Country profile: Argentina

Although Argentina declared itself independent of former colonial power Spain in 1810, it was decades before the country demonstrated much unity.

Resistance to Buenos Aires’ political power in the mainly rural northwest kept the country divided.


When the government wrote a new constitution in 1826 and enforced its authority, a two-year civil war ensued. But it was at this time of crisis that one of the country’s most influential leaders came to the fore – Juan Manuel de Rosas.


Rosas involved Argentina in wars with Bolivia and Brazil that some speculate served to take the public’s eye off the prevalent domestic problems. But wars and a British blockade led to military challenge to Rosas’ authority – which he lost at the battle of Monte Caseros in 1851.


A Federalist constitution was written at Santa Fé but Buenos Aires immediately seceded and declared itself independent and the true Argentina – a situation that was not resolved until 1861.


It was during the presidency of Domingo Sarmiento (1868-1874) that the government began to seriously invest heavily in education and with the growth of the educated classes, dissatisfaction at corruption led to several armed uprisings.


Various military factions sought to overthrow the government in 1890, 1892, and 1893 – but were unsuccessful in all three attempts.


In the years between 1895 and 1912 the population of the country doubled to 7.5 million. Immigration from Europe was the main cause of this growth and the Argentine policy towards immigration was especially welcoming.

By 1914, four-fifths of the Argentine population was immigrant-based, consisting of mostly Italian and Spanish migrants, and the country prospered until the world financial crisis in the 1930s.


However, things changed drastically with a military coup that introduced Colonel Juan Domingo Peron as Minister of War and Labour – and later as president. Peron transformed the country with rapid industrialisation, employment of migrant workers from the countryside, and by nationalising the British-owned railroads, gas and telephone companies.


But his second period in office, from 1963, was very different, spending much of his attention on death squads that killed “guerrillas” and other government critics. And even after Peron’s death in 1974, death squads during the presidency of his third wife – Isabel – are estimated to have killed at least 9000 people (some calculate a toll as high as 30,000).


During the seven years after 1976 Argentina suffered what is known as the Dirty Wars. During this time more than 30,000 people were arrested and disappeared. Their fates mostly remain unknown.


In 1980, Argentina invaded the Malvinas Islands (the Falklands).


The encounter led to a defeat for the military, but also put the country back on the path to democracy, despite major economic instability and hyper-inflation.

But by the late 1980s, the country’s economy improved dramatically. However, then President Carlos Menem’s policy of pegging the peso to the US dollar at a 1 to 1 exchange rate was to become one of the main reasons for Argentina’s economic crisis of 2001.

The economic downward spiral in Argentina hit global headlines at the end of 2001 in the face of massive debts. The peso was devalued; the banks closed to prevent people from withdrawing their funds and several people died in the ensuing protests. The population – those unable to have dollar accounts – were plunged into poverty.

In 2003, the Argentinians voted Nestor Kirchner to the presdiency in what some describe as a move away from pro-Bush leaders and a pro-free market ecomony ideology.

Capital: Buenos Aires
Official name: Argentine Republic

39,537,943 (July 2005 estimate)
Languages: Spanish
Ethnic diversity: White (mostly Spanish and Italian) 97%, mestizo (mixed white and Amer-Indian ancestry), Amer-Indian, or other non-white groups 3%
Literacy rate in those aged 15 and over: male: 97.1%; female: 97.1% (2003 estimate)

Religion: Nominally Roman Catholic 92% (less than 20% practicing), Protestant 2%, Jewish 2%, other 4%
Government type: Republic

Political parties and leaders: Action for the Republic or AR, Domingo Cavallo; Alternative for a Republic of Equals or ARI, Elisa Carrio; Federal Recreate Movement or RECREAR, Ricardo Lopez Murphy; Front for a Country in Solidarity or Frepaso (a four-party coalition), Dario Pedro Alessandro; Interbloque Federal or IF (a broad coalition of approximately 12 parties including RECREAR), leader NA; Justicialist Party or PJ (Peronist umbrella political organisation), leader NA; Radical Civic Union or UCR, Angel Rozas; Socialist Party or PS, Ruben Giustiniani; Union For All, Patricia Bullrich;

Political pressure groups and leaders: Argentine Association of Pharmaceutical Labs (CILFA); Argentine Industrial Union (manufacturers’ association); Argentine Rural Society (large landowners’ association); business organisations; Central of Argentine Workers or CTA (a radical union for employed and unemployed workers); General Confederation of Labor or CGT (Peronist-leaning umbrella labour organisation); Peronist-dominated labour movement; Roman Catholic Church; students

International organisation participation includes: AfDB, Australia Group, BCIE, BIS, FAO, G-6, G-15, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, Mercosur, MIGA, MINURSO, MINUSTAH, NSG, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMIK, UNMOVIC, UNTSO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTO, ZC.

Military branches: Argentine Army, Navy of the Argentine Republic (includes Naval Aviation and Marines), Argentine Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Argentina, FAA)

Military manpower – military age: 18 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription (2001)
Military manpower – there are approximately 8,981,886 (2005 est) males aged 18-49 available for military service.


Location: Southern South America. It borders the Atlantic Ocean between Chile and Uruguay.

Area: Total: 2,766,890sq km; land: 2,736,690sq km; water: 30,200sq km
Land boundaries: Total: 9665km
Border countries: Bolivia 832km, Brazil 1224km, Chile 5150km, Paraguay 1880km, Uruguay 579km

Climate: Mostly temperate; arid in southeast; subantarctic in southwest.

Terrain: Rich plains of the Pampas in northern half, flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia in south, rugged Andes along western border.

Natural resources: Fertile plains of the pampas, lead, zinc, tin, copper, iron ore, manganese, petroleum, uranium.

Land use: Arable land: 12.31%; permanent crops: 0.48%; other: 87.21% (2001).
Natural hazards: San Miguel de Tucuman and Mendoza areas in the Andes subject to earthquakes; pamperos are violent windstorms that can strike the pampas and northeast; heavy flooding.

Environment – current issues: Deforestation, soil degradation, desertification, air pollution, and water pollution. Argentina is a world leader in setting voluntary greenhouse gas targets.

Environment – international agreements: Party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling. Signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation

Gross Domestic Product:
$483.5 billion (2004 estimate)
GDP – real growth rate: 8.3% (2004 estimate)

Industries: Food-processing, motor vehicles, consumer durables, textiles, chemicals and petrochemicals, printing, metallurgy, steel.
Exports: Edible oils, fuels and energy, cereals, feed, motor vehicles.
Imports: Machinery and equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, metal manufactures, plastics.
Labour force: 15.04 million (2004 estimate)
Unemployment rate: 14.8% (2004 estimate)
Currency: Argentinian peso (ARS)

Transnational Issues: Argentina claims the UK-administered Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Its territorial claim in Antarctica partially overlaps UK and Chilean claims; unruly region at convergence of Argentina-Brazil-Paraguay borders is locus of money-laundering, smuggling, arms and illegal narcotics trafficking, and fundraising for extremist organisations; uncontested dispute between Brazil and Uruguay over Braziliera Island in the Quarai/Cuareim River leaves the tripoint with Argentina in question

Sources: CIA world fact book,,,

Source : Al Jazeera

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