Argentina is a country in southern South America, situated between the Andes in the west and the southern Atlantic Ocean in the east. It is bordered by Paraguay and Bolivia in the north, Brazil and Uruguay in the northeast and Chile in the west. The country is formally named República Argentina ('"Argentine Republic"), while for purposes of legislation the form Nación Argentina ("Argentine Nation") is used.
Origin and history of the name
The name Argentina is derived from the Latin argentum (silver). The origin of this name goes back to the first voyages made by the Spanish conquerors to Río de la Plata. The survivors of the shipwrecked expedition mounted by Juan Díaz de Solís found indigenous people in the region who gave them silver objects as presents. The news about the legendary Sierra del Plata – a mountain rich in silver – reached Spain around 1524. Since then, the Spaniards named the river of Solís, Río de la Plata (River of Silver).
Main article: History of Argentina
Europeans arrived in the region with the 1502 voyage of Amerigo Vespucci. Spanish navigator Juan Díaz de Solís visited what is now Argentina in 1516. Spain established a permanent colony on the site of Buenos Aires in 1580, although initial settlement was primarily overland from Peru. The Spanish further integrated Argentina into their empire by establishing the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1776, and Buenos Aires became a flourishing port. Buenos Aires formally declared independence from Spain on July 9, 1816. Argentines revere Gen. José de San Martín, who campaigned in Argentina, Chile, and Peru as the hero of their national independence. Following the defeat of the Spanish, centralist and federationist groups waged a lengthy conflict between themselves to determine the future of the nation. National unity was established, and the constitution promulgated in 1853.
Two forces combined to create the modern Argentine nation in the late 19th century: the introduction of modern agricultural techniques and integration of Argentina into the world economy. Foreign investment and immigration from Europe aided this economic revolution. Investment, primarily British, came in such fields as railroads and ports. As in the United States, the migrants who worked to develop Argentina's resources—especially the western pampas—came from throughout Europe.
From 1880 to 1930 Argentina became one of the world's 10 wealthiest nations based on rapid expansion of agriculture and foreign investment in infrastructure. Conservative forces dominated Argentine politics until 1916, when their traditional rivals, the Radicals, won control of the government. The Radicals, with their emphasis on fair elections and democratic institutions, opened their doors to Argentina's rapidly expanding middle class as well as to groups previously excluded from power. The Argentine military forced aged Radical President Hipólito Yrigoyen from power in 1930 and ushered in another decade of Conservative rule. Using fraud and force when necessary, the governments of the 1930s attempted to contain the currents of economic and political change that eventually led to the ascendance of Juan Domingo Perón (b. 1895). New social and political forces were seeking political power, including a modern military and labor movements that emerged from the growing urban working class.
The military ousted Argentina's constitutional government in 1943. Perón, then an army colonel, was one of the coup's leaders, and he soon became the government's dominant figure as Minister of Labor. Elections carried him to the presidency in 1946. He aggressively pursued policies aimed empowering the working class and greatly expanded the number of unionized workers. In 1947, Perón announced the first 5-year plan based on the growth of industries he nationalized. He helped establish the powerful General Confederation of Labor (CGT). Perón's dynamic wife, Eva Duarte de Perón, known as Evita (1919-52), played a key role in developing support for her husband. Perón won reelection in 1952, but the military sent him into exile in 1955. In the 1950s and 1960s, military and civilian administrations traded power, trying, with limited success, to deal with diminished economic growth and continued social and labor demands. When military governments failed to revive the economy and suppress escalating terrorism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the way was open for Perón's return.
On March 11, 1973, Argentina held general elections for the first time in 10 years. Perón was prevented from running, but voters elected his stand-in, Dr. Héctor Cámpora, as President. Perón's followers also commanded strong majorities in both houses of Congress. Cámpora resigned in July 1973 , paving the way for new elections. Perón won a decisive victory and returned as President in October 1973 with his third wife, María Estela Isabel Martínez de Perón, as Vice President. During this period, extremists on the left and right carried out terrorist acts with a frequency that threatened public order. The government resorted to a number of emergency decrees, including the implementation of special executive authority to deal with violence. This allowed the government to imprison persons indefinitely without charge.
Perón died on July 1, 1974. His wife succeeded him in office, but a military coup removed her from office on March 24, 1976, and the armed forces formally exercised power through a junta composed of the three service commanders until December 10, 1983. The armed forces applied harsh measures against terrorists and many suspected of being their sympathizers. They restored basic order, but the human costs of what became known as "El Proceso," or the "Dirty War" were high. Conservative counts list between 10,000 and 30,000 persons as "disappeared" during the 1976-83 period. Serious economic problems, mounting charges of corruption, public revulsion in the face of human rights abuses and, finally, the country's 1982 defeat by the United Kingdom in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the Falklands/Malvinas Islands all combined to discredit the Argentine military regime. The junta lifted bans on political parties and gradually restored basic political liberties.
On October 30, 1983, Argentines went to the polls and chose Raúl Alfonsín, of the Radical Civic Union (UCR), as President. He began a 6-year term of office on December 10, 1983. In 1985 and 1987, large turnouts for mid-term elections demonstrated continued public support for a strong and vigorous democratic system. The UCR-led government took steps to resolve some of the nation's most pressing problems, including accounting for those who disappeared during military rule, establishing civilian control of the armed forces, and consolidating democratic institutions. However, failure to resolve endemic economic problems, and an inability to maintain public confidence undermined the effectiveness of the Alfonsín government, which left office 6 months early after Peronist candidate Carlos Saul Menem won the 1989 presidential elections.
President Menem imposed peso-dollar parity (convertibility) in 1991 to break the back of hyperinflation and adopted far-reaching market-based policies. Menem's accomplishments included dismantling a web of protectionist trade and business regulations, and reversing a half-century of statism by implementing an ambitious privatization program. These reforms contributed to significant increases in investment and growth with stable prices through most of the 1990s. Unfortunately, widespread corruption in the administrations of President Menem and President Fernando de la Rúa (elected in 1999) shook confidence and weakened the recovery. Also, while convertibility defeated inflation, its permanence undermined Argentina's export competitiveness and created chronic deficits in the current account of the balance of payments, which were financed by massive borrowing. The contagion effect of the Asian financial crisis of 1998 precipitated an outflow of capital that gradually mushroomed into a 4-year depression that culminated in a financial panic in November 2001. In December 2001, amidst bloody riots, President de la Rúa resigned, and Argentina defaulted on $88 billion in debt, the largest sovereign debt default in history.
A legislative assembly on December 23, 2001, elected Adolfo Rodríguez Saá to serve as President and called for general elections to elect a new president within 3 months. Rodríguez Saá announced immediately that Argentina would default on its international debt obligations, but expressed his commitment to maintain the currency board and the peso's 1-to-1 peg to the dollar. Rodríguez Saá, however, was unable to rally support from within his own party for his administration and this, combined with renewed violence in the Federal Capital, led to his resignation on December 30. Yet another legislative assembly elected Peronist Eduardo Duhalde President on January 1, 2002. Duhalde differentiating himself from his three predecessors quickly abandoned the peso's almost 12-year-old link with the dollar, a move that was followed by currency depreciation and inflation. In the face of rising poverty and continued social unrest, Duhalde also moved to bolster the government's social programs.
In the first round of the presidential election on April 27, 2003, former President Carlos Menem (Justicialist Party (PJ)) won 24.3% of the vote, Santa Cruz Governor Néstor Kirchner (PJ) won 22%, followed by Ricardo Murphy with 16.4% and Elisa Carrió with 14.2%. Menem withdrew from the May 25 runoff election after polls showed overwhelming support for Kirchner. The runoff election was not held and Mr Kirchner took office as President on May 25, 2003.
Main article: Politics of Argentina
The Argentine constitution of 1853, as revised in 1994, mandates a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches at the national and provincial level. The president and vice president are directly elected to 4-year terms. Both are limited to two consecutive terms; they are allowed to stand for a third term or more after an interval of at least one term. The president appoints cabinet ministers, and the constitution grants him considerable power as both head of state and head of government, including authority to enact laws by presidential decree under conditions of "urgency and necessity" and the line-item veto.
Argentina's parliament is the bicameral National Congress or Congreso de la Nación, consisting of a senate (Senado) of 72 seats and a Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados) of 257 members. Since 2001, senators have been directly elected, with each province, including the Federal Capital, represented by three senators. Senators serve 6-year terms. One-third of the Senate stands for reelection every 2 years via a partial majority system in each district. Members of the Chamber of Deputies are directly elected to 4-year term via a system of proportional representation. Voters elect half the members of the lower house every 2 years.
Provinces of Argentina. Argentine Antarctica and Southern Atlantic Islands (23) not shown.
Main article: Provinces of Argentina
Argentina is divided into 23 provinces (provincias; singular: provincia), and 1 autonomous district (formerly known as capital federal), marked with an asterisk:
* The current official name for the federal district is "Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires".
Main article: List of cities in Argentina
About 3 million people live in the city of Buenos Aires, and roughly 11 million in Greater Buenos Aires, making it one of the largest urban conglomerates in the world. The second and third largest cities in Argentina, Córdoba and Rosario, each comprise about 1.3 million inhabitants.
Most European immigrants to Argentina (coming in great waves especially around the First and the Second World Wars) settled in the cities, which offered jobs, education, and other opportunities that enabled newcomers to enter the middle class. Since the 1930s many rural workers have moved to the big cities.
The 1990s saw many rural towns become ghost towns when train services were abandoned and local products manufactured on a small scale were replaced by massive amounts of imported cheap goods. This was in part caused by the effects of the monetary policy which kept the US dollar exchange rate artificially low, thereby increasing the international price of agricultural commodities that form the bulk of Argentina's exports. Many slums (villas miseria) sprouted in the outskirts of the largest cities, inhabited by empoverished low-class urban dwellers and migrants from smaller towns in the interior of the country.
Compared to most Latin American countries, and even today while it is recovering from an economic crisis, Argentina has a very large middle class. Many of these middle class people work in industry, own small businesses, or have government or professional jobs. They live in tall modern apartment buildings or bungalows that have small yards or gardens. Wealthy Argentines and business executives live in mansions and luxurious apartments in the cities or in fashionable suburbs.
Argentina's urban areas have a European look, reflecting the influence of their European settlers. Many towns and cities are built like Spanish cities around a main square called a plaza. A cathedral and important government buildings often face the plaza. The general layout of the cities is called a damero, that is, a checkerboard, since it is based on a pattern of square blocks, though modern developments sometimes depart from it (for example, the city of La Plata, built at the end of the 19th century, is organized as a checkerboard plus diagonal avenues at fixed intervals).
Main article: Geography of Argentina
Argentina can roughly be divided into three parts: the fertile plains of the Pampas in the central part of the country, the centre of Argentina's agricultural wealth; the flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia in the southern half down to Tierra del Fuego; and the rugged Andes mountain range along the western border with Chile, with the highest point being the Cerro Aconcagua at 6,960 m.
Major rivers include the Paraguay , Bermejo , Colorado, Uruguay and the largest river, the Paraná. The latter two flow together before meeting the Atlantic Ocean, forming the estuary of the Río de la Plata (River of Silver). The Argentine climate is predominantly temperate with extremes ranging from subtropical in the north to arid/sub-Antarctic in far south.
Main article: Economy of Argentina
Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, an export-oriented agricultural sector, and a diversified industrial base. However, ever since the Great Depression began in 1929, Argentina's economy had been on a Keynesian roller-coaster ride, and since the late 1970s the country had piled up huge external debts, inflation had reached 200% per month in some months of 1989-1991, and output was plummeting. To combat the economic crisis, the government embarked on a path of trade liberalisation, deregulation, and privatisation. In 1991, it implemented radical monetary reforms which pegged the peso to the US dollar and limited the growth in the monetary base by law to the growth in reserves.
Though initially a success, with inflation dropping and a recovering GDP growth, subsequent economic crises in Mexico, Asia, Russia and Brazil contributed to ever worsening conditions from 1999 onward. The government sponsored tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit, which had ballooned to 2.5% of GDP in 1999, though both domestic and foreign investors remained skeptical of the government's ability to pay debts and maintain the peso's fixed exchange rate with the US dollar.
The economic situation worsened still further in 2001 with the widening of spreads on Argentine bonds, massive withdrawals from the banks, and a further decline in consumer and investor confidence. Government efforts to achieve a "zero deficit", to stabilise the stricken banking system, and to restore economic growth proved inadequate in the face of the mounting economic problems. On December 21 President De La Rua was expelled from the government under the pressure of massive demonstrations by the middle class (who saw their bank accounts frozen) and the lower class (who were encouraged, in part by the Partido Justicialista to begin rioting and stealing in order to generate a climate of social unrest). The congress elected Eduardo Duhalde (one of the most involved leaders in the destabilization of De La Rua's government) as provisional head of the state. Duhalde met with IMF officials to secure an additional $20 billion loan, but immediate action seemed unlikely. The peso's peg to the dollar was abandoned in January 2002, and the peso was floated from the dollar in February.
On December 23 2001, interim president Adolfo Rodríguez Saa declared a short-lived debt moratorium.
According to Argentine Agronomist Alberto Lapolla, who has written extensively on the transformation of Argentina from the "granary of the world" to a "soy republic," 450,000 Argentines died of hunger between 1990 and 2003. Citing the Institut d'études sur l'État et la participation (IDEP), a think-tank, Lapolla adds that every day, 55 children, 35 adults and 15 elderly die in the country from illnesses related to hunger.
The economy began a recovery in March 2002 that has been far more impressive and robust than anticipated by leading international and domestic analysts. In 2003, an export-led boom triggered an 8.7% surge in real gross domestic product (GDP). Industrial activity and construction activity also performed well, growing 17.9% and 37.8%, respectively, in 2003. Domestic car sales and exports increased 105.4% and 19.2%, respectively, in 2003. Tourism activity boomed: Argentina received 3.3 million foreign tourists in 2003, a record high. The expansion is creating jobs and unemployment dipped from 17.8% in May 2003 to 14.5% in December 2003. Investment in real terms jumped 38.1%, and capital flight has decreased. The recovery's strong impact on revenue levels, combined with the Kirchner administrations prudent control of spending, achieved exceptional results, with the fiscal surplus reaching 2.3% of GDP.
Meanwhile, the move to a market-based exchange rate regime and high global commodity prices have lifted exports to record levels and assured hefty surpluses in the trade and current account balances of the balance of payments. The favorable balance of payments performance and Argentina's non-payment of its private debt obligations has allowed a strong accumulation of foreign exchange reserves, which have reached nearly $17.7 billion, representing 15 months of current imports. The demand for pesos increased in 2003 and the first half of 2004 due to the recovery of economic activity and the appreciation of the peso. Argentina's Central Bank has deftly managed monetary policy in support of the economic expansion, while maintaining inflation in check (consumer inflation was restrained at 3.4% in 2003). Banks are now in the black, and net credit levels to the private sector are positive.
Argentina's impressive recovery is a function of a number of factors. First, following a decade of market reforms, the economy was fundamentally sound except for the high level of indebtedness. Second, the adoption of a market exchange rate and favorable international commodity and interest rate trends were catalytic factors in the export-led boom. Argentina has sound fundamentals and should continue to perform well in 2004, with growth projected to be 9%. Nevertheless, slowness in addressing energy, public debt, and banking compensation difficulties and a still-weak investment climate are major obstacles to sustaining the recovery.
Main article: Demographics of Argentina
Argentines are a mixture of diverse national and ethnic groups, with descendants of Italian and Spanish immigrants predominant (at least 88% of Argentina's total population). Waves of immigrants from many European countries arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Patagonian Chubut Valley has a significant Welsh descended population and retains many Welsh placenames and aspects of Welsh culture. Syrian, Lebanese, and other Middle Eastern immigrants number about 500,000, mainly in urban areas. Other important immigrant groups came from Germany (German colonies were settled in the provinces of Entre Rios, Misiones, Formosa, Cordoba and the Patagonian region, as well as in Buenos Aires itself), France (mostly settled in Buenos Aires city and province), the United Kingdom and Ireland (Buenos Aires and the Patagonia) and Eastern European nations, such as Poland, Russia, Ukraine and the Balkans region (especially Croatia and Serbia) and others. Small numbers of Asians have also settled Argentina, mainly in Buenos Aires. First Asians were Japanese, then Koreans, Vietnamese, and Chinese followed. The only official language is Spanish, though some immigrants have to an extent retained their original languages in specific points of the country, Spanish remains the most widely spoken.
Argentina's population is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, and Roman Catholicism is economically supported by the Argentine state, without being an official religion. It also has the largest Jewish population in Latin America, about 300,000 strong, and is home to one of the largest Islamic mosques in Latin America. Protestant communities are also present. The indigenous population, estimated at 700,000, is concentrated in the provinces of the northeast, northwest, and south. Mestizos of mixed European and Indian origin form at least 40% of the total population, and have a very strong presence in these zones though for historical and cultural reasons the local population do not perceive such a composition.
Argentina is also the largest country that uses the "vos" form of Spanish instead of "tú". It also uses the "vos" conjugation as do other countries such as Uruguay and Nicaragua as well as in some zones of Venezuela and Colombia. The most prevalent dialect is known as Rioplatense (from its location in the basin of the Río de la Plata).
Main article: Culture of Argentina
Clarín, "Clarin", Argentina's most popular newspaper.
La Nación, "The Nation", a conservative newspaper in Spanish.
Página/12, formerly a progressive newspaper in Spanish. It now belongs to Clarín.
La Razon, Buenos Aires free evening newspaper, belongs to Clarin
InfoBae, a right-wing newspaper in Spanish.
Buenos Aires Herald, a newspaper in English.
La Nueva Provincia, "The New Province", a conservative newspaper of Bahía Blanca, a city south of Buenos Aires.
Argentinisches Tageblatt, a newspaper in German
Diario La Capital, a newspaper from Rosario, Argentina's third largest city
La Voz Del Interior, the newspaper of Córdoba, Argentina's second largest city
La Gaceta, The newspaper of Tucuman, the main city in the Northwest region
Last updated: 10-15-2005 01:49:15