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forest444

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Member since: Tue Dec 30, 2014, 06:11 PM
Number of posts: 5,902

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Argentine Congress passes holdout payment bill; U.S. Appeals Court still an obstacle.

The Macri administration celebrated its first major Congressional victory last night as the Argentine Senate approved its holdout payment bill with significant support from the Victory Front (FpV). The bill passed by 54 votes to 16, with 26 of the aye votes coming from the center-left FpV.

The Lower House of Congress green lighted an amended bill two weeks ago by a margin of 165 votes to 86. Passage in the Senate thus leaves the legislation ready for President Mauricio Macri signature. The bill, Macri argued, is necessary to bring an end to years of legal disputes with holdout creditors over debt that was defaulted in 2001.

The bill repeals articles of the 2005 Padlock Law (which precluded any agreements with bondholders who refused debt swaps at the time) and the 2014 Sovereign Payment Law (which allowed bondholders - most of whose payments had been blocked by a Manhattan lower court - to collect in Buenos Aires) and authorizes the government to issue $12.5 billion in bonds in order to pay holdouts $6.5 billion.

On Tuesday the chair of the Victory Front (FpV) caucus in the Senate, Miguel Pichetto, threw his support behind the bill despite the FpV’s almost total rejection of the initiative in the Lower House. Other FpV senators were more critical of the vote. Senator Marcelo Fuentes said that former President Néstor Kirchner (who presided over the successful 2005 bond swap that was eventually accepted by 92% of bondholders) “would never have negotiated in these hurried conditions.” Senator Anabel Fernández Sagasti accused those voting in favor of the bill of suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. “They are leading us straight to hell,” she said. “The government is trying to sell us a crisis so that we may incur expensive debt with bad terms.”

The $6.5 billion deal established with holdouts at the end of February is centered around a $4.65 billion payout to four vulture funds - including $3 billion for the main litigant, Paul Singer's Cayman Islands-based NML, which bought old defaulted Argentine bonds in 2008 for $48 million.

The deadline for Argentina to issue payouts is April 14; but because on March 11 the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York reimposed the 2014 injunction against paying the country's regular bondholders (the 92%) until after holdout demands for much higher repayment terms were met, and because the bill passed by Congress is contingent on the lifting of this injunction, the agreement may still fall through.

The possibility that Argentina will not pay by the deadline is not remote, given that one house of the Argentine Congress has passed a bill conditioning payments on this Court lifting all injunctions and that oral argument will take place on April 13,” Paul Singer's NML acknowledged. “Whether or not this court ultimately affirms and if Argentina’s Congress requires the court to confirm lifting all injunctions as a precondition to payment, the likelihood of Argentina making payment by April 14 would appear to be remote,” it added.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/211716/senate-gives-macri-big-win-on-holdouts-

And: http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/211451/%E2%80%98vultures%E2%80%99-ask-gov%E2%80%99t-to-comply-with-pay-date

'Colombia Reports' will ignore government’s press freedom limitations.

Colombia Reports will ignore the Colombian government’s unlawful ban on reporting on FARC leaders’ trips to rank and file guerrillas. If we comply, this website could be censored any time deemed convenient by either the government or guerrillas.

Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo told the press on Thursday that journalists are prohibited from reporting on FARC leaders’ attempts to explain a pending peace deal to their guerrillas, a significant step in a peace process that — like any process affecting citizens — requires public scrutiny.

The ban was put in place after press, including Colombia Reports, reported on a trip of the FARC’s lead negotiator Ivan Marquez and other important FARC leaders to La Guajira. During this trip, the FARC went beyond what had been explicitly agreed with the government; Marquez, surrounded by hundreds of heavily armed guerrillas, took part in a public event in El Conejo, a tiny hamlet in the northern province.

Press reports on this incident spurred public outrage and further increased widespread skepticism regarding the virtues of these talks.

The Colombian government could easily have tightened the protocol by having the FARC commit to not take part in public events and be prudent when talking to press. This would have entirely prevented future embarrassments that could threaten the success of the talks.

However, by banning journalists to report or ask questions, the government does not only violate Article 20 of the Colombian Constitution and our fundamental right to the freedom of expression and movement, it also disallows the public to scrutinize and criticize the peace process, or possible wrongdoings in the process that will define Colombians’ future.

At: http://colombiareports.com/colombia-reports-ignore-illegal-limitations-press-freedom/

First businessman sentenced for dictatorship-era crimes in Argentina.

A federal court in Salta Province, Argentina, sentenced former bus company owner Marcos Levín to 12 years in prison yesterday, making him the first businessman in the country’s history to be convicted for crimes against humanity committed during the last military dictatorship.

Levín, the ex-owner of the La Veloz del Norte transport company, was sentenced with two former police officers, Víctor Bocos and Víctor Almirón, for their role in the 1977 kidnapping and torture of his former employee Víctor Cobos. Another ex-police officer, Enrique Cardozo, was given an 8-year prison sentence. The sentences will likely be appealed.

“He (Levín) wasn’t convicted just because he happened to be the owner of a company with victims of crimes against humanity. There was evidence that proved Levín was linked to the crime,” Gastón Chillier, the director of the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) human rights organization, told the Herald. Chillier said the case is important because it was the first time a businessman was found guilty of committing crimes against humanity against his workers and labor union representatives in his company.

Labor disputes during the dictatorship were often immediately followed by military or police repression meant to have a “disciplinary effect” on employees, and Levín is one of a number of prominent Argentine businessmen prosecuted for crimes against humanity in recent years. These cases have moved more quickly since former President Cristina Kirchner signed a law in 2015 facilitating investigations of civilian complicity in the Dirty War.

Out of the 344 civilians currently under investigation for dictatorship-era crimes, at least 21 of them are businessmen, according to a CELS report released last week. Cobos, a member of the Salta delegation of the Transport Workers Union (UTA), was one of many of Levín’s employees that were arrested and tortured due to their union activity; but investigators haven’t yet been able to establish the exact number of victims.

“We hope that the Supreme Court authorizes us to represent the dozens of other workers that were persecuted and arrested due to Levín’s orders,” the plaintiff’s lawyer David Leiva told Página/12. The Supreme Court is reviewing whether to remove the statute of limitations for investigations in these types of cases.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/211580/first-businessman-sentenced-for-dictatorshipera-crimes

Merge-Santo: the new threat to food sovereignty.

In the last few days the business media have reported that Monsanto is in separate talks with Bayer and BASF – the two German giants among agricultural input companies. While anti-competition regulators are fussing about the hook up of DuPont with Dow and of Syngenta with Chem China, Monsanto urgently needs to make a match. They hope that if regulators let the other two deals go through, they won’t be able to deny Monsanto a chance to even the score.

If the companies get their way, the first links in the industrial food chain (seeds, pesticides) will be in the hands of just three companies. If the marriages of DuPont-Dow and Syngenta–Chem China go through and Monsanto merges with Bayer’s Agricultural division, the three will control more than 65% of global pesticide sales and almost 61% of commercial seed sales. If Monsanto and BASF strike a deal instead, the Titanic Three will still have almost 61% of pesticides and more than 57% of seeds (see chart below).

Either way, a fourth move will be inevitable. Whichever company is left at the altar (Bayer or BASF) will have to buy or sell since it won’t have the clout to take on the Three. Either could prove irresistible for Deere & Co. or one of the other huge farm machinery companies that are in the best position to ultimately dominate all on-farm related agricultural inputs from seeds and pesticides to fertilizers, machinery, data and insurance.

Causes for Concern:

Commercial seeds may only make up 10% of peasants’ seed supply but the corporations have virtually all of the “face time” with policymakers. Trade, farm subsidies, labour laws, patents, land use, phytosanitary regulations, infrastructure spending and marketing policies are skewed to the interests of the biggest agribusinesses and the 100 million farms they claim as clients. The 570 million peasant families[iv] that really feed the world bear the burden of these skewed policies – not just as a direct attack – but as collateral damage. The more concentrated the lobbying power of industrial agriculture, the more destruction to the Peasant Food Web and agro-ecological food systems.

The threat is not only concentration but also integration. When pesticide companies began buying seed companies in the 1970s, the companies first denied it was happening and, later, argued that the synergies were beneficial. Four decades later, allowing seeds and chemicals to combine has done an enormous damage to plant breeding. The agrochemical giants concentrate overwhelmingly on a handful of commodity crops (corn, soybean, cotton, etc.) engineered primarily to tolerate proprietary chemicals. The result has been a decline in the quality of plant breeding for conventional varieties and an increase in the use of crop chemicals. The impacts are especially devastating for farmers who want to get off the pesticide treadmill – they can’t get good seed and can’t escape their neighbor’s drifting pesticides.

At: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/merge-santo-new-threat-food-sovereignty

WTO rules in favor of Argentina in EU biodiesel row.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) today ruled in favor of Argentina in a series of complaints the country filed in 2013, challenging punitive duties by the European Union on its biodiesel imports. The WTO, however, stated that the EU was not violating its rules.

The complaint was filed by former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner with the World Trade Organization over the European Union's decision to slap anti-dumping duties on Argentina's biodiesel.

EU restrictions at the time dealt a fresh blow to the world's No.1 biodiesel exporter, Argentina, whose industry had already been hurt by previous restrictions imposed by the bloc. The initial restrictions were enacted amid an investigation as to whether Argentina was "dumping" biodiesel, or selling it at below the cost of production, in Europe.

Critics charged, however, that they were imposed at the behest of Spain's right-wing government in retaliation for the partial renationalization of Argentina's leading energy firm, YPF, in 2012.

Argentina's Foreign Ministry called the duties "protectionist" and said the European bloc was seeking to shelter inefficient local producers. Both parties will have 60 days to file an appeal to the WTO’s decision.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/211595/wto-rules-in-favour-of-argentina-in-eu-biodiesel-row-

UN expands Argentine sovereignty over maritime area

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

The United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) ratified a report presented by the Argentine Foreign Ministry in 2009, which suggested Argentina be granted an extension of sovereignty over the South Atlantic to 350 miles from Argentine shores (from the current 200 miles). The country has been granted status as the “coastal state” and, as such, gained rights to exploit its natural resources — a crucial potential benefit for the country.

“We are reaffirming our sovereign rights over the resources of our continental shelf: minerals, hydrocarbons and sedentary species,” Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra said following the announcement of the CLCS resolution yesterday. She added details of the UN Commission’s approval of Argentina’s 2009 proposal and revealed that its approval had been unanimous.

The ratification of Argentina’s 2009 proposal expanded the country’s sovereign territory by some 1.7 million km² (650,000 mi²) and represents a 35% increase in the offshore continental shelf area regarded as sovereign Argentina territory. The country gains “sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting natural resources,” on the continental shelf according to the 1958 CLCS Convention.

The announcement heralded a boost to the government’s commitment to Argentine territorial claims in the South Atlantic Ocean, including that over the Falklnads/Malvinas Islands claimed by Argentina but currently under British protection. However, while the UN has repeatedly sided with Argentina’s demands for negotiations over the islands rebuffed by the UK government, the new CLCS report does not extend approval of Argentina’s claimed sovereignty over the islands themselves, occupied by the UK since 1833.

Rather, the announcement extends Argentina’s maritime sovereign territory by some 350 miles off the east coast and into the Atlantic Ocean in line with the outer limits of the continental shelf. It also removes the 1958 Convention guidelines of a 200-meter depth limitation on sovereignty over continental shelf territories, opening the door to potential offshore exploitation of natural resources by Argentine interests. Currently two large Anglo-American corporations, Premier Oil and Falklands Oil and Gas, have a hegemony over fossil fuel exploitation in the seas surrounding the Malvinas Islands.

Read more: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/211485/un-expands-argentine-sovereignty-over-maritime-space

The Macri administration admits Argentine GDP will fall by 2% in 2016 - first decline since 2002.

The Economy Ministry of Argentina announced that for the first time since President Mauricio Macri decreed a freeze on all statistical data release just days after taking office on December 10, estimates on GDP and other indicators of economic activity will be released.

While the World Bank and other international organizations have projected zero growth or even a decline of 0.5% in Argentina's GDP, the Macri administration now admits that the decline in economic output will be between 1.5 and 2%.

The trend is a sharp departure from last year, when as of September 2015 (the latest data available) Argentine GDP grew by 2.8% from the same time a year earlier. This would be the first year of negative growth for Argentina since the 2002 debacle, during which output plummeted by 11% (the steepest drop since 1930).

The admission surprised even supporters of the conservative Macri administration. Francisco Olivera, chief economic writer for the far-right La Nación, conceded that Macri's now infamous promise of a revival in growth during the second half of 2016 would not be possible.

"Delays are likely," Olivera observed. "The first stage of the administration's plan, which had envisaged tidying up inherited extravagances in order to grow again, will extend to at least until the end of the year." Olivera also noted that Gustavo Lopetegui, the chief economic adviser to the President and former CEO of LAN Argentina, is ordering all departments to reduce their budgets by about 20%. The austerity cutbacks include sizable public sector layoffs, which Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio announced wold affect at least 70,000 employees.

The recession, however, has already begun to impact the broader labor market, with 76,000 of the 107,000 layoffs registered in the first two months of the year coming from the private sector.

Analysts agree that while budgetary austerity is contributing to the current recession, it's principally due to a sharp increase in prices since Macri ordered a 40% devaluation of the peso on December 17. Inflation, which was already around 25% during most of the former President Cristina Kirchner's second term, accelerated to 35% by February according to provincial estimates, and may reach 55% later this year before slowing.

The trend has already led to a decline of 4.5% in real retail sales according to the Argentine Chamber of Medium Enterprises (CAME). Demand for groceries and other basic household goods fell by 8% in January; the only items that saw a consistent improvement in sales, were store brands.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.politicargentina.com/notas/201603/12695-ahora-desde-el-gobierno-estiman-una-fuerte-recesion-para-este-ano.html&prev=search

Pope, on Good Friday, blasts indifference to suffering.

Source: La Prensa

Pope Francis presided Friday over the Way of the Cross rite in Rome's Coliseum, where he invoked the plight of refugees and victims and denounced terrorists, pedophile priests and arms merchants, among others.

"O Cross of Christ, today we see you in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas which have become insatiable cemeteries, reflections of our indifferent and anesthetized conscience," he said, referring to refugees from Middle Eastern wars who die trying to reach Europe.

The crucifix, he told the tens of thousands in the Coliseum, represents those who suffer and those who try to relieve suffering, but also the "doctors of death" who cause violence and other woes.

Francis, 79, likewise had harsh words for some within the Catholic Church, excoriating pedophile priests as "unfaithful ministers who, instead of stripping themselves of their own vain ambitions, divest even the innocent of their dignity."

Turning to the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians by Islamic militants, the Argentine pontiff spoke of "our sisters and brothers killed, burned alive, throats slit and decapitated by barbarous blades amid cowardly silence."

The pope decried "terrorist acts committed by followers of some religions which profane the name of God and which use the holy name to justify their unprecedented violence."

Francis echoed his own comments earlier this week following the deadly terror attacks in Brussels when he blasted "arms dealers who feed the cauldron of war with the innocent blood of our brothers and sisters."

Read more: http://www.laprensasa.com/309_america-in-english/3710485_pope-on-good-friday-blasts-indifference-to-suffering.html

After spending afternoon in Bariloche, Obama leaves Argentina.

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

U.S. President Barack Obama and his family spent the afternoon in the beautiful city of Bariloche in the Argentine Patagonia. They walked the gardens of the Llao Llao Hotel and navigated the waters of Lake Nahuel Huapi.

The first family and the U.S. delegation, as well as U.S. journalists, arrived in San Carlos de Bariloche at 2:21 pm on board Air Force One.

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, their two daughters Sasha and Malia, and his mother-in-law Marian Robinson enjoyed their last hours in Argentina before flying back to Washington tonight.

President Mauricio Macri, meanwhile, was scheduled to head to neighboring Villa La Angostura cwhere he will be spending the Easter Holidays along with his family at the Cumelen Country Club.

Read more: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/211341/after-spending-afternoon-in-bariloche-obama-leaves-argentina



Can't say I approve of his waiting until a corporatist puppet like Macri took office to visit Argentina; but I'm glad they had a great time.



[center]Hotel Llao Llao, where the Obamas stayed last night.[/center]

Obama sorry for U.S. policies during Argentina's 'dirty war'

Source: USA Today

President Obama Thursday visited a memorial in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to the thousands of people killed and disappeared during that country’s “dirty war,” on the 40th anniversary of the coup that started it. Obama used his visit to announce his plan to declassify new military and intelligence records that document the human rights violations from 1976 to 1983.

“There’s been controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days,” Obama said, standing beside the Argentinian President Mauricio Macri. “The United States when it reflects on what happened here has to reflect on its own past…. When we’re slow to speak out on human rights, which was the case here.”

Despite early U.S. support for the coup, Obama said U.S. diplomats, human rights workers and reporters played an important role in documenting the abuses that took place in the aftermath. He extolled the likes of diplomat Tex Harris, who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires during the administration of President Jimmy Carter to document human rights abuses and identify the disappeared. "Such men did so despite threats to themselves and their families," Obama said.

Documents from the administration of President Gerald Ford, who was in office during the 1976 coup, show that top U.S. officials knew of the impending coup and did little to stop it. On February 28, 1976, less than a month before the coup, Ambassador Robert Hill wrote the State Department with the good news that few Argentine politicians believed the United States was actively fomenting a coup. "Our stock with democratic civilian forces therefore remains high; but at same time our bridges to military are open," Hill wrote. After the coup, then-secretary of State Henry Kissinger said in a March 26, 1976, staff meeting that he wanted to encourage the new military leaders of Argentina. "I don’t want to give the sense that they’re harassed by the United States," Kissinger said.

Despite being a spot for runners, the atmosphere in this memorial is rather gloomy. The names of the “disappeared” during Argentina’s "dirty war" are listed on the sides of the walkways, on the bank of the Río de la Plata. The sculpture of a man stands in the middle of the river. It is a reference to the “death flights” – the military junta's practice of dropping alive opponents to the regime from aircraft or helicopters into the water.

Not all supported the timing of Obama's visit to Argentina however. “We reject Obama’s presence because he came to support [Macri's] government, which has found agreement with the ‘vulture funds’ and [has plunged the country into] a massive debt crisis,” says Gabriel Solano, Head of the Workers’ Party. Silvina Retrivi, a language professor, said, "Obama's visit represents Argentina's shift towards a neoliberal economy. It is paradoxical that Obama spoke to us in the Usina del Arte concert hall about health programs implemented in the U.S. when we could stop benefiting from our own health programs because of this neoliberal influence."

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/03/24/obama-speaks-us-role-argentinas-dirty-war/82206754/



It should be noted that it's Kissinger - not Obama - who should be apologizing. Here's footage from the event:

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