The Argentine tight-lipped ‘political’ delegation sent to Ghana to try and achieve the release of the Navy’s flagship ARA Libertad impounded by a US based fund and confirmed by an Accra court, is returning to Buenos Aires empty handed not before experiencing a tense incident with the crew of the vessel docked in Tema.
According to news reports in Buenos Aires when the delegation made up of the two deputy ministers from Foreign Affairs and Defence, Eduardo Zuaim and Alfredo Forti arrived at the vessel with a message “of greetings and support from the Argentine people” the reply from cadets and crew of the detained vessel was “ice cold and at all enthusiastic”.
ARA Libertad has been retained since 2 October, among its crew are cadets invited from several different countries, the daily docking fee is 50.000 dollars plus legal defence costs, and from the moment the ‘political’ mission is back on its way to Buenos Aires, prospects are not encouraging.
Apparently after the visitors left there was a “sigh of relief” because some members of the crew confessed to the officers they wanted “to punch them in the face”.
“To the uncertainty about what is going on must be added that officers do not inform the crew. Captain Lucio Salonio instructions are that he acts as if it was ‘business as usual’, with on board activity as normal as possible to life on sea or in some visiting port”, indicate the reports.
Apparently the political delegation was unable to convince the Ghana government ‘to twist the arm’ of the courts and two diplomats were left in Accra, the Argentine ambassador in Nigeria and the consul in Lagos, to continue with the litigation, for which they count with the support and logistics from the Brazilian embassy in Accra that also has strong political links with the African government. Argentina has no embassy in Accra.
The New York based fund NML is demanding principal and interest from Argentine sovereign bonds, approximately 320 million dollars, and the Ghana court confirmed the impound. Depositing a 20 million dollars bail the vessel would be released but Argentina refuses point blank such an option.
Meanwhile this week’s resignation of the Military Strategic Intelligence chief, a very close advisor of Defence minister Arturo Puricelli and with excellent links with the Navy command, is seen as an increasing weakening of Defence’s position in the issue, despite the fact the world tours of navy vessels are an ‘inter-ministerial’ decision.
Maria Lourdes Puente Olivera with a degree in political science was the first woman to reach the top job in one of the three branches in which Argentine state intelligence is now divided. Before, she belonged to naval intelligence. Puente Olivera became the fourth known victim of the ARA Libertad controversy together with the Chief of the Navy and two other top naval officers.