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Argentina Recesson4th Year*

Demonstrators protest as Argentina enters fourth year of recession

By LAURENCE NORMAN, Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (May 22, 6:40 p.m. CDT) - Comprised of groups of unemployed people demanding jobs, demonstrators blockaded highways Tuesday in scattered protests across recession-strapped Argentina.

The protests mark the latest spasm of discontent as Argentina enters its fourth year of its economic malaise, marked by a jobless rate of nearly 15 percent and a quarter of the 37 million Argentines are living below the poverty line.

In downtown Buenos Aires one group of protesters marched, held a drum-banging demonstrating and lit firecrackers outside the pink Government House. Thousands of others gathered outside the capital, blocking key routes into the city amid commuter chaos.

In a separate protest, hundreds of honey producers in beekeeper suits sprayed the smoke canisters they normally use on the job as a way to protest a new U.S. tariff on Argentine honey imports.

The protesters set up wooden boxes containing the hives of live bees on a downtown boulevard. They maintain that Argentine honey is being unfairly hit by a tariff in excess of 50 percent from the United States over complaints that Argentine subsidies amount to an unfair advantage.

Argentina is in a "grave social situation," President Fernando De la Rua admitted last week. But he added that the country was heading in the right direction amid government austerity moves.

Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo, speaking at a regional economic forum here, said a more robust economy would go a long way to easing the nation's problems.

"The best way to resolve the social problems is to promote economic growth and recovery and we are working to produce those effects," said Cavallo, who has advocated spending cuts and tax changes to restore growth.

Sporadic protests have been going on for weeks as groups of unemployed have braved rainstorms and cold weather of the South American autumn to continue the demonstrations.

On Tuesday, a two-week-old march by hundreds of children of unemployed parents from the northern province of Jujuy arrived in the capital.

The children waved placards proclaiming their "right to life" and "an end to poverty."

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