President Alberto Fernández reiterated to Argentina's creditors on Monday that the offer his government submitted last week to restructure more than US$65 billion in foreign debt is the "last" one his country will make.
"An offer was made [in April]. We saw that we were far from their aspirations, we reviewed it and we have made the maximum effort and this is the last offer. I hope they understand this," said the Peronist leader in an interview with the La Patriada FM radio station.
Argentina's debt-swap proposal, which would exchange bonds issued under foreign legislation, equates to paying an average of US$53.50 per US$100 loaned. In May, the offer rejected was US$39 per US$100. A grace period of three years on payments has also been reduced to one in the new proposal, with the country now offering to pay maturities in September 2021.
"We are trying to reach the creditors, we have already made our last effort. We are not going to pay the debt by postponing the interests of the Argentines," Fernández said.
"We can do no more than this and I hope they understand it because we are not going to move from this. We work very seriously and in good faith, and this has been recognised by the International Monetary Fund, the G20, France and Germany – they have all praised the Argentine effort that occurs in this context of the pandemic," he added.
The Economy Ministry has moved the deadline for acceptance to the offer to August 4. Two groups of creditors, the Ad Hoc and Exchange Bondholders, have both said they are not satisfied with the proposal and have suggested modifications to it in order to reach an agreement.
"Although we do not accept Argentina's proposal, it seems to us that it provides a basis for a constructive agreement. We are ready to discuss some modifications to the offer that allow for a consensual restructuring," the two groups said in a statement last week.
Argentina fell into default on April 22, after failing to meet interest payments on three bonds (which are involved in the exchange offer) worth some US$500 million. The country's total public debt stands at US$324 billion, which works out to around 90 percent of GDP. Gripped by a two-year recession, the economy is expected to contract by more than 10 percent this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
'Far from over'
The president also touched on a few other topics during his radio interview, including the coronavirus-led lockdown in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA), which is due to end July 17.
Fernández said he didn't want residents to believe that the pandemic was dealt with and that everything would be opened back up again from that date, saying the threat of Covid-19 is "far from over."
"Look at what happened in Israel, they had it under control and there was a barbarous outbreak," he said, going on to quote an outbreak of some 400 cases in Jujuy Province which Fernández claimed was a result of "two policemen who crossed into Bolivia to buy coca leaves."
"The speed of the virus is impressive," said the president.
Fernández also touched briefly on controversial plans to nationalise the bankrupt agro-firm Vicentin. The Peronist leader said a final decision on it would not be an "ideological" decision.
"If it were ideological, we would be thinking of nationalising the cereal market, and this is not the case," he said.