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O'Neill Met with Protest in Argentina - 2002-08-07

U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is in Argentina, the third stop on his tour of South American countries with severe economic problems. He has been met with large Argentine protests.

An estimated 5,000 Argentines packed the streets of downtown Buenos Aires, singing, burning American flags and waving signs saying, "Yankees, get out." U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was kept away from the protests, where human rights groups and left-wing political parties denounced the Bush Administration and the International Monetary Fund, blaming both for Argentina's devastating economic crisis

One man says 60 percent of Argentina's children are poor and he blames the United States. Most of the protests were confined within the Buenos Aires city limits.

Mr. O'Neill went straight from the airport to the suburbs for a meeting with President Eduardo Duhalde. Security will be tight until Mr. O'Neill leaves Argentina. Most public appearances have been canceled and most meetings are being held in secret locations. Many Argentines blame Mr. O'Neill for blocking loans that could help Argentina prop up its collapsing economy.

The secretary just delivered $1.5 billion in U.S. aid to neighboring Uruguay and has shown a willingness to help Brazil. However, he has not made similar overtures toward Argentina.

He did not ingratiate himself to this country when he told a widely played interview, he worried money given to crisis-stricken South American countries would end up in Swiss bank accounts.

Before Mr. O'Neill heads back to Washington, he will meet with Argentina's economy minister and other government officials who will try to convince him they, too, deserve aid.