Argentina’s interim president resigns after political support crumbles |

Argentina’s interim president resigns after political support crumbles

BILL CORMIER, Associated Press Writer

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A grinding economic and political crisis brought down a second Argentine president in 10 days on Sunday, with Adolfo Rodriguez Saa saying he had lost support within his own party and was resigning.

Rodriguez Saa assumed office just one week ago after former President Fernando De la Rua was ousted from power amid anti-government protests and looting that left 26 people dead. He said he was resigning immediately after failing to piece together a caretaker government with broader support.

His decision came a day after violent anti-government protests flared again in the streets of Buenos Aires — this time against his administration. It also came after several powerful governors from his Peronist party boycotted a key meeting Sunday. The purpose of the gathering was to shore up support for his interim administration.

Speaking in a nationally televised address from his hometown of San Luis, Rodriguez Saa spoke of what he called his achievements during one week in office: suspending payments on the country’s foreign debt and announcing new austerity measures.

However, he said, he failed to gain the support he needed from his own party and thus was immediately handing over power to Senate President Ramon Puerta — who was next in line under Argentina’s constitution. Puerta had served as acting president for 48 hours after De la Rua’s resignation on Dec. 21.

Rodriguez Saa said he had support from only six of the 14 Peronist provincial governors. Among those who did not back him, he said, were some of the most powerful.

“This leaves me no other choice but to present my resignation,” said Rodriguez Saa.

The end came after a troubled day of trying to rebuild support for his crumbling government.

Rodriguez Saa tried to call Peronist provincial governors to a meeting on Sunday to discuss key issues including whether to forge ahead with a March 3 presidential election as planned and how to eventually lift a partial banking freeze imposed Dec. 1 to stem a run on bank accounts.

However, after only five of the 14 governors turned up to the president’s residence in the Atlantic town of Chapadmalal Sunday, Rodriguez Saa was forced to suspend the meeting.

Outside the presidential country house in Chapadmalal, more than a hundred demonstrators banged pots and shouted insults on Sunday — a smaller version of the protests that rocked the government Friday night and Saturday.

Thousands of Argentines poured into the streets of Buenos Aires Friday night to protest the government appointments of figures allegedly linked to corruption.

They also shouted out against the banking freeze, which limits cash withdrawals to $1,000 per month. Marauding gangs on the fringes of the city later clashed with police, injuring 12 officers.

“Give us back our money! Corrupt politicians, get out!” demonstrators shouted before police fired tear gas and water cannons.

By the time the protests had ended, Cabinet chief Carlos Grosso — among those accused of corruption — had quit. Also out was David Esposito, a central bank chief accused of mishandling plans to unveil a new currency, the argentino.

Powerful figures in the party — above all Peronist provincial governors — were said to have been furious with the president for announcing major policies without consulting them and for raising doubts over whether he would call the planned March 3 elections as scheduled.

The feuding has only further angered Argentines already suffering from four years of recession, the near-collapse of the country’s banking system and the government’s decision to default on its $132 billion public debt.

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