Pride of Argentine navy back home after Ghana debt tussle

Updated 11 January 2013
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Pride of Argentine navy back home after Ghana debt tussle

Mar del Plata, Argentina: With pomp and politicking, Argentina greeted the arrival Wednesday of a three-masted navy frigate caught up in a debt tussle stemming from the country’s economic collapse a decade ago.
“Argentina once again has been attacked by speculative funds, and by others who threaten to come 12,000 kilometers (7,450 miles) to invade and militarize our Malvinas” (Falkland Islands), a defiant President Cristina Kirchner said.
She was referring to British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the fund that had held the Argentine ship.
“We say to them, proudly and with conviction: what we see before us today is a lesson for history,” Kirchner told thousands of tourists lining the port of Mar del Plata as the Libertad — impounded in Ghana for 78 days until it was ordered freed by a UN court in December — finally arrived back home.
It is summer now in Argentina, and maximum impact Kirchner, whose popularity is at a historic low, chose to have the ship — dazzling white in the sun — arrive in the coastal resort city rather than the capital because Buenos Aires is quieter than usual due to vacation season.
Military bands piped up patriotic tunes as three small planes soared overhead leaving patriotic blue-and-white trails and more than 100 sailing and fishing boats escorted the frigate into port in the culmination of what the government is billing as a big victory amid economic battles on various fronts.
The 104-meter (341-foot) long Libertad, with 27 sails, is used for training voyages by navy cadets and is the pride of the Argentine navy. It was first launched in 1956, made its first training mission in 1963 and since then has logged 40 more for a total of 720,000 nautical miles as it visited more than 500 ports and 60 countries.
Lately, its fate has been less glorious. It spent weeks docked at a port near Ghana’s capital Accra starting Oct. 2, under a Ghanaian court order requested and obtained by NML Capital — a Cayman Islands investment firm that says Argentina owes it $370 million.
Argentina rescheduled and refinanced much of its debt following an economic crisis and massive default a decade ago. But bonds held by speculative funds such as NML, a subsidiary of New York-based Elliott Management Corporation, are among its unsettled business.
The Germany-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordered the ship released on Dec. 15 and most of the 326 crew members were soon flown home. A team of 100 sailors was later sent back to Ghana to sail the ship home.
Argentina appeared to have learned a related lesson, however.
It chartered a plane — rather than use one of its own and risk another court-ordered seizure — for an Asia trip that Kirchner is set to begin Thursday with a stopover in Cuba’s capital, Havana.


China dog meat fest opens as South Korea goes the other way

Updated 22 June 2018
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China dog meat fest opens as South Korea goes the other way

  • The annual Yulin dog meat celebration opened without a hitch on Thursday
  • Eating dog to mark the summer solstice is a tradition in China’s Guangxi region

YULIN, China: As South Korea moves closer to banning dog meat, diners tuck into bowls of stewed canine in southern China, where activists are rethinking their tactics to counter a notorious festival that butchers thousands of dogs.
The annual Yulin dog meat celebration opened without a hitch on Thursday, a day after a South Korean court announced it had ruled that the slaughtering of dogs for meat was illegal.
Activists say the ruling could pave the way for the outlawing of dog meat consumption in South Korea, but there is less progress in China where advocates fear their tactics have been counterproductive.
Eating dog to mark the summer solstice is a tradition in China’s Guangxi region, where the festival has been held since 2009 to mark the occasion in the town of Yulin.
Despite rumors last year that Yulin authorities would ban dog meat sales altogether, many restaurants advertised the controversial offering this week with the veiled moniker of “fragrant meat.”
Carcasses were on display for purchase in the city’s open-air markets — though there were fewer of them than in previous years, locals said.
The Dongkou wet market downtown bustled with shoppers meandering past piles of dogs laid out atop butcher stalls for them to inspect. Others hung from hooks, their faces locked in a rigid grimace.
Market workers pulled in cartfuls of dead dogs while sweaty men blow-torched the fresher carcasses to remove any remaining fur. On the street, a man transported two live mutts in a cage on the back of his scooter.
As police patrolled outside the market premises, one woman bought a full dog for 662 yuan ($102), saying she would eat it with her family to celebrate the summer solstice.
“It’s very tasty,” another local surnamed Chen said, insisting “they’re all strays — strays and pets are different.”
Chen did not consider it cruel to consume the meat during what the Chinese zodiac system deems the Year of the Dog, quipping: “don’t you eat chicken in the year of the rooster, and pork in the year of the pig?”
But vendors were more discreet than usual.
They cooked in narrow alleys or inside their restaurants instead of preparing dog dishes in front of patrons, ushering diners inside and not serving outdoors.
Thousands of dogs are butchered during the event, the animal protection organization Humane Society International estimates — a fraction of the more than 10 million consumed each year in China.
Animal rights activists have typically attended the festival to purchase ill-fated dogs and save them from slaughter, said Qiao Wei, an activist from the Si Chuna Qiming Animal Protection Center.
But now they feel that working to establish a general ban on the dog meat trade would be much more effective.
“We have no hope that we can bring change just by going to Yulin,” he said. Simply buying dogs “doesn’t help.”
International animal rights groups concur, saying that focusing so intensively on dog meat consumption in just one city at an annual event risks becoming counterproductive.
“It would be far better to have a holistic campaign that works collaboratively across the country, engaging the government and public to acknowledge animals as our friends, not food,” said Jill Robinson, founder of the Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation.
Chinese leader Mao Zedong had banned dog ownership for being bourgeois, but the ranks of China’s rising middle-class are now full of proud and loving dog owners.
This year, the foundation set up an online portal where Chinese citizens can report restaurants that operate illegally.
Tipsters have already flagged some 1,300 restaurants in 153 cities, with over 200 of them shut down, forced to stop selling the meat, or issued warnings, said Robinson.
Before the festival, animal protection groups from around the world submitted a letter with 235,000 signatures to Beijing, calling for the event’s abolishment.
The tide appears to be turning against dog meat consumption elsewhere in Asia, and Chinese animal lovers like Zhang Huahua, a 62-year-old retired lecturer-turned-activist, sense change is in the air.
Zhang came to Yulin all the way from her home in the southern province of Guangdong to submit a letter with recommendations to the local government.
Her hope is to save dog lives by changing the system itself.
In South Korea, where one million dogs are believed to be eaten annually, a court ruled that meat consumption was not legitimate grounds for killing canines, after an animal rights group accused a dog farm operator of slaughtering dogs “without proper reasons” and violating building and hygiene regulations.
Last April, Taiwan banned the consumption, purchase and possession of both dog and cat meat, with offenders facing a fine of up to Tw$250,000 ($8,170).
But many in Yulin viewed the news with a shrug.
“They can do what they want,” said a resident surnamed Huang, who nonetheless wasn’t fond of the taste of dog himself.