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Little Known Governor Prepares to Lead Argentina - 2003-05-15

The man who will assume Argentina's presidency, Nestor Kirchner, was largely unknown before outgoing President Eduardo Duhalde pledged to support his candidacy earlier this year.

For the last 12-years, the 53-year-old Mr. Kirchner has been governor of the southern oil-producing Patagonian province of Santa Cruz, which has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Argentina.

As governor, he pushed through tough spending cuts and invested some of the province's money abroad to protect it from domestic volatility.

But his critics say the Santa Cruz is fiscally strong and secure because of its small population and its vast oil and gas revenues

Governor Kirchner campaigned as a reformist and a fiscal conservative. He faces the daunting task of pulling the country out of its worst ever economic crisis.