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Police, Protesters Clash in Argentina - 2003-02-27

Police and protesters clashed for a second day in a row in Buenos Aires Wednesday. No serious injuries were reported, but tension remains high in the Argentine capital. The unrest comes at a time when President Eduardo Duhalde is preparing to hand over the reigns of the presidency to his successor.

Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd of several hundred protesters who had gathered in front of a federal courthouse in Buenos Aires to express their support for four left-wing activists on trial for inciting violence in the city eight years ago.

The demonstrators some wielding wooden batons and wearing masks threw rocks and smashed car windows in the area. One television journalist was hit in the eye with a rubber bullet while covering the violence. No other injuries were reported and police made no arrests.

The violence comes a day after police raided an abandoned building in the city's historic district, where squatters had taken up residence some had been there for as many as 15 years.

Some of the building's occupants had threatened to blow it up with kerosene gas if police entered. The raid caused chaos on the city streets for hours Tuesday. In all, more than 15 people were injured and more than 50 arrested.

This week's violence is the worst since June 26, 2002, when two men died after thousands of unemployed workers sparred with police next to one of the city's main access bridges. Several hundred protesters gathered on the same bridge Wednesday to commemorate the eight-month anniversary on the deaths.

Even more protesters were gathering in front of the Argentine presidential palace Wednesday evening to condemn what they call police repression and to demand the government do more to help the country solve its worst economic crisis in history.

Despite recent signs of recovery, South America's second largest economy remains mired in recession and unemployment still lingers between 15 and 20 percent.

Campaign season is now well underway, as Argentines will go to the polls on April 27 to pick a new president. No front-runner has yet emerged from the pack.