By Adam Jourdan and Miguel Lo Bianco
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina is facing a multi-billion dollar bomb in debt payments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approaching its due date and uncertain whether the South American country will honor it amid tense negotiations. to renew about 40 billion dollars in loans.
The grain producer, which has faced currency and debt crises for years, is due to return US$730 million to the IMF on Friday and another US$365 million on Tuesday of next week, although authorities have not confirmed payment plans. .
“What will happen, we will know in the next few hours,” presidential spokeswoman Gabriela Cerruti said at a press conference on Thursday. She added: “The government of Argentina is willing to reach an agreement to pay in a sustainable way.”
The Fund did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the impending payments.
Argentina’s negotiations with the IMF to renew a failed 2018 loan have stalled in recent months due to disagreements between the two sides over how quickly the country should reduce its fiscal deficit as part of a medium-term economic plan.
That hit sovereign bond prices, some of which dropped below 30 cents on the dollar. More left-leaning politicians within the ruling Peronist coalition also began to harden their arguments against the Fund.
On Thursday, hundreds of people took to the streets of Buenos Aires to protest against the IMF, which many blame for the austerity measures that exacerbated a major economic crisis in 2001-2002 that plunged scores of Argentines into poverty.
“What we are proposing is not just to stop paying the debt and break with the Fund, but to restructure the entire economy according to the needs of the majority,” said Celeste Fierro as he marched in the city in front of the central bank building.
Fierro, like others in the demonstration, said that the country should not pay its debts to the IMF: “We believe in … breaking away from the Fund and ignoring this debt, which is a fraud”.
Vilma Ripol, another protester, said payments must be suspended and that Congress must investigate the debt to avoid a repeat of the 2001 economic crisis.
“It was a disaster in 2001 that took years to recover from and pay for,” she said. “We kept paying and our society kept going down. Enough.”
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