BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Argentina's Peronist party reasserted its role as the dominant political force, preparing to name one of its veterans Saturday to guide a country mired in an economic crisis that brought down the president.
A day after Congress accepted the resignation of President Fernando de la Rua, forced out by violent protests, the Peronists returned to center stage at a crucial moment after two years in the opposition. De la Rua was elected in 1999, ending Peronist leader Carlos Menem's decade in power.
Congress designated Senate leader Ramon Puerta interim president on Friday, but the Peronist Party, which controls the legislature, said it would name provincial governor Adolfo Rodriguez Saa on Saturday night to take his place.
Rodriguez Saa, a 54-year-old lawyer who has governed San Luis province for 18 years, is expected to serve until new elections that the Peronists hope to hold March 3 to fill out the last two years of de la Rua's term.
Rodriguez Saa told television network Todos Noticias he would release a plan Saturday to ease the economic crisis. "I will work with all my might on behalf of my country, I am going to work hard and with honesty," he said.
But Argentines worn out by joblessness, rising poverty, pay cuts and tax hikes are deeply skeptical of the ability of the Peronist caretaker leadership -- or politicians of any party -- to get the job done.
"There has to be some kind of solution, some kind of change. But it's hard to see what that should be," said Nestor Rodriguez, an office clerk lining up at a bank to pay his taxes. "We all face a very uncertain future."
De la Rua, whose failed austerity plans inspired deep popular anger, resigned Thursday after two days of protests, riots and looting that left 26 people dead.
Leaving halfway through his four-year term, de la Rua complained that the Peronists disregarded his call to join him in a government of national unity -- his last-ditch effort to remain in office after the declaration of a state of emergency failed to quell the rioting.
His fall left the reins of power -- at least for now -- in the hands of the Peronists, many of whom oppose the strict financial policies advocated by de la Rua's last economy minister, Domingo Cavallo.
The new leader will face staggering financial troubles as the economy shows no sign of pulling out of a four-year recession that has produced 18 percent unemployment and $132 billion in public debt, with default a strong possibility.
While trying to keep international creditors at bay, he will also need to balance the needs of millions of jobless workers against the need to keep tight controls on spending.
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