Milei urges Congress to approve US-Argentine naval training

The request to authorize a US patrolling ship to defend fishing resources in Argentine waters was in a decree extending the extraordinary sessions

President Javier Milei will file a bill in Congress that, if approved, would authorize a joint training between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Argentine Navy police to defend Argentine fishing resources in April. While such training sessions are commonplace, the proposal was included within a set of urgent matters lawmakers need to address during extraordinary sessions. 

The bill also requests approval for the entry of United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) James, a patrolling ship, which has raised concerns.

Congress has been holding extraordinary sessions to address the government’s massive state reform and economic deregulation “omnibus bill.” On Friday, Milei extended those sessions until February 15 — they were scheduled to end on January 31 and Congress’ ordinary sessions begin on March 1. At the end of the decree establishing the extension was an agenda of urgent topics that should be discussed. The first was the bill to approve the joint training between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Argentine Navy police, which has yet to be filed and its details are still unknown.

These joint training sessions with military forces from other countries in Argentine territory are common practice and the entry of foreign troops has to be authorized by Congress, according to the National Constitution. However, all planned joint trainings are usually filed for approval in a single bill. 

“It is very rare and surprising that they are filing a request for one particular training session,” former Malvinas Islands, Antarctica and South Atlantic Secretary Guillermo Carmona told the Herald.

While US patrolling ships have requested access to Argentine waters in the past, they have only been allowed to enter the port, and “in no way have they been allowed to patrol national waters,” Carmona said. For example, the patrolling ship USGC Stone visited the Mar de Plata port in 2021 as part of its pre-inauguration trip that also included other countries in the region. This didn’t include operational or cooperative activity and “did not involve vigilance or fishing control operations of any kind,” the Foreign Ministry said at the time.

“I have no doubt they are trying to involve the U.S. in patrolling Argentine waters,” said Carmona, who served under Alberto Fernández’s administration from 2021 to 2023. “The U.S. has manifested that kind of initiative on several occasions. As a former public officer, I can attest to that.”

The omnibus bill proposes multiple changes to federal fishing laws and would remove regulations for foreign companies operating in Argentine waters such as hiring local staff or mandating that boats dock in national ports. This caused controversy with governors, particularly from Patagonian provinces with access to the sea, who described the proposal as a blow to the economy as well as national sovereignty. Following meetings at the Casa Rosada in early January, government officials have expressed a willingness to review that section of the bill. 

Ignacio Torres, governor of Chubut recently met with U.S. ambassador to Argentina Marc Stanley. They discussed the possibility of signing export agreements and Torres’ interest to “solve the illegal fishing problem in a strategic region such as Patagonia,” the governor said in a post on X. 

Defense National Minister Luis Petri also met with Stanley this week, but they shared “a regular conversation, nothing out of the ordinary,” a source from the ministry said. The source denied comment when asked what they discussed. The U.S. embassy was unavailable to comment at time of writing.

The decree extending the extraordinary sessions also said the government would present a bill modifying a section of the omnibus bill regarding the entry of foreign troops into Argentina. Defense Ministry sources told the Herald that they are still working on the bill: like the fishing proposal, it has not yet been filed and there are no details regarding the legislative changes being put forward.


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