Argentine leader riled by US cash charge

(AP) - Argentina's new president reacted furiously Thursday to accusations by U.S. prosecutors that an intercepted suitcase full of cash from Venezuela was meant to finance her election campaign, calling the charge "garbage in international politics."

Aides to President Cristina Fernandez accused Washington of using a "vile trick" to smear her government for its close ties to Venezuela's leftist leader, Hugo Chavez, who is campaigning to reduce U.S. influence in Latin America.

Fernandez, one of only two female heads of state in Latin America, suggested the charges might have been directed at her in part because of her gender.

"This president may be a woman, but she's not going to allow herself to be pressured," Fernandez said, glaring at the cameras. She denounced the U.S. criminal complaint, but did not address the substance of the charges - that Chavez was trying to illegally fund her campaign.

Instead, she signaled she intended to draw even closer to Chavez, vowing to "continue affirming our relation of friendship with all Latin American countries and also with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela."

The charges of a clandestine attempt to contribute nearly $800,000 in August put both the Argentine and Venezuelan governments on the defensive as opponents sought to turn the case into a political liability.

Fernandez appeared taken off guard by the charge that surfaced just two days after her inauguration. Her opponents demanded that Argentine authorities take testimony from four men charged in Miami with orchestrating a Chavez-backed cover-up after the undeclared cash was seized by Argentine customs.

In a Florida court Wednesday, U.S. prosecutors accused the men of being illegal agents of a foreign government and said recorded conversations indicated the scheme reached the highest levels of the Venezuelan government.

The Venezuelan-American businessman who carried the suitcase, Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, is not charged and appears to be a key witness in the case. He is named in an extradition request by Argentina, where he is wanted on fraud charges.

Fernandez's husband, then-President Nestor Kirchner, said in August that his government had "nothing to do" with the cash suitcase episode.

On Thursday, top officials dismissed the claim. Justice Minister Anibal Fernandez called the accusation "an enormous dirty trick."

Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo , meanwhile, said Antonini should be extradited. "It now seems the U.S. justice system wants to protect the one who in reality they should extradite," he said.

Venezuelan Information Minister Willian Lara denied any link between the money and Chavez's government, saying the four men are not its agents and calling the charges " U.S. propagandistic trash." Lara told The Associated Press that the U.S. is trying to link Venezuela to the case "pulling by the hair."

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack denied any political motives: "This is not an issue of U.S.-Argentine relations. This is a matter of U.S. law enforcement enforcing U.S. laws."

But McCormack also lashed out at Chavez for doing what the charges suggest.

"We have talked about their interference in the affairs of other countries. They have tried to insert themselves into various elections throughout the region and in several cases it has backfired," he said.

The money seizure led to the firing of an Argentine official for letting Antonini carry the cash aboard a chartered flight with Argentine officials and employees of Venezuela's state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA. PDVSA's top manager in Argentina also stepped down.

The scandal offers a glimpse into the sort of shadowy transactions that have long haunted Latin American governments. Its colorful cast of characters includes members of a new Venezuelan elite that has grown wealthy during Chavez's "Bolivarian Revolution" - a class dubbed the " Boli -bourgeoisie" by his critics.

Some of the suspects in Miami have prospered doing business with Venezuela's state oil company, which bankrolls Chavez's government. According to the U.S. criminal complaint, suspect Franklin Duran identified the person who carried the cash aboard the plane as an assistant to PDVSA's chief executive.

Both Duran and another Venezuelan suspect, Carlos Kauffmann, are shareholders in the Venezuelan petrochemical company Venoco and have done business with PDVSA. Kauffmann also has a stake in Perforaciones Alborz CA, which has supplied drills to PDVSA.

Both men have personal and professional ties to Antonini , who carried the suitcase.

The three competed together in the Gumball 3000 road rally in Europe and last year raced two Porsches representing the Venoco team, teammate and investment broker Antonio Pardo told AP. A red Ferrari used by Antonini's team bore a sticker with a logo used by Chavez's government.

An attorney for Duran and Kauffmann said his clients are innocent.

Duran, who is listed in Venezuela as owner of the arms importer Ruibal y Duran, was investigated by Venezuelan lawmakers in 2003 for allegedly importing 115 Uzis without permission for police in the state of Cojedes . That investigation was set aside without finding wrongdoing.

Cojedes state Gov. Jhonny Yanez Rangel has said Duran also sold weapons to Venezuela's Defense Ministry.

Hungarian-Uzbek investment projects to be implemented in food, agricultural sectors
Hungarian-Uzbek investment projects to be implemented in food, agricultural sectors
Number of construction enterprises, organizations in Uzbekistan up
Number of construction enterprises, organizations in Uzbekistan up
Construction of new water reservoirs in Uzbekistan to improve water supply of land areas
Construction of new water reservoirs in Uzbekistan to improve water supply of land areas
Loading Bars
Total assets of Georgian banks increase
Azerbaijan, Russia deem important to form new tourism products
BRUA pipeline may connect to TAP bringing gas from Azerbaijan
Foreign secretaries of Uzbekistan and US in talks over business co-op
Azerbaijani flag raised in liberated Lachin district (VIDEO)
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan discuss issues of co-op in framework of bilateral, regional relations
Azerbaijan ramps up 10M2020 export of ferrous metal products
Azerbaijani currency rates for December 1
Azerbaijan is a winner - Turkish government
Microsoft technology solutions to enable development of Azerbaijan's many economic sectors
COVID-19 drives 40% spike in number of people needing humanitarian aid
Russian TV channel shows Azerbaijan's liberated Fuzuli city completely destroyed (VIDEO)
Uzbekistan reveals its COVID-19 data for December 1
Work on conversion of NNC research reactors ongoing in Kazakhstan
Iran's comprehensive trade system to help fight corruption
Iran-Turkmenistan road to re-open after 9-month closure
Argentina reports 5,726 new COVID-19 cases
Turkey announces new curfews as part of COVID-19 measures
Iran, Georgia vow to broaden mutual cooperation
Turkmenistan takes part in meeting of SCO Council of Heads of Government (Prime Ministers)
Jens Stoltenberg: Georgia is a valuable partner of NATO
Japan’s Foreign Direct Investment in Georgia increases
Wisconsin governor certifies Biden’s win in battleground state
S.Korea reports 451 more COVID-19 cases, 34,652 in total
Kazakhstan decreases imports from Japan amid COVID-19
76 more coronavirus patients die in Moscow in past day
UK says coronavirus "back under control" after national lockdown
5.0-magnitude quake hits 64 km NW of Sinabang, Indonesia
Units of Azerbaijani Army enter Lachin region (VIDEO)
Today Lachin region returns to Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan discloses volume of exported silk
Georgia strengthens its position in olive production
Kazakhstan Railways opens tender for vehicles maintenance
Turkey, Russia discuss details of Monitoring Center on Karabakh - Turkish Defense Minister
OPEC+ agreement leaders suggest different mechanisms of oil production cuts in 2021
Oil prices down 1% as OPEC+ debates 2021 output policy
Another Turkish vaccine ready for human trials
Georgian Finance Minister tests positive for COVID-19
Iran's stock exchange needs structural reforms - Iranian MP
Kyrgyzstan provides online courses for entrepreneurs in field of tourism
Number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Serbia up by over 6,224 in past day
Azerbaijani Defense Ministry thanks Turkey's Defense Ministry
Bitcoin hits record high after steep fall last week
Logistic support assets of Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh arrive in Azerbaijan (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Turkmenistan significantly increases cement imports from Turkey
Turkish sappers begin mine clearing in liberated territories of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan extends learning from home amid ongoing anti-coronavirus measures
Azerbaijani FM, Moldovan minister exchange views on latest situation in region
Two more Italian municipalities express support to Azerbaijan
Iran's first VP invites Shanghai Cooperation Organization to invest in Chabahar Port
Expert talks short-term price decrease on Azerbaijan's car market
Kazakhstan sees increase in lending to legal entities over 10M2020
Employment in Iran's Razavi Khorasan Province soars
Azerbaijan raises export to Croatia
Iranian Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale December 1
Preventive diplomacy is integral part of Turkmenistan's neutrality - president of Turkmenistan
Azerbaijan to minimize plastic consumption
Kazakhstan to set up int'l center to develop oil&gas engineering in co-op with ENI, Shell
Georgian Walnuts company aims for eco-friendly production
President of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan sends letter to president of Azerbaijan
Uzbekistan exporting plums mainly to Russia and Kazakhstan
Azerbaijan's Baku Metro to engage testing services through tender
Armenian PM's attempts to meet with Russian president fail
Iran can increase exports through processing industries – economist
Iran hopes to see Iran-Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce headquarters open in Kabul
GM, Nikola announce reworked, smaller deal focused on supplying fuel-cell systems
Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency discloses volume of startup projects
Turkmenistan's Turkmengas opens tender for purchase of chemical products
Uzbek textile products mostly imported by Russia
Uzbek currency rates for November 30
Trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Spain greatly improves
Azerbaijan increases value of year-on-year export to Kazakhstan
SecGen of Iraqi Council of Representatives sends letter to President Aliyev
Azerbaijan reports 2,981 new COVID-19 cases, 1,226 recoveries
Azerbaijani 'Barda' ferry ship repaired and put into operation
Argentine companies to cooperate with Azerbaijan’s Azexport website and Digital Shopping Hub
Uzbek Ministry of Finance forecasts increase of public debt
Swiss Investment Company to issue bonds in Uzbek national currency
Georgia purchases 10 new high flow oxygen generators from Turkey
Iran hopes for economic revival of Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh - Vice President Jahangiri
JCPOA to holding meeting in Vienna
Excise tax on import of commodity items to be abolished in Uzbekistan
Income from pine-cone exports up in Georgia
Azerbaijan reveals data on loans issued to farmers over 11M2020
YARAT Contemporary Art Space to present exhibition project "Make Island For Yourself" in Museum of Azerbaijani Painting
Amazon, Apple stay away from new French initiative to set principles for Big Tech
Georgia reveals volume of exported apples
Azerbaijan's ANAMA discloses total number of civilian casualties from mines
Development Bank of Kazakhstan eyeing support of mining, metallurgical projects
Khazar Consortium opens tender for purchase of tires in Turkmenistan
Georgia reveals top five insurance companies due to paid claims
Cemeteries destroyed, mosques used as cowsheds in Karabakh - renowned French photographer (PHOTOS)
Baku Transport Agency, ARIS LLC sign tender contract
Azerbaijani Prosecutor General's Office urges not to visit lands liberated from occupation (VIDEO)
STAR refinery's crude oil imports rise y-o-y
Azerbaijan Mortgage & Credit Guarantee Fund says will complete 2020 with profit
Russia's Rostelecom working on inter-operator cooperation with Turkmenistan
Capitalization remains strength of Georgian Basisbank
Hungarian TUNGSRAM GROUP to launch production of LED street lighting in Kazakhstan
Azerbaijani agency unveils number of munitions found since Sept.27
All news