Languages
Page last updated at 14:34 GMT, Tuesday, 29 May 2012 15:34 UK

Argentina country profile

Map of Argentina

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.

Overview

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.

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.

AT-A-GLANCE
Government buildings in the heart of sprawling Buenos Aires
Politics: President Cristina Fernandez is the wife of former president Nestor Kirchner
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

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.

Argentina remains locked in a territorial dispute with Britain over the Falklands Islands, which are governed as a British overseas territory, but have been claimed by Buenos Aires since the 1830s.

The issue led to war in 1982, when the islands fell to an invasion launched by Argentina's military junta, but were re-conquered by Britain in a conflict that caused hundreds of deaths on both sides.

The defeat led to the fall of the military dictatorship, but the junta's legacy is still 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Amnesties which protected former junta members from prosecution have been repealed and the legality of pardons granted to military leaders in the 1980s and 1990s is being questioned.

Facts

  • Full name: Argentine Republic
  • Population: 40.6 million (UN, 2010)
  • Capital: Buenos Aires
  • Area: 2.8 million sq km (1.1 million sq miles)
  • Major language: Spanish
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 72 years (men), 80 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 peso = 100 centavos
  • Main exports: Food and live animals, mineral fuels, cereals, machinery
  • GNI per capita: US $8,500 (World Bank, 2010)
  • Internet domain: .ar
  • International dialling code: +54

Leaders

President: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Cristina Fernandez swept to victory in the first round of Argentina's presidential election in October 2007 - a victory that many attributed to the popularity of her husband, the then President Nestor Kirchner.

Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
Cristina Fernandez, Argentina's first female president

She fought the election campaign largely on Mr Kirchner's record of reducing poverty and unemployment in the wake of the 2001-2002 economic crisis - one of the worst the country had ever experienced.

But she faced a difficult start to her first term. Soon after being elected, her popularity dropped to 20% as a result of disputes with farmers and media groups.

It also was widely believed that before his death in 2010, her husband, who was expected to stand again for the presidency, still ran the country behind the scenes.

They suffered a setback in legislative elections in 2009, when their Peronist party lost control of both houses of Congress and Mr Kirchner was beaten in his high-profile bid for a seat in Buenos Aires province, a Peronist stronghold.

However, bouyed by a booming economy, Ms Fernandez was re-elected to a second term with a landslide 54% of the vote in October 2011. Her closest challenger won only 17%.

In January 2012, Ms Fernandez underwent surgery to remove her thyroid gland because of suspected cancer that proved to be benign.

Ms Fernandez was active in a leftist Peronist movement as a law student in the 1970s, later becoming first a provincial and then a national deputy.

She supported her husband - whom she met at university in 1975 - as he rose through the Peronist ranks, and in 1995 became a senator herself.

After Mr Kirchner was elected president in 2003, she was his chief adviser, and he also played an important role in her leadership. One of his first jobs was to help with negotiations to release hostages held by the guerrillas in the Colombian jungle.

The couple were dubbed "the Clintons of the South", and Ms Fernandez encouraged the comparison by alluding to the similarities between herself and Hillary Clinton during her election campaign.

Media

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

Large media conglomerates have emerged. Public broadcasting plays a minor role. Television is the dominant medium. The main national free-to-air networks - Telefe, America, Canal 9 and Canal 13 - are privately-owned.

Argentine readers are among Latin America's most voracious newspaper consumers. Clarin and La Nacion are the best-selling national dailies.

Media freedom is guaranteed by the constitution. However, US-based Freedom House says the poor relationship between the government and the media is an obstacle to journalism.

In particular, it cites "open hostility" towards the media giant, Grupo Clarin. Tactics used to "silence" the group have included blocking newspaper distribution and interfering with newsprint supplies.

By December 2011, Argentina had 28 million internet users, comprising 67% of the population (Internetworldstats.com) and giving the country the second-highest number of surfers on the continent, after Brazil.

The press

Television

Radio

News agencies



Print Sponsor




A GUIDE TO THE AMERICAS

 

 

Compiled by BBC Monitoring

SEE ALSO
UK-Argentina tensions grow over Falklands
03 Feb 12 |  Latin America & Caribbean
Argentina marks its dark past
25 Mar 11 |  Latin America & Caribbean
Daggers drawn in Argentine media fight
19 Sep 09 |  Americas
Global recession to a tango beat
17 Aug 09 |  Business
Argentina's forest people suffer neglect
27 Sep 07 |  From Our Own Correspondent
'Dirty War' priest gets life term
10 Oct 07 |  Americas
Argentina's last Jewish cowboys
12 Feb 07 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Argentina's 'Triple A' death squads
29 Dec 06 |  Americas
Argentine junta pardons revoked
06 Sep 06 |  Americas
A tale of two Argentinas
11 Mar 06 |  From Our Own Correspondent
The day Argentina hit rock bottom
19 Dec 05 |  Business
Q&A: Argentina's grim past
14 Jun 05 |  Americas

RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific