Argentina′s President Resigns Amid Chaos | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 21.12.2001
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Argentina's President Resigns Amid Chaos

Argentina’s President Fernando de la Rua resigned Thursday night. Four days of looting and riots had badly shaken the South American country. At least 26 people died in the violent protests, hundreds were injured.


Police officers drag a demonstrator in Buenos Aires by his hair as they arrest him.

Argentina is going throught the worst period of unrest and violent protest in over a decade.

In an effort to defuse the situation, 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 riots raged outside the palace.

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

Finding a new president

In an emergency session, Argentina's Congress on Friday has to decide who will take over the country.

Senate chairman Ramon Puerta was forced by the Constitution to take over as interim president. But Puerta has already made clear he will only stay in the post for 48 hours.

Congress is dominated by the main opposition Peronist party. Analysts say it can either choose one of Argentina's powerful provincial governors or a member of Congress to take over. A third option would be calling snap elections.

International reaction

Governments around the world expressed nervous confidence that Argentina could weather the storm of rioting and violence.

Britain urged Argentina to handle its economic and political crisis democratically.

A spokesman for the British Foreign Office said Britain would continue to support Argentina. "We believe Argentina’s democracy is functioning well and the situation should be worked out in a democratic fashion," the spokesman said.

The U.S. said the Argentineans needed to work through the country’s economic crisis themselves. The Bush administration brushed aside suggestions Washington might rush to the rescue.

Economic crisis

This week's violent protests brought to a head a grueling political and economic crisis that has lasted over a year.

Argentina is battling with a four-year recession, 18.3 percent unemployment and the biggest sovereign debt default ever.

Amid all of this, the government cut state wages and pensions by 13 percent and slapped on restrictions to cash withdrawals to end a run on banks. Almost half of all Argentines are living below the poverty line.

In a bid to defuse the situation, the government started to distribute food worth seven million dollars (€ 7.77 million) to the poorest.

Widespread looting

On Thursday, hundreds of thousands of Argentineans took to the streets in the worst rioting in more than a decade. They protested against the government's handling of the economy.

The rioting was triggered last week by government austerity measures and rising poverty. It snowballed on Wednesday and grew ever more violent on Thursday.

The Argentinean capital Buenos Aires became a battle ground on Thursday. 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.

State of emergency

On Wednesday, Argentina's President Fernando de la Rua had declared a 30-day state of siege: "Acts of violence have occurred that endanger innocent people and property owners, and have created a lawless situation," de la Rua announced.

"I am proclaiming a state of emergency across the country, and have informed Congress."

The 30-day state of siege, however, failed to halt the violence.

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