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Friday, 21 December, 2001, 06:03 GMT
Profile: Ramon Puerta
Former President Fernando de la Rua (left) and Ramon Puerta
Ramon Puerta (right) takes over at a time of crisis
Argentina's new interim president is expected to be Ramon Puerta, an opposition Peronist, who has been catapulted into the limelight by default rather than by design.

Under Argentine law, the leadership would normally be filled by the vice-president. But that post has been vacant since Carlos Alvarez quit in October last year after a dispute with Fernando de la Rua over a bribery scandal.

Puerta has said he was not interested in the presidency

Eve Rimoldi, constitutional law expert
As head of the country's Senate, Mr Puerta was next in line to succeed after Mr de la Rua's departure.

A relative political unknown, Mr Puerta, who is in his early 50s, arrives on the scene at the height of the country's most severe political and economic crisis for years.

He would be allowed to complete Mr de la Rua's term in office, which was due to end on 10 December, 2003, but may go to the polls sooner.

"Puerta has said he was not interested in the presidency and the constitution would allow early elections to be called," said Argentine constitutional law expert Eve Rimoldi.

Although outwardly unassuming in character, Mr Puerta is an experienced politician with more popular appeal than many of Argentina's other older mistrusted political leaders.

Mr Puerta was twice governor of Argentina's poor northern Misiones Province between 1991 and 1999.

He served in the Chamber of Deputies for two years before winning a seat in the Senate, where he was subsequently elected chairman.

A self-made millionaire, Mr Puerta is unmarried with two teenage children.

He made his fortune, reputed to be about $6m, from trading traditional Argentine herbal tea.

The BBC's Nick Hawton
"The President was forced to accept the inevitable"
The BBC's Evan Davies
"The country is bankrupt"
Former Consultant to the President Mattie Lolavar
"This was a spiral for quite some time"
See also:

21 Dec 01 | Americas
Argentine president resigns
20 Dec 01 | Business
Q&A: Argentina's economic crisis
14 Dec 01 | Business
Argentina meets debt deadline
13 Dec 01 | Americas
Argentina delays pension payments
09 Dec 01 | Business
Argentina fails to win IMF reprieve
10 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Argentina
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