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Argentine Congress criticizes the US over suitcase scandal

Thursday, December 20th 2007 - 20:00 UTC
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Argentina's Congress criticized the United States on Wednesday over an alleged cover-up involving a cash-full suitcase that U.S. prosecutors say was bound for President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner campaign.

U.S. prosecutors say a Venezuelan-US citizen who brought 800,000 US dollars to Argentina for Mrs. Kirchner's campaign was offered 2 million US dollars by Venezuelan agents to keep quiet and help cover up the source of the money. President Cristina Kirchner describes herself as the victim of dirty politics by the U.S. intended to undermine Argentina's relationship with Venezuela. But the U.S. insists its prosecutors act independently and have pursued the case without influence from the White House. The Argentine Congress, controlled by the Kirchners ruling coalition, passed a resolution Wednesday repudiating the U.S. government over the investigation, which led to the arrests of four men last week in Miami. The resolution passed by the lower house and Senate said the U.S. government "encouraged a nefarious intelligence operation whose direct consequence was the denigration of the presidency of our nation." Former President Nestor Kirchner, whose wife succeeded him as president this month, said the campaign cash scandal was a U.S. attempt to tarnish his wife's new government. He said the U.S. government had resorted to a "band of mafiosos" to attack his wife's government only days after her December 10 inauguration to a four-year term. The U.S. is refusing Argentina's request to extradite Guido Antonini Wilson, the Venezuelan-US businessman who fled Argentina after bringing in the cash-filled suitcase. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has dismissed as "big lies" the allegations by U.S. prosecutors that his government had tried to cover up the attempted cash delivery to Mrs. Kirchner's campaign. It was unclear how the scandal would end affecting US/ Argentina relations, which generally were smooth under former president Kirchner and not expected to change with his wife. In March, as President Bush traveled to friendly Latin American nations to shore up relations, Venezuela's Chavez held a stadium rally in Buenos Aires and blasted Bush and US policies. Earlier this week, US Ambassador to Argentina Earl Anthony Wayne met with Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana and said he told Taiana that the "relationship is important" for the two governments and their peoples, an official embassy statement said. However at the meeting he was informed that all contacts of the US Ambassador would be limited to the Argentine Foreign Affairs Ministry. Ambassador Wayne had (has?) a good relation and virtually direct access with Mrs. Kirchner Former president Kirchner insisted during a political rally to condemn the Bush administration and directly pointed comments at Ambassador Wayne in a public speech. "I say to the ambassador that what they are doing is a disgrace, so the relations are not good, Mr. Ambassador".

Categories: Politics, Argentina.

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