- (AFP) - Adolfo Rodriguez Saa took power as Argentina's
new president and declared a default on the nation's 132-billion-dollar
- 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,
- But the country was not repudiating the debt, Rodriguez
Saa said. Money saved from the stalled debt payments would be used to
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
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
of the party's hymn.
- Outside the palace, a group of about 20 protesters
"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
- In his speech to Congress, the president refused to
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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