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Argentina delays payment on dollar-denominated debt

A woman waits at a soup kitchen where soldiers deliver food in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on April 2, 2020, amid a government-ordered forced lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- Argentina announced Monday it is postponing payment on dollar-denominated bonds until next year in order to prioritize spending the coronavirus pandemic crisis.

    The decree covers interest and amortization of capital on public debt issued under Argentine law in U.S. dollars. No announcement has been made on debt issued in the U.S. or elsewhere.

    It did not specify the total amount affected, but local news media said it could reach $10 billion, with the first payments due in May.

    Facing inflation that hit nearly 54% last year and an economic slump of 2.1%, Argentina had been trying to renegotiate some $100 billion in debt, about half of it in loans from the International Monetary Fund, when the pandemic struck, devastating economies around the world.

    In the decree, the government cited the current "deterioration of the economic and social situation and the health emergency," adding to burden of upcoming debt payments.

    Those factors "have generated a situation of need and urgency" that justifies the postponement, the government said.

    Argentina has reported at 1,506 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 48 deaths.

    The country in February had postponed payment on the equivalent of $1.7 billion peso-denomiated debt.

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