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U.S. Airforce Plane Caught Smuggling Drugs
February 15. 2011
Argentina and the United States are engaged in a diplomatic spat after Buenos Aires authorities seized what they say are undeclared weapons and drugs on a US military aircraft last week.
The Argentine government on Monday said it planned to lodge a formal protest with Washington, while the US State Department said it was “puzzled and disturbed” by the seizure of what it claimed was routine equipment for training the Argentine federal police.
Officials in Argentina said the US Air Force C-17 transport plane was searched and its cargo seized by customs officials on Thursday at Ezeiza International Airport after arriving with experts and material for a hostage rescue training exercise.
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In a statement late Sunday, President Cristina Kirchner’s government said it would lodge a protest with Washington and ask it to cooperate in a probe into the air force’s attempt “to violate Argentine laws by bringing in hidden material in an official shipment.”
Argentina has said it seized “sensitive material” that had not been declared in a manifest submitted by the US embassy.
“Among the material seized, which the State Department makes no reference to, are from weapons to different drugs, including various doses of morphine,” the foreign ministry said in Sunday’s statement.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said “we are puzzled and disturbed by the actions of Argentine officials,” adding they conducted what he called “an unusual and unannounced search of the aircraft’s cargo.”
But he said the material seized was routine for exercises in which US military experts train the Argentine federal police in “advanced hostage rescue and crisis management techniques.”
He said the “seized items include batteries, medicine, a rifle and communications equipment,” adding he had no information to “corroborate that rumour” that drugs were seized.
Crowley said he had heard the serial number of one item was not documented, but added that the whole matter could “easily have been resolved on the ground by customs officials” rather than “escalated.”
“We continue to call on the Argentine government to return our equipment,” he said, adding the United States regretted the training exercise was cancelled.
He said Assistant US Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela at the weekend called Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and other officials to register “our great concern” about the incident.
The Argentine foreign ministry statement said Valenzuela “refused to explain why they tried to pass this material.”
Argentine officials said Valenzuela had contacted Timerman hopes of resolving the situation, and was said to have expressed “concern on behalf of the US Defence Department over the seizure of items related to the security of the United States.”
The incident comes amid a chill in US-Argentine bilateral relations, and follows US President Barack Obama’s decision to exclude Argentina from his first scheduled trip in March to Latin America. Obama will travel to El Salvador, Brazil and Chile.
Timerman reacted to this decision by saying that the United States has “more interests than friends.”
He said Obama would not visit Argentina because “it won’t buy arms or even sign a defence agreement.”
US Air Force C17 transport caught smuggling arms and drugs into Argentina
February 14, 2011
Translation by Aletho News:
Argentina’s foreign ministry has issued a press release stating that it will be making a formal protest over undeclared weapons and drugs brought into the nation at Ezeiza last Thursday.
A manifest provided by the US did not list war materiel and drugs which were seized by Argentine authorities.
Among the confiscated materiel were communications interception equipment , encrypted communications equipment, sophisticated GPS devices, high power rifles, a machine gun and narcotics as well as a full trunk of expired pharmaceuticals including stimulants. All boxes had the stamp of the 7th Army Airborne Brigade based in North Carolina.
The Argentine government estimates the value of the goods and the C17 transport expenses to exceed $2 million.
The unreported contents also included an odd brochure with the phrase “I am a United States soldier. Please report to my embassy I have been arrested by the country.” translated into fifteen languages.
US documents described the shipment as intended for an Argentine government approved Federal police training course.
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