March 4, 2002

Argentinean surgeons protest, refuse to operate

                 BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- Heart surgeons in Argentina's
                 cash-strapped public hospitals refused to conduct routine surgery Monday in
                 protest over a lack of medical supplies.

                 Dairy farmers demanding higher prices for their milk marched in the countryside,
                 while protests against a bank freeze returned in the capital.

                 The scattered protests were peaceful but highlighted the still-simmering discontent
                 over Argentina's four-year-old economic downturn, this country's worst fiscal
                 crisis in decades. The country defaulted in December on $141 billion in public debt
                 and has since sharply devalued its peso.

                 In Buenos Aires, a group of cardiovascular surgeons said Monday they would only
                 perform emergency surgery, postponing all routine operations for a day to demand
                 the government provide more medical supplies and pay back wages.

                 The doctors charge that a lack of medical supplies, brought on by the crisis that
                 has nearly bankrupted public medicine, poses a grave threat to patient welfare.
                 They also complained of a delay by public health care systems in reimbursing
                 doctors for their services.

                 In other developments, a small group of demonstrators beat pots and pans outside
                 banks in downtown Buenos Aires as they have almost weekly since a partial
                 banking freeze was imposed December 1. "We deposited dollars, so we want
                 dollars back!" they chanted.

                 The government severely limited cash withdrawals on Argentine savings after a run
                 on the banks last November.

                 Meanwhile, in the central province of Santiago del Estero, some 150 dairy farmers
                 blocked highways to demand a hike in milk prices.

                 Similar protests were reported elsewhere in the countryside.

                 Analysts have said unchecked price increases could spur a return to high inflation
                 and sow further uncertainty in an economy that has been battered by four years of

                 The country's tailspin has left more than 22 percent of the workforce unemployed.

                  Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.