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A stiff sentence for a war criminal

A former president receives 25 years. A same-sex marriage law passes the lower house. Another debt swap gets underway. And Catherine Bigelow’s upcoming film angers Argentines.

 Top News: Argentina’s war crimes tribunal gave a 25 year sentence — one of its longest to date — to General Reynaldo Benito Bignone, 82, who served as the last president during Argentina’s 1976-1983 Dirty War. Prior to his presidency, Bignone ran Campo Mayo, a well-known torture and detention center outside Buenos Aires. The court convicted him of running a concentration camp. 

As the trials continue, a Spanish court agreed to extradite an Argentine pilot for flying the planes used in the infamous “death flights” of the Dirty War.  

Meanwhile, Argentina’s lower house approved a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. The Senate will have to approve it before it becomes law.

Argentina and Uruguay are holding talks to resolve their differences over a paper mill built on the Uruguay River, which forms the border between the two countries. The International Court of Justice ruled last month that Uruguay did not properly inform Argentina regarding its construction, but ruled the mill did not violate environmental standards, and could continue operations. Argentina alleges the mill is polluting the water. Despite the court ruling, Argentine protestors, who have been blocking the bridge between the countries for several years, refuse to leave until the mill is removed.

Money: Argentina’s long awaited dept swap finally made its debut on May 3, the same day that the International Monetary Fund rescued Greece. The $30 billion offer to swap Argentina’s defaulted bonds will allow Argentina to return to international credit markets, removing a decade long sidelining from defaulted debt. 

Hoping for a truce with its debtors, Argentina’s economy minister began a European tour with the offer in Italy. Around 200,000 Italians hold defaulted Argentine bonds and their buy-in is key to Argentina’s success. 

The 2010 offer is essentially the same as the debt swap offered to investors in 2005. Analysts believe the hold-outs are ready to make a deal.

As Argentina seeks a return to the credit market, the IMF and Argentina are hoping to send an IMF technician to improve the quality of the data. It is widely believed the Argentine government manipulates economic data, particularly inflation in the country. As a member of the G20, Argentina is “a systematically important,” said Nicolas Ezyaquirre, director of the IMF's Western Hemisphere department. 

Yet relations between the IMF and Argentina are strained as many believe the IMF was partly responsible for the country’s debt default nearly a decade ago. 

Elsewhere: Argentina and Paraguay are angry this year’s Oscar-winning best director Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow and writing partner Mark Boal are shooting a film — tentatively titled “Triple Frontier” — about the culture of crime and smuggling in the border region between Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.  The countries say their reputations will be damaged by a negative portrayal of the region and could hurt tourism. The border is home to the Iguazu Falls, Argentina’s top tourist attraction next to Patagonia.