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Argentina’s Interim President Resigns After One Week

The legislature is set to choose a fourth president tomorrow.

In his resignation speech Sunday, Saa accused other Peronist politicians of undermining his presidency and preventing him from reforming Argentina’s economy, which has been crippled by a severe currency crisis and looming $132 billion international debt.

Saa said the “wolves and lobbyists who are running loose have not been able to understand the essence of these new times,” alleging that many influential governors of the Peronist party “have withdrawn their support from me… who placed internal party struggles before the interests of the nation.”

Peronists, in turn, accused Saa of demonstrating a “selfish, petty attitude” that cost him party support, and admonished the iterim leader for failing to consult with other Peronists before declaring new government initiatives.

Saa announced his resignation shortly after eight powerful Peronist governors refused to attend a meeting to discuss fiscal policies aimed at resurrecting Argentina’s moribund economy, now in its fourth year of recession.

Presidnet Bush said Monday he was concerned about Argentina, but is confident that the “vibrant democracy” will pull through.

“Obviously I’m worried. Argentina is a very important part of our hemisphere,” he told reporters while on an outing from his ranch, but said he was “confident the country will stay together until they get elections, and once they elect a president we’ll work with him.”

Last week, in his first act as caretaker president, Saa issued a moratorium on Argentina’s $132 billion international debt, the largest default ever made by a sovereign country.

“I made a great effort, and the people of Argentina made a great effort,” Saa said yesterday.

With the resignation, the Senate leader is next in line to act as a temporary president to convene an emergency-held legislative assembly when an interim president could be selected.

Argentina’s Senate leader, Ramon Puerta, acted as temporary president only eleven days ago after deadly food riots and anti-government protests forced former president Fernando de la Rua to resign on Dec. 20.

Early today, however, Puerta announced his own surprising resignation in order to avoid inheriting the presidency again.

The next in line is the majority leader of the House, Eduardo Camano, also Peronist, who will act as temporary president only to convene an emergency legislative assembly on Tuesday to select an interim president. Saa will officially step down as president when Congress formally accepts his resignation.

Saa planned to hold a presidential election early this March, but today congressional party leaders said the presidential elections would be suspended until 2003, when former president De la Rua’s term would have ended.

“There’s total agreement the legislative assembly should choose a president for two years,” Radical Party official Federico Storani told reporters today. “It seems madness in the present climate to hold elections because the interim government wouldn’t have the power to apply measures to get us over this crisis.”

Public protests ring in new year

Analysts predict a member from the Peronist party, with its roots in labor unions and protection of domestic industries, will be appointed as Argentina’s interim president.

The Peronist party has largely considered themselves immune to public wrath since the deadly protests against the government’s economic policies seemed targeted at Fernando De la Rua’s administration. De la Rua resigned his post on Dec. 20.

But, as Saa struggled to unite his party, demonstrators gathered outside the Casa Rosada to demand the resignation of the new cabinet and the removal of bank withdrawal limits.

Despite the recurring vacancy in the presidency, the government will likely circulate a third currency, the “argentino,” alongside the Argentine peso and the U.S. dollar, in an attempt to steady the country’s severe cash reserve crisis. Many Peronists, however, do not support the argentino plan since it may create more financial chaos.

Riot police barred traffic today from driving near the Casa Rosada, the Argentine Government House, and increased patrols around the Plaza de Mayo, the scene of many of the riots and anti-government demonstrations.

“The Peronists just don’t seem to understand that the target of the initial protests wasn’t only de la Rua but the whole rotten political apparatus that they are a big part of,” said Claudia Guzzo, a demonstrator quoted by The New York Times. “They’re all a bunch of thieves, those politicians, the whole lot of them, and we want to see them all gone.”


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