Europe's poorest country, Albania disintegrated into anarchy and armed revolt soon after pyramid investment schemes failed in January 1997. The schemes (actually fronts for laundering money and dealing in weapons) could no longer make payments once the number of investors grew to include the vast majority of Albanians, who had been lured by get-rich-quick promises. Beginning in February thousands of citizens gathered daily, demanding reimbursement by the government, which they suspected of profiting from the schemes. By March 1997, the protests had turned violent in the south, especially around the port city of Vlore (Vlora), where numerous residents armed themselves with weapons looted from army barracks. On March 2 President Sali Berisha (1944-) declared a state of emergency, but rioting and destruction spread throughout the country, gripping the capital, Tirana, for two weeks. Although the government quelled revolts in the north, in mid-March rebels still controlled towns in the south. Fearing the spread of unrest outside Albania's borders -- and alarmed at the third wave of refugees from the country in a decade -- the United Nations on March 28 authorized a force of 7,000 to direct relief efforts and to restore order. In elections in June and July 1997, Berisha and his party were voted out of power, and all UN forces left Albania by August 11.