Argentina evacuates impounded frigate; Monday Timerman begins lobbying at the UN
The Argentine government ordered on Saturday the evacuation of the naval training frigate ARA Libertad impounded in Ghana by international creditors, following the warning made on Friday that complaints would be taken to the UN over the controversy.
Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and Defence Minister Arturo Puricelli gave a press conference Saturday evening from Government House in Buenos Aires, reading a communiqué sent by President Cristina Fernández, in which she ordered the evacuation of the ship
“President Cristina Fernandez has decided the immediate evacuation of all the crew members, Argentine and non Argentines so as to preserve their physical integrity and dignity leaving on board the Captain and a minimum number of sailors for the maintenance of the frigate while it remains retained” in the port of Tema, Ghana, said Minister Timerman.
The frigate has been retained since 2 October in Ghana on an injunction order from a New York court on request from New York and Caribbean based funds holders of Argentine defaulted sovereign bonds and which pretend to collect full principal and interests.
Timerman said that “Argentina makes the government of Ghana responsible for all and every damage that the frigate ARA Libertad might suffer until its release, as well as all the costs generated because of an illegal action that violates international law”.
The Argentine minister added that on Monday, on specific instructions from President Cristina Fernandez, he will be meeting with the president of the UN Security Council in New York, “as well as with all those committees that address violations of human rights, international treaties and financial crimes”.
“The ruling from the Ghana Justice which orders the retention of the Frigate ARA Libertad not only violates international treaties which oblige Ghana to guarantee the immunity of war vessels, but also has put at risk the human rights of the 326 crewmembers on board, among which citizens from Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and South Africa”, added the communiqué read by Timerman.
In direct criticism to the Ghana court ruling upholding the impound and banning ARA Libertad from bunkering, Timerman said that “the only reply from the magistrate to an Argentine request which contemplates the possibility of a tragedy, and the impossibility of providing the basic elements for any human being, was that we reach an agreement with the ‘vulture fund’ which presented the demand. It is then clear the intention of the magistrate to force a sovereign country to negotiate with an entity dedicated to financial piracy from its hideout in the Caribbean. That option, as was clearly stated yesterday (Friday) is the only unacceptable for Argentina”.
Standing next to Defence minister Arturo Puricelli Timerman concluded that an act “which ‘prima facie’ seemed a commercial impound has dropped its mask and is exposing the true face of the power of the ‘vulture funds’ that from their fiscal hideouts organize attacks which are none less than an abduction, an extortion and a piracy act against a sovereign country, founding member of the UN and of acknowledged participation in countless peace missions in the five continents”.
The ‘vulture funds’ in this particular case are demanding payment of over 300 million dollars in Argentine sovereign bonds which were not included in the voluntary restructuring of Argentina’s massive default in 2001. Between 2005 and 2010 Argentina managed to come to terms with 93% of bond holders, however there are still 7% pending most of them in the hands of these funds that precisely take advantage of these situations and try by all means (including impounding assets overseas) to collect the face value plus interests of those documents.
The defendant, in this case the Argentine Foreign Ministry, its representatives, agents including ARA Libertad Captain Lucio Salónica and the crew are barred from moving the vessel from the port of Tema without a new order from the court, according to last week’s ruling at the Accra High Court.
The plaintiff said it would accept a deposit bail of 20 million dollars to release the vessel but the Argentine government rejected the option point blank.