Argentine president seeks to jail tax evaders

AP News
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Posted: Mar 01, 2011 2:57 PM
Argentine president seeks to jail tax evaders

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez called for jailing tax evaders, cracking down on money laundering and limiting foreign ownership of land on Tuesday as part of a broad legislative agenda for this election year.

She said foreign holdings of land should be limited but gave no specifics, and said the new law should not drive away foreign investors.

"It's simply to make sure the vital resources stay in our orbit. The law shouldn't be anti-foreigner or chauvinistic," she said.

She also proposed making it easier to adopt children, and said pregnant women will be added to popular $7 billion program of child subsidies for needy families.

But Fernandez said there's no truth to a rumor that she would try to change the constitution to eliminate presidential term limits, and probably couldn't if she wanted to. She noted that her party holds a minority of seats in Congress and has been unable to win passage of a new budget.

"Don't have fear. Nobody is forever," she told her opponents.

Fernandez has yet to officially launch her campaign ahead of the October 23 election, but the speech to Congress served as a roadmap of her political agenda.

She boasted of raising salaries, subsidies and other benefits to the working poor even as the government was paying off defaulted loans and reducing Argentina's debt load from 156 percent of GDP a decade ago to 36.5 percent today.

Despite sharp increases in public spending, soaring prices for soy and other commodities helped swell central bank reserves by 13 percent last year to $52.3 billion.

She noted that the government used reserves to pay off debt "instead of seeking more foreign loans that would keep us indebted," and without making any compromises to the International Monetary Fund. She blames IMF support for privatization and other laissez-faire economic principles for ruining Argentina's economy before her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, was elected president in 2003.

Fernandez has said she is committed to continuing the populist policies she and her husband have championed, but she also has sought to contain the expectations of her key allies, the unions, which have increasingly demanded wage hikes of 30 percent or more to keep up with inflation.

She called for a halt to strikes that frequently shut down public transportation, close schools and clog sections of the capital.

Fernandez faces a half-dozen possible presidential rivals.