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Argentina’s Fifth President Sworn in Tuesday Night

President Duhalde will govern the troubled country until 2003, when the term of former president Fernando de la Rua would have ended.

Duhalde became the country’s fifth president after a series of protests and riots against the government’s economic measures effectively ousted former President Fernando de la Rua on Dec. 21. Senate leader Ramon Puerta, former interim president Aldolfo Rodriguez Saa, and the House majority leader Eduardo Camano served as president briefly before stepping down in the past two weeks.

Duhalde, a former vice president and two-term governor of the country’s richest province, Buenos Aires, now has the difficult job of navigating the Latin American country through its worst economic crisis in decades.

In his first speech as president, Duhalde promised to end the unpopular free-market economic policies that he and many others blame for causing the country to default on payments of its $132 billion debt, the largest default by any sovereign nation in history.

“This is not the time to look for whom to blame, it’s the time to tell the truth. Argentina is bankrupt. Argentina is destroyed. This model destroyed everything. The essence of this perverse model brought an end to convertibility, made two million of our countrymen indigent, destroyed the middle class, bankrupted our industries and pulverized the work of Argentines,” Duhalde said late last night.

Duhalde Tuesday also terminated a special debt payment rule which mandated that all debts be paid in U.S. dollars.

While Duhalde has stopped short of announcing a peso devaluation, his advisers suggest the populist former senator will end the peso-dollar equivalency, introduced by Peronist leader and former president Carlos Menem.

The new president said he plans to announce his specific economic plans and his cabinet selections by Friday.

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