Argentina welcomes home ship held in Ghana by US 'vulture fund'

Naval vessel impounded for two and half months returns to triumphant homecoming

Mar del Plata, Argentina

Thousands of flag-waving Argentinians welcomed home the ARA Libertad this evening, the naval vessel impounded in Ghana for two and half months at the request of a US "vulture fund" that claimed it was owed millions of dollars in outstanding payments by the South American nation.

In a specially organised event in the city of Mar del Plata, headed by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and featuring brass band music, fireworks and stunt planes flying overhead, the government attempted to turn what had originally been viewed as a national humiliation into a triumphant homecoming.

As the vessel edged towards the naval base where it docked, an announcer hailed the return as a triumph of "dignity and sovereignty".

"I think it's great the boat has come back," said Abél Maranzana, 51, a newspaper seller just off the main beach, "because vulture funds have always pressurised and abused Argentina. It's good to see that the boat hasn't been handed over to those people."

Not even a planned anti-government cacerolazo near the naval base - a form of street protest involving banging pots and pans dating back to the 2001 economic crisis that has made a come back in recent months as Fernández de Kirchner's popularity has slid - could dampen the spirits of the holidaymakers, politicians and social groups in attendance.

Members of the opposition were quick to accuse the government of hijacking the homecoming for political gain. "All Argentinians celebrate the return of the Libertad," said ex-presidential candidate Ricardo Alfonsín on his Twitter account. "But as a citizen, too, it pains me how the government is making use of the arrival."

The ARA Libertad's repatriation port had been chosen to ensure maximum exposure. Mar del Plata is the country's most popular seaside resort that welcomes thousands of domestic holidaymakers every January.

The vessel, on a routine stopover, was held in the Ghanaian port of Tema on October 2 after the High Court there backed the claims of US hedge fund NML Capital - headed by billionaire Paul Singer - demanding up to US$1.6bn from the Argentinian government in debt it amassed selling bonds.

The stopover in Ghana was a ill-advised last minute change to the itinerary and the scandal left a large dent in Argentina's pride, leading to the resignation of Navy chief Carlos Alberto Paz.

Argentina argued that the detention, used as leverage by NML to try and regain its money, was illegal and took the dispute to the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The body subsequently ruled in Argentina's favour, ordering the immediate release of the frigate.

On December 18 Fernández de Kirchner announced that the three-mast sail ship would be returning to the resort of Mar del Plata, popular with middle and working class Argentinians. "So that all Argentinians can see the Frigata Libertad [Freedom Frigate], which also represents your freedom," she said.

Argentina refers to NML Capital and similar companies as vulture funds due to their methods of preying on developing, often heavily indebted, economies largely in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

NML originally bought cut-price government bonds back in 2000, a year before the nation's historic default. Instead of entering into Argentina's debt restructuring initiatives in 2005 and 2010 - when financiers were offered a fraction of their original investment - NML has looked to pursue the full amount it claims it is owed, plus interest, through international courts.

The Argentinian government has taken a hard-line in public against holdout investors and in October Cristina Fernández de Kirchner claimed that she would refuse to repay even a dollar to the so-called vulture funds.

In political circles the tone has been more moderate, with suggestions the government plans to reopen its 2010 restructuring negotiations with holdouts prepared to accept the same conditions as other bond buyers.

At the end of November, New York judge Thomas Griesa ruled that Argentina was obliged to make repayments to holdouts, a ruling that could have led to Argentina defaulting on its other repayment obligations. An appeals court granted the country an emergency stay of order until February 27.

After the Mar del Plata celebrations, the president will make a swift visit to Havana, Cuba, to check on the ailing health of Venezuelan ally Hugo Chávez, before beginning a tour of the UAE and Asia.

According to local newspaper reports, Fernández de Kirchner is renting an English private jet for her trip, instead of using the official Tango 01 plane, keen to avoid another high profile run-in with vulture funds on foreign soil.

Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree - £18k Starting Salary

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London