GLOBAL ECONOMY

Argentina's president blames U.S. for debt crisis; says Washington might want her dead

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez talks inside the government house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Argentina deposited a $161 million bond interest payment with a newly appointed local trustee on Tuesday in defiance of a U.S. judge who held it in contempt a day earlier for attempting illegal moves to service its debt. The move aims to prove that Argentina can meet its debt locally and sidestep a U.S. court ruling that recently pushed it into its second default in 13 years.  (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez talks inside the government house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Argentina deposited a $161 million bond interest payment with a newly appointed local trustee on Tuesday in defiance of a U.S. judge who held it in contempt a day earlier for attempting illegal moves to service its debt. The move aims to prove that Argentina can meet its debt locally and sidestep a U.S. court ruling that recently pushed it into its second default in 13 years. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Relations between Argentina and the United States have sunk so low the South American nation's president is blaming the Obama administration for her country's debt crisis and suggesting Washington might even want to have her killed.

"If something was to happen to me, nobody should be looking to the east, but to the north after the things that are being done in diplomatic offices," President Cristina Fernández said in a fiery speech Tuesday.

Fernández and her government have been infuriated by the U.S. government's refusal, or legal inability, to squash court ruling that recently pushed Argentina into its second technical default in 13 years.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa ruled in favor of investors that Fernández derides as "vulture funds" for rejecting Argentina's restructuring offers following the country's record $100 billion default in 2001.

The creditors are demanding payment of some $1.5 billion in unpaid debts and the judge said no other creditors can be paid unless they are.

Argentina's government has tried to skirt that ruling by offering to pay other creditors locally. But Griesa has become exasperated and found Argentina in contempt Monday.

"All of this is not casual, and it comes from a senile judge," Fernández said during an event at the presidential palace.

She suggested the country's economic woes, including a recession and high inflation, are being fueled by local businessmen in cahoots with outsiders, presumably the U.S.

"There are some players in the economy who want to bring down the government and they want to do it with help from abroad," she said.

She also denounced the U.S. Embassy for a report warning of insecurity in Argentina, calling it "an immense provocation."

The statements show that "U.S.-Argentine relations have hit a low point," said Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue.

"There has been a lot of strain between the two governments for some time, but the latest round on the debt issue has aggravated the tension. Many in the U.S. find President Fernández's latest remarks mystifying. Officials have responded less with hostility than with bafflement," Shifter said.

Argentine political analyst Ricardo Rouvier said Fernández's government is upset because it suspects the U.S. court case is really politically motivated.

"Although the (U.S.) judicial system is independent, it's surprising that the political players of the U.S. haven't given a clearer signal" against Griesa's ruling, Rouvier said.

The U.S. government did back Fernández's government in the debt dispute before Griesa in 2012, filing a friend of the court brief arguing that ruling against Argentina would damage U.S. foreign relations, threaten the solution of future debt crises and undermine the legal immunity given to a sovereign country.

It did not intervene, however, when Argentina appealed Griesa's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court this year.

Argentine political analyst Ignacio Fidanza said Fernández was using Washington as a scapegoat for the country's economic woes.

"She's trying to attribute all these local disgraces to a conspiracy with roots in the United States, and that's something that resonates well with certain social sectors in Argentina," he said.

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