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Buenos Aires Protests Turn Violent - 2001-12-29

Once again downtown Buenos Aires was the scene of protests which turned violent early Saturday morning as Argentines expressed their anger over a continuing economic crisis. The government, which has been in office less than a week, was faced with the same protests that brought down President Fernando de la Rua.

Barely a week after violent protests toppled the government of then-President Fernando De la Rua, middle class Argentines took to the streets late Friday night, banging pots and pans to express their continuing discontent with Argentina's political class.

In a scene reminiscent of the massive protests December 19 and 20, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on the crowd massed in Argentina's central square, the Plaza de Mayo.

Up until then, the protest had been peaceful. Police began firing tear gas when some in the crowd began pushing at the main gates of the presidential palace.

Families quickly fled the square, however small groups of young Argentines refused to disperse, and threw stones at police. Local TV showed scenes of banks and businesses on side streets, which it said had been looted during Saturday's protest.

One man, who left the protest as things turned ugly, said he saw a group of a dozen young men marching toward the central plaza, carrying large sticks, and insulting the other protesters.

The protesters massed for various reasons. Some were there to protest against what they see as corruption that has permeated all levels of government.

Many protesters were furious over a plan to keep current Interim President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa in office through 2003, despite the legislative assembly's decision to call elections in March. They see the plan as yet another sign of the breach between citizens and elected leaders.

Others said they were angry about the government's plan to introduce a third currency into circulation that would be used to pay wages and pensions.

What was clear was that the change in government was not enough to ease Argentines' anger, after 43 months of deep recession.