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Argentine Congress Convenes Saturday to Choose Interim President - 2001-12-21

Argentine lawmakers are preparing to hold a special session on Saturday to choose an interim President following the resignation of President Fernando de la Rua who was driven from office by widespread protests over his failed economic policies.

Caretaker President Ramon Puerta is presiding over the country, but only for a 48-hour period until Congress decides who will lead the country and for how long. Congress may decide to choose an interim president to either finish Mr. de la Rua's term, or to preside over new elections.

Mr. Puerta, an engineer and former governor, convened a special joint session of Congress for late Saturday to decide the issue. He acted after assuming office Friday, when Congress officially accepted Mr. de la Rua's resignation and designated Mr. Puerta, who was Senate leader, as caretaker President.

Meanwhile, much of the country returned to normal Friday after several days of disturbances which drove out the unpopular Mr. de la Rua.

Overwhelmingly elected two years ago on promises to revive Argentina's stagnant economy, Mr. de la Rua implemented a series of austerity policies which failed to produce results. Instead, Argentina is still mired in a recession that has lasted almost four years and also faces difficulties in making payment on its massive foreign debt.