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Sunday, 27 January, 2002, 00:41 GMT
Argentine president pleads for calm
Demonstrators banging pots and pans in Buenos Aires
Duhalde said he would not tolerate anarchy
President Eduardo Duhalde of Argentina has asked Argentines to have faith, hope and patience in the face of the country's social and economic crisis.

In a radio address to the nation, he reminded people that he had only been in power for 25 days, and organisation and prudence were needed to achieve a recovery.


At the end of my term, I'll leave the country back on track

President Eduardo Duhalde
Mr Duhalde also said he would be presenting his new economic plan in the next few days.

His comments come after a night of violent clashes between police and demonstrators protesting against the government's economic austerity plan in the capital, Buenos Aires.

The demonstration - the biggest since Mr Duhalde came to power - was the latest in a series demanding an end to banking restrictions which the government says are needed to tackle the economic crisis.

Hope

Firing teargas and rubber bullets, police were engaged in running battles with the protesters who had started their demonstration peacefully, banging pots and pans and jangling their keys.

More than a dozen people, including police officers, were injured in the fracas.

Mr Duhalde pleaded with the protesters to give his administration a chance.

President Eduardo Duhalde
President Duhalde: "Do not lose hope"
"I only ask of all Argentines one thing: keep up the hope," he said.

"I'm only here for two years, and my promise is that at the end of my term, I'll leave the country back on track."

But he also warned that "the country will not tolerate anarchy" and asked Argentines to abandon the notion that "problems will be solved with disorder and noise".

Public frustration

Friday's protest was the latest outburst of public anger that has seen the demise of four presidents in two months as successive governments try to find a cure for the country's economic plight.

Protests and looting in December left 27 people dead and forced the resignation of President Fernando de la Rua.

Unemployed demonstrators outside a supermarket in Buenos Aires
Demonstrators blockaded supermarkets, calling for food
As a result of the banking freeze, millions of Argentines have been left short of money, compounding a four-year recession and unemployment at 20%.

Protesters also wanted members of the Supreme Court - who approved the restrictions - to resign.

But the government says it has no choice but to continue with the measures.

Duhalde's dilemma

The protest was a sign of the unpopularity of the monetary policy adopted by President Duhalde.

Since he took office on 2 January he has refused to lift the banking freeze and has let the peso devalue by more than 30%.

Moreover, he has reneged on a promise that savings made in dollars can be recouped in dollars, saying there is simply not enough of the currency in the banking system.

The president is torn between demands from a public that wants access to its savings, and fears that relaxing the rules would trigger a run on the banks that could cripple the country's financial system.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Peter Greste
"Eduardo Duhalde is feeling the pressure"
See also:

26 Jan 02 | Americas
Argentines march against bank curbs
17 Jan 02 | Business
Argentina receives debt lifeline
15 Jan 02 | Americas
Fresh protests grip Argentina
15 Jan 02 | Business
Argentina 'to float currency freely'
20 Dec 01 | Americas
The night Argentina said 'enough'
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