Saturday, December 09, 2006

Country profile: Argentina

Last Updated: Saturday, 9 December 2006, 11:32 GMT
[Note: See map @ website]

Argentina stretches 4,000 km from its sub-tropical north to the sub-antarctic south.
Its terrain includes part of the Andes mountain range, swamps, the plains of the Pampas and a long coastline. Its people have had to struggle with military dictatorship, a lost war over the Falkland Islands, and severe economic difficulties.



Argentina is rich in resources, has a well-educated workforce and is one of South America's largest economies. But it has also fallen prey to a boom and bust cycle.

Politics: President Kirchner, a Peronist, enjoys high approval ratings
Economy: The economy has rebounded after hitting rock bottom in 2001, but poverty remains a challenge

International: A row over Uruguayan paper mills sours neighbourly relations; Argentina claims sovereignty over the Falklands, a UK overseas territory

A deep recession foreshadowed economic collapse in 2001. This left more than half the population living in poverty and triggered unrest. The country struggled with record debt defaults and currency devaluation.

By 2003 a recovery was under way, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a vital new loan. Since then, Argentina has restructured its massive debt, offering creditors new bonds for the defaulted ones, and has repaid its debt to the IMF. But with poverty rife and unemployment high, many Argentines still await the benefits of the economic upturn.

The legacy of military rule from 1976-1983 is an open wound. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the seven-year "dirty war". The bodies of many abductees - known as the "disappeared" - have never been found.

Amnesties which protected former junta members from prosecution have been repealed and the legality of pardons granted to military leaders in the 1980s and 1990s is being questioned.

Argentines gave the world the tango. They are mad about soccer, and are reckoned to be the best polo players. Their love of horses is best personified by the figure of the Argentine 'gaucho', the solitary, independent ranch-hand.


Full name: Argentine Republic
Population: 38.2 million (via UN, 2006)
Capital: Buenos Aires
Area: 2.8 million sq km (1.1 million sq miles)
Major language: Spanish
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 78 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 peso = 100 centavos
Main exports: Food and live animals, mineral fuels, cereals, machinery
GNI per capita: US $4,470 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .ar
International dialling code: +54


President: Nestor Kirchner

Nestor Kirchner won an uncontested presidential run-off vote in May 2003 after former president, Carlos Menem, quit the race. Opinion polls had put Mr Menem well behind his rival.

He took office while Argentina was still reeling from the economic collapse of late 2001, with more than half the population living in poverty.

Managing the foreign debt crisis and ensuring the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and lenders were key challenges. His government oversaw economic growth, negotiated loans with the IMF and restructured Argentina's debt.

During his election campaign he promised to boost employment with a major public works programme. Three years into his term, he declared that 2.5 million people had found jobs.

He has put human rights centre stage and his government has overturned amnesty laws for military officers accused of rights abuses under military rule.

Mr Kirchner, a Peronist, governed the oil-rich Patagonian province of Santa Cruz for 12 years. He cut his political teeth in the Peronist left-wing and was jailed for a time during the 1976-83 military dictatorship.

He is of Swiss and Croatian descent.

Vice-president: Daniel Osvaldo Scioli
Foreign minister: Jorge Taiana
Economy minister: Felisa Miceli


Argentina is one of South America's leading media markets. The country has well over 150 daily newspapers, hundreds of commercial radio stations, dozens of TV stations and one of the world's highest take-up rates for cable TV.

Over time, the industry has consolidated and large conglomerates have emerged. Public broadcasting has not played a major role in the development of radio and TV.

Since the return to democracy in 1983, journalists have generally been able to carry out their work freely. But there have been worries that government influence over the media is growing. Media rights body Reports Without Borders says journalists in the provinces risk being "hounded" by the police and courts.

The press
Clarin - popular daily
Cronica - tabloid daily
El Cronista - business
La Nacion - respected conservative daily
La Prensa - Argentina's oldest newspaper
Pagina 12 - left-wing daily
Buenos Aires Herald - English-language daily

Canal 7 - state-run
Telefe - operated by Grupo Telefe, includes Canal 11 in Buenos Aires; boasts high ratings nationally
Grupo Clarin - operates Canal 13 in Buenos Aires and nationally via satellite and cable, and cable/satellite news channel Todo Noticias
Canal 9 - Buenos Aires

Radio Nacional - state-run, cultural
Radio America - private, news
Grupo Clarin - operates news-based Radio Mitre, music-based Cadena 100 and Gen 101.5
Radio Continental - private AM (mediumwave) speech-based network
Los 40 Principales - private FM music network
News agencies

Diarios y Noticias (DYN) - partly owned by Grupo Clarin
Telam - state-run
Noticias Argentinas - set up by privately-owned newspapers

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/12/09 11:32:53 GMT
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