A United States lawmaker has launched an extraordinary attack on Argentina and its government, describing a failed bid to buy Chinese fighter jets as akin to making a "pact with the devil."
US Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar used a hearing in Washington to voice her criticism of Argentina's foreign policy and warn that Buenos Aires may seek to acquire Chinese military aircraft.
"There are two worlds, the free world and the world of slaves, I hope the Argentines stay in the free world," declared Salazar, as she cautioned her peers about ties between Buenos Aires and Bejing.
The Republican lawmaker and chairwoman of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee used her speech to issue a direct warning to citizens and residents in Argentina.
"I'm going to do it in Spanish so that it is very clear to my Argentine friends," she began.
"Your vice-president [Cristina Fernández de Kirchner] and your president [Alberto Fernández] are making a pact with the devil that can have consequences of biblical proportions. The United States is not going to stand idly by, because you can't have an ally that manufactures and exports Chinese military aircraft and sells them to its neighbours," she said.
According to a press release issued by the US lawmaker, "Fernández de Kirchner is openly considering the possibility of buying Chinese JF-17 fighter jets and manufacturing them in Argentina in Chinese factories specially built for the occasion."
Such a policy, it added, "follows the trend of similar deals the Chinese have made with Venezuela and Bolivia."
Argentina did include in its 2022 budget an allocation of US$664 million to purchase 12 supersonic JF-17 Thunder-Block III aircraft of Chinese origin, but the purchase did not materialise.
At the end of last year, President Alberto Fernández declared that the country "has to allocate its resources to more important things than the purchase of military aircraft today."
In her speech, Salazar also stated that Argentina "has allowed the Chinese Communist Party total control of the operations of a space station, which is approximately the size of 400 football fields and is located in the middle of the Patagonian desert" – a reference to the Far Space Station of the China Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General (CLTC) in Bajada del Agrio, Neuquén Province, which is officially dedicated to space research.
"There is no agreement to supervise the base or its surveillance activities, not even with the Argentine government," the Florida legislator alleged.
At the end of her speech, Salazar warned: "There are two worlds, the free world and the world of slaves, I hope the Argentines stay in the free world."
The congresswoman, born in Miami's Little Havana neighbourhood, was a journalist for 35 years before entering politics, mainly in US media aimed at Latinos, such as CNN en Español, Telemundo and Univision.