tests.Local news media reported that tests found no gunpowder residue on Mr. Nisman’s hands, corroborating previous results. But ballistics experts say the Bersa pistol might not have left residue.4. LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ARGENTINA UPHOLDS VALUES OF PEACE, TRUTH AND JUSTICE (Financial Times) by the Argentine Ambassador to the U.K.February 9, 2015Sir, I have to disagree with John Paul Rathbone’s article “A democracy dented by mysterious murder” (Comment, February 6). Prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s tragic death, which is under judicial investigation, neither dents nor puts Argentina’s democracy at risk.As Argentines we have lived for many years under cruel military dictatorships — many of them supported by foreign powers — and we are well aware of the value of democracy. For the first time in Argentina’s history we have enjoyed 30 years of continuous democracy. Our democracy is young but not fragile.Mr Rathbone also states that “no Argentine” believes the case will be solved. This is a gross generalisation. As Mr Rathbone rightly points out, Argentina’s judiciary is independent. Our judicial system boasts a well established reputation for delivering justice in complex cases. A good example of this is the investigation and condemnation of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the last military junta. Argentina’s model of transitional justice has been recognised as an example by the international community, as has our government’s human rights policy.Mr Rathbone’s assertion that there is “a conspiracy” involving the Argentine state to prevent the case from being solved is entirely false: President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has taken all necessary steps to facilitate the judicial investigation, among them, the opening of all classified intelligence files possibly related to this investigation.To describe Argentina as a “flawed democracy” or a “rogue state” is a most groundless and offensive accusation. Our country is a dynamic and progressive democracy, as are all the democracies in our region, united in upholding the values of peace, truth and justice.Alicia CastroAmbassador of Argentina to the UKBy Eliana Raszewski10 February 2015BUENOS AIRES, Feb 10 (Reuters) – Argentina has failed to pay interest to holders of defaulted debt who agreed last year to receive payment locally instead of abroad in order to sidestep U.S. court rulings, an investor association said.The South American country tipped back into default in July after refusing to settle with a small group of U.S. hedge funds that were awarded full payment by a New York court on junk debt left over from Argentina’s 2002 default.Argentina responded in September by approving legislation to allow bondholders to receive interest payments via a state-run Argentine bank, in defiance of the U.S. court’s orders. The government said the move would fix the default.“We have bondholders in our group who entered into the restructuring and who have not been able to collect their coupon payments,” Horacio Vazquez, head of the Association of Victims of the Pesification and Default, told Reuters.The Argentine bank appointed to process the payments, Nacion Fideicomisos, did not reply to multiple phone calls and emails from Reuters seeking details. Officials at the Economy Ministry declined to comment when asked if any payments had been successfully completed.Experts had cautioned the debt payment initiative was fraught with massive legal and logistical hurdles. .On Tuesday, Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said the government would not cave in to the demands of the U.S. investors, which it denigrates as “vultures”.“What they’re demanding can’t be paid. You can’t mortgage the country like that,” Kicillof told Radio del Plata. “That’s not going to happen again, at least not under this government.”U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa has ordered Argentina pay the so-called “holdout” funds $1.33 billion – equivalent to 100 cents on the dollar – plus accrued interest.But the cash-strapped government is adamant it won’t better the terms of bond swaps in 2005 and 2010, which saw investors accept huge writedowns. The holdouts have scoffed at the offer.“While Mr. Kicillof ‘fiddles’ with political gamesmanship, the holdout debt grows by about $500 million per year, borrowing costs throughout the country are greatly elevated, and the economy spirals into recession,” said Mark Brodsky, chairman of Aurelius Capital Management, one of two funds spearheading the legal battle in New York.By Charlie DevereuxFebruary 10, 2015(Bloomberg) — Argentina won’t meet the demands of a group of holdouts from its 2001 default that won a New York court ruling ordering the South American nation to pay them in full, Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said today.The group of litigants led by billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management are “obstinate” and only offered Argentina a 15 percent discount on the $1.6 billion a New York-based judge ruled they are owed, Kicillof said today in a radio interview. Settling at those terms would trigger further demands from other holdouts, meaning Argentina could have to pay as much as $20 billion.“We can’t mortgage the country like they did in the ’90s which ended in the biggest bankruptcy in Argentine history,” Kicillof said on Radio Del Plata. “The president has said ‘not with this president’ and I agree with her.”U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa has been blocking interest payments to holders of restructured bonds issued under foreign law since July when President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner refused to comply with his ruling. Kicillof said the legal conflict and default isn’t impairing access to financing.Still, with presidential elections scheduled for Oct. 25 and Fernandez unable to run for re-election, investors have held on to government bonds on the expectation the next administration will resolve the conflict. Restructured bonds due 2033, which are in default, are trading at 92.75 cents on the dollar, above the 83-cent average over the past year.A currency swap of $11 billion and long-term loans for infrastructure projects with China have given the country financial stability in spite of “apocalyptic” predictions made by the holdouts to spook Fernandez into paying, Kicillof said.‘Rotten Fish’“They are throwing rotten fish to see if the president or the minister or someone gets spooked and pays the millions they are demanding, which isn’t going to work,” Kicillof said. “We have long-term credit that we’re going to use to build houses, to build wind parks, to build reservoirs, ports and roads.”Mark Brodsky, chairman of Aurelius Capital Management, a hedge fund involved in the litigation against Argentina, said in a statement today that the government’s unwillingness to cooperate with the holdouts is putting the economy at risk.“Like the Roman Emperor Nero and his fiddling, Mr. Kicillof seems so preoccupied with speech-making that he makes no effort to prevent a serious problem from getting much worse,” Brodsky said in an e-mail. “While Mr. Kicillof ‘fiddles’ with political gamesmanship, the hold-out debt grows by about $500 million per year, borrowing costs throughout the country are greatly elevated, and the economy spirals into recession.”By Charles Newbery10 February 2015Buenos Aires (Platts)–10Feb2015/1044 am EST/1544 GMT Argentina’s natural gas imports rose 28% to 24.8 million cubic meters/d in December, compared with 19.4 million cu m/d in the same month of 2013, while crude imports fell to zero over the same period, the Energy Secretariat said Tuesday.The imported gas supplies, which accounted for one-fifth of the 126 million cu m/d average consumption, were up from 20.9 million cu m/d in November, the Energy Secretariat said in a monthly data report.Argentina, which relies on gas to meet half of its energy needs, imports supplies by pipeline from Bolivia and LNG from global suppliers.Bolivian gas imports fell to 15.1 million cu m/d in December from 15.2 million cu m/d in December 2013, and were up compared with 14.2 million cu m/d in November.LNG imports rose to 9.7 million cu m/d in December from 4.2 million cu m/d in the year-earlier period and 6.7 million cu m/d in November.Argentina has been boosting gas imports as domestic production declines after a decade of limited exploration, maturing reserves and few finds. Gas production dropped 20% to an average of 114 million cu m/d in 2014 from a record 143.1 million cu m/d in 2004, Energy Secretariat data shows.Consumption surged 33% to an average of 126 million cu m/d in 2014 from 2013 on a growing economy and price controls that have made gas the cheapest source of energy in the country, according to the national statistics agency Indec.Argentina plans to ramp up Bolivian gas imports to 27.7 million cu m/d in 2017 as more pipeline capacity comes online.LIQUID IMPORTSThe Energy Secretariat said no crude was imported in December, compared with 6,712 b/d in the year-earlier period and 4,992 b/d in November.Argentina had not imported crude for years until 2012, when it had to turn to overseas suppliers to make up for dwindling domestic production, in particular during times of higher demand in the May to September cold season and the December to February crop harvest period and summer holidays. Crude production fell 37% to 532,000 b/d in 2014 from a record 847,000 b/d in 1998, according to the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute, an industry group.Refinor, a smaller refiner in the north of the country, handled the crude imports in all of the periods.Diesel imports rose to an average of 30,738 b/d in December compared with 21,135 b/d in November, while those of gasoline rose to 2,232 b/d in December compared with zero in November, according to the report. The secretariat did not provide year-on-year comparisons for these products.