BUENOS AIRES, July 28 (UPI) — Argentina’s relations with the United States risk reaching a new low after the South American country received angry criticism from U.S. lawmakers over its style of government.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner faced renewed condemnation of government measures that are seen to be suppressing freedom of expression and undermining democratic institutions in the country.
Underlying U.S. lawmakers’ criticism is lingering annoyance over Argentina’s seizure of a U.S. Air Force jet — a Buenos Aires move that surprised and irritated Washington and took nearly a month of patient diplomacy to reach resolution.
The latest reproof for Argentina came after a U.S. House of Representatives committee heard requests to remove Argentina from a list of countries entitled to receive State Department financial support for promoting good governance and related programs.
U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., said he was in favor of supporting Latin American countries that foster democratic values and moving away from countries that failed to fulfill that role.
“Let’s get close to our allies and friends and stop supporting organizations and countries which perpetuate the destruction of freedom and democracy,” Mack said.
Mack indicated he saw no place for Argentina in the group of countries that abide by international law and promote democratic value. He has already singled out Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela as countries that have “no interest” in promoting democratic values or freedom.
Earlier, Democrats in Congress issued similar warnings about Argentina, citing the government’s suppression of the media. In previous congressional committee meetings, too, Argentina was omitted from the group of “democratic leaderships” in the Latin American region.
Argentina’s final agreement in June to surrender cargo and effects it seized from an alleged U.S. spy plane put at rest a bitter diplomatic row but raised key questions on governance in the country.
The dispute surprised diplomatic analysts who saw the Argentine rhetoric accompanying the February seizure of the U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster as a classic blunder pursued through the populist media for no apparent gain.
The seizure triggered a bitter diplomatic confrontation and was followed by weeks of negotiations on how best to backtrack — mainly to save Fernandez unwelcome attention in the news media already critical of her style of government.
In June the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires announced agreements that led to the return of the plane’s cargo and other contents by Argentina.
After it seized the plane in February, Argentina presented a formal protest to the embassy. Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman urged the U.S. administration to assist local authorities in the investigation, called for an official apology and warned that the seized material would never be handed back.
U.S. President Barack Obama raised the subject when he visited the region in March.
Argentine-U.S. tensions rose through the spring and early summer and Argentine officials feared the U.S. anger over the incident might influence the Paris Club of country creditors, courted by Fernandez as part of her campaign to restore Argentina’s credit worthiness in international financial markets.
U.S. administration departments suspended or downgraded links with the Argentine administration as talks for the return of the cargo stalled.
The latest setback to Argentina in the U.S. Congress indicated the incident delivered lasting damage to Argentina’s standing as a country adhering to normal diplomatic conduct and rule of law, analysts said.