Jobless Argentines Protest


By: Laurence Norman
The Washington Post, February 21, 2002


Buenos Aires, Argentina Several thousand Argentines marched on Buenos Aires' main square, culminating a day of protests that had seen jobless Argentines throw up road blocks around the capital to protest the government's handling of a deep economic crisis.

Officers used water cannons to disperse the last couple of hundred demonstrators Wednesday, after the protesters started throwing stones and plastic bottles at the dozens of shield-guarded riot police amassed in front of the Government House, which borders the square.

At least six people were seen dragged away by police, after a couple of dozen vandals started smashing bank windows and tried to break into a municipal building. The incidents were over in less than a half hour.

The violence came at the end of an evening of peaceful protest by some 2,500 people mainly middle-class families and members of left-wing political groups.

The protesters had converged on the Plaza de Mayo, where they spent several hours singing anti-government slogans and banging pots and pans to register discontent with President Eduardo Duhalde's government.

Wednesday's demonstrations came exactly two months since former President Fernando De la Rua announced his resignation after two days of looting and violent demonstrations left 26 dead.

Earlier Wednesday, unemployed workers blocked roads across the country and more than 100 angry Argentine savers held a noisy demonstration in front of Buenos Aires banks to protest a banking freeze that has shut off access to their savings.

After tumbling into economic and political chaos last December, Argentina has been engulfed by daily protests. Many have been led by middle-class Argentines upset over the banking clampdown the government says is necessary to prevent a collapse of the financial system.

Popular anger still runs high over the Dec. 1 freeze that has locked up the hard-earned savings of millions of Argentines. Meanwhile, price hikes and worries about a devalued peso have thousands more on edge.

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