- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

BUENOS AIRES (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) Demonstrators honked horns and banged on pots and pans yesterday to protest government austerity measures as officials said they did not have enough funds to make pension payments this week.
The noisy march was organized by a shopkeepers association, which is claiming that new limits on bank withdrawals aimed at preventing a run on the currency have led to a downturn in business of 40 percent to 70 percent.
Demonstrators marched toward the Plaza de Mayo, in front of the Casa Rosada, the seat of government, to show their discontent with the new economic measures aimed at balancing the budget to secure additional aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
A separate group of retirees maintained a protest for a second day at the headquarters of PAMI, the agency that manages retiree benefits.
"With salaries unpaid, the geriatric services and dialysis centers have closed," said one protester, who identified himself only as Ruben.
"Argentina is a rich country, we have everything, meat, land but the government is killing it," she added.
The economic crisis deepened as the government said it had delayed pension payments to some 1.4 million retirees, due to a lack of funds in the Treasury.
Labor Minister Jose Dumon said officials were working to make payments available before the Christmas holidays.
Argentina's critical financial situation got worse 10 days ago when the IMF delayed a crucial disbursement of $1.264 billion.
President Fernando de la Rua called Monday for a "patriotic accord" to help bring Argentina out of its 43-month-old economic crisis and avert a full-blown financial collapse.
Officials were working on details of a plan to cut tax breaks by some $4 billion to help meet conditions for further IMF aid.
But the president delayed a meeting scheduled for this week with opposition leaders on an agreement to bring the country out of the crisis.

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