Political theatre in Argentina is reaching a fever pitch, and you need only check out this picture of American Judge Thomas Griesa’s head on the body of a vulture to get a sense of how intense things are getting. (Via Shane Ferro)
The poster says “Griesa wants your house, your job and your food.”
You’ll also note that in the bottom left corner there’s a picture of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, embracing her husband late-President Nestor Kirchner. Behind them is the image of former First Lady, Evita Peron.
This is just one example of Argentina’s mass display of discontent with the way a roughly decade-long lawsuit is shaking out. Eight thousand Argentines flooded the streets on Tuesday, joining their government in protesting Judge Griesa’s order that the country pay a group of hedge funds over $US1.3 billion worth of sovereign debt.
The hedge funds, led by Elliott Management’s Paul Singer, bought this debt for pennies after Argentina’s last default in 2001. Since then they have insisted on claiming 100 cents on the dollar for their investment, while over 90% of investors have accepted haircuts of up to 70%.
To get their money, Singer and his fellow holdout creditors took Argentina to Court and won.
So on July 30th, Argentina was supposed to pay the holdouts, as well as the other investors who took haircuts. Argentina did not. The country was declared in default.
Since then, Argentina has told anyone and everyone that it is not, in fact, in default. The Republic’s politicians insist that because the country sent money to all the other bondholders aside from the holdouts — money that still sits in the country’s custodial bank, Bank of New York Mellon — they have fulfilled their obligations.
Argentina even took out full page ads in the New York Times and other publications explaining this position. For that, Judge Griesa threatened to issue an order saying the country was in contempt of the Court on Friday.
But Argentina did not care.
“The proper conditions do not exist to negotiate,” Capitanich told reporters in Buenos Aires on Wednesday. “His lack of decision clearly comes from not understanding the process, not understanding Argentina’s status as a sovereign country.”‘
The process, however, is not Argentina’s to decide either. That power is in the hands of the ISDA — the International Swaps Derivatives Association. The ISDA also took some time deliberating whether or not Argentina was in default after June 30th, but on Wednesday it decided to support that declaration.
ISDA is now calling for an auction of Argentine credit default swaps on August 21st.
Meanwhile, Singer and the holdouts are still going after Argentina’s money wherever it may be around the world. Their most recent attempt to uncover some cash has resulted in a small victory.
A Nevada Judge has granted the holdouts discovery into 123 shell companies held by an Argentine business man by the name of Lazaro Baez. Baez is accused of launder $71 million for the Argentine government.
“If Baez is convicted of embezzlement, any funds traceable to the embezzlement scheme would be property of Argentina available to satisfy NML’s judgements against Argentina,” the hedge fund said in its April 1 request.
That’s not the whole billion, but it’s something — and it will certainly cause some headaches in Buenos Aires.
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