December 15, 1999
Argentina moves to take over chaotic province

                  BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) -- Argentina's new national
                  government moved on Wednesday to take direct control of the troubled
                  northern province of Corrientes, where thousands of public servants are
                  blocking roads to demand overdue salaries.

                  The center-left Alliance government of President Fernando de la Rua sent a
                  bill to Congress asking it to approve direct control of Corrientes for a period
                  of at least 180 days, congressmen said.

                  Corrientes, 500 miles (800 km) north of the capital Buenos Aires, slumped
                  into financial and political crisis in April, leading to serious delays in paying
                  the wages to public servants who make up 80 percent of the local

                  Public school teachers have been on strike for eight months, meaning
                  thousands of pupils have lost a whole school year. Striking court workers
                  have held up thousands of legal cases and public hospitals refuse to attend
                  anything other than emergencies.

                  Thousands of protesters installed roadblocks on the main access roads to
                  the province on the Paraguayan border on Tuesday.

                  "The situation is getting out of hand because truck drivers are also protesting,
                  to demand their right to be able to drive freely down the road," Gendarmes
                  policeman Jorge Chiappe told local radio. The para-military Gendarmes
                  have been in control of the province since civilian police also went on strike.

                  On Monday, 400 Gendarmes used tear gas and water cannons to clear a
                  roadblock on a bridge connecting Corrientes with the neighboring province
                  of Chaco. But the demonstrators returned minutes later.

                  The province's economic straits have worsened under a political paralysis.
                  The province's Senate on Monday named a new governor, Carlos
                  Tomasella, but the outgoing Gov. Hugo Perie refused to abandon his post.

                     Copyright 1999 Reuters.