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Argentina's Finance Minister Steps Down

April 24, 2002|From Times Wire Services

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina's economy minister resigned Tuesday, touching off a new crisis over how to steer the once-prosperous country out of a deep financial downturn that has sparked near-daily street protests and political upheaval.

Jorge Remes Lenicov quit amid increasing opposition to his latest plan to rescue Argentina from a four-year recession.

Argentine news reports said Alieto Guadagni, a foreign trade specialist who held posts under former President Carlos Menem, was offered the job.

The government did not confirm the reports, which came as President Eduardo Duhalde held emergency meetings with Cabinet officials.

Remes Lenicov was a key figure in the caretaker government of Duhalde, who took office in January after protests over the state of the economy forced President Fernando de la Rua out of office.

Some analysts said Remes Lenicov's exit could mark the beginning of the end for Duhalde, who is unpopular in polls and under pressure by some politicians to call elections before his term ends in 2003.

Remes Lenicov resigned after Congress delayed a vote on his attempt to stop a banking collapse by swapping deposits for government bonds.

Remes Lenicov's resignation, which came as hundreds of people demonstrated outside Congress for a second straight day, sparked renewed uncertainty about the government's ability to overcome the economic crisis.

The protesters were venting their anger about a banking freeze.

With the peso sharply devaluated and joblessness topping 18%, Argentina is suffering its worst economic downturn in decades, and angry citizens hold protests almost every day.

On Monday night, frightened senators had to be escorted under guard from Congress.

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