Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez delivers a speech during a ceremony to commemorate the Sovereignty Day in San Pedro, Argentina, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. Fernandez faced on Tuesday a nationwide strike led by union bosses who once were her most steadfast supporters. (AP Photo/Raul Ferrari,Telam)
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina has finally run out of wiggle room in a billion-dollar showdown over foreign debts unpaid since the country’s world-record default a decade ago, and the stakes couldn’t be higher for President Cristina Fernandez.
Late Wednesday, a U.S. federal judge in New York ordered Argentina to pay immediately and in full everything it owes to what Fernandez calls “vulture funds” that she blames for much of her country’s troubles. That adds up to $1.3 billion, due by Dec. 15.
The judge also barred Argentina from paying other bondholders until it satisfies this judgment, putting the president’s back against the wall: If she doesn’t reverse her longstanding position and pay up, she risks triggering another historic Argentine debt default, this time totaling more than $20 billion.
“It is hardly an injustice to have legal rulings which, at long last, mean that Argentina must pay the debts which it owes. After ten years of litigation this is a just result,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa concluded.
Griesa’s orders were delivered just before the long Thanksgiving holiday closed markets in New York until Monday.
Responding to the judge, Argentine Economy Minister Hernan Lorenzino said Thursday that it is not a fair decision to pay the vulture funds and that the government will continue to defend its position using all legal means.
“We believe that in the chamber new arguments will be presented on behalf of Argentina and all the bondholders who went before Griesa,” Lorenzino told reporters.
“If that’s the case, we’ll fight all decisions that are against the interests of our country,” Lorenzino said, adding that Argentina is ready to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.