A report says US military advisors were carrying a cargo of hallocenogenic drugs when they arrived in Argentina to train local police.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and US Vice President Joe Biden, in 2009 (Nirava Micky)

EYES INSIDELATIN AMERICA

A US air force plane with a mysterious cargo that landed in Buenos Aires last week is become a swelling blister in relations between the United States and Argentina. The Boeing C-17 aircraft was carrying material and equipment to be used in a training course on hostage negotiations run by US military advisors for the Argentinean federal police force. But when customs inspected the plane last Thursday, they found items on board that were not on the pre-approved official list of material and equipment agreed to by both countries. After 48 hours, the plane returned to the United States empty.

On February 13, noted journalist Horacio Verbitsky writing in Buenos Aires-based Página 12 reported that a suitcase was confiscated containing "hallucinogenic drugs," antidotes and pen drives with secret codes. In the exclusive story, bannered with the headline "Obama's Suitcase," Verbitsky writes that materials had the official seal of a paratroopers brigade of North Carolina.

Government sources told La Nación that the confiscated material and equipment would not be returned anytime soon and could possibly be destroyed. "This is the typical procedure for all items seized," said one source.

In Washington, a State Department official said the United States was "perplexed" by the seizure and said the US government would not apologize as some Buenos Aires officials have demanded. "These items, as we have said before, were routine materials that would normally be brought into a country during a training program of this nature, and we believe these items were inappropriately seized," said State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley on Wednesday. Dow Jones News Wires was told by a State Department source that medication belonging to an army medic was the drug in question, and it hadn't been declared.

Writing in La Nación , columnist Joaquin Morales Solá said the conflict is the worst seen in bilateral relations since the restoration of democracy in Argentina in 1983. Solá reported that when Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman went to Ezeiza airport at the time of the seizure, he told the US military officers: "Shut up! I will only speak to the ambassador. Tell her to phone me if she has anything to say!"

On Tuesday, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner defended her country's sovereignty and said that decisions concerning the confiscation and destruction of the items would be made by her and not by Washington.

But the origins of the spat may be elsewhere. According to Clarín, the government of Fernández felt it was snubbed by President Obama who decided to skip Argentina during his first Latin America tour late next month, which will take him to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador.

Buenos Aires is also smarting over the recent revelations by the WikiLeaks cables that show US diplomats commenting about alleged corruption during the past government of the president's late husband, Néstor Kirchner, and speculating about Cristina Fernández's own mental health.

Martin Delfín

Worldcrunch

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Why U.S. Vaccine Diplomacy In Latin America Makes "Good" Sense

Echoing its cultural diplomacy of the early 20th century, the United States is gifting vaccines to Latin America as part of a renewed "good neighbor'' policy.

Waiting to get the vaccine in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico

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-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — Just before and during World War II, the United States' Good Neighbor policy proved a very effective strategy to improve ties with Latin America. Initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the policy's main goal was non-interference and non-intervention. The U.S. would instead focus on reciprocal exchanges with their southern neighbors, including through art and cultural diplomacy.

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