- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

BUENOS AIRES (AP) Banks overflowed with thousands of angry Argentines yesterday after the government partially froze bank accounts to stem a nationwide run on banks and avert financial collapse.
Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo announced restrictions over the weekend, saying it was his only option to defend the Argentine peso's one-to-one peg to the dollar and escape a devaluation.
The measure bars people from withdrawing more than $250 in cash per week from their accounts and restricts transfers abroad to $1,000 a month. Beyond that, Argentines will have to make payments using bank debit cards, credit cards or checks to pay for goods.
Banks filled for hours with disgruntled and confused clients. Some rushed in at closing time, like Juan Manuel Dedionigis, 26, who pounded on the windows of a bank branch trying to get some attention.
"These new restrictions don't make any sense at all," he complained angrily. "With the little cash they'll let us have, I guess I can get by for 10, maybe 15 days."
Bank managers and clerks worked extended hours, as they also tried to make sense of the new measures, which the government said would remain in place for 90 days.
Hoping to soothe an uneasy populace, President Fernando De la Rua appealed for "good faith and understanding" from Argentines, saying the measures "were taken to protect us all from uncertainty."
"Your savings and deposits are safe," he said.
But the decision to restrict cash brought criticism from many economists and political and union leaders, who argued the restrictions likely would deepen Argentina's protracted recession, now in its 42nd month.


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