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More Protests in Argentina - 2002-01-19

In Argentina Friday people took to the streets of small towns and major cities to protest against government imposed bank limits, unpaid back wages and the lack of any type of social aid.

The protests continued into Friday night as thousands marched in downtown Buenos Aires to commemorate the victims of bloody rioting on December 20 that ousted President Fernando de la Rua and left 28 dead nationwide. Friday's protests capped a week of social unrest in Argentina that shows no signs of ending.

The somber masses filing down a major Buenos Aires avenue to remember those killed last month in violent street protests were a sharp contrast to protests earlier Friday throughout the country where workers unhappy over unpaid wages clashed with police.

Hundreds of workers in Santiago del Estero provinces had gathered Friday to demand their unpaid salaries when police began firing rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the angry crowds.

Local TV showed scenes of the violence in Santiago del Estero where police in camouflage and riot gear carrying batons beat back the protesters. Injured protesters showed off their wounds on TV while calling for the heads of incompetent and corrupt politicians.

Other protests erupted in Cordoba, Entre Rio and Neuquen provinces. In Neuquen, which last year was the scene of violent clashes between police and unemployed oil workers, close to 2,000 people marched peacefully through the dusty Patagonia city.

Buenos Aires City and the surrounding suburbs saw more peaceful demonstrations Friday. In the humble outskirts, members of the Class Combat Movement that groups unemployed workers joined together to demand food donations and job plans. In the downtown banking district, several hundred small business owners banging pots and pans gathered outside the central bank to express their anger over the December 1 harsh bank limits.

The limits were put in place to prevent a collapse of the country's financial sector after Argentines withdrew $2 billion on November 30. Although President Eduardo Duhalde has tried to ease the limits Argentines are only able to withdraw 1,200 pesos per month, or $621 and those savings accounts with more than $5,000 dollars have been converted to long-term certificates of deposits.

Two Argentine judges are investigating the capital flight that prompted the severe bank limits. Friday, one investigating judge had police search various bank offices, armored vehicle headquarters and local airports for evidence of a coordinated effort by banks and connected Argentines to move cash out of the country before and after the limits were imposed.