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Argentine Thuggery at Home and Abroad

7:15 AM, Dec 13, 2012 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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In 2009, Kirchner enacted an “anti-monopoly” law aimed at breaking up the Clarín empire and thereby weakening some of her most prominent critics. Clarín has argued that portions of the law represent an unconstitutional attack on press freedom, and many independent experts agree. On December 6, Argentina’s Federal Civil and Commercial Court extended an injunction that will prevent Clarín from having to sell any of its broadcast outlets until its legal challenge is resolved. The government was furious, and it asked the Supreme Court to issue a direct ruling on the case, without regard for the customary appellate-court process. On December 10, Argentina’s highest court rejected this request. But Kirchner refuses to give up the fight: According to MercoPress, she “will seek to impeach the judges of the Federal Civil and Commercial Court for ruling on the injunction extension.”

On top of all these problems, Argentina may soon be censured by the International Monetary Fund for doctoring its economic data, and it may also be approaching another sovereign debt default. Indeed, Fitch Ratings now believes that “a default by Argentina is probable.”

Desperately in need of a foreign distraction, Kirchner has turned to the Falklands. Over the past year—the 30th anniversary of the 1982 war—her government has been making bombastic anti-British statements, trying to intimidate ships from visiting the islands, and working to delegitimize the upcoming (March 2013) sovereignty referendum in which Falklanders will reaffirm their desire to remain British.

For example: On November 19, members of a radical leftist group called Quebracho raided the Buenos Aires offices of Argentine Shipping Services, a company that operates cruises to the Falklands. According to Britain’s Daily Mail, “Police were nowhere to be seen as masked thugs wielding clubs smashed plate glass windows, scrawled graffiti, and upturned dustbins in the Argentinian capital. No arrests were made.” The intruders threatened to harass any cruise ships planning to stop in the Falklands. A British member of the European parliament described the attack—and Argentina’s nonresponse—as “an affront to all the basic principles of free trade, of human decency, and of international responsibility.”

No serious observer thinks that Buenos Aires will launch another invasion. But Argentina’s persistent saber-rattling with Britain highlights the thuggish, reckless nature of the Kirchner government. The United States got a taste of this thuggery in February 2011, when Argentine officials abruptly seized the contents of an American military plane delivering equipment for a routine training exercise. Four months passed before Argentina agreed to return the impounded materials.

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