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Europe

Argentina has a New President

Adolfo Rodriguez Saa is Argentina's new interim president. He will stay in office until elections are held March 3, 2002. Saa takes over a country shaken by violent protests and rioting.

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Adolfo Rodriguez Saa, governor of Argentine province of San Luis, will be the country's next president.

In Argentina, Adolfo Rodriguez Saa has been sworn in as interim president until new elections are held in March next year.

The provincial governor on Sunday took over the running of a country in deep financial and social crisis.

In his first public announcement after he was sworn in, Saa said he would suspend payments on Argentina's huge public foreign debt.

Economic crisis

Adolfo Rodriguez Saa will face difficult decisions as Argentina's new president. The country is battling with a four-year recession and 18.3 percent unemployment. Argentina is bankrupt and has debts of more than 145 billion euro ($ 130 billion).

Almost half of all Argentineans are living below the poverty line.

Saa announced that the country's currency, the peso, will not be devalued. Instead there will be stringent spending cuts. But his predecessor Fernando de la Rua failed with the same policies.

A week of rioting

The situation in Argentina has calmed since the widespread rioting that left at least 26 people dead. On Friday shopkeepers surveyed the wreckage and started the clean up.

Argentina went through the worst period of unrest and violent protest in over a decade last week. It was the government's drastic spending cuts which drove the people to take to the streets: Pensions have not been paid and bank accounts remain partially frozen.

On Thursday, hundreds of thousands of Argentineans protested against the government's handling of the economy.

The Argentinean capital Buenos Aires became a battle ground. Restaurants and two banks were set afire.

Police in riot gear guarded many supermarkets which were well stocked for Christmas.

Despite these precautions, dozens of shops were ransacked in Buenos Aires and the northern Entre Rios province.

Angry Argentineans smashed store windows and cleared out supermarkets. They stole items including food, clothing and television sets. Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse looters.

De la Rua left chaos behind

At the height of the chaos, the country's President Fernando de la Rua announced his resignation late Thursday night.

In his resignation statement, de la Rua said he trusted his departure would help maintain the country’s "institutional stability."

De la Rua was forced to departed by helicopter on Thursday as the violent riots raged outside the palace.

After the President's resignation, Argentineans celebrated in the streets of the capital.

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