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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 07:12 GMT
New man takes helm in Argentina
President Eduardo Duhalde congratulated by wellwishers after being sworn in by Congress
Eduardo Duhalde's election was greeted with loud cheers and song
Argentina's new president Eduardo Duhalde, the country's fifth leader in two weeks, said he would form a government of national unity to help deal with massive economic and social chaos.

"My commitment from today is to finish with an economic model that has brought desperation to the vast majority of our people," Mr Duhalde told Congress after a special session elected him president until new elections in 2003.

Rito in Buenos Aires
Leftist protesters clashed with police and Duhalde supporters
He is the second president elected by Congress since Fernando de la Rua resigned on 20 December amid street protests over the state of the economy.

Mr Duhalde, the populist Peronist senator for Buenos Aires Province, was confirmed by an overwhelming majority of 260 to 21 votes, with 18 abstentions, after a five-hour debate.

His election came after rival demonstrators clashed outside and police intervened with rubber bullets and tear gas.

Mr Duhalde entered the Congress chamber shortly after the vote was announced to loud cheers and singing.

But he told the nation that there was nothing to celebrate, and that a lot of work had to be done to try to lift Argentina out of its economic crisis.

Five presidents in two weeks:
Fernando de la Rua
Adolfo Rodriguez Saa
Ramos Puerta
Eduardo Camano
Eduardo Duhalde

He promised to work with businesses, the unions and non-governmental organisations to try to solve Argentina's problems.

The former vice-president, who has been accused of being over-ambitious, promised he would not stand as president when elections are held in December 2003.

Argentina has a foreign debt of $132bn, which it has already said it cannot pay.

Mr Duhalde is thought to be preparing to at least partially devalue the country's currency, the peso which is currently pegged against the dollar.

An adviser to Mr Duhalde has also suggested that the peso, following devaluation, would then be linked to a new basket of currencies including the Brazilian real, the Japanese yen and the euro.

BBC correspondent Daniel Schweimler says that Mr Duhalde is likely to last a little longer than his predecessors - having won the support of his political colleagues - but his challenge now is to win the support of the Argentine people.


As Mr Duhalde was being elected in Congress, supporters of his Peronist party fought protesters from the opposition United Left outside with sticks and stones.

Argentine radio said that police used tear gas and rubber bullets against the rioters during the "hellish clash".

Soldier on guard inside Government House
Soldiers and police have been on the alert

Stringent security measures were put in place with about 45,000 police on standby in and around the capital and soldiers on guard at the nearby government palace known as the Casa Rosada.

Government buildings and Congress itself were shaken by violent demonstrations at the weekend while the riots which prompted Mr de la Rua's resignation caused 27 deaths.

Demonstrators have been protesting at both the perceived economic incompetence of the government and corruption among the ruling elite.

Fifth time lucky?

Argentina's severe economic crisis brought down Adolfo Rodriguez Saa after only one week in office.

Argentina in crisis
Early in December, IMF refuses to disburse $1.3 billion aid
20 December: President de la Rua resigns after riots
23 December: Adolfo Rodriguez Saa sworn in
30 December: Mr Rodriguez Saa resigns
Eduardo Duhalde elected new president

After his departure on Sunday, power passed under the constitution to Senate leader Ramos Puerta, but he too resigned minutes later on grounds of ill-health.

The constitution then dictated that Congressional leader Eduardo Camano should take office.

But Mr Camano said he did not have the support of colleagues in his own Peronist party to take on Argentina's drastic economic crisis and he only held the post up until Tuesday's vote.

The BBC's Rachel Walton
"Eduardo Duhalde is a stark contrast to his most recent predecessors"
The BBC's Daniel Schweimler
"The new President got the support he was looking for"
The BBC's Tom Gibb
"Some people are desperate to sell possessions"
See also:

01 Jan 02 | Americas
Argentina braces for fresh protests
01 Jan 02 | Business
Argentina faces grim economic future
30 Dec 01 | Americas
Argentine cabinet offers to quit
21 Dec 01 | Business
Bush backs IMF austerity measures
31 Dec 01 | Americas
Argentina's toughest job
01 Jan 02 | Media reports
Press lambasts Peronist 'infighting'
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