Argentina faces $1.1tn debt repayment delay as IMF protests simmer

Demonstrators hold placards that read slogans in opposition to the IMF, during a demonstration against the government’s negotiations with the international financial institution near the obelisk in Buenos Aires, Argentina January 27, 2022. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

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BUENOS AIRES, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Argentina faces deadlines for nearly $1.1 billion in debt repayments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by Tuesday, amid uncertainty over whether the South American country will pay and tense talks to reorganize around $40 billion in loans. .

The grain-producing country, which has been battling a currency and debt crisis for years, is due to repay $730 million to the IMF on Friday and another $365 million on Tuesday, though officials have not confirmed their intention. to pay.

“What will happen, we will know in the next few hours,” presidential spokeswoman Gabriela Cerruti said Thursday at a press conference. She added: “The Argentine government is willing to reach an agreement to pay sustainably.”

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Chief of Staff Juan Manzur said there was “a political decision and a willingness to pay” the IMF, according to state media Telam.

The IMF did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the impending payments.

Argentina’s talks with the IMF to revamp a failed loan from 2018 have stumbled in recent months over differences over how quickly the country should reduce its budget deficit under a medium-term economic plan.

This affected sovereign bond prices, some of which fell to less than 30 cents on the dollar. More far-left politicians in the ruling Peronist coalition have also begun to toughen their rhetoric against the IMF.

On Thursday, hundreds of people took to the streets of Buenos Aires to protest against the IMF. Many blame the organization for austerity measures that deepened a major economic crisis in 2001/02 that plunged dozens of Argentines into poverty.

“What we are proposing is not just to stop paying the debt and break with the IMF, but to restructure the whole economy according to the needs of the majority,” said Celeste Fierro as she marched through the city in front of the central bank building.

Fierro, like other march participants, said the country should not repay its debts to the IMF: “We believe in…breaking up with the IMF and ignoring this debt, which is a scam.”

Vilma Ripol, another walker, said payments should be suspended and Congress should investigate the debt to avoid a repeat of the 2001 economic crisis.

“It was a disaster in 2001 that took us years to recover from and we had paid,” she said. “We kept paying and our company kept falling apart. Enough already.”

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Reporting by Adam Jourdan and Miguel Lo Bianco in Buenos Aires Additional reporting by Walter Bianchi in Buenos Aires and Rodrigo Campos in New York Editing by Matthew Lewis and Cynthia Osterman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tana T. Thorsen