Argentina's new pro-business President Mauricio Macri urged Congress on Tuesday to approve a deal ending a 15-year default nightmare and lambasted what he called the shambles left by his leftist predecessor.
In a combative speech to a legislature dominated by opponents, Macri said it was now up to them to repair the damage he said was done by the refusal to negotiate with international creditors before.
"I trust responsibility will prevail," he said.
A deal was announced Monday to settle the conflict, which dates back to 2001, when Argentina defaulted on almost $100 billion in debt. Nearly all the country's creditors at the time accepted to write off 70 percent of their bonds, but a handful of holdouts demanded full payment in a row that crippled Argentina's access to financial markets.
Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay said that Buenos Aires would pay an estimated $6.5 billion in total to holdout creditors, including four hedge funds named in the $4.65-billion settlement announced Monday.
"Not resolving this conflict cost Argentinians dearly," Macri told Congress, urging lawmakers to "achieve the necessary consensus."
However, in addition to getting congressional approval, Macri still needs US federal Judge Thomas Griesa to lift an injunction that effectively has blocked Argentina from accessing international credit markets while the dispute lingered.
After a two-hour hearing in New York Tuesday, Griesa said he was postponing his decision.
For Macri, the debt deal is part of an overall bid to reverse his predecessor Cristina Kirchner's legacy in Latin America's third-biggest economy.
"The first thing to recognize is that we are not doing well, even if that hurts," he told Congress.
He said he had inherited "a state plagued by cronyism, waste, and corruption."
Describing a bloated public sector, which he said was used to mask true unemployment, and inflation forecast to hit around 20 percent this year, Macri said Kirchner left Argentina "in a mess and badly run."
A US-educated businessman, Macri, 57, took the helm in Argentina in December, following an election in which he won 51 percent of the vote.