Five presidents in two weeks

During the December 2001 riots in Argentina, the country went through five presidents in just two weeks.

President De la Rúa leaves office
Presidencia de la Nación Argentina, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fernando de la Rúa was elected President of Argentina in 1999, in the middle of a national recession. His position was in danger from the first. His support came from an alliance of smaller left and centre-left parties, but a rival party (the Peronists, who we’ve encountered before in the theft of Juan Perón’s hands) still held a lot of local political power. Corruption was a national problem, and De la Rúa’s campaign pledged to crack down on that corruption. And that big old recession loomed over all.

All of these dangers were about to come to a head. A series of corruption scandals led to the resignation of De la Rúa’s vice president (because the president wasn’t doing enough to check the corruption). The economic situation got worse, and that led to members from one of the alliance parties to resign from cabinet en masse. In October 2001, the Peronist party won back control of both houses of the Argentinian congress, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. And the Argentinian economy was dropping like a lead weight.

By December, strikes, protests, and riots covered the country. Fights between protestors and police; deaths in the Plaza de Mayo (which we’ve also encountered before, as the home of the Grandmothers vs. the dirty war)… De la Rúa resigned.

Normally, the leadership would go to the vice-president, but the position had remained unfilled since his own resignation the previous year. So the interim presidency wen to the next person in line, the majority leader of the Senate: Ramón Puerta, a Peronist. He could only hold that title until the congress elected someone more formally, which they did two days later. Enter President Number Three: the compromise candidate Adolfo Rodríguez Saá.

Rodríguez Saá was supposed to be president for three months, enough time to call for a new general election. But he only lasted a week. He enacted some emergency economic measures and his support dropped, so he too resigned. Argentina was about to get its fourth president in ten days.

The presidency should have reverted back to Ramón Puerta, but he didn’t want it. So he resigned as leader of the Senate, and it had to go to the next next person in line: the leader of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Camaño. Like Puerta, he was only interim president until the full congress (both houses) chose someone else. They did three days later, and Argentina got its fifth president in two weeks.

Eduardo Duhalde, the fifth president, called a proper election to choose his successor, and four months later Argentina finally got to elect a president who was likely to stick around.

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