Argentina Refuses to be Dragged to its Knees by the U.S.*
“Nancy Soderberg has conducted a defamatory and slanderous campaign of unprecedented proportions against the people and authorities of my country and specifically against myself,” the Argentine President writes in an explosive letter to U.S. president Barack Obama.
Cristina Fernandez and Barack Obama (Photo: EFE)
President Barack Obama’s choice of hire for a high-level advisory position in his administration is under fire from Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, in an explosive open letter published Friday in English and Spanish on her official website (reproduced below).
“Could this be a case of namesakes?” Fernandez asks Obama, referring to Nancy Soderberg, a politician who Obama appointed to chief of the board at the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), while also holding Co-Chair position at the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), the most prominent well-funded lobby group in opposition to Argentina’s debt refinancing efforts. The group has spent millions of dollars lobbying against Argentina. According to the letter, the ATFA is “an entity specifically created to attack and slander the Argentine Republic and its President.”
The briefest internet search brings up Soderberg’s Wikipedia entry, which indeed confirms Fernandez’s suspicions. As well as holding high-ranking posts in the Clinton administration, and representing her country at the United Nations, “Soderberg serves as […] co-chair of the ATFA. In January 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama named Ambassador Soderberg as the Chairperson of the Public Interest Declassification Board.”
If they are one and the same Nancy Soderberg, she warns, “Relations between our governments would suffer,” especially “if ATFA’s Nancy Soderberg were the same person advising you on national security affairs, as Elliott Management Corp. manages the vulture fund NML Capital, which […] has led an international judicial harassment campaign against my country.”
Highlighting his administration’s hypocrisy, Fernandez labelled Soderberg’s accusations that Argentina supplied weapons to Iran as absurd.
“This absurdity would become a very serious accusation if the person who claims this were, at the same time, the same person with access to classified information and who advises the President of the United States,” Fernandez writes.
The functions of the PIDB, according to their website is to “promote the fullest possible public access to a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of significant U.S. national security decisions and activities.”
Fernandez fleshes out this job description, explaining that
“the functions of the PIDB encompass sensitive issues of national security and include giving advice to the President and to other US Executive Branch officials. In fact, on 10 November 2012, upon reappointing Ms. Soderberg, the White House publicly described such post as ‘key’,” while leaving out Ms Soderberg’s position in ATFA in her White House biography, and similarly the PIDB does not mention her lobbyist role.
This revelation comes during a year of deteriorating relations between the United States and Latin America’s second-largest country.
I am writing to you to bring to your attention a matter that, if confirmed by you, would have grave implications for relations between our two countries. What I wish to know is whether Nancy Soderberg, the person you have appointed as Chair of the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), which reports directly to the Government of the United States of America, is also the Co-Chair of the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), an entity specifically created to attack and slander the Argentine Republic and its President.
As you are certainly aware, the functions of the PIDB encompass sensitive issues of national security and include giving advice to the President and to other US Executive Branch officials. In fact, on 10 November 2012, upon reappointing Ms. Soderberg, the White House publicly described such post as “key.” However, the biography distributed by your office does not mention Ms. Soderberg’s position in ATFA and the biography of its Co-Chair distributed by ATFA does not include the high post held by that person in the White House. Could this be a case of namesakes?
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
H. E. BARACK OBAMA
May I inform you that Nancy Soderberg, the Co-Chair of ATFA, has conducted a defamatory and slanderous campaign of unprecedented proportions against the people and authorities of my country and specifically against myself, with a view to damaging the Argentine Republic for the benefit of a handful of vulture funds that seek to make exorbitant profits while curtailing the sovereign right of my country to restructure its external debt. These actions include the outrageous impoundment of the Argentine Navy’s flagship Fragata Libertad, which led to a unanimous decision by the United Nations’ Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordering that the impoundment be lifted on the grounds that it constituted a violation of International Law. Attempts were also made to impound a satellite that is part of a joint program with NASA. It would be a major paradox if the Ms Soderberg of the White House turned out to be the same Ms Soderberg that welcomed and encouraged actions that have also affected interests of the United States.
ATFA has stated that it has spent several million dollars on anti-Argentina lobbying in the US Congress and, for instance, has not hesitated to try to use to its benefit such painful events for the Argentine people as the terrorist attack against the Jewish community centre AMIA that took place in Buenos Aires in 1994, slandering my Government with completely unfounded claims.
You will surely recall what you yourself said in 2009: “the outrage of a building in the Cayman Islands that had over 12,000 businesses claiming that building as their headquarters. And I’ve said before, either this is the largest building in the world or the largest tax scam in the world”. Mr. President, I would find it striking if the Ms Soderberg that holds a key post in your administration were to be the same Ms Soderberg that co-chairs an organization whose financiers include Elliott Associates, related to Elliott Management Corporation which in turn manages the investment fund Elliott International, with offices at Ugland House, precisely the building you named as a symbol of tax evasion. If the person working with you were to be the same person that co-chairs ATFA, it would be a great contradiction for your fight against tax evasion to be tainted by a person whose activities are financed by companies linked to tax havens.
Relations between our governments would also suffer if ATFA’s Nancy Soderberg were the same person advising you on national security affairs, as Elliott Management Corp. manages the vulture fund NML Capital, which is also domiciled in the Cayman Islands and has led an international judicial harassment campaign against my country.
Certainly, ATFA´s modus operandi largely exceeds the functions falling within the scope of acceptable lobbying activities. The aggressive and low-down campaign led by ATFA’s Nancy Soderberg against my country can be illustrated by a number of shameful events that go from the placing of a giant blow-up rat in front of our embassy in Washington DC on the day our country celebrated its national day to the distribution of defamatory handouts outside the hotel I stayed at during my attendance at the United Nations General Assembly, as well as the distribution of posters asking for the government democratically elected by the Argentine people to end. You will agree with me that these despicable actions would become a question of State if they were carried out by a government official. That would be the case if the ATFA officer were to be the same person working in the White House and this were not a mere case of namesakes.
Moreover, the Ms Soderberg that co-chairs ATFA interferes in the domestic policy of my country by conducting a campaign aimed at political and economic destabilization, in order to press for policy changes that will benefit the vulture funds. An example of this are the articles published in the ATFA blog “Fact Check: Argentina”, which goes as far as to accuse Argentina of being a “narco-State”. If the person responsible for such accusations were, at the same time, an official of your government, we hope to receive clarification with regard to the opinion of the United States on this important matter for our bilateral agenda.
The organization co-chaired by Nancy Soderberg also publicly accused Argentina of supplying weapons to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mr. President, anyone who knows our position on the arms trade will find this absurd. However, you will agree with me that this absurdity would become a very serious accusation if the person who claims this were, at the same time, the same person with access to classified information and who advises the President of the United States.
Specifically with regard to the arms trade, let me make it clear that, quite on the contrary, Argentina is globally recognized as an active player in policies to control trafficking in and for destruction of arms. The question of arms is crucial and that is why I bear in mind, as you surely also do, the words of the then President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, in the US Congress, when he stated that 80% of the weapons seized from Mexican criminals had been manufactured in the United States and that there are over 7000 gun shops at the border between your country and Mexico. Perhaps you know where the arms that have showered the world with violent deaths come from, where they go and how they are used. But you can be sure that they do not come from my country.
It would be inadmissible if a “key” post of the government of the United States, with access to classified information and direct links to the US Congress, were to be held by the same person that co-chairs an organization devoted to attacking and defaming in the worst possible terms a sovereign nation that wishes to have productive relations with your country. We therefore hope this is nothing but a confusion and that it merely and fortunately involves a case of namesakes.
The upcoming G20 to be held on 15-16 November in Brisbane will be a good opportunity to work together against the vulture funds, to strengthen the restructuring of sovereign debt and to eliminate tax havens. Bringing those problems to an end is the role of national leaders, and manipulation by lobbyists at the service of unscrupulous persons cannot be allowed.
Yours sincerely, and with my utmost regard.