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In Dec. 1999, Fernando de la Rua became president. Despite the introduction of several tough economic austerity plans, by 2001 the recession had slid into its third year. The IMF gave Argentina $13.7 billion in emergency aid in Jan. 2001 and $8 billion in Aug. 2001.

The international help was not enough, however, and by the end of 2001, Argentina was on the verge of economic collapse. Rioters protesting government austerity measures forced De la Rua to resign in Dec. 2001. Argentina then defaulted on its $155 billion foreign debt payments, the largest such default in history.

After more instability, Congress named Eduardo Duhalde president on Jan. 1, 2002. Duhalde soon announced an economic plan devaluing the Argentine peso, which had been pegged to the dollar for a decade. The devaluation plunged the banking industry into crisis and wiped out much of the savings of the middle class, plunging millions of Argentinians into poverty.

In July 2002, former junta leader Galtieri and 42 other military officers were arrested and charged with the torture and execution of 22 leftist guerrillas during Argentina's 7-year military dictatorship. In recent years, judges have found legal loopholes allowing them to circumvent the blanket amnesty laws passed in 1986 and 1987, which allowed many accused of atrocities during the dirty war to walk free.

In June 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that these amnesty laws were unconstitutional and in 2006, numerous military and police officials went on trial.

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