By Congressman Connie Mack
From day one of Barack Obama's presidency, he has had misplaced priorities throughout the Western Hemisphere. He has consistently reached out and offered friendship to our enemies while ignoring our friends -- directly jeopardizing U.S. interests in the region.
His presence at the G-20 summit represented an opportunity for the president to readjust his lack of leadership in Latin America during his planned meeting with re-elected Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Unfortunately, he missed an opportunity to stand up for freedom and prosperity by failing to encourage Kirchner to realign her country's priorities during her next term and become accountable for its outstanding debt to U.S. creditors.
Argentina is perhaps one of the largest scofflaws in history, while also being listed within the elite group of G-20 nations. In 2001, the government of Argentina defaulted on its bills -- essentially declaring bankruptcy on $81 billion in sovereign bonds. It then proceeded to offer bondholders 27 cents on the dollar.
Many ordinary Americans and American businesses were hurt by Argentina's refusal to honor its debt. To this day, Argentina refuses to honor its claims to many Americans or to negotiate in good faith. Meanwhile, Obama believes Argentina is a friend of the United States and turns his back on American interests abroad.
Argentina has also violated U.S. laws and defied international financial standards. There are more than 100 outstanding court judgments against Argentina in the U.S. Southern District of New York totaling more than $7 billion. Further, Argentina is one of the few G-20 nations to find itself involved in cases pending at the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. Unfortunately, the Argentine government refuses to recognize any of these court judgments -- showing an equal disregard for both U.S. and international law.
The government of Argentina is not a friend of the United States. Obama should have utilized this meeting with Kirchner to vigorously support freedom and prosperity in the region by standing up and protecting American citizens and businesses from countries like Argentina.
In an effort to hold Argentina accountable, I invite my colleagues in Congress to join me in supporting the Judgment Evading Foreign States Accountability Act. Intended to stop nations such as Argentina from inflicting further financial injury on the United States and its citizens, the legislation would protect the rights of investors and uphold U.S. rule of law. Our president should, too.
Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Fla.) is chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.