President Alberto Fernandez has used his final address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday to take aim at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), calling on the multilateral lender to stop inflicting surcharges on indebted countries.
In his fourth address to the gathering of world leaders, the Peronist leader described the IMF practice as “shameful” and said he wanted it reviewed.
“It is shameful that the IMF applies surcharges on rates to many countries, to which it becomes unbearable to carry the backpack of foreign debt,” said Fernández, whose mandate ends on December 10 and has chosen not to seek re-election.
Argentina took out a huge US$57-billion IMF loan in 2018, under the government of Mauricio Macri (2015-2019), but upon taking office President Fernandez waived the outstanding disbursements and renegotiated the accord in 2021 for US$44 billion.
According to calculations by the Economy Ministry, the basic rate of 4.033 percent applied by the IMF has risen to 8.033 percent for Argentina, due to various penalties and financial surcharges.
“They finance Ukraine in the middle of the war while they apply surcharges to the interests they charge,” criticised the president, who called for “a new framework for the treatment of sovereign debts that has development with social justice as its aim.”
Fernández concluded: “Experience shows that when a people is asphyxiated with the eternal sentence of indebtedness, its strength fades, social crises increase and debts become uncollectible.”
On the other hand, Fernández once again urged Iran to “cooperate in order to advance in the investigation” of the 1994 terrorist attack on the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, which left 85 dead and 300 wounded.
Argentina’s justice system has allegations levelled against Iranian leaders, but has been unable to interrogate and question them.
Fernández also urged the United States to end “the inadmissible” economic blockade of Cuba and “the sanctions” applied to Venezuela and its government. Argentina “firmly opposes the use of unilateral measures of coercion and the adoption of discriminatory trade practices,” he declared.
“The perpetuation of the blockade against Cuba is inadmissible”, said Fernández, who last Saturday was in Havana to meet with Cuban leader Miguel Díaz Canel.
Finally, President Fernández reiterated Argentina’s sovereign claim over the disputed Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, calling on Britain to return to the negotiating table.
The Peronist leader repeated that the islands are “part of Argentine territory”, but “are illegally occupied by the United Kingdom.” Before world leaders, he observed that London “refuses to abide by a 1965 UN resolution to enter into sovereignty negotiations.”
He concluded: “We question the continued development of unilateral activities of exploration and exploitation of natural resources in the disputed area, thus contradicting Resolution 31/49 of this Assembly, as well as the military presence in the South Atlantic.”
“Argentina maintains a firm commitment to the peaceful solution of this anachronistic colonial situation,” he told the audience.
While in the United States, Fernández met with UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Susan Segal, the president of the Council of the Americas, and with US businessmen at the headquarters of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA).
During the meeting with Segal, it was reported that “issues related to export potential and investment opportunities offered by Argentina in various economic sectors were discussed.”
The president also attended a closed session of leaders from the European Union, the CELAC regional bloc and the African Union.
Perhaps his highest-profile talks, however, were held with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the US Democratic congresswoman who recently alleged that US investor Paul Singer – the leader of the so-called ‘vulture funds’ that staged a decade-long legal battle with Argentina in the courts – had gifted a luxury holiday to US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who later ruled in Singer’s favour against Argentina.
“She told all the information she had, she said that she is following the issue because it is a situation that is very close to her heart, she is the daughter of a Puerto Rican, her mother and sister still live there. And the situation of the vulture funds that have taken over the management of the economy in Puerto Rico is quite paradigmatic,” government sources told Noticias Argentinas.
“They are still investigating, it is the first time that there have been such strong allegations of corruption in the United States [Supreme]Court and that makes it difficult to know how to deal with the issue,” they added.
President Fernández’s team agreed to remain in touch with Ocasio-Cortez, whose observations were also highlighted by Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.