President Alberto Fernández said Thursday that Argentina has been "in default for months," saying failure to meet a US$500 million payment on Friday won't change anything.
"I read in the newspapers that we are in danger of falling into default tomorrow [Friday] and I ask myself why they lie like this," he said. "We have been in default for months, before December even we were in default, only they do not write that, they just hide it."
The Peronist leader took office on December 10. At that time, he described Argentina as "a country in virtual default."
The AFP news agency estimated then that Argentina's debt burden was US$234 billion, almost 90 percent of GDP.
The government faces a deadline this Friday, with US$500 million owed in interest payments on three bonds under foreign law.
The Fernández administration is seeking to restructure debt with private creditors worth some US$65 billion. The deadline for those talks is also Friday, though the government said Thursday night it would extend it until June 2.
The president has repeated that Argentina wants to pay its debt but that it doesn't have the means to do so, especially in the context of a two-year recession and the economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Officials say Argentina is acting in good faith.
"The government is not going to assume any commitment to our debt that postpones what all the Argentines who are locked up in their houses are waiting for, which is to go out, to produce and to grow Argentina," said Fernández, speaking during a visit to the northern province of Santiago del Estero province.
"We are not going to subject Argentina to new commitments that we cannot fulfill," he added. "I want the world to see us as an honourable country that lives up to its commitments."