To the UN General Assembly
September 29, 2015 – UN General Assembly, New York
Thank you, Mr Chairman of the Assembly, members of this honorable assembly. Let me first extend my gratefulness for an event which was highly relevant and took place here a few days ago, to be more precise, on September 10 this year, when by 136 positive votes the assembly decided to approve the tenets, the basic principles for restructuring countries’ external debts.
This has been a very important triumph; nine principles have been enshrined. I have them written here so that I do not forget any. These principles must govern the treatment and resolution to afford to countries when decisions are made to renegotiate their sovereign debts: Sovereignty countries’ sovereignty to decide on their macroeconomic policies and also to decide how countries will restructure such debts. Good faith, transparency, impartiality in equal treatment so as not to distinguish amongst different creditors, so that all creditors receive the same treatment; sovereign immunity of jurisdiction and execution; legitimacy. Sustainability, which is maybe one of the most important principles inasmuch as it refers to repaying and honoring debts though not at the cost of a country’s hunger and abject poverty but through a political and economic project and through macroeconomic variables that should render the development and growth of society sustainable. And finally, maybe the principle whose absence in the field of sovereign debt regulations is most strongly felt and is a logical principle enforced in all the domestic legal systems in almost all the countries in the world: when a company goes bankrupt, when a company is unable to pay its debts, in any country, even in this country, the United States, where municipalities are also allowed to go bankrupt, how do you attain consensus? Through a qualified majority. When 66% of creditors here in the US, and also in my country, the Argentine Republic, agree with the debtor on the manner and the terms of payment, this agreement becomes a law and is thus mandatory to the rest of creditors. 66%, let me repeat. This principle also enshrines that when a majority decides a manner of payment, it must be accepted by the rest.
This agreement, these principles that have been approved here and that we have decided to send to the Argentine Congress for them to become public policy, a law in the nature of public policy that rules our domestic legal system, originated in the greatest default incurred by Argentina in the year 2000, history’s largest sovereign default. At that time, the world was growing by more than good rates. However, Argentina went bankrupt as a result of debts that had started to be incurred long ago; to be more accurate, it started strongly in 1976 when the country’s institutional order was fractured, there was a coup d’etat and in the 90s such indebtedness started to go even further during the convertibility regime, when they had us, the Argentine people, believe that one Argentine peso was worth one US dollar. This finally led to the year 2001’s default and also to a fracture in institutionalism –the country had 5 governments in one week.
Argentina managed to rebuild its economy and its society when politics resumed command over the economy, starting on May 25, 2003. When politics resumed command over the economy a decision was made to summon creditors to a first restructuring offer in the year 2005 and another in the year 2010, already during my time in office. The first restructuring had taken place during Néstor Carlos Kirchner’s term as President. In his first address to this assembly, President Kirchner said that the dead do not pay their debts and that creditors needed to allow Argentina to grow if they wanted it to repay. That was no premonition. There was no fortune-telling: he simply applied the economic logic that a country with an economy that does not grow finds it impossible to repay its debts. And that is when Argentina set out along its inexorable disindebtedness process. And let us recall that in the year 2005 a decision was made to repay the total debt to the International Monetary Fund, which had been imposing macroeconomic policies on our country. That is when Argentina started to grow and hooked up as yet another wagon with the locomotive engine of the emerging countries, which were the ones that had been supporting the sustained growth of international economy.
Let us not forget that it was precisely the emerging countries, led above all by the Asian giants, that exhibited the largest growth figures.
I had a chance, in my first address to this forum in September 2008, during my term in office as President of the Argentine Republic, to see how that train that was driving the world along sustained growth had another locomotive engine appended to the end; picture those old trains that have two locomotive engines: in one end, there was China and the rest of the emerging countries pulling towards growth with rates that, in the case of China, had already attained 14% growth in GDP by 2007. And then I had the chance to see how in 2008 an economic crisis broke out here –in Wall Street– with the meltdown of Lehman Brothers. And we are still experiencing it, but subject to several changes. Although the crisis was triggered here, at the heart of global finances, there had been signs, as had been the case of the sub-prime mortgage crisis in 2007, with the bubble finally bursting in 2008. Year 2009 marks the global economic meltdown, except in Asian countries. Even in Latin America we experienced negative growth that year. In 2010, the crisis spread to the euro-zone and a decision was made to bail out –that was the name given to the process– the indebted countries.
In fact, we all know it is a euphemism. It was the banks that were bailed out: billions of US Dollars were transferred to banking institutions. I still remember a discussion in the G-20 that took place in London, the second G-20, where we held that banks had to be saved to stave off a 1930s-like depression but we also emphasized the unescapable need for regulations so that the tide of resources being injected into the financial system should go back to the real economy, enter the goods and services production cycle and make the wheels of growth turn again. None of that happened. To the contrary, the consideration in exchange for the bail-out funds required from countries was a belt-tightening policy. This cut-back policy imposed on the euro-zone caused a recession in this zone and a drop in employment to unprecedented lows. 25% or 50% of youths in Italy were unemployed. Two-digit unemployment prevailed also in Spain. And this is how we got to the year 2014 and 2015 with a dramatic decline in global demand, and then we see how the crisis train, the Lehman Brothers locomotive engine that started out here, at the heart of Wall Street, drove then to Europe, and there is an intent to pass it on to the emerging economies who were those of us who have underpinned economic growth for so long.
Argentina was part of that growth and it is part of that growth. And this year, despite difficulties, despite vulture funds’ harassment, who do not collect, but neither do they allow the 92.7% who agreed to the two swaps to collect, thanks to the complicity of a portion of this country’s Judiciary. They wanted us to pay US$ 20 billion to 7% of the creditors when the swap accepted by 92% had amounted to US$ 42 million. What is the capitalistic logic behind this? What is the mathematical model of this? How long would it take us to restructure those 93% if we accommodated the demands of these financial predators and paid to them, who are only 7% of the creditors, half of what we paid to 92% of the creditors? I am sure that you would find a judge with more common sense who would probably say: “No, this is very wrong; you cannot pay to 7% of the creditors half of what you have paid to the other 92% of the creditors. Mostly when some of the creditors amongst this 7% had bought lots of these bonds after Argentina had already defaulted on its external debt.
It is for this reason that the approval of the basic principles for sovereign debt restructuring, for which there are some precedents already through anti-vulture laws such as those in the Kingdom of Belgium, represents help but not to Argentina, which is depositing 100% of the amounts owed to its creditors, but help to the rest of the world. It is an attempt, the first serious attempt, at furnishing the financial and derivative instrument industries with fairness and regulation. Mind you: as from the moment when merchant banks became investment banks, these industries remained outside the scope of all oversight and interventions.
The tenets approved on September 10 thus represent a highly significant step forward that must also be in line with the fact that the world is not doing well at all, ladies and gentlemen. And this is not news to anyone anymore. We could talk about the refugee crisis resulting from the action of financial predators in countries that do not manage to support their people and have to migrate to Europe in canoes, boats from Africa or about the refugees who have to flee their homelands because of the lords of war. But I want to refer to an unprecedented process of economic concentration. According to the most recently released IMF report, 1% of the population is at present holding 50% of wealth. Here, in this country that once hosted the American dream, the dream of the American middle classes that attracted, and continues to attract, so many Latin Americans, here, 1% has more than 30% of total wealth. How long can a society, the world, hold when income distribution is that unfair and with all the consequences of such unfairness?
Yesterday, at the Gender Equality Meeting promoted by President Xi Jinping, we pondered how much gender equality can be discussed in a world in which resources are so unequally distributed; how much gender equality can we find in a world that expels people from their home countries because they have become unlivable and these people are not received in the countries to which they flee. This forces us to address the problem of financial markets and the need for re-injecting resources into the real economy for employment and production to be resumed as the major engines for societies’ welfare.
I also want to congratulate myself and to congratulate the United States of America, the Islamic Republic of Iran and also the remaining members of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council plus Germany on account of their having reached an agreement on nuclear matters that helps to loosen up the situation and provides increased certainty and safety in a world shrouded in conflicts and warmongering.
We were aware of these negotiations. We harbored hopes that this agreement would eventually see the light of day. You will wonder how we knew. Easy: in 2010 we were visited in Argentina by Gary Samore, at that time the White House’s top advisor in nuclear issues. He came to see us in Argentina with a mission, with an objective: under the control of IAEA, the international organization in the field of weapons control and nuclear regulation, Argentina had supplied in the year 1987, during the first democratic government, the nuclear fuel for the reactor known as “Teheran”. Gary Samore had explained to our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Héctor Timerman, that negotiations were underway for the Islamic Republic of Iran to cease with its uranium enrichment activities or to do it to a lesser extent but Iran claimed that it needed to enrich this Teheran nuclear reactor and this was hindering negotiations. They came to ask us, Argentines, to provide the Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear fuel. Rohani was not in office yet. It was Ahmadinejad’s administration and negotiations had already started.
I remember that the Minister of Foreign Affairs came to see me and relayed the proposal that Samore had brought to me. Timerman had already warned the White House’s envoy that his request would be hard to satisfy in the light of the difficult situation between Argentina and the Islamic Republic of Iran because of the terrorist attack against AMIA in the Argentine Republic occurred on July 18, 1994 and the decision made by the judge in the case to press charges against five Iranian citizens and summon them to appear in court. Against this backdrop, Argentina’s contribution to this negotiation process which, let me repeat, had already reached the year 2010, was impossible. The Minister of Foreign Affairs came to see me in my office, and I remember this very clearly, and I said that if this request were made in writing and signed, we could, after all, cooperate, because we believed that the attainment of the non-nuclear proliferation objective was of the utmost importance.
You know that Argentina is a member of the select club of nuclear energy producing countries but that we occupy, nonetheless, a leading position in the field of non-proliferation. This means that non-nuclear proliferation is also a matter of governmental interest to us as well.
I said as much to my Minister of Foreign Affairs who in turn relayed this to the White House’s envoy, Gary Samore that we would accept to provide the fuel because it was in the hands of Argentina since 1987 and we also had the technique to produce it in exchange, obviously, for such request to be submitted in writing and signed. This message was conveyed and I believe that was the last time, after that communication, that our Minister of Foreign Affairs saw Gary Samore.
For this reason, when in the year 2013 Argentina signed the Memorandum of Understanding precisely with the Islamic Republic of Iran to unblock the judicial matter that had brought the case to a halt years ago –please, bear in mind that the attack took place in 1994 and I am now referring to what happened in the year 2013- other governments had intervened, there had been other developments, and we were trying because we are firmly convinced of the need to combat terrorism and of the importance of not forgetting and of honoring truth and justice and of finally shedding light, finding those guilty and punishing them.
That was the objective of the memorandum of understanding. However, it seems as if all hell broke loose with the execution of the memorandum of understanding. Time went by and when the agreement is executed on April 2 between the 5 plus 1 and Iran, no longer with Ahmadinejad, but with Rouhaní, and with the negotiations well underway, one cannot but wonder: why was there so much opposition and criticism against us negotiating with Iran a simple agreement of judicial cooperation for the Argentine judge to depose in Teheran the five Iranian citizens accused because of the laws that prevent the extradition of Iranian citizens? Why was that? And I heard the answer here, in the words of another president when he referred to hypocrisy in diplomatic relations. Lots of hypocrisy blended with lots of geopolitics and very little interest in setting the record straight when it comes to remembering and to honoring the truth and justice demanded by the victims and their relatives.
And later, when we sent this bill, this treaty to Congress, which was approved by Congress and I fervently wish that President Obama’s Congress, the US Congress, will also approve the agreement or, at least, refrain from blocking it because it will be a major contribution to global peace.
We are coherent. It is not that what is good to us is not good to the others or, maybe, we use elements or instruments that are not even remotely similar to the objectives that we declare to undermine the relationship or the image of a country. But this is the truth of the situation.
And finally, the judge hearing in the AMIA case also considered it to be mechanism apt to shed light and to allow him to depose the accused. An appellate court was not of the same mind and today the case has all but come to a halt. Today we can appeal only to the goodwill of the Islamic Republic of Iran because we have no other instrument to obtain the Iranians’ depositions.
But there have been some developments in my country, the Argentine Republic. Underway today is the action brought on grounds of aiding and abetting against the highest-ranking authorities and intelligence and Judiciary officials taking part in the AMIA case since the year 1994. This proceeding is now at the trial stage –oral and public.
Also, after my order late last year to remove from office whole areas of Argentina’s intelligence officials by reason of strong suspicions that they had hindered the investigation and opposed precisely the attempts at unblocking the case by going and deposing the Iranians, I dismissed some high-ranking officials, some of whom had been in office since the year 1972 and had rendered services to all the dictatorial governments and all the other administrations, ours included. Some of these dismissed officials have settled here, in the United States. A few days after this dismissal, prosecutor Nisman, in charge of the case, passed away.
All of this amounts to something more than what I have already said. I used to believe that AMIA was a complex game of chess in international politics. Today I feel that in addition to a chess game, it is a spider web, a spider web of interests alien to my country; a spider web in which, like in all spider webs, it is only the weakest and the smallest that get caught whilst the others remain outside.
This trial that is being pursued now for aiding and abetting, whose commencement was also delayed almost 14 years, and also in the investigation underway into the decease of prosecutor Nisman, some details start to arise that are revealing and even horrific of links to external secret services, of bank accounts abroad, relationships with vulture funds that have not been denounced by me but by members of my country’s Jewish community themselves.
I am not here to talk with hypocrisy or lies, I’ve come to tell the things that are happening, and also, as we have once said, a few days ago, to the US ambassador in our country, to ask for an explanation about the capacity in which this former member of the intelligence services of Argentina is here in the United States. He was in charge of the entire investigation of the AMIA case from the outset.
When I was just a provincial deputy in the South of the country, in Patagonia, being a delegate to the Constitutional Convention when the bomb exploded in the AMIA, this person was already in charge of the investigation, and now in the investigation about the death of prosecutor Nisman, his total and absolute connection with the prosecutor and other characters is being proven.
Our ambassador to the United States at the time, on instructions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, submitted two letters to the State Department and held meetings with the State Department, also to inquire in which capacity is this person here in the United States, I would say almost protected, but protected we do not know from what or from whom, but he is here.
And a few days ago, the new prosecutors in the AMIA case asked Interpol to issue a “blue notice”, i.e. a notice on this person’s whereabouts. So, as we have been doing since 2007, first President Kirchner and then myself, every year requesting the cooperation of the Islamic Republic of Iran to clarify the bombing, today we also ask for the cooperation of the United States. It is being requested by prosecutors in our country who want to know the whereabouts of this official whom everybody refers to as someone closely connected to the case and is even mentioned in the case of concealment.
You may wonder why I spend so much time on this issue. It is very little compared with the time that organizations paid by vulture funds have devoted in this country to criticize, slander and offend us, as if we were accomplices of the Iranian regime. If we are accomplices of the Iranian regime, what is President Barack Obama then? Is he, too?
I think hypocrisy and double standards cannot continue in diplomatic affairs. We cannot continue using weapons, instruments of international intrigue worthy of John le Carré, but old; because you know what? The communications world, this world of Internet globalization, which some dreamed would enable them to better dominate the entire world, today is also a powerful communication tool for everyone and for the entire global village where you instantly know what is happening in a particular place.
Therefore, in Argentina, my government, our government will tirelessly continue seeking the truth and justice in the AMIA case. We then ask for the cooperation of the country whose citizens are accused, and of this country, the United States, so that it will also help clarify the presence of this citizen that will surely be required, as he is already being required, by the State agencies in our country, the Argentine Republic.
But faced with this world of economic crisis, I was carefully listening to some speeches today, and the truth is that enemies change and mutate with amazing speed. I remember the last G-20 meeting I could participate in, I was absent in the last one due to health reasons, in St. Petersburg, where virtually those who confronted the government of Syria, the freedom fighters, were those who had to be supported by the entire West. Today, the freedom fighters are part of the ISIS, and in truth, I want to ask you, I have a big question on how this Islamic group works, apparently, who finances it, how it is done… because when you see those frightful scenes where people are slit their throats and where one can clearly see that there are three or four cameras recording the scenes, those of us who like movies can clearly see that it is not a homemade film as fundamentalist groups or guerrilla groups used to make filming with a small camera. No, no, here there is an almost cinematographic display; it almost resembles a movie by Francis Ford Coppola at times, four or five cameras, and cameras that are never seen. It would be good if we asked ourselves how, where all this is financed from.
This would certainly help the world find clues to combat one of the worst scourges facing humanity today, which are the fundamentalisms of any kind; dogmatic, religious, and mainly those that consider the neighbor an enemy and a target to be eliminated.
I do not want to leave this Assembly today only with problems of debt and economy or terrorist attacks and international complicity. I also want to go paying homage to the continent of which I feel I am a daughter, Latin America.
A few hours ago, speaking before me there was a president and a brother, whom I love and admire, the President of Cuba, Raúl Castro. After 17 years, Cuba returns with its President here, to the Assembly. And the truth is that for us Latin Americans, members of MERCOSUR, of UNASUR, of CELAC, who fought so much, discussed so much, argued so much for Cuba to be part again of multilateral bodies, today we see it as a victory of the perseverance of the region and, mainly, of Cuba.
We also recognize the United States government which has finally opened its head and understood that things could not go on like that. And we also thank another Latin American who was also in this same hall, who has perhaps more authority than us because he sits on the throne of St. Peter in Rome, and had an outstanding role in the articulation between Cuba and the United States, and came here to tell the world and from here tell the world that finance can no longer handle politics. And that a principle and precept understood by all religions is essential: Do not do unto others what you would not want done to yourself.
As Latin American, I also had the joy of seeing the other day in Havana the photograph of the President of Colombia, the President of Cuba and the representative of the FARC starting the end of a conflict of over fifty years which they tried to end with bombs and rifles. And no; political, social, cultural conflicts are not resolved with bombs and rifles; they are resolved by talking, through dialogue and acceptance of others.
And I am pleased to be part of this Latin American region where we do not have religious or cultural clashes, where we are all children or grandchildren of immigrants, where we still receive even internal migrations. In my country, public and free national universities receive students from across the continent, we do not issue a red card to anyone, because we feel the need to articulate and contribute to a more just world.
So I say that Latin America, having been perhaps the emblem of inequality, with the growth achieved by the national, popular and democratic governments that some call populist but which have incorporated millions of compatriots to cultural, educational goods, of health, of housing, of education, today we say we are a growing continent, a continent in integration.
And maybe this contribution we have made from Argentina, which was left alone in 2001 and we still could rebuild our country, now Argentina will grow by 2.7 percent of GDP, which allows us to say that inclusion, growth, development, production, trade will only be reactivated after employing the millions who have lost their jobs, improving the wages of those who get a pittance, respecting the rights of young people and children and, in short, being a fairer, more equitable and more egalitarian society.
Thank you very much to all.