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The BBC's James Reynolds
"He faces a difficult start to his term of office"
 real 28k

Friday, 10 December, 1999, 14:10 GMT
Argentinian president sworn in

Fernando de la Rua Mr de la Rua: Promising a more sober style

The former mayor of Buenos Aires, Fernando de la Rua, has been sworn in as Argentina's new president, promising an era of political austerity.

The 62-year-old lawyer took the oath in the Senate and pledged to build "a new society based on ethics, solidarity and progress".

He takes over from Carlos Menem, one of Latin America's most colourful leaders, who is stepping down after 10 years in office.

Carlos Menem Mr Menem now becomes opposition leader
Mr de la Rua, of the centre-left opposition Alliance, easily won the October election by casting himself as a sober antidote to the glamour of the Menem years.

It was one of the worst defeats for the long-dominant Peronist party.

Mr de la Rua takes power at a time of acute economic hardship. He has said he will put increased effort into fighting crime, unemployment and corruption.

But our correspondent James Reynolds says the new president faces a difficult start to his mandate.

Argentina's Congress has already blocked his proposal for next year's budget.

In his inaugural speech, Mr de la Rua attacked the outgoing Peronist government for leaving the nation's financial affairs in disarray.

"They should have handed over power with the books in order. Instead, there is a huge deficit," he said.

International prestige

The new president will also have to deal with a Mr Menem, who is anxious to return to power.

Mr Menem, South America's longest serving head of state, had wanted to stand for a third consecutive term of office in October's election but was barred from doing so by the constitution.

His supporters have already put up Menem 2003 posters across Buenos Aires in early preparation for the next election.

Mr Menem bade farewell to Argentinians in an open letter in the press, in which he said his government was leaving behind a country far better off than the one he inherited.

"We leave a solid country, with institutional and economic stability, peace and owners of a new international prestige," he wrote.

"All of which will allow Mr de la Rua to successfully take the initial steps in the third millennium."

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