What a racket

On Tuesday evening I attended a Jubilee Debt Campaign protest in central London to draw attention to a shady vulture fund circling Argentina. Vulture funds buy up debts that are weak or dying and attempt to cash them when they default, making millions off the back of economic crises and exascerbating the conditions that perpetuate poverty, while hampering the state's ability to provide any remedy.

Packing pots and pans, we made our presence impossible to ignore, and informed bewildered passersby of the unscrupulous actions of these predatory speculators. The element of noise was inspired by Argentine protests and not only proved to be an attention-grabbing tactic but also had the benefit of keeping us moderately warm on an unremittingly cold February evening.

We gathered to support Argentina’s rights to refuse payment to the vulture funds, condemn the decision of the New York court which implied that the payment to vulture funds supersedes a state’s right to protect its people, and to support a debt audit to determine the extent of Argentina’s illegitimate debt.

Last November a US court ruled that Argentina must pay over $1 billion to a subsidiary of US hedge fund Elliot Associates, whose London base we demonstrated in front of. Although these speculators would have us believe that they are simply debt collecting, the truth is that they never ‘lent’ money to Argentina in any conventional sense. Rather, when Argentina defaulted on some of its debts in 2002, vulture funds speculated on the crisis, buying up billions of dollars’ worth of debt at very cheap rates, in the hope that the country would go bankrupt. They then tried to make millions, as millions of citizens suffered unemployment, homelessness and poverty.

Much of this debt was accumulated by Argentina’s military junta, whose rule was brutally repressive. Therefore the vast majority of debt claims over this period have been declared arbitrary and fraudulent. 40 years ago, speculators profited from death and repression at the hands of Argentina’s dictatorship. Today vultures are again attempting to profit at the expense of Argentina’s people.

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