Argentina's President Is Making Great Political theatre Out Of Paul Singer Seizing The Country's Naval Ship

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is turning her feud with hedge fund manager Paul Singer into a political rallying cry in Argentina.

The President has refused to pay Singer’s firm Elliott Management the $1.3 billion it owes the fund after it defaulted in 2010.  de Kirchner says it’s because Singer was given multiple chances (in 2005 and 2010) to restructure, like other hedge funds did, and take a haircut to recoup at least a portion of their losses.

Singer, needless to say, did not. Instead, he decided to capture one of Argentina’s naval vessels as collateral, and got Ghana to give him an order to detain the ARA Libertad last month.

And last week, a Manhattan Judge granted Singer a stay that requires Argentina to pay non-restructuring hedge funds every time it has to pay hedge funds that did agree to debt deals. Their next payment is next month.

None of this has given President de Kirchner pause, though. She’s turned this issue into a rallying cry, calling hedge fund’s like Singer’s “vulture funds” and talking about it in speeches around the country.

During a visit to a laminate plant, de Kirchener told press that it was a lie that “vulture funds” were investors in the country’s economy, Argentina’s Terra News reports.

The gist: Millions of Argentinians would not go hungry to pay debts only to be exploited again by recalcitrant financiers, she said. 

She also read an excerpt from a speech her late husband, former President Nestor de Kirchner, made to the Argentine legislative branch about so-called vulture funds in 2004. 

It said that the country would not sacrifice education and the well-being of its people to pay hedge funds. It would continue to go through negotiating processes to avoid default without putting it’s own coffers at risk.

The whole speech ends with this major quote:

“Sabemos que nos pondrán obstáculos que deberemos superar. Pero sabemos el inmenso apoyo que nuestra defensa de los intereses nacionales tiene en la gran mayoría de nuestro pueblo. No vamos a aflojar”.

In English: 

We know that they will put obstacles in front of us that we must overcome. But we also know the immense support the majority of our country will give to the defence of our national interests. We will not waver on this.

The entire country went into deep mourning when Nestor de Kirchner passed away in the fall of 2010, many used iconic imagery of revered (by some) former leaders Juan and Eva Peron to show their solidarity with then-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

So bottom line, bringing Nestor’s memory into it makes it a serious political matter.

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