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Argentina’s last debt card is a doomsday scenario

First Published      Last Updated Jun 19 2014 10:00 am
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Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich said Thursday that this remains Argentina's plan, and blamed the judge for making it impossible to meet its June 30 responsibilities in New York.

Fernandez controls Argentina's Congress, so she could get this plan approved locally, but organizing a debt swap can't be done in little over a week, meaning missed payments are inevitable. And because Argentina has the capacity — but not the will — to pay the court judgment, this would be more than a "technical default," as Argentine authorities have described it.

The missed payments would likely trigger a cascade of bad outcomes and threaten to unravel many other debt accords, including Argentina's recent deal to repay $9.7 billion to the Paris Club of lending nations, which includes the United States.

The main pro of this approach is that defying the so-called "vulture funds" is a highly popular idea among Argentines.

Argentina's law firm advised Fernandez that her best option for leverage was to default first and negotiate later. So even if it doesn't work, it could give a president intent on showing the global financial system who's boss in Argentina a short-term boost as she begins the last 500 days of her eight years in office.

And if Singer believes she's not bluffing, he might just offer a face-saving deal she can carry back from the edge of the abyss.

The main con? Few people who understand bond markets think it has any chance of success.

About 85 percent of the creditors would have to approve it, said Matias Carugati, an economist for Buenos Aires-based consultancy, Management & Fit, and many investment funds are barred from making such a change. Others would be wary of relying on Argentine law.


Argentina is already suffering through a recession, rising poverty and crime, reflecting an economy that has stopped growing. Its consumers are already spooked by currency controls, lack of credit, spiraling inflation and other results of the government's refusal to settle accounts with foreign lenders.

A disorderly default would be dire, making credit disappear and costing jobs, said Fausto Spotorno, an economist with Orlando Ferreres & Asociados.

"I'm not so much worried for me as for my kids. I'm going to be dead already and Argentina will still be paying what it has owed for years," said Umma Sanchez, a 37-year-old psychologist. "We will never be a normal country, and that we owe to the people who govern us."