Argentina's President Fernando de la Rua resigned late Thursday as an unprecedented wave of violence and social protests washed over the South American nation. The president had issued a call for national unity in the face of Argentina's ever worsening economic and social crisis.
Just over two years after taking office, Argentine President Fernando de la Rua submitted his resignation to Congress late Thursday after his call for a coalition government was rejected by the main opposition party.
Carlos Maestro, the head of the Senate Radical Party bloc, confirmed to reporters that Mr. de la Rua had stepped down given the grave situation in Argentina.
Minutes before the president tendered his resignation, Humberto Roggero, a leading Peronist congressmen, said on national TV that his party would fulfill its opposition role and would not join any type of national unity government. Instead, Roggero said the president's time was up and that the opposition was analyzing the possibility of initiating impeachment proceedings.
Political analysts said the call for national unity was the president's last card and when his hand didn't play out he had no other choice but to step down.
Mr. de la Rua, whose administration has implemented a series of eight spending cuts over the two years, had seen his popularity level hit an all-time low well before Wednesday's widespread supermarket looting forced the government to declare a state of siege.
The president tied his political fortune to that of his economy minister, Domingo Cavallo and despite the outspoken minister's increasingly unpopular austerity measures the president stuck by his man. As late as mid-day Wednesday, the president affirmed his support for Mr. Cavallo at a multisectoral meeting at the Catholic Charity Caritas.
The position was seen as the president's downfall given that no other political leader of any party wants to be linked with Mr. Cavallo.
Argentina hasn't had an acting vice-president since October 2000 when then-Vice President Carlos Alvarez stepped down to protest supposed government involvement in a Senate bribery scandal. Next in line is Senate President Ramon Puerta, a Peronist, who will likely take over as president until elections can be held.
Mr. de la Rua's early departure marks the end of his controversial two-year administration that, when voted in to office, was seen by many Argentines as a welcome change from the 10-year Menem administration. He leaves on a day that saw at least five protesters killed in confrontations with security forces around the government house. Another dozen people were killed over the two days in various episodes of looting and violence.