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Country Profiles: Argentina


Flag, map and facts courtesy of CIA World Factbook 2002

Background Following independence from Spain in 1816, Argentina experienced periods of internal political conflict between conservatives and liberals and between civilian and military factions. After World War II, a long period of Peronist authoritarian rule and interference in subsequent governments was followed by a military junta that took power in 1976. Democracy returned in 1983, and numerous elections since then have underscored Argentina's progress in democratic consolidation.
Location
Map of Argentina
Southern South America, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Chile and Uruguay
Area total: 2,766,890 sq km
land: 2,736,690 sq km
water: 30,200 sq km
Area - comparative slightly less than three-tenths the size of the US
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
Elevation extremes Salinas Chicas -40 m (located on Peninsula Valdes)
highest point: Cerro Aconcagua 6,960 m
Natural resources fertile plains of the Pampas, lead, zinc, tin, copper, iron ore, manganese, petroleum, uranium
Land use arable land: 9.14%
permanent crops: 0.8%
other: 90.06% (1998 est.)
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 environmental problems (urban and rural) typical of an industrializing economy such as deforestation, soil degradation, desertification, air pollution, and water pollution
note: Argentina is a world leader in setting voluntary greenhouse gas targets
Geography - note second-largest country in South America (after Brazil); strategic location relative to sea lanes between the South Atlantic and the South Pacific Oceans (Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage); Cerro Aconcagua is South America's tallest mountain, while the Valdes Peninsula is the lowest point on the continent
Population 37,812,817 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 0-14 years: 26.3% (male 5,090,046; female 4,854,761)
15-64 years: 63.2% (male 11,968,135; female 11,937,709)
65 years and over: 10.5% (male 1,636,332; female 2,325,834) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 1.13% (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 17.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth total population: 75.48 years
female: 79.03 years (2002 est.)
male: 72.1 years
Ethnic groups white (mostly Spanish and Italian) 97%, mestizo, Amerindian, or other nonwhite groups 3%
Religions Pnominally Roman Catholic 92% (less than 20% practicing), Protestant 2%, Jewish 2%, other 4%
Languages Spanish (official), English, Italian, German, French
Literacy definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96.2%
male: 96.2%
female: 96.2% (1995 est.)
Government type republic
Capital Buenos Aires
Independence 9 July 1816 (from Spain)
Legal system mixture of US and West European legal systems; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage 18 years of age; universal and mandatory
Flag description three equal horizontal bands of light blue (top), white, and light blue; centered in the white band is a radiant yellow sun with a human face known as the Sun of May

Flag of Argentina
Economy - overview Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, an export-oriented agricultural sector, and a diversified industrial base. However, when President Carlos Menem took office in 1989, the country had piled up huge external debts, inflation had reached 200% per month, and output was plummeting. To combat the economic crisis, the government embarked on a path of trade liberalization, deregulation, and privatization. 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. Inflation fell sharply in subsequent years. In 1995, the Mexican peso crisis produced capital flight, the loss of banking system deposits, and a severe, but short-lived, recession; a series of reforms to bolster the domestic banking system followed. Real GDP growth recovered strongly, reaching 8% in 1997. In 1998, international financial turmoil caused by Russia's problems and increasing investor anxiety over Brazil produced the highest domestic interest rates in more than three years, halving the growth rate of the economy. Conditions worsened in 1999 with GDP falling by 3%. President Fernando de la Rua, who took office in December 1999, sponsored tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit, which had ballooned to 2.5% of GDP in 1999. Growth in 2000 was a negative 0.5%, as 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 stabilize the banking system, and to restore economic growth proved inadequate in the face of the mounting economic problems. At the start of 2002, newly elected president Eduardo 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; inflation picked up rapidly.
GDP - per capita purchasing power parity - $12,000 (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line 37% (2001 est.)
Labor force 15 million (1999)
Unemployment rate 25% (year end 2001)
Industries food processing, motor vehicles, consumer durables, textiles, chemicals and petrochemicals, printing, metallurgy, steel
Agriculture - products sunflower seeds, lemons, soybeans, grapes, corn, tobacco, peanuts, tea, wheat; livestock
Exports - commodities edible oils, fuels and energy, cereals, feed, motor vehicles
Imports - commodities machinery and equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, metal manufactures, plastics

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