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New protests break out in Buenos Aires, this time against Argentina's interim government, Dec. 29, 2001. Enrique Medina

Day of Wrath In Argentina

by Juan Pérez Cabral

DECEMBER 29, 2001. Some 30,000 angry, mostly middle-class Argentinians took to the streets again last night in Buenos Aires in a spontaneous protest against the presence of corrupt politicians in the caretaker government of the Peronist Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, and against the continuation of restrictions on bank withdrawals and salaries. A similar demonstration provoked the fall of the unpopular government of President Fernando de la Rúa ten days ago.

Beating pots and pans and chanting "Thieves! Thieves!" and "Kick them all out!" tens of thousands converged from all over the city on the Plaza de Mayo, across from the Casa Rosada, which is the presidential palace, and Congress.

The demonstrators were furious not only at monetary policy and political corruption, but also at corruption in the judicial system. They slammed the widely discredited Supreme Court of Justice for, among other things, recently releasing from detention former President and Peronist leader Carlos Menem, who was accused of illegal arms sales.

Around two thirty this morning, the initially peaceful rally degenerated into violent clashes between groups of hundreds of protestors and the police in front of the Casa Rosada. Some nearby stores and banks were looted. Bonfires were lit.

Around six in the morning, a bunch of young demonstrators stormed Congress, throwing furniture out the windows, setting fires, and causing serious damage, according to the police, which cleared the area with tear gas and rubber bullets. The damage so far: three dead, twelve cops hurt, and some 33 demonstrators arrested.

With this latest, and angry demonstration, Argentinians are saying, again, that they want radical changes in their country's corrupt political, economic, and social system, and that they will not be contented with the usual, demagogical Peronist palliatives.

This is a message Argentinians have been hammering on the streets for the last couple of weeks, but which their obdurate political class still refuses to hear. Last night's violence indicates that politicoes can remain deaf at their own peril. The Argentinian crisis is not just continuing, but widening — perhaps for the best.

Related links:

For the confluence between corruption and human rights violations in Argentina, see the just released Human Rights Watch Report Reluctant Partner: The Argentine Government's Failure to Back Trials of Human Rights Violators.

For the BBC's Q&A: Argentina's economic crisis, detailing what went wrong.

For Patience wears thin, an analysis of the de la Rúa government's dwindling options in The Economist.

For Argentina Explodes

For Bush Friend Arrested for Illegal Arms Trafficking

For Dirty Money, Big Banks and the Mafia State

For Complete Coverage Americas

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