Argentina, United States to resume sharing financial intelligence

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina and the United States will resume sharing intelligence on money flows to bolster the fight against drug gangs and organized crime, an Argentine official said on Monday, days ahead of a state visit by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Information sharing between the Argentine and U.S. financial intelligence units was suspended last year, during the final months of President Cristina Fernandez’s leadership, after the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said its Argentine counterpart leaked confidential data.

“Not collaborating only benefits organized crime, the corrupt and potentially even terrorists,” said Mariano Federici, who heads Argentina’s Financial Information Unit.

Federici said he expects information sharing to resume in the next two months.

Obama’s visit this week signals a warming between the two countries, whose relations have long been volatile, following the election late last year of center-right President Mauricio Macri.

Macri has promised to end Argentina’s international isolation, both in the political arena and financial markets, after 12 years of leftist rule during which ties between Washington and Buenos Aires soured sharply.

Fernandez, a fiery figurehead among South America’s left-leaning leaders, frequently portrayed the United States as an imperialist bully. Macri has said he wants to build “an intelligent, productive” relationship.

Obama wants to be responsive to Macri’s priorities of reducing poverty, crime and drug trafficking, Mark Feierstein, the National Security Council’s director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said last week.

“It’s impossible to fight drug smuggling if we don’t have an adequate flow of information,” said Argentina’s foreign minister, Susana Malcorra.

Obama will become the fist sitting U.S. president to make a state visit to Argentina in nearly two decades when he arrives in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Dan Grebler