Argentina, officially the Argentine Republic, is a country in South America.
Bordered by Chile to the west and south, Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, and Brazil and Uruguay to the northeast. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands (Spanish: Islas Malvinas) and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
Full name: Argentine Republic
Capital: Buenos Aires
Area: 2,780,400 km2
% Water: 1.57%
Density: 15.17/km2 (207º)
Valuta: Peso ($) (ARS)
The country is a federation of 23 provinces and the autonomous city of Buenos Aires, its capital and largest city. It is the eighth-largest country in the world by land area and the largest among Spanish-speaking nations. Argentina is a founding member of the United Nations, Mercosur, the Union of South American Nations, the Organization of Ibero-American States, the World Bank Group and the World Trade Organization, and is one of the G-15 and G-20 major economies.
A recognised regional power, and middle power, Argentina is Latin America’s third-largest economy, with a “very high” rating on the Human development index. Within Latin America, Argentina has the fifth highest nominal GDP per capita and the highest in purchasing power terms. Analysts have argued that the country has a “foundation for future growth due to its market size, levels of foreign direct investment, and percentage of high-tech exports as share of total manufactured goods”, and it is classed by investors as middle emerging economy.
A socially progressive country, in 2010 Argentina became the first country in Latin America and the second in the Americas to allow same-sex marriage nationwide. In 2012, Argentina became the first nation in the world to enact a “Law of Gender Identity” providing for full rights and protections for transgender individuals.
Argentina is a full member of the Mercosur block together with Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Since 2002 Argentina has emphasized the role of Latin American integration and the bloc, which has some supranational legislative functions, as its first international priority. Argentina is a founding signatory and permanent consulting member of the Antarctic Treaty System and the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat is based in Buenos Aires. Argentina is also a full member of the Union of South American Nations. The former president of Argentina Néstor Kirchner was the first Secretary General of this organization. Argentina is part of the G-20 as well.
Argentina claims sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Spanish: Islas Malvinas), and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, which are administered by the United Kingdom as British Overseas Territories, as well as almost 1,000,000 square kilometres (390,000 sq mi) in Antarctica, between 25°W and 74°W and south of 60°S. The Antarctic claim overlaps claims by Chile and the United Kingdom, though all claims to Antarctica fall under the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty of 1961. Since 1904, a scientific post has been maintained in Antarctica by mutual agreement.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner with Former President of Brazil, Lula da Silva.
The armed forces of Argentina comprise an army, navy and air force, and number about 70,000 active duty personnel, one third fewer than levels before the return to democracy in 1983. The President is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, with the Defense Ministry exercising day-to-day control. There are also two other forces; the Naval Prefecture (which patrols Argentine territorial waters) and the National Gendarmerie (which patrols the border regions); both arms are controlled by the Interior Ministry but maintain liaison with the Defense Ministry. The age for enlistment in the volunteer military is from 16 to 23 years old.
Historically, Argentina’s military has been one of the best equipped in the region (for example, developing its own jet fighters as early as the 1950s); but recently it has faced sharper expenditure cutbacks than most other Latin American armed forces. Real military expenditures declined steadily after 1981 and though there have been recent increases, the defense budget is now around US$3 billion. The armed forces are currently participating in major peacekeeping operations in Haiti, Cyprus, Western Sahara and the Middle East.
Within the term of President Néstor Kirchner, from 2003 onwards, Argentina suspended its policy of automatic alignment with the United States and moved closer to other Latin American countries. Argentina no longer supports the UN Commission on Human Rights resolution criticizing the “human rights situation in Cuba” and calling upon the Government of Cuba to “adhere to international human rights norms”, but has chosen instead to abstain. In the 2006 United Nations Security Council election, Argentina supported, like all Mercosur countries, the candidacy of Venezuela (a Mercosur member) over Guatemala for a non-permanent seat in the Security Council.
The Mercosur has become a central part of the Argentine foreign policy, with the goal of forming a Latin American trade block. Argentina has chosen to form a block with Brazil when it comes to external negotiations, though the economic asymmetries between South America’s two largest countries have produced tension at times.
Between 4 and 5 November 2005, the city of Mar del Plata hosted the Fourth Summit of the Americas. Although the themes were unemployment and poverty, most of the discussion was focused on the FTAA. The summit was a failure in this regard, but marked a clear split between the countries of the Mercosur, plus Venezuela, and the supporters of the FTAA, led by the United States, Mexico and Canada. FTAA negotiations have effectively stalled until at least the conclusion of the 2006 Doha round global trade talks.
In 2005, Argentina assumed again (see history here ) the two-year non-permanent position on the UN Security Council.
As of 2007, during Kirchner’s almost four years in power, Argentina entered into 294 bilateral agreements, including 39 with Venezuela, 37 with Chile, 30 with Bolivia, 21 with Brazil, 12 with the People’s Republic of China, 10 with Germany, 9 with the United States and Italy, and 7 with Cuba, Paraguay, Spain and Russia.
Argentina is situated in southern South America, with the Andes on the west and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east and south. Argentina has a total surface area (excluding the Antarctic claim and areas controlled by the United Kingdom) of 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,500 sq mi); of this, 43,710 km2 (16,880 sq mi), or 1.57%, is water. Argentina has six main regions. The Pampas are fertile lowlands located in the center and east. The Mesopotamia is a lowland enclosed by the Paraná and Uruguay rivers, and the Gran Chaco is between the mesopotamia and the Andes. Cuyo is at the east side of the Andes, and the Argentine Northwest is at the North of it. The Patagonia is a large plateau to the south. The highest point above sea level is in the Mendoza province at Cerro Aconcagua (6,959 m (22,831 ft)), also the highest point in the Southern and Western Hemisphere. The lowest point is Laguna del Carbón in Santa Cruz province, −105 m (−344 ft) below sea level. This is also the lowest point in South America. The easternmost continental point is northeast of Bernardo de Irigoyen, Misiones, the westernmost in the Perito Moreno National Park in Santa Cruz province. The northernmost point is at the confluence of the Grande de San Juan and Mojinete rivers in Jujuy province, and the southernmost is Cape San Pío in Tierra del Fuego.
The major rivers are the Paraná (the largest), the Pilcomayo, Paraguay, Bermejo, Colorado, Río Negro, Salado and the Uruguay. The Paraná and the Uruguay join to form the Río de la Plata estuary, before reaching the Atlantic. Regionally important rivers are the Atuel and Mendoza in the homonymous province, the Chubut in Patagonia, the Río Grande in Jujuy and the San Francisco River in Salta.
The 4,725 km (2,936 mi) long Atlantic coast varies between areas of sand dunes and cliffs. The continental platform is unusually wide; this shallow area of the Atlantic is called the Argentine Sea. The two major ocean currents affecting the coast are the warm Brazil Current and the cold Falkland Current. Because of the unevenness of the coastal landmass, the two currents alternate in their influence on climate and do not allow temperatures to fall evenly with higher latitude. The southern coast of Tierra del Fuego forms the north shore of the Beagle Channel.
The generally temperate climate ranges from subtropical in the north to subpolar in the far south. The north is characterized by very hot, humid summers with mild drier winters, and is subject to periodic droughts. Central Argentina has a temperate climate, with hot summers with thunderstorms, and cool winters; and higher moisture at the east. The southern regions have warm summers and cold winters with heavy snowfall, especially in mountainous zones.
Major wind currents include the cool Pampero Winds blowing on the flat plains of Patagonia and the Pampas; following the cold front, warm currents blow from the north in middle and late winter, creating mild conditions. The Zonda, a hot dry wind, affects west-central Argentina. Squeezed of all moisture during the 6,000 m (19,685 ft) descent from the Andes, Zonda winds can blow for hours with gusts up to 120 km/h (75 mph), fueling wildfires and causing damage; when the Zonda blows (June–November), snowstorms and blizzard (viento blanco) conditions usually affect higher elevations. The Sudestada usually moderates cold temperatures but brings very heavy rains, rough seas and coastal flooding. It is most common in late autumn and winter along the central coast and in the Río de la Plata estuary.
Subtropical plants dominate the Gran Chaco in the north, with the Dalbergia genus of trees well represented by Brazilian Rosewood and the quebracho tree; also predominant are white and black algarrobo trees (prosopis alba and prosopis nigra). Savannah-like areas exist in the drier regions nearer the Andes. In central Argentina the humid pampas are a true tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The original pampa had virtually no trees; the only tree-like plant native to the pampa is the evergreen Ombú. The pampa is one of the most agriculturally productive on Earth; however, this is also responsible for decimating much of the original ecosystem, to make way for commercial agriculture. The western pampas receive less rainfall, this dry pampa is a plain of short grasses or steppe. The national government maintains 4 natural monuments and 33 national parks.
Most of Patagonia lies within the rain shadow of the Andes, so the flora, shrubby bushes and plants, is suited to dry conditions. The soil is hard and rocky, making large-scale farming impossible except along river valleys. Coniferous forests in far western Patagonia and on the island of Tierra del Fuego, include alerce, ciprés de la cordillera, ciprés de las guaitecas, huililahuán, lleuque, mañío hembra and pehuén, while broadleaf trees include several species of Nothofagus such as coihue, lenga and ñire. Other introduced trees present in forestry plantations include spruce, cypress and pine. Common plants are the copihue and colihue.
In Cuyo, semiarid thorny bushes and other xerophile plants abound. Along the many rivers grasses and trees grow in significant numbers. The area presents optimal conditions for the large scale growth of grape vines. In northwest Argentina there are many species of cactus.
Prominent animals from the subtropical north include big cats like the jaguar, puma, and ocelot; primates (howler monkey); large reptiles (crocodiles), the Argentine Black and White Tegu and a species of caiman. Other animals include the tapir, peccary, capybara, bush dog, and various species of turtle and tortoise. There are a wide variety of birds, notably hummingbirds, flamingos, toucans, and swallows.
The central grasslands are populated by the giant anteater, armadillo, pampas cat, maned wolf, mara, cavias, and the rhea (ñandú), a large flightless bird. Hawks, falcons, herons, and tinamous (perdiz, Argentine “false partridges”) inhabit the region. There are also pampas deer and pampas foxes. Some of these species extend into Patagonia.
The western mountains are home to different animals. These include the llama, guanaco, vicuña, among the most recognizable species of South America. Also in this region are the fox, viscacha, Andean Mountain Cat, kodkod, and the largest flying bird in the New World, the Andean Condor.
Southern Argentina is home to the cougar, huemul, pudú (the world’s smallest deer), and introduced, non-native wild boar. The coast of Patagonia is rich in animal life: elephant seals, fur seals, sea lions and species of penguin. The far south is populated by cormorants.
The territorial waters of Argentina have mammals such as dolphins, orcas, and whales like the southern right whale, a major tourist draw for naturalists. Sea fish include sardines, Argentine hakes, dolphinfish, salmon, and sharks; also present are squid and King crab (centolla) in Tierra del Fuego. Rivers and streams in Argentina have many species of trout and the South American golden dorado fish. Well known snake species inhabiting Argentina include boa constrictors and a very venomous pit viper named the yarará. The Hornero was elected the National Bird after a survey in 1928.
The University of Buenos Aires School of Medicine, alma mater to many of the country’s 3,000 medical graduates, annually.
Health care is provided through a combination of employer and labor union-sponsored plans (Obras Sociales), government insurance plans, public hospitals and clinics and through private health insurance plans. Health care cooperatives number over 300 (of which 200 are related to labor unions) and provide health care for half the population; the national INSSJP (popularly known as PAMI) covers nearly all of the five million senior citizens.
There are more than 153,000 hospital beds, 121,000 physicians and 37,000 dentists (ratios comparable to developed nations). The relatively high access to medical care has historically resulted in mortality patterns and trends similar to developed nations’: from 1953 to 2005, deaths from cardiovascular disease increased from 20% to 23% of the total, those from tumors from 14% to 20%, respiratory problems from 7% to 14%, digestive maladies (non-infectious) from 7% to 11%, strokes a steady 7%, injuries, 6%, and infectious diseases, 4%. Causes related to senility led to many of the rest. Infant deaths have fallen from 19% of all deaths in 1953 to 3% in 2005.
The availability of health care has also reduced infant mortality from 70 per 1000 live births in 1948 to 12.1 in 2009 and raised life expectancy at birth from 60 years to 76. Though these figures compare favorably with global averages, they fall short of levels in developed nations and in 2006, Argentina ranked fourth in Latin America.
Argentine culture has significant European influences. Buenos Aires, its cultural capital, is largely characterized by both the prevalence of people of European descent, and of conscious imitation of European styles in architecture. The other big influence is the gauchos and their traditional country lifestyle of self-reliance. Finally, indigenous American traditions (like yerba mate infusions) have been absorbed into the general cultural milieu.
Besides many of the pasta, sausage and dessert dishes common to continental Europe, Argentines enjoy a wide variety of Indigenous and Criollo creations, which include empanadas (a stuffed pastry), locro (a mixture of corn, beans, meat, bacon, onion, and gourd), humitas and yerba mate, all originally indigenous Amerindian staples, the latter considered Argentina’s national beverage. Other popular items include chorizo (a spicy sausage), facturas (Viennese-style pastry) and Dulce de leche, a sort of milk caramel jam. The Argentine barbecue, asado as well as a parrillada, includes various types of meats, among them chorizo, sweetbread, chitterlings, and morcilla (blood sausage). Thin sandwiches, sandwiches de miga, are also popular. Argentines have the highest consumption of red meat in the world.
The Argentine wine industry, long among the largest outside Europe, has benefited from growing investment since 1992; in 2007, 60% of foreign investment worldwide in viticulture was destined to Argentina. The country is the fifth most important wine producer in the world, with the annual per capita consumption of wine among the highest. Malbec grape, a discardable varietal in France (country of origin), has found in the Province of Mendoza an ideal environment to successfully develop and turn itself into the world’s best Malbec. Mendoza accounts for 70% of the country’s total wine production. “Wine tourism” is important in Mendoza province, with the impressive landscape of the Cordillera de Los Andes and the highest peak in the Americas, Mount Aconcagua, 6,952 m (22,808 ft) high, providing a very desirable destination for international tourism.