- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2002

Argentines are losing their faith in the country's politicians and looking for alternative leaders from other fields.
"All my adult life, I've seen the same faces in political posts, the same provincial governors, the same congressmen," said a Buenos Aires businessman who asked to remain anonymous. "People are sick of the sight of them. We want them all to go."
Widely accused of corruption, nepotism and greed, politicians are now routinely harassed in the streets, insulted by crowds outside their homes and even heckled on trips abroad.
In January, a Peronist Party congressman, Franco Caviglia, was forced to seek refuge in a cafe and wait for police protection after a mob threatened him. Some legislators have taken to wearing hats, sunglasses and even wigs to avoid recognition.
In congressional elections last October, some 40 percent of voters turned in spoiled or blank ballots. More recently, a poll showed that only 11 percent of the population believed a politician could pull the country out of its crisis.
"People are already searching out those who do not come from a traditional political background," said economic strategist Martin Redrado. "They're looking for fresh faces and fresh ideas."
Mauricio Macri, the wealthy president of Boca Juniors, Argentina's most popular soccer team, is high on an emerging list of new political lights. He has established a think tank, hired political analysts, and even taken voice lessons in order to improve his delivery. "Any incoming government would be well-advised to knock on his door," a senior Western diplomat said.
But critics say that Mr. Macri's wealth, which originated from government contracts and privatization proceeds, will undermine any future presidential campaign.
"Macri is certainly representative of Argentina's new entrepreneurial class, but an immense number of people see him as part of the problem, not part of the solution," said Enrique Zuleta Puceiro, director of IBOPE, a political polling firm.
While Mr. Macri is the only outsider thus far viewed by political analysts as a serious presidential contender, a few consumer advocates, sportsmen and a Catholic priest have generated a substantial following.

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