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Argentina

The Argentine Republic is a Spanish-speaking country in southern South
America, in between the Andes and the South Atlantic Ocean. It borders
Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and Chile. Its name is derived from
argentum (silver), a precious metal that provided the early impetus to
European colonisation.
                                              National motto: En Unin y
History                                                Libertad
                                          (Spanish, "In Union and Liberty")
Main article: History of Argentina
Europeans first arrived in the region in  Official language Spanish
the early 16th century. Subsequent
Spanish colonisation of the area led to   Capital           Buenos Aires
                                                            City
the colony of Buenos Aires in 1580.
Independence from Spain was achieved in   Largest City      Buenos Aires
                                                            City
1816, after which a conflict between
centralists and federalists developed     President         Nstor Kirchner
until a new constitution was proclaimed
in 1853.                                  Area              Ranked 8th
                                          - Total          2,766,890 km2
Argentina was then marked by periods of   - % water        ¹
                                                            1.1%
internal political conflict between
conservatives and liberals and between    Population        Ranked 31th
civilian and military factions. In the    - Total (2002)   37,812,817
beginning of 20th century Argentina was   - Density        14/km²
one of the leading welfare states in the  Independence      From Spain
world.                                    - Date           July 9, 1816
                                          Currency          Argentine Peso
After World War II, the country saw the
rise of the populist Peronist movement,   Time zone         UTC -3
which to a large extent polarised         National anthem   Oid, Mortales
Argentina. Increasingly bloody military   Internet TLD      .AR
juntas alternated with proscribing
democratic governments until 1983,        Calling Code      54
following increasing economic problems,   (1) Argentina also claims
corruption, public revulsion and defeat   1,000,000 km²
in the Falklands War.                     of Antarctica, as well as the
                                          Falklands
Since then, four free elections have
underscored Argentina's progress in democratic consolidation, albeit with an
unprecedented economic implosion at the end of 2001.

Politics

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
Nacinal, consisting of a senate (Senado) of 72 seats and a Chamber of
Deputies (Cmara 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. Members of the Chamber of
Deputies are directly elected to 4-year terms. Voters elect half the members
of the lower house every 2 years. Both houses are elected via a system of
proportional representation.

Provinces

Argentina consists of 23 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia), and 1
federal district (distrito federal), marked by a *:

   * Buenos Aires *
   * Buenos Aires Province
   * Catamarca
   * Chaco
   * Chubut
   * Crdoba
   * Corrientes
   * Entre Rios
   * Formosa
   * Jujuy
   * La Pampa
   * La Rioja
   * Mendoza
   * Misiones
   * Neuquen
   * Rio Negro
   * Salta
   * San Juan
   * San Luis
   * Santa Cruz
   * Santa Fe
   * Santiago del Estero
   * Tierra del Fuego - Antarctica & South Atlantic Isles
   * Tucuman

Major Cities

   * Buenos Aires
   * Crdoba
   * Rosario
   * Mendoza
   * Santa Fe
   * Mar del Plata
   * La Plata
   * Tucuman
   * Salta

Geography

Argentina can roughly be divided into three parts: the fertile plains of the
Pampas in the northern half 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 Parana. The latter two flow together prior to meeting the
Atlantic Ocean, forming the estuary of the Rio de la Plata (River Plate).
The Argentine climate is predominantly temperate with extremes ranging from
subtropical in the north to arid/sub-Antarctic in far south.

Economy

Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate
population, an export-oriented agricultural sector, and a diversified
industrial base. However, since the late 1980s 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 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. 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.

Demographics

Argentines are a fusion of diverse national and ethnic groups, with
descendants of Italian and Spanish immigrants predominant. Waves of
immigrants from many European countries arrived in the late 19th and early
20th centuries. Syrian, Lebanese, and other Middle Eastern immigrants number
about 500,000, mainly in urban areas. The only official language is Spanish,
though immigrants have to an extent retained their original languages.

Argentina's population is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, which is
Argentina's official religion, but it also has the largest Jewish population
in Latin America, about 250,000 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 north, northwest, and south.
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