The Miami Herald
December 11, 1999
Argentina leader sworn in
De la Rua leads first-ever coalition government

 Associated Press

 BUENOS AIRES -- Fernando De la Rua was sworn in Friday as Argentina's 47th
 president, promising to create an austere government in contrast to the
 flamboyant decade of Carlos Menem.

 ``One era is over and a new century is beginning,'' said De la Rua, a 62-year-old
 former Buenos Aires mayor, who inaugurated the opposition's first coalition
 government in Argentine history.

 ``As president, I salute you!'' he told a cheering crowd from the balcony of the
 Casa Rosada presidential palace, moments after Menem handed over the gold
 presidential baton and blue-and-white sash.

 Menem's two terms and 10 years in power were the country's longest
 uninterrupted stay in the presidency.

 Menem, 69, was constitutionally prohibited from a third straight run for office, but
 he has suggested he would like to seek reelection in 2003. As the leader of the
 Peronists, Menem becomes Argentina's top opposition figure.


 De la Rua, of the centrist Radical party, teamed up with the leftist Frepaso party
 to defeat the Peronists in the Oct. 24 election. De la Rua easily won election over
 his Peronist challenger, saying Menem's record left high unemployment and other
 social costs unattended.

 Speaking to a crowd on the Plaza de Mayo in front of the Casa Rosada, the new
 president suggested he would help those still untouched by free market reforms.

 ``All Argentines across the length and breadth of this country are seeking better
 times. We are going to work to that end!'' he said.

 Menem insisted he has left Argentina far better off than when he took office in
 1989 amid economic chaos. Menem tamed hyperinflation, stabilized the currency
 and sold off scores of languishing state industries.

 ``We leave a solid country, with institutional and economic stability,'' Menem
 wrote in a farewell letter, ``all of which will allow De la Rua to successfully take
 the initial steps into the third millennium.''

 Menem also cemented some of the strongest ties with the United States in Latin
 America, and is credited with strengthening democratic rule after the 1976-83
 military dictatorship.


 Menem is known for his flashy style, hobnobbing with statesmen and movie stars,
 driving race cars and flying helicopters.

 After taking the presidential oath in Congress, De la Rua and his wife rode in an
 open car to the Casa Rosada, escorted by red-uniformed soldiers on horseback in
 plumed hats.

 The mood was festive, but De la Rua got straight to business, acknowledging in
 his first speech as president that lawmakers had failed to pass next year's budget
 in time for his inauguration. Weeks of bickering between his party and the
 Peronists, who dominate Congress, delayed the legislation's passage.

                     Copyright 1999 Miami Herald