Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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Argentina Defaults

by Shannon K. O'Neil
August 1, 2014

A woman walks past a graffiti that reads "No to the debt payment" in Buenos Aires, July 28, 2014. Time is running out for Argentina to pay "holdout" investors
suing Latin America's No. 3 economy for full payment on their bonds, or reach a deal that buys more time to avert a default (Marcos Brindicci/Courtesy Reuters). A woman walks past a graffiti that reads "No to the debt payment" in Buenos Aires, July 28, 2014. Time is running out for Argentina to pay "holdout" investors suing Latin America's No. 3 economy for full payment on their bonds, or reach a deal that buys more time to avert a default (Marcos Brindicci/Courtesy Reuters).

Two days ago, Argentina failed to come to an agreement with its holdout creditors and defaulted for the second time in thirteen years. In this piece for Foreign Policy, I explain why this outcome is not so surprising. You can read the beginning of the piece below: 

On July 30, Argentina defaulted on its outstanding debt. The technical default ends a long saga. It began in 2001 when the country failed to continue payments on nearly one hundred billion dollars worth of obligations, continued through its 2005 and 2010 restructurings of over 90 percent of these bonds, bled into ongoing lawsuits with “holdout creditors” including Elliott Management and Aurelius Capital Management, and culminated in the June 16 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to not hear Argentina’s appeal of a 2012 ruling by New York Judge Thomas P. Griesa. This left in place a decision that not only bolstered the holdouts’ rights to repayment, but also blocked Argentina and its U.S.-based banks from disbursing the next $539 million round of interest due on the restructured debt. Negotiations over the last month ended fruitlessly, leading to Wednesday’s selective default, as defined by Standard & Poor’s.

Many are bewildered as to why Argentina wouldn’t come to some agreement in the eleventh hour, given the seemingly manageable amounts of debt in play. But the truth is that Argentina acted sensibly, especially given the limited maneuvering room it had to work with.

You can read the rest of the piece here on ForeignPolicy.com.

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