New Leader In Argentina
Declares Debt Default

(AFP) - Adolfo Rodriguez Saa took power as Argentina's new president and declared a default on the nation's 132-billion-dollar foreign debt.
It was the biggest default in history.
"The Argentine state will suspend the payment of its foreign debt," he told Congress Sunday.
Lawmakers erupted, cheering, "Argentina, Argentina."
But the country was not repudiating the debt, Rodriguez Saa said. Money saved from the stalled debt payments would be used to create jobs and provide social support, he said.
"The social emergency is the biggest problem in Argentina. We will create one million new jobs. We will implement a food plan," the president told Congress.
Rodriguez Saa, a savvy, 54-year-old provincial governor, was elected as interim president until new elections March 3 for a president to run the country until 2003.
After being voted in by Congress, he outlined a dramatic plan to escape the economic implosion that sparked a bloody, popular revolt and swept aside the former government.
The president later assumed office at a cermony in the presidential palace, the Casa Rosada, in which he was presented with a ceremonial sash and rod of office.
Members of his Peronist party burst into a euphoric rendition of the party's hymn.
Outside the palace, a group of about 20 protesters shouted "Traitors," at the politicians.
The country of 36 million people has an unemployment rate of 18.3 percent. One-third of the country lives below the poverty threshold.
In his speech to Congress, the president refused to contemplate a devaluation of the peso's one-to-one link with the dollar.
"It would be very easy to set up a devaluation but it would mean a loss of purchasing power for workers," he said.
But the president said he would outline plans next week for a "third currency" -- in addition to the dollar and peso, which are both legal currencies here.
He gave no further details.
In an interview with the daily Pagina/12 last week, he set out a scheme to issue 10 billion dollars worth of a new currency, the Argentino, to replace bonds circulating in the country.
One third of the government budget, including employee salaries, would be made in Argentinos. The plan was to pump liquidity into the country and stimulate activity.
The reforms are aimed at reviving an economy suffering its 43rd month of recession and calming a population seething at the ruin of Latin America's third-largest economy.
Bloody protests and looting, in which about 30 people were killed, forced former president Fernando de la Rua to resign last week, handing power to the populist Peronist party of Rodriguez Saa.
Fernando Rua left only halfway through his four-year term. The next president to be chosen in the March polls will serve out the remaining two years.
Rodriguez Saa's firm hand as governor of the interior province of San Luis is credited with delivering sound finances, a rarity in this heavily indebted nation.
He was first elected governor at the age of 36 in the first gubernatorial elections following the fall of Argentina's brutal military regime in 1983.
He has since been re-elected four times.
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