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Duhalde Urges Patience Among Argentines; Calls Banks 'Shameful' - 2002-01-26


Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde has said he is well-aware of the hardships being experienced by his fellow citizens, but warns that suffering should not threaten to create what he called a "worse" tragedy for the country. Mr. Duhalde made the comments in a pre-recorded talk Saturday broadcast over Radio Nacional one day after tens of thousands of Argentines staged a nationwide protest.

Speaking informally in his pre-recorded broadcast Saturday, President Duhalde urged Argentines to give his government time to come up with solutions to the country's dire situation.

He said after being in office only 25 days, his government has already come up with numerous measures to ease the suffering caused by the lingering recession and the devaluation of the peso.

The Argentine leader also had harsh words for the nation's banks, calling their behavior this past week "shameful". He was referring to their initial lack of response to government decrees easing certain limits on cash withdrawals which were imposed in early December by the ousted government of President Fernando de la Rua.

Mr. Duhalde warned his government will not tolerate such behavior, and will punish banks that do not comply with government orders.

His pre-recorded broadcast was aired one day after tens of thousands of Argentines took to the streets of Buenos Aires and other cities late Friday in the biggest protest since Mr. Duhalde took office. Beating pots and pans, marchers denounced the country's politicians for bringing Argentina to ruin through mismanagement and corruption.

Most of the demonstrators protested peacefully, but there were some clashes between police and rock throwing youths that resulted in injuries and more than a score of arrests.

In his talk Saturday, Mr. Duhalde said he is well-aware of the hardships being experienced by his fellow citizens, but warned that suffering should not threaten the country's stability.

"The country has been experiencing streets protests, some legitimate, others not, some peaceful, some violent," he said. "I understand the suffering of the people, he said, but be careful because we cannot let our pain lead to an even greater tragedy."

Mr. Duhalde became President on January 1, the fifth to hold office, including two caretaker Presidents, in less than two weeks. Bloody riots and protests forced President Fernando de la Rua to resign on December 20 after two years in office. Anti-government protests also brought down interim President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa on January 30, barely a week after he was chosen by Congress to govern the country.

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