April 19, 2001: Remarks by President Bush and President de La Rua of Argentina in Photo Opportunity

President George W. Bush and Argentine President Fernando de la Rua gave the following remarks at the White House on April 19, 2001. Both presidents emphasized ongoing trade talks as well as the economic crisis in Argentina.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I want to thank the President from Argentina for coming here. It is my honor to welcome a friend of America. This is a country that has been our friend for a long period of time, and I intend to keep our friendship strong, Mr. President. I appreciate so very much your working hard to work through the economic difficulties that you’ve had. You’re making a very strong effort to recover. I know it’s been difficult, but you’ve been a very strong leader.

I appreciate, also, your willingness at times to commit troops as peacekeepers. Your country has been a very strong supporter of keeping the peace around the world.

I look forward to telling the President that one of the main strategies of our foreign policy is to have strong relations in our hemisphere. It begins with remembering our friends. The President represents a country that is a close friend of the United States.

So, welcome, Mr. President. Bienvenidos a los Estados Unidos.

PRESIDENT DE LA RUA: Muchas gracias, Senor Presidente. Thank you very much, Mr. President. (Speaks in Spanish.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, Mr. President.

Well, I have a couple of questions from — the United States will alternate to the Argentinean press, and back and forth for two rounds.

Ron Fournier.

Q Thank you, sir. Mr. President, as part of your — this is a little off topic — as part of your broader review of troop deployments, are you considering pulling out of the Sinai? And if so, why?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We are looking at all troop deployments around the world. Where we can reduce troops without creating instability, we will do so. One of the things I said during the course of the campaign and right after my inauguration is that we would be reviewing and looking at, and analyzing our troop deployments.

I’ve always felt that we’re overextended, which creates morale problems within our military. On the other hand, I understand we’ve made commitments, and we just won’t simply walk away from our commitments. We’ll consult with our allies. We’ll lay the groundwork for reductions if, in fact, we think it is in our nation’s best interest and the world’s interest to keep reductions.

So to answer your question, we’re reviewing all opportunities to reduce the amount of troops around the world.

Q And that includes the Sinai as part of that review?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We’re reviewing everyplace we have troops deployed.

Q President Bush, are you ready to support Argentina to solve economic and social problems they’re facing now?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We are. Our Treasury Department is working closely with their counterparts in the Argentinean government. We want our friend to do well economically. It is in our interest that a trading partner of ours be strong economically. We’re working closely with the new Minister of Finance. We’re listening to what he’s doing. We believe the country is making progress. I’m aware of what the country and the leadership wants to do with the IMF, and we believe we’re making good progress toward a stabilization plan.

That’s the short-term solution, of course, is IMF help that now exists, and whether or not the IMF is going to provide some kind of latitude toward the government as it makes strides toward reforms. But longer-term is what the President talked about, and that is to promote free trade, free trade all throughout our hemisphere. In one day’s time, we’ll both be in Quebec City talking about trade. And I’m going to be very aggressive about pushing a free trade agenda for the hemisphere, and I’m so pleased to hear the President say the same words.

Q Mr. President, should you look at some —

PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me say one thing. I think it may make sense, Mr. President, if you speak a little bit, and then let the translator translate. Unfortunately, not many people here speak Spanish, like I do — (laughter.)

PRESIDENT DE LA RUA: Thank you very much for your words of support and trust in our country. But, please, I wouldn’t like anyone to think I have come here to ask Mr. Bush money. (Laughter.) We do have relations with the international lending institutions, and our financing is already insured.

What we would want is more freedom in trade. And I very much value the support expressed by Mr. Bush for Argentina, where there are so many U.S. investments, and definitely, we would like this to increase.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Grandfather. (Laughter.)

Q Mr. President, should the U.S. look at easing some of the economic sanctions on Iran, Iraq and Libya in the interest of getting more oil into this country?

PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, we’re looking at — in our energy review, we’re looking at all opportunities to create more energy supply, to take the pressure off of price. At the same time, I think it’s important for the country to review all sanction policies to make sure they are effective. And — but I have no intention as of this moment for taking sanctions off of countries like Iran or Libya.

We’ve made it clear to the Libyans that the sanctions will remain until such time as they not only compensate for the bombing of the aircraft, but also admit their guilt and express remorse.

And as far as Iran goes, it’s too early at this time in our relationships to really — it’s one thing to consider; it’s another thing to act on sanctions. I don’t intend to do that anytime soon.

Uno mas.

Q Mr. President de la Rua, President Bush wanted the free trade agreement by the year 2003, but I think Brazil is not too keen on that idea. So now, we’re talking about 2005, which was the original date at the Summit of the Americas in 1994. Is that a real possibility, or will that date also pass by?

PRESIDENT DE LA RUA: The important thing is that agreement has been reached on that date in Buenos Aires. I celebrate the generosity and flexibility of Mr. Zoellick, who represented the President. An agreement was reached by all countries. In addition to the date, it is important for us to make progress in terms of the contents. In terms of the way to build a common market to benefit and integrate all countries.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me say something about that. First of all, I don’t want to dispute, of course, the supposition of your question. But I was asked — I think you asked me at a press conference, would I be pleased to see the date moved up, and the answer is, of course; the sooner we get a free trade agreement for the Americas in place, the better off the continent will be.

However, I recognize reality, and it looks like we’re going to be aiming for the date 2005. But big progress has been made. And Ambassador Zoellick went down and met with other leaders in our hemisphere, and we’ve got the framework for an agreement. And not only that; after the Summit of the Americas, we’ll be putting out the agreement, itself, or the framework of the agreement for people to review, so that citizens from all countries — this is the first time this has ever happened — where the citizens will be able to review the contents of the trade agreement.

But I appreciate so very much the President’s commitment to free trade. He understands the power of trade, and he understands the promise of free trade. And I believe you’re going to hear a strong statement at Quebec City that nations of our hemisphere are bound together by the concept of a free trade agreement. And it will be good for our people.

Thank you all for coming.

Argentina Freezes Leliq Rate At 58% Until July Inflation

This article was originally published on CentralBankNews.info on July 23, 2019. It is reproduced here with permission from the author.

Argentina’s central bank fixed the rate of its benchmark Leliq notes at 58.0 percent until July inflation is announced on Aug. 15 to “guarantee the contractionary nature of the monetary policy.”

The Central Bank of the Argentine Republic (BCRA), which on July 1 lowered the minimum interest rate on Leliq notes to 58.0 percent from 62.50 percent that was set on April 1, added in a statement from July 22 that it may revise the Leliq minimum rate when July inflation numbers are known to reflect inflation, inflation expectations, internal and external and financial conditions, and other macroeconomic data.

Argentina’s inflation data are published by the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INDEC) and the national consumer price index inflation for July is scheduled for Aug. 15.

This follows primaries in the run-up to general elections in October, when Prime Minister Mauricio Macri is up for election.

In June Argentina’s annual inflation rate declined for the first time this year to 55.8 percent from 57.3 percent in May while monthly inflation slowed for the third straight month to 2.7 percent.

From October 20178 until April this year BCRA employed a monetary policy framework in which the interest rate on Leliq notes was set through auctions, and thus fluctuated daily, while it targeted the monetary base in order to push down inflation.

The weighted average rate on Leliq notes, which the central bank uses as its monetary policy rate, rose as high as 74 percent on May 2 but since then it has declined and remained below 70 percent since June 6 and below 60 percent since July 5. On July 22 the rate was 58.78 percent.

The decision to lower the minimum Leliq rate to 58 percent on July 1 was to ensure that its monetary policy did not relax during July, when demand normally rises from the collection of bonuses and expenses in connection with the winter holiday.

Today BCRA’s monetary policy committee COPOM said the goal for the monetary base during the July-August period was unchanged at $1.343 billion and it would be using a bi-monthly average to determine if the monetary base target was met to avoid any excessive contraction in July.

This article was originally published on CentralBankNews.info on July 23, 2019. It is reproduced here with permission from the author.

Argentina Lowers Leliq Floor In July To 58.0 Percent

Argentina’s central bank lowered its minimum interest rate for benchmark Leliq notes to 58.0 percent for the month of July, when seasonal demand for working capital rises, as it met its objective for the monetary base for the 9th consecutive month in June.

Since October 2018 the Central Bank of the Argentina Republic (BCRA) has used a monetary policy framework where the Leliq rate fluctuates daily and is set through auctions.

Since April 1, when the central bank set a minimum rate of 62.50 percent, the weighted average adjudicated rate, or the monetary policy rate, for Leliq notes has fluctuated between 68.1 percent and 74.1 percent in May to 63.8 percent on June 24.

BCRA’s monetary policy committee COPOM said the average monetary base in June was $1.342 billion, slightly below the goal of $1.343 billion.

To better manage liquidity conditions during July, when demand rises from the collection of bonuses and expenses in connection with the winter break, and strengthen the transmission of Leliq rates to savers, BCRA is also lowering the minimum rate of cash requirements for time deposits by 300 basis points, releasing about $45 billion.

But to ensure monetary policy is not relaxed during this seasonal phenomenon, the central bank will retain the June goal for the monetary base during July. In coming months the target for base money would be then be lowered further to ensure continued disinflation.

Argentina’s inflation rate rose to 57.3 percent in May from 55.8 percent in April, with the central bank’s poll last month showing analysts expect full-year inflation of just over 40 percent, down from 2018’s almost 50 percent, and economic contraction of 1.5 percent.

COPOM today also extended its limits for exchange rate intervention at 39.755 to 51.448 peso per U.S. dollar until Dec. 31, 2019.

During March and April Argentina’s peso was battered by volatility over nervousness of elections in October and the economy’s weakness, but in on April 29 the central bank decided to intervene more actively, boosting the daily limit for sales to $250 million from $150 million and raising fears a return to intervention could put it on course to draw on its foreign reserves.

Last year BCRA used up $16 billion on its reserves between March and September when the International Monetary Fund boosted its support program to $56 billion.

After hitting a record low of 45.8 to the U.S. dollar in late April, the peso has rebounded and was trading at 42.4 to the dollar today,  down 11 percent this year.

This article originally appeared on CentralBankNews.info on July 1, 2019. It is reproduced here with permission from the author.

Una comisión estilo CICIG, ¿resolvería la plaga de corrupción en Argentina?

El contrapunteo en el que están sumidos fiscales federales y jueces que llevan casos de corrupción de alto perfil en Argentina ha llevado a proponer que un organismo anticorrupción internacional como la CICIG ayudaría a afrontar este problema enquistado en el país. Pero aún no hay consenso al respecto.

El juez federal argentino Alejo Ramos Padilla investiga al fiscal federal Carlos Stornelli, quien lleva un caso de corrupción de alto perfil que involucra a exfuncionarios de gobierno, entre los que se cuentan la expresidenta y actual senadora Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Stornelli está acusado de pedir una coima a un empresario a cambio de retirar su nombre de una investigación por corrupción conocida como “los cuadernos“. Stornelli rechazó la acusación y la desestimó calificándola como un intento de frenar la investigación contra Fernández de Kirchner.

Padilla también investiga una presunta red de espionaje ilegal en la que estarían implicados políticos, empresarios y periodistas, quienes presuntamente realizaron “operaciones de inteligencia” para obligar a algunas personas a confesar delitos relacionados con corrupción o a implicar a otros. En una presentación ante el Congreso, el juez afirmó que las “confesiones” fueron usadas posteriormente por jueces y fiscales para adelantar causas criminales.

El presidente Mauricio Macri dijo que la investigación de Padilla tiene motivaciones políticas y pidió su destitución. Esto, a su vez, generó quejas de intentos de interferencia política en la rama judicial.

La judicatura en Argentina viene enfrentando crecientes críticas en los últimos años, especialmente en lo que respecta a casos de corrupción.

El jefe de la Corte Suprema del país, Carlos Rosenkrantz, afirmó que la rama judicial padece una “crisis de legitimidad”.

Un informe del Consejo de la Magistratura de la Nación, en Argentina, organismo judicial encargado de la designación y remoción de jueces, halló que el 92 por ciento de los casos de corrupción que implicaban a altos funcionarios en las últimas dos décadas nunca llegó a los tribunales, según información deLa Nación.

Análisis de InSight Crime

El escandalosamente bajo índice de condenas por corrupción de alto nivel en Argentina demuestra que la rama judicial del país tiene un largo camino por delante para llevar a buen término su propuesta.

Algunos proponen que Argentina mire hacia otros países de la región y considere la creación de un órgano de investigación independiente similar a la Comisión contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (CICIG) como opción para ayudar a enfrentar la crisis judicial.

Pese a una larga historia de escándalos de corrupción de alto nivel que involucra a algunos de los miembros más poderosos de la élite, solo un presidente ha sido declarado culpable de este tipo de delitos en la historia reciente de Argentina.

En 2013, el presidente Carlos Menem, quien estuvo en el poder entre 1989 y 1999, fue sentenciado a una pena de prisión por tráfico de armas a Croacia y Ecuador. El expresidente, ahora senador, nunca puso un pie en prisión, porque aún está cobijado con inmunidad parlamentaria.

La expresidenta, y ahora senadora, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, enfrenta actualmente acusaciones relacionadas con corrupción en 13 causas distintas.

A finales de 2018, el último vicepresidente de Fernández, Armando Boudou, fue sentenciado a cinco años de prisión por acusaciones de corrupción. Fue declarado culpable de tráfico de influencias luego de que se conociera que fue socio silencioso en una firma impresora que recibió contratos del Ministerio de Economía.

Al posesionarse en 2015, el presidente Mauricio Macri tenía una investigación abierta en una causa de escuchas ilegales. Pocos días después de su elección, los tribunales sobreseyeron la causa. En la actualidad hay investigaciones en curso sobre funcionarios de alto nivel de su administración por financiamiento electoral irregular.

Los expertos sostienen que la corrupción dentro de la rama judicial en Argentina impide que el país combata la corrupción dentro de su élite nacional.

“La judicatura en Argentina es un lodazal. La mayoría de quienes están a cargo de las investigaciones por corrupción son cuestionados: jueces, fiscales, órganos de control, expertos”, comentó Pablo Slonimsqui, abogado y autor de un libro sobre corrupción judicial en entrevista con InSight Crime.

Slonimsqui señala que la forma de designación de los jueces says that the way in which judges are selected —son nombrados por el presidente con aprobación del senado— tiene un impacto negativo en su independencia. También apunta que el hecho de que Argentina solo tenga un número muy reducido de jueces federales, quienes asumen la investigación de casos de corrupción y un pequeño número de fiscales federales facilita la corrupción, pues los recursos son extremadamente limitados.

“Los jueces federales detentan un gran poder, porque monopolizan las investigaciones de figuras políticas y deciden a qué investigaciones se da trámite y a cuáles no. El problem es que responden a intereses políticos y económicos”, explicó Slonimsqui.

Pero la administración Macri ha dado algunos pasos positivos dirigidos a contrarrestar la corrupción, una de las mayores plataformas de campaña de la coalición política Cambiemos, de Macri.

Esos pasos incluyen una nueva ley de negociación de penas, que permite a las autoridades ofrecer reducciones de penas o indultos a sospechosos que les entreguen nombres u otra información que ayude a dilucidar casos de corrupción o narcotráfico.

En abril, la oficina anticorrupción de Argentina lanzó un nuevo programa para “prevenir, detectar, sancionar y erradicar” la corrupción en el desempeño de los funcionarios públicos.

Un nuevo Codigo Penal, que se debate actualmente en el Congreso, también hace especial énfasis en la lucha contra la corrupción.

Pero con todo y lo encomiables que puedan ser, estos esfuerzos oficiales se ven empañados por acusaciones de sesgo político entre los encargados de erradicar la corrupción.

Entonces, ¿cuál es la salida para Argentina?

Erradicar la corrupción no solo es importante para proteger las instituciones. También es clave para enfrentar las organizaciones criminales, pues con frecuencia estas dependen de funcionarios corruptos para sus actividades.

Pero con una rama judicial tan cuestionada que al parecer es incapaz de operar de manera independiente y efectiva, algunos ha propuesto que Argentina podría necesitar ayuda de un organismo internacional.

En una columna de opinión publicada por el New York Times, el abogado y experto en justicia Juan Pappier y la periodista Jordana Timerman sostenían que Argentina podía seguir los ejemplos de algunos otros países de Latinoamérica, que han buscado asesoría externa.

“Tener observadores internacionales experimentados e independientes que den su opinión sobre casos claves ofrecería algo de transparencia a los procesos y generaría confianza en la población para pedir a las autoridades una rendición de cuentas adecuada. Una presencia internacional también podría disuadir a los funcionarios de cometer actos de corrupción”, dice la columna.

En Guatemala, la CICIG, organismo independiente avalado por la ONU que actuó como ente fiscal adjunto en apoyo de la Fiscalía General en casos complejos que comprendían casos de corrupción en el gobierno y crimen organizado, ayudaron a develar la corrupción enquistada en el país, que puso fin a la presidencia de Otto Pérez Molina en 2015.

La CICIG también ha ayudado a los fiscales públicos del país a investigar al actual presidente Jimmy Morales por presunto financiamiento electoral ilícito, lo que llevó a Morales a declarar el fin del mandato del organismo en el país.

Otros gobiernos de la región, entre ellos HondurasEcuador y México también ha  experimentado con comisiones internacionales y el recién presidente electo de El Salvador afirmó que está dispuesto a respaldar un ente de esa naturaleza.

Pero no todos coinciden en que esto funcionaría en Argentina.

“Conociendo la manera como piensa la gente en Argentina, creo que sería muy difícil para que nuestra judicatura aceptara algo así. Una colaboración muy específica sería una cosa, pero algo general… dudo que funcionara, sería muy complejo”, reflexionó Slonimsqui.

Mientras se alcanza un consenso sobre si una comisión internacional es la respuesta a los males de corrupción en Argentina, mantener el statu quo conlleva el riesgo de que la situación empeore.

Este artículo fue escrito por Josefina Salomón y originalmente publicado por Insight Crimeen junio 28, 2019. Se reproduce aquí bajo CC BY-NC 3.0.

Argentina: Prices Rose 16 Percent in September

Prices rose 16.0 percent in Argentina in September compared to the previous month, according to Indec.

The overall increase in prices can be attributed more to imported products rather than domestic products. The price of imported products rose 24.4 percent, whereas the price of domestic products rose 15.9 percent.

Four general categories saw month-over-month increases of greater than 20 percent: fishery products at 28.3 percent; crude oil and gas at 24.5 percent; electrical machinery and apparatuses at 20.4 percent; and vehicles, bodies, and spare parts at 23.3 percent.

Since the beginning of the year, overall prices increased 66.1 percent with domestic products increasing by 63.2 percent and imported products increasing by 104.9 percent. The price of crude oil and gas saw the highest price increase at 129.4 percent.

Several categories of products have more than doubled in price from September 2017 to September 2018, including fishery products at 105.6 percent, crude oil and gas at 145.5 percent, and imported products at 113.1 percent.

Argentina, Brazil to Share Some Information Related to Operation Car Wash

Officials in Argentina and Brazil signed an agreement which will allow some information to be shared among authorities in both countries related to the Odebrecht corruption case, according to The Rio Times.

“After a long negotiation and dialogue between the Secretariat for International Cooperation (SCI), inside Brazil’s Federal Public Ministry, and Argentine authorities, we have managed to reach an agreement so that corruption allegations in Argentina can be made available to the prosecutors there,” said the head of the SCI, Cristina Romanó.

Under the agreement, courts in both countries will be able to use information gathered from plea agreements made in either Argentina or Brazil.

“This is a huge step forward in the relationship of international legal cooperation between the two countries and another big step in the fight against corruption,” concluded Romanó.

Similar agreements already exist between Brazil and Switzerland, Norway, and the Netherlands.

The agreement comes after the Brazilian Attorney General and Comptroller General signed a leniency deal with Odebrecht in return for a 2.77 billion reais fine, equivalent to more than US$700 million.

A United States Justice Department report found that Odebrecht routinely used bribery in both Argentina and Brazil. Between 2007 and 2014 $35 million in bribes were made in Argentina resulting in $278 million in benefits for Odebrecht. Between 2001 and 2016 US$439 million in bribes were made in Brazil resulting in US$1.4 billion in benefits for Odebrecht.

Argentina Upgrades 500 Kilometers of Railroad Infrastructure

Argentina is currently in the process of upgrading hundreds of miles of railroad under the Plan Belgrano. The infrastructure improvements will reduce shipping time between two major cities in the north from 18 days to just two.

The first 500 kilometers of track between the cities of Salta in the far north and Rosario, which lays along the Paraná River, were recently completed. According to Argentina’s Ministry of Transport, the improvements have already had a tremendous impact on rail capacity in South America’s second-largest economy.

“These first 500 kilometers are the proof of the historical recovery we are making of our freight trains, so that the products of the provinces reach the port, and from there to the world, with fewer transport costs and in less time,” said Minister of Transport, Guillermo Dietrich. “The railroad brings growth opportunities to the regions and generates thousands of jobs, and is a fundamental contribution to development that seeks to promote the Belgrano Plan.”

Plan Belgrano has four main objectives: to develop the social aspect of northern Argentina, to strengthen the productive infrastructure and transportation in the ten provinces in the region, to enhance tourism and regional economies, and to fight against crime and drug trafficking in the region.

Plan Belgrano is part of a multi-billion dollar improvement of Argentina’s railroad system.

“We are living an historic event with the recovery of the Belgrano Cargas,” explained the head of Plan Belgrano, Carlos Vignolo. “Every [kilometer] that we finish brings us closer to the objective of reactivating the railroad. This is one of the main investments that we face together with the Ministry of Transport and Argentine Trains because we want the train to return to be an option for the logistics of Northern producers, improving their costs and enhancing their work, we will continue advancing in this challenge that the President marked us as a priority.”

Infrastructure improvement provides greater opportunities and excitement for industry in Argentina. In an interview with Smart Rail, Ezequiel Lemos, president of Belgrano Cargas y Logística a state-owned freight train operator, explained how freight and shipping costs significantly hamper businesses in Argentina that operate far from markets or export terminals.

“In the case of grains, Argentina is the world’s leading exporter, but freight is the major cost,” explained Lemos. “There are regions of our country that can’t produce it because the cost of freight takes them out of the market. For the maize produced in Salta, for example, freight represents 50% of the value of the product. This means that corn isn’t produced in one of the most productive areas of the country. With the announcement of investments in infrastructure, several private investment projects began in the form of very important plants and ports.”