President Raul Alfonsin has announced an emergency package aimed at easing an economic crisis that has led o the looting of supermarket and grocery stores in major cities.
Alfonsin, in a nationally televised speech, promised Sunday night that his lame-duck government will make sure consumer products get to the people in what he called an "extremely dangerous and cruelly damaging" economic crisis.As he spoke, officials in Rosario, the country's third largest city, reported about 20 new cases of looting Sunday night that involved groups of from 20 to 40 people.
The official news agency Telam said about 20 people had been arrested and that streets were being patrolled by police and firefighters. Rosario is 150 miles north of Buenos Aires.
The incidents were similar to dozens of others that began Tuesday in Cordoba, the second largest city, and quickly spread to other cities, including working-class suburbs of the capital.
Some looters have eaten food in the stores.
In his speech, Alfonsin called on Argentines to "roll up your sleeves and go to work" to ensure that emergency steps work.
"The government will dictate clear and tough rules to put an end to the risk of hyperinflation, will surgically put state finances in order and will severely punish speculative maneuvers," Alfonsin said.
He also offered to "modify some of our criteria" to fit plans of the President-elect Carlos Menem and the Peronist Party, who defeated the governing Radical Civic Union in May 14 elections.
Alfonsin's measures, some of which require congressional approval, include a return to monetary exchange controls with an official exchange rate for the austral, Argentina's currency, which has lost 90 percent of its value over the past four months.
Alfonsin did not say what the official value of the austral would be. The Central Bank announced Sunday that an exchange holiday, ordered on May 22, would remain in effect Monday.
The austral had been allowed to float since early February, when 17 bought a dollar. The currency closed at 170 to the dollar on the last day exchange markets were open.
Exchange operations will be closely watched and violations of controls will be considered crimes, Alfonsin said.
The exchange markets and the banking system will be "progressively regularized" Alfonsin said. Banks, which fear a run on deposits, were closed May 22 and 23 and were allowed to open May 24 with withdrawals limited to 20,000 australs (about $100) every two days.