Argentina seizes US’ ‘illegal’ weaponry

ARGENTINA seized cargo from a US military freighter flying into Buenos Aires in February claiming that it was smuggled weaponry. Two weeks later the issue has still not been resolved threatening US-Argentine relations and trade flow.

Facing international criticism for its actions, Amado Boudou, Argentina’s economy minister, said he found it strange that other countries act “as if it is a problem that Argentina enforces its laws”.

Cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez said: “I wonder what would have happened if an Argentine airplane had landed in the United States with the same load? They would confront us saying, ‘How are these people daring to take weapons, drugs and I don’t know what else without authorisation?’ The military personnel flying with the plane would be in Guantanamo with orange overalls.”

Argentina’s foreign minister, Hector Timerman (right), who personally supervised the cargo’s seizure at Ezeiza International Airport, has accused the US of smuggling in the firearms, and also surveillance equipment and morphine, to teach torture techniques to Argentine police.

The US insists the weapons were destined for local police training in hostage release.

US assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, said: “It’s absolutely necessary that they immediately return that material. It makes no sense for it to have been confiscated this way. This material was intended for a joint exercise in training people to rescue hostages.”

US State Department spokesman, PJ Crowley, Tweeted: “We want our stuff back.”

Commentators suggest Timerman’s motives are political; to score votes in a forthcoming election for demonstrating himself anti-American.

So far the dispute hasn’t spilt over into civil cargo operations but companies flying between the two countries are looking at the situation cautiously.

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