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Rodriguez Saa's Resignation Leaves Argentina in Disarray - 2002-01-01


Argentine Interim President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa's sudden resignation late Sunday left the country in disarray and politicians in a scramble to find a new leader for Argentina. Senator Eduardo Duhalde appears to be the leading candidate to replace Rodriguez Saa.

Argentines woke up Monday morning unsure of who would lead them into 2002 but by midday it seemed clear that Mr. Duhalde was the top choice of the country's political elite. Closed-door negotiations continued into New Year's Eve to install Mr. Duhalde as president for the remaining two years of failed former president Fernando De La Rua's unfinished term.

Local political analysts said Mr. Duhalde's nomination was practically a done deal. The Radical and Frepaso opposition parties have signed off on the idea and most Peronists are behind the move. That is not to say the Peronists have completely closed ranks. Prominent governors, including Cordoba's Jose Manuel De La Sota, are still insisting that elections be called as soon as possible to give Argentines a chance to vote. But the majority of politicians feel the situation is too tense right now and that immediate solutions are needed for Argentina's institutional crisis.

Despite the power vacuum, no one seems to fear a military intervention. Argentina's last military dictatorship came to power in 1976 after coup leaders seized power in a time of great social and economic crisis. Local analysts said despite the political chaos, the young democracy was strong enough to handle the second presidential resignation in ten days.

The streets of Buenos Aires were relatively quiet Monday although some leftist groups gathered outside Congress to protest against Mr. Duhalde's appointment.

Police dressed in riot gear and armed soldiers stood guard around various government buildings. As Argentines have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest inefficient and corrupt politicians, federal buildings have often been the target of vandalism.

Most Argentines celebrate New Year's Eve by shooting off fireworks and, with midnight just hours away, the government wants to make sure they have significant crowd control measures in place.

On New Year's Day, the President of the Lower House Eduardo Camańo, recently sworn in as Argentina's provisional president, will convene a joint session of congress to determine who will be Argentina's fifth president in less than two weeks.

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