BUENOS AIRES Hundreds of rival protesters threw stones and bottles at each other outside Congress yesterday as lawmakers argued over who should become Argentina’s fifth leader in two weeks and take on the task of rescuing the country from economic and social chaos.
The supporters of rival parties clashed briefly before riot police fired tear gas to separate them. Soon afterward, legislators opened an emergency session of Congress and nominated Sen. Eduardo Duhalde to assume the presidency and serve until a 2003 presidential election.
There were no immediate reports of injuries in the unrest. But tensions were high, and hundreds of police fanned out around Congress and the Plaza de Mayo, a major city square, fearing a return of widespread street violence that has shaken the capital in recent weeks.
The abrupt resignation of interim President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa on Sunday left the country without any clear leadership and, even worse, without a concise economic plan to pull Argentina long Latin America’s most prosperous country back from virtual bankruptcy after four years of deep recession.
The congressional session was delayed several hours as Peronist party leaders argued over the Duhalde nomination, with some saying he should serve until presidential elections scheduled for 2003 and others calling for elections now.
Congress where the Peronist party controls both houses was to vote later in the session on the nomination.
Argentina was plunged into political turmoil Dec. 21 when Fernando De la Rua resigned his presidency after days of rioting, protests and looting across the country left 28 persons dead.
Mr. Rodriguez Saa was chosen by lawmakers to serve until new elections in March, but he quit when political support withered after one week in office.
During that time, protests in the capital continued, with Argentines growing increasingly angry over strict banking restrictions, political infighting and his appointment of Cabinet members widely seen as corrupt.