Update on Seizure of U.S. Cargo by Argentine Authorities

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
February 17, 2011

On February 10, 2011, a U.S. Department of Defense team arrived in Buenos Aires to conduct hostage-rescue and crisis-management training with elements of the Argentine Federal Police. This exchange event had been approved in writing by the Ministry of Security on February 7, 2011, and earlier had been approved by the Ministry of Justice. It had also been coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The U.S. government approached all elements of the program with a clear commitment to respect applicable Argentine law, in accordance with the procedures and precedent established through bilateral diplomatic dialogue.

In order to clarify the facts, the following information is a timeline of events:

  • The cargo was duly manifested in accordance with previous discussions and understandings based on prior successful training events with the Argentine Government, most recently in August 2009. All items brought into Argentina on February 10, 2011, were materials that would normally be brought in during a hostage rescue and crisis management training. We held multiple planning and coordination sessions in Argentina between U.S. and Argentine officials.
  • During these discussions, the issue of non-serialized replacement barrels for three machine guns to be used in live-fire training was raised by U.S. officials with their Argentine counterparts. At that time, Argentine National Registry of Arms (RENAR) officials agreed that each of those machine guns and their replacement components would be considered one weapon system for purposes of the manifest.
  • There was one discrepancy regarding the declared weapons on the official list provided to Argentine officials. Numerals contained in the serial number of one of the weapons were transposed. However, the quantity and type of weapon was consistent with the official manifest.
  • Communications equipment was included in manifests provided to both RENAR and customs officials under “radios and computers” or “major end items.” The overall communications operating system was among the declared items on official manifests, even though individual component parts of that system were not listed separately. This is consistent with established practice and procedure during previous joint training exchange events involving U.S. and Argentine personnel.
  • In reference to the “psychotropic drugs” and “narcotics” to which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred, the U.S. Department of State notes that among the non-declared items were a medical kit and first-aid items belonging to one of the team members, a U.S. Army medic. The kit included a small amount of morphine as well as other first-aid items, none of which were intended for use by non-U.S. personnel. These medications are standard items that the U.S. hostage-rescue team carries during routine training missions and are intended to be used in the event any U.S. team member suffers injury during the live-fire exercises conducted as part of the training. These items were not declared on the official manifest based on precedent established during previous joint-training events involving U.S. and Argentine personnel.
  • The remaining non-declared items that the Government of Argentina has detained include miscellaneous items such as Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), batteries, clothing, office supplies, coolers for beverages, folding chairs, candy, and the U.S. team members’ personal gear.