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Obama visit shows Argentina mending ties

24th February 2016

US President Barack Obama’s decision to visit Argentina in March shows the country is mending its diplomatic ties after years of tension, Argentine President Mauricio Macri told AFP on Monday.

“It signifies a recognition of a change that has taken place in Argentina, towards good relations with the world, relations which must be mature, intelligent and mutually beneficial,” Macri said in an interview at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires.

The US-educated, pro-business conservative vowed to strengthen Argentina’s foreign ties when he became president in December after years of combative relations under his leftist predecessor Cristina Kirchner.

French President Francois Hollande visits Argentina on Wednesday. Italian premier Matteo Renzi did so last week. Obama will visit on March 23 and 24 after a historic trip to Cuba.

Obama’s aides said he will offer support to Macri’s efforts to turn the page on the financial isolation and political enmity with Washington that Argentina experienced under Kirchner and her late husband and predecessor Nestor.

“We believe this is really a new beginning and a new era in our relations with Argentina,” top Obama foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes said last week.

Argentina is Latin America’s third largest economy, but a $100 billion default in 2001 made it a financial pariah, effectively shut out from international capital markets. Macri has tried to quickly clear the remaining $9 billion worth of claims from bond holders, offering $6.5 billion to settle. Some major US hedge funds are still resisting the offer. Obama’s visit is expected to increase pressure on them to reach a deal. Obama’s trip is likely to focus on investment in renewable energy, agriculture and tourism, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra said. Macri said the visit will showcase Argentina’s cultural diversity.

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