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Argentina president resigns

Becomes third leader in 10 days to quit

Adolfo Rodriguez Saa
Argentina's interim president Rodriguez Saa announced his resignation Sunday after seven days in office.  

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNN) -- Argentina's interim president, Adolfo Rodriguez Saa, resigned Sunday, saying his Peronist party had not supported his efforts to fix the country's economic woes.

Rodriguez Saa, who called for new elections to be held in March, said his resignation took effect immediately.

The move throws Argentina into a fresh round of political and economic chaos. Rodriguez Saa is the third president to resign during the past 10 days.

The presidency would now pass back to the head of the Senate, Ramon Puerta, who held the job just over a week ago for 48 hours until Rodriguez Saa was selected. However, Reuters reports, Puerta has also quit.

Rodriguez Saa's resignation comes just a week after the resignation of President Fernando de la Rua amid widespread looting and riots by the powerful middle-class over government financial austerity measures.

Who will be Argentina's next president? 

Even as he announced his resignation, Rodriguez Saa argued that he had done a good job, but was defeated by entrenched powers that did not want him to change the way the country was being run.

"In these seven days, I was able to do what hasn't been done in 30 years in this country," he said, noting that he had suspended payment on the country's external debt of $155 billion and begun an aggressive effort to create jobs.

"I made a great effort, the Argentine people made a great effort. But the wolves or the lobbies that run loose didn't understand the sense of the new times and they want to maintain the privileges of the old Argentina. I am not going to be the president of the continuity of this old Argentina. I am not going to be a president who represses the people to support the positions of those in power, no matter how much I'm asked to.

"I've tried to be the one who initiates change in Argentina," he said. "I'm sure I succeeded."

But long-term change became impossible, he said, when all but a handful of governors in the Peronist party withdrew their support.

"This attitude leaves me no other road," he said in announcing his resignation.

Rodriguez Saa had been slated to serve until April 5, after early elections to pick a permanent government.

The fragility of his government became apparent Friday, when his cabinet members offered their resignations amid accusations of corruption and further unrest over the worsening economy in Argentina, which is entering its fourth year of recession and has 18.3 percent unemployment.

The country faces a profound economic crisis: 42 months of recession, 15 million people living in poverty.

Rodriguez Saa took power in a wave of euphoria, but it was short-lived.

Over the weekend, more middle-class demonstrators protested violently in the streets of Buenos Aires against his administration. The protesters accused some members of his cabinet of corruption.

Rioters stormed the parliament Saturday to protest the measures, and were repelled by tear gas and police firing rubber bullets. At least a dozen people were injured, and officials reported at least 33 people were arrested.

Then several Peronist governors boycotted a meeting to shore up support for his administration.

The White House said President Bush, who spoke Saturday with Rodriguez Saa by telephone, had no immediate comment.


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