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Thousands of Argentinian Protesters Blame Politicians for Economic Crisis - 2002-02-09

Thousands of Argentine demonstrators banging pots and pans marched on the Presidential Palace in downtown Buenos Aires late Friday to protest against the country's politicians. The demonstrators blame Argentina's politicians for bankrupting the country through mismanagement and corruption.

Once again, thousands of middle class Argentines banging pots and pans converged on the Plaza de Mayo in front of the Presidential Palace scene of many similar demonstrations over the past weeks. Many carried blue and white Argentine flags and banners blaming Argentina's politicians for ruining the country through mismanagement and corruption.

The demonstration, which was largely peaceful, filled the huge square. Many protestors expressed anger with President Eduardo Duhalde for devaluing Argentina's currency last month. The peso, which had been pegged to the dollar at a one-to-one rate since 1991, will now be allowed to float freely on the markets on Monday.

Economists say the peso is likely to lose more than 50 percent of its value meaning many people will see their savings worth much less.

One of the protestors, businessman George Morgenrod, said he sold his house last year and put the money in his bank. Now, he says he feels as if he has been robbed. "I feel nervous, I feel like the robbers have gone into my house and I can say nothing about this and the government makes no laws," he said.

It was similar protests in December that led two Presidents to resign. Mr. Duhalde, who took office on January 1, will serve as President until December next year.

Friday's march on the Presidential Palace came shortly after the Argentine leader addressed the nation to outline a series of political reforms. The reforms, which are aimed at reducing federal spending, were first announced earlier in the week after the government and Argentina's powerful provincial governors agreed to the cuts.

Argentina, which is mired in debt and recession, enjoyed a long period of prosperity in the 1990's. But now it is suffering from an unemployment rate of 22 percent and 40 percent of its 36 million people live in poverty.