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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 16:28 GMT
Argentina's new president sworn in
President Eduardo Duhalde (right) assumes office
Mr Duhalde (right) is due to hold office until 2003
Argentina's new President, Eduardo Duhalde, has been formally sworn in amid mounting speculation about how he will confront the country's economic crisis.

Mr Duhalde - Argentina's fifth leader in two weeks - used his acceptance speech to pledge a "new model" to deal with the country's problems.


Argentina is bankrupt. Argentina is destroyed. This model destroyed everything.

Eduardo Duhalde

He said he would announce the first policies for dealing with the crisis, which include a spiralling recession and 18% unemployment, on Friday.

Correspondents said there was growing speculation he might be forced to devalue the national currency, the peso, which is formally pegged at one-to-one to the US dollar.

An unnamed adviser to Mr Duhalde told Reuters news agency that the peso could be depreciated by more than 30%, setting a new rate of 1.3 pesos to the dollar.

But any devaluation would be extremely unpopular with the country's middle class.

Their debts are mainly denominated in dollars and would become more expensive to pay off if the peso fell in value.

Model of poverty

Mr Duhalde, a senator from the populist left of Argentina's dominant Peronist party, blamed the crisis on a decades-old "model of social exclusion".

He said government policies had pushed two million Argentines into poverty, destroyed the middle class and bankrupted industries.

Mr Duhalde, who lost the 1999 presidential election to former president Fernando de la Rua, called for international understanding and co-operation over Argentina's $132bn foreign debt.

Argentina has already said it will suspend interest payments on its debts and use the money to pay salaries and pensions instead.

Argentina in crisis
Early in December, IMF refuses to disburse $1.3bn aid
20 December 2001: President de la Rua resigns after riots
23 December: Adolfo Rodriguez Saa sworn in
30 December: Mr Rodriguez Saa resigns
1 January 2002: Eduardo Duhalde elected new president

Mr Duhalde said he would start work immediately on forming a government of national unity and would announce his cabinet and details of its policies this week.

Demonstrators demand election

Soon after Congress voted to make Mr Duhalde president until elections in 2003, thousands of protesters streamed on to the streets of the capital Buenos Aires, banging pots and pans and demanding an immediate poll.

Riot in Buenos Aires
Leftist protesters clashed with police and Duhalde supporters

As Congress met, Peronist supporters fought rivals from the opposition United Left outside.

Police intervened with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Mr Duhalde, senator for Buenos Aires province, said he would form a government of national unity to tackle Argentina's economic and social chaos.

Corruption

BBC correspondent Daniel Schweimler says Mr Duhalde is likely to last longer than his predecessors, having won the support of political colleagues.

But our correspondent says the challenge for the new president is to win the support of the Argentine people - many of whom blame corruption and mismanagement by politicians for the crisis.

Mr Duhalde has promised to protect billions of dollars locked in bank accounts since cash withdrawals were limited to avert a run on the banks.

He also said he would end social unrest, create one million jobs and a social safety net for the unemployed.

"This is the moment of truth - Argentina is worn out, the country is broke," he told Congress.

"The current economic model destroyed our middle class, destroyed our industries and pulverised our workforce."

Five presidents in two weeks:
Fernando de la Rua
Ramon Puerta
Adolfo Rodriguez Saa
Eduardo Camano
Eduardo Duhalde
He will serve out the term left by former President Fernando de la Rua, who resigned on 20 December amid street protests over the state of the economy.

Mr Duhalde's predecessor, Adolfo Rodriguez Saa, resigned after only one week in office after losing political support. After his departure on Sunday, power passed under the constitution to Senate leader Ramon Puerta, but he too resigned minutes later, apparently unwilling to accept the job.

The constitution then dictated that Chamber of Deputies leader Eduardo Camano should take office.

But Mr Camano said he did not have the support of colleagues in the Peronist party and he only held the post until Tuesday's vote.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
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 their possessions"
See also:

02 Jan 02 | Business
Argentina debts jump
02 Jan 02 | Media reports
New president's address to Congress
01 Jan 02 | Americas
Argentina braces for fresh protests
02 Jan 02 | Media reports
Argentine press urges speed and honesty
01 Jan 02 | Business
Argentina faces grim economic future
21 Dec 01 | Business
Bush backs IMF austerity measures
31 Dec 01 | Americas
Argentina's toughest job
02 Jan 02 | Business
Argentina promises economic reform
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