Argentine presidential hopefuls tip-toe around debt negotiations
By Hugh Bronstein
BUENOS AIRES, July 8 (Reuters) - Argentina's top presidential candidates say a deal to avoid a debt default is essential for their economic reform programs but they are not attacking the government's hard stance against "holdout" investors because it could be political suicide.
Three main front runners have emerged ahead of next year's election. All are more business-friendly than outgoing President Cristina Fernandez, a fiery populist who denigrates holdout hedge funds suing Argentina as "vultures" out to bankrupt the government in their pursuit of huge profits.
Many voters share her view of the funds, which bought Argentine bonds on the cheap and then held out for better terms when Argentina restructured its bonds after a massive default in 2002. The funds have won a string of U.S. court decisions in their quest to be repaid for the full value of the debt.
The government is running a publicity campaign against the holdouts that includes frothy, nationalistic spots run during Argentina's World Cup soccer matches. Posters on the streets of Buenos Aires drive home an "us against the vultures" theme.
Fernandez has nonetheless been forced to enter debt talks in New York this week. If a deal is not clinched by July 30, Argentina would fall into its second sovereign default in 12 years.
Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli, the capital city's Mayor Mauricio Macri and Congressman Sergio Massa are the leading candidates ahead of the October 2015 election, although none have formally thrown their hat into the ring.
All favor a negotiated settlement with the funds as a way to unblock much-needed energy investment and global bond financing to take pressure off depleted central bank reserves.
But none of the candidates have offered a specific plan for negotiations or said what they would do if they were in power. Continuación...