Argentina pays debt crisis bond's last $2.2b quota

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By MICHAEL WARREN, Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina's president Cristina Fernandez says international banks have played her people for fools.

Her government paid its final $2.2 billion quota Friday to cancel a bond issued a decade ago when money fled the country as Argentina's economy collapsed. People who lost savings were given a ten-year bond instead, and most lost again when they sold them prematurely to get at least some of their cash back.

Who bought them? Mostly international banks, whose analysts are among the government's strongest critics. And that criticism increased the relative value of the bond over time.

"What great business!" Fernandez said Thursday night as she described her government's efforts to pay down international debt as key to keeping Argentina strong and independent.

"Twice they ended up with the money of the Argentines: in 2001, when they said everything was phenomenal, and during these 9 years, when they were saying that everything was garbage and they had to dump these bonds because they were worthless," she said.

"Please, let's not be stupid anymore, let's not be fools. Don't we see that they'll just profit from it, lie, cheat, precisely so that they can gain huge profits at the cost of the sacrifice of thousands and millions of Argentines?"

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