Sunday, October 14, 2012
By Maria Eugenia Duffard
Thirteen days since the attachment of the Frigate Libertad in Ghana over a complaint from the so-called vulture funds, the authorities of the Argentine navy denied being responsible for the changes in the route of the trip that allowed the speculative investment funds to advance on the teaching vessel and said that it was an “inter-ministerial decision.” The clarification from the naval authorities comes after the issuing of an internal note from the Navy to the Defense Ministry, where it reported on the change from a Nigerian port to the one in Ghana.
The response from the Navy authorities adds to the variety of crossing accusations between officials at the Foreign Ministry, Commerce and Defense over the scandal of the Frigate that came out of the government of President Cristina Kirchner last week.
The Frigate had left Buenos Aires on June 2 and should return on December 8. While the initial itinerary didn’t stipulate a stop in the port of Tema at the city of Accra, the capital of Ghana, but one in Lagos, Nigeria, a change made official on May 14 carried the Frigate to that African port, where it’s been held since October 2. Reporter Horacio Verbitsky, who frequently reflects the positions of the Security Ministry and one sector of the government, published a copy of note N° 34/12, signed by then-director of General Organization and Doctrine of the Navy, Alfredo Mario Blanco, in which it reports that “for operative reasons the itinerary of the instructional voyage has been modified.” Verbitsky detached Foreign Minister Hector Timerman from the matter and charged against Defense Minister Arturo Puricelli, and against the Navy.
But yesterday, the Secretary General of the Argentine Armada, Rear Admiral Luis María González Day, denied that the change in route had been unilaterally taken by Navy authorities and in statements to radio El Mundo he said: “There is a totally logical sequence in the designation of the ports and of the Frigate’s final passages, and that whole sequence is a cooperative, inter-ministerial process, which is to say there are a series of back and forth communications to put together the trip that the Frigate Libertad then took.”
The vice president of the Argentine Naval League, Fernando Morales, said that the detention of the teaching ship in an African port is “an unprecedented incident” for the naval world.
Be that as it may, it’s clear than neither the Foreign Ministry authorities nor those from Defense were unaware of the route that the Frigate would follow nor the risks that came with docking in ports from non UNASUR countries, where any economic demand against Argentina is dismissed. As Clarin reported yesterday, the new itinerary had been designed by the Foreign Ministry and offered to Defense. However, those in the Foreign Ministry say it was officials from the office of the Secretary of International Economic Relations, led by Cecilia Nahon, under orders from Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno, who came up with the idea of stopping in African ports. In addition to Ghana, the ship’s route included ports in the capitals of Senegal, Angola, Namibia and Cape Town.
Despite these explanations given by officials close to Timerman, Verbitsky yesterday set out against Puricelli – who is an enemy of Security (and ex-Defense) Minister Nilde Garre – and accused him of leaving the Navy to agree to its “new independence” and try to shed his responsibility in the attachment of the Frigate with “a common press operation.”
At the close of this edition, neither officials of Defense nor the Foreign Ministry had offered an official explanation of what happened with the Frigate. Only the document signed by Economy Minister Hernan Lorenzino, who was leading the Argentine delegation to the Annual Meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Tokyo, alluded to the Frigate by charging against the vulture funds who asked for the attachment of the Frigate over a default on debt bond payments. “Argentina is facing an extraordinary and at times ridiculous challenge dealing with the creditors called the vulture funds …” Lorenzino said yesterday.
As such, the ship remains stranded in Ghana with 289 crew members, 36 guests on board, and a daily port cost of US$50,000. The government sent a mission to that country led by the vice ministers of Defense, Alfredo Forti, and Foreign Relations, Eduardo Zuain. The variety show promises to continue.
To view this article in Spanish, visit: http://www.clarin.com/politica/escandalo-Fragata_0_792520807.html