The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, February 14, 2004

And, elsewhere in Latin America...

In the news equivalent of the Chicago Board of Trade, I'm pondering whether to go long Néstor Kirchner: I'm not monitoring Argentina in any way, but the coincidence of a couple of straws in the wind seem worthy of note.

The underlying connect-the-dots question is, Is Kirchner serious about playing the populist and picking a fight with the US? In addition to the Bolshie Over the Water, Lula and Hugo Chávez seemed top of Uncle Sam's list of usual suspects. Is the real threat coming up on the rail?

First, we have the ongoing dispute over Argentina's external sovereign debt [1]. The original default on IMF debt in September 2003 and - by the operation of cross-default clauses meant that this placed $88bn more debt in default.

Kirchner has offered what amounts to 10 cents on the dollar [2], which the commercial lenders have flipped off.

(There is some kind of Mutt and Jeff going on with Kirchner and his more banker-friendly finance minister Roberto Lavagna - he's not being very banker-friendly here, though.)

The G7, the US in the van, has been twisting the IMF's arm to get the situation sorted: the suggestion is that, beyond the needs of the markets to avoid the default getting ugly (remembering the Asian crisis of a few years ago), Kirchner has in mind to exploit Bush's electoral vulnerabilities.

And, secondly, Kirchner has raised the question of the Falklands again. Since concessions on Falklands sovereignty would be political suicide for any British government (as much as renouncing sovereignty would be for any Argentinian one), the thing is, on the face of it, silverback chest-beating, for home consumption.

Stopping overflight rights is buggeration and no more: I've heard the figure for lost tourist revenue of £4m, which, in context, is chickenfeed.

Kirchner seems to be offering a Latin equivalent to the old joke about the well-balanced Scotsman: a chip on both shoulders!

He has no bread to offer the half of his population living below the poverty line; so he gives them a circus, in which singeing Uncle Sam's beard is the star attraction.

Worth keeping half an eye on.

And the story about Islamic terror in South America has enjoyed a revival - in May and June 2003, I looked at the question of the activity of the likes of Hezbollah in the Triple Frontier (AR/PY/BR) region; since organised crime thrives on the isolation of the place, it's little wonder that hard information on terror group activities was not easy to find.

The story has recently got some press [3] - and came to my intention when I saw Tacitus had linked to one of my 2003 pieces.

The place to start researches on the subject is the Library of Congress report (PDF) published in July 2003 - judged on the merest skim.

  1. A usual piece from October 2003 may be a way in. There is the 100 page December 2003 IMF report (PDF - 4MB) which, from a quick squint, looks well worth having, for the financial information and stats alone. (And this.)

  2. Or 25 cents on the dollar of the principal owed: there is a long of unpaid interest!

  3. Here and here, for instance.

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