December 31, 2014 / 7:54 PM / in 3 years

Argentina to start 2015 with lapdogs, dollar reserves flying high

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s dollar reserves and the country’s notoriously spoiled lapdogs will both be flying high as 2015 gets underway, according to President Cristina Fernandez, even if the economy remains a mess.

The two-term leader focused her year end statement on her Toy Poodle, Lolita, and the fact that recent government efforts to reverse a decline in reserves had worked.

On the president's Facebook page [tinyurl.com/mj7mn6t], the white-furred pooch sits prettily in the arms of Fernandez as they fly off on presidential plane Tango 01 for a New Year's break in Patagonia. In January she said passengers on state-owned Aerolineas Argentinas, the country's largest carrier, will also be allowed to bring small pets on board.

“Careful! I said only small pets,” the post says. “Don’t try to board with a 50 kilo mastiff. Lolita only weighs two kilos.”

The post got more than 36,000 ‘likes’. Lapdogs are a status symbol in Argentina, dressed sometimes in fitted sweaters emblazoned with colors of their owners’ favorite soccer club.

“And oh yes, I almost forgot, we’ve come to $31.4 billion in central bank reserves,” the post goes on, marking a 2.7 percent rise during the year.

Wall Street had predicted a reserves crisis when Argentina entered its latest round of defaults in July.

“Remember the newspaper headlines announcing a drop in reserves and all the other catastrophes that were forecast for the end of this year?”

Fernandez, in a wheel chair after recently fracturing her ankle, accuses local media of unfair criticism.

The 61-year-old leader is battling a group of hedge funds that have won court orders demanding Argentina pay back defaulted bonds at 100 cents on the dollar. But she insists they will get the same steep reduction in terms offered in the country’s previous restructurings.

The central bank built up its dollar reserves to keep Fernandez from being forced into a deal with the funds.

The economy is meanwhile contracting and the government says inflation is at 24 percent while private analysts put it at as high as 40 percent.

“Some day will we see headlines about the accomplishments of our country ?” Fernandez asks. “In a wheelchair and with two and a half million front page headlines against our country, we are going to keep working.”

The next president will be elected in October, so Lolita should make the most of the time she has left to enjoy the spacious Tango 01. Fernandez is constitutionally barred from running for a third term.

Edited by Richard Lough and Andrew Hay

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