Argentine president challenges Harvard questions

AP News
Posted: Sep 28, 2012 4:58 AM
Argentine president challenges Harvard questions

BOSTON (AP) — In a rare departure from her usual political style, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez responded to questions from an audience at Harvard University Thursday night. But she didn't always answer them.

Fernandez spoke before more than 100 students, faculty and guests at the Kennedy School of Government. In Argentina, she has had five news conferences in five years and has only occasionally taken questions.

Fernandez said the criticism that she doesn't speak to the press is unfounded.

"I don't know where this comes from that I don't talk, that I can't speak, that I'm mute," she said in Spanish which was translated into English.

One student, who is from Argentina, asked Fernandez about Argentines' limited access to foreign capital when they want to travel abroad and increased taxes on credit and debit card purchases made outside the country or online.

"You are here and you are Argentine, so obviously you don't have dollar problems," Fernandez told the student. "You are lucky enough to study in Harvard. You think you can really talk about these currency problems?"

To another student, who asked if it was time for Fernandez to be more self-critical because of her country's escalating crime and what some say is its inflation problem, she said she expected different questions from her Ivy League audience.

Capital flight and wary investors have plagued Fernandez's second term, despite her attempts to use currency controls, taxes on the wealthy and programs for the poor to combat what some analysts have labeled the economy's impending downward economic spiral.

Moody's Investor Service Thursday downgraded 30 Argentine banks to "negative" ratings, down from "stable."

The International Monetary Fund has given Argentina until Dec. 17 to publish accurate inflation statistics, questioning the reported monthly inflation of below 1 percent.

Fernandez succeeded her husband, Nestor Kirchner, as president of Argentina in 2007. He died three years later.

She has been in the U.S. for several days visiting the United Nations. She spoke at Georgetown University on Wednesday.