Argentines want debt deal as economic woes pile up

Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:26pm EDT
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By Alexandra Ulmer

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s decision to talk with holdout creditors to end its long-running bond dispute and possibly avoid another damaging default is likely to be popular in a country that is sliding into recession, even as many Argentines say they despise the hedge funds involved.

A lawyer for the nation’s government told a New York court hearing on Wednesday that Argentine officials would be coming to New York to hold negotiations next week to resolve the situation.

The hedge funds that Argentina calls "vultures" refused two swaps on $100 billion in debt defaulted upon during the 2001-02 crisis, which wiped out the savings of millions of Argentines and plunged many into poverty.

Although over 90 percent of debtholders accepted swaps that paid them less than 30 percent of what they were owed, the holdouts insist on full payment and have won a string of U.S. court rulings putting Argentina on the brink of default.

President Cristina Fernandez's left-wing government previously had broad support to take a tough line against the hedge funds, but that sentiment appears to be sliding along with her approval ratings and the nation's economic growth.

A scarcity of polls make it difficult to quantify public opinion on the issue, but analysts and ordinary Argentines say they are starting to favor making a deal even if the government insists that it would just spark new legal battles.

"I don't like the vulture funds ... but we have to negotiate," said Oscar Conquero, a 54-year-old employee of an accounting firm in Buenos Aires. "It's the only alternative."

Conquero, who struggled for years to find a job after losing one in the wake of the crisis, said he probably would not have taken that position in 2001.   Continued...

Argentina's Economy Minister Axel Kicillof announces what the government will do following a major setback in its long-running legal battle against "holdout" investors in Buenos Aires June 17, 2014.    REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian