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New beginning looks elusive


Buenos Aires: freezing of bank accounts unleashed
the people's fury

When the end came, it was spectacular. On one of the hottest nights of the year in Argentina, nationwide protests turned ugly as riots and looting broke out, claiming at least 22 lives. During the night, the economy ministry was torched. The following morning, December 20, its unpopular head, Domingo Cavallo, was gone. Later that afternoon, the president, Fernando De la Rúa, followed suit. Argentina was left rudderless at precisely the time decisive leadership was required to help minimize the downside to its inevitable default.

Admittedly, that decisive economic leadership had not exactly been forthcoming from Cavallo or De la Rúa. The latter had become little more than a figurehead and the former seemed hell-bent on destroying Argentina's financial infrastructure in his attempts to avoid default and devaluation.

Never mind that both had already occurred, more or less, by the time the government finally collapsed.

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