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Rodriguez Saa Resigns as Argentina's President - 2001-12-31

Argentina's Interim President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa has stepped down seven days after his swearing-in. It was the first of two resignations from the new government Sunday. The president blasted other Peronist leaders for their lack of support and said he would not continue on under those conditions.

Argentina's Interim President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa resigned late Sunday only ten days after former president Fernando De La Rua was forced to leave office. Mr. Rodriguez Saa addressed the nation shortly before midnight in a speech that highlighted his achievements during his seven days in power and that slammed other top Peronist politicians. Mr. Rodriguez Saa was particularly critical of the governor of Cordoba province for being more concerned with inner-party politics than the good of the country. Mr. Rodriguez Saa says the governor's mean-spirited attitude left him no choice but to present his immediate resignation to the legislative assembly.

Mr. Rodriguez Saa's resignation capped a tumultuous week of political bickering between top Peronists, many of whom objected to the president's closed-door negotiations to stay in office through 2003 instead of calling elections as planned for March 2002.

Talk of printing as much as $15 billion worth of a third currency to inject liquidity into the cash-strapped nation also caused a stir among Peronists not to mention average citizens. Argentines, who have had their access to bank accounts restricted since December 1, were furious over talk that they would only be able to withdraw savings in the new third currency.

Frustration with the political class, their political infighting and perceived corruption, all in the face of a severe economic crisis led thousands of Argentines to take to the streets Friday night in mostly peaceful protests. Banging pots and pans and chanting anti-government slogans, the mostly middle-class protesters forced the resignation of a controversial top presidential advisor. A similar public uprising had forced Mr. De La Rua from office December 20.

A shaken president hastily convened an emergency cabinet meeting Saturday after which all cabinet members submitted their resignations. On Sunday, Mr. Rodriguez Saa held a meeting with the 14 Peronist governors in a beach town 400 kilometers south of Buenos Aires. However, only five governors turned up and several top figures were absent including the governors of Cordoba, Santa Fe and Santa Cruz.

Shortly after Rodriguez Saa resigned Senate President Ramon Puerta, the next in line, submitted his resignation. Mr. Puerta had previously served as provisional president for 48 hours after Mr. De La Rua resigned but did not want to go another round. Eduardo Camano, the Peronist President of the Lower House, is next in line.

The power struggle and double-resignation leaves the powerful Peronist party significantly weaker. Mr. Rodriguez Saa was only elected as Interim President by a vote of 169 to 138 and it was unclear if the Peronists would again be able to unite behind a new candidate.