June 27, 2012, 12:49 pm
Source: CIA World Factbook
Content Cover Image

Argentine Patagonia at Pali Aike National Park. @ C. Michael Hogan

Argentina is a South American nation of fourty-two million people that borders the South Atlantic Ocean, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Chile.

It has a long coast fronting the Atlantic Ocean. It is second largest country in South America (after Brazil).

Argentina is strategically located relative to sea lanes between the South Atlantic and the South Pacific Oceans (via Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, and Drake Passage).

caption (Map of Argentina. Source: CIA World Factbook)

It encompasses diverse geophysical landscapes and topography ranging from tropical climates in the north to tundra in the far south; Cerro Aconcagua is the Western Hemisphere's tallest mountain, while Laguna del Carbon is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere

Its major environmental issues include:

In 1816, the United Provinces of the Rio Plata declared their independence from Spain. After Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay went their separate ways, the area that remained became Argentina.

The country's population and culture were heavily shaped by immigrants from throughout Europe, but most particularly Italy and Spain, which provided the largest percentage of newcomers from 1860 to 1930.

Up until about the mid-20th century, much of Argentina's history was dominated by periods of internal political conflict between Federalists and Unitarians and between civilian and military factions.

After World War II, an era of Peronist populism and direct and indirect military interference in subsequent governments was followed by a military junta that took power in 1976.

Democracy returned in 1983 after a failed bid to seize the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands by force, and has persisted despite numerous challenges, the most formidable of which was a severe economic crisis in 2001-02 that led to violent public protests and the successive resignations of several presidents.


Location: Southern South America, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Chile and Uruguay

Geographic Coordinates: 34 00 S, 64 00 W

Area: 2,766,890 km2 (2,736,690 km2 land and 30,200 km2 water

Land Boundaries: 9861 km with bordering countries: Bolivia 832 km, Brazil 1261 km, Chile 5308 km, Paraguay 1880 km, Uruguay 580 km

Coastline: 4,989 km

Maritime Claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin

Natural Hazards: San Miguel de Tucuman and Mendoza areas in the Andes are subject to earthquakes; pamperos are violent windstorms that can strike the pampas and northeast; heavy flooding

Volcanism: Argentina experiences volcanic activity in the Andes Mountains along the Chilean border; Copahue (elev. 2,997 m) last erupted in 2000; other historically active volcanoes include Llullaillaco, Maipo, Planchon-Peteroa, San Jose, Tromen, Tupungatito, and Viedma

Terrain: Rich plains of the Pampas in northern half, flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia in south, rugged Andes along western border.

The lowest point is Laguna del Carbon (-105 metres), located betweenPuerto San Julian and Comandante Luis Piedra Buena in the province of Santa Cruz.

The highest point: Cerro Aconcagua (6960 metres), located in the northwestern corner of the province of Mendoza.  

Climate: Mostly temperate; arid in southeast; subantarctic in southwest 

Topography of Argentina. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Biodiversity and Ecology


  1. Araucaria moist forests
  2. Humid Chaco
  3. Arid Chaco
  4. Southern Andean Yungas
  5. Central Andean puna
  6. Central Andean dry puna
  7. Southern Andean steppe
  8. Argentine Monte
  9. Argentine Espinal
  10. Humid Pampas
  11. Paraná flooded savanna
  12. Valdivian temperate forests
  13. Patagonian steppe
  14. Magellanic subpolar forests

Protected Areas

See also:

Source: World Wildlife Fund

People and Society

Argentines are a mix 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 to 600,000, mainly in urban areas. Argentina's population is overwhelmingly Catholic, but it also has the largest Jewish population in Latin America, estimated at approximately 250,000. In recent years, there has been a substantial influx of immigrants from neighboring countries, particularly Paraguay, Bolivia, and Peru. The indigenous population, estimated at 700,000, is concentrated in the provinces of the north, northwest, and south. Eighty percent of the population resides in cities or towns of more than 2,000, and over one-third lives in the greater Buenos Aires area.

Population: 42,192,494 (July 2012 est.)

Ethnic groups: white (mostly Spanish and Italian) 97%, mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian ancestry), Amerindian, or other non-white groups 3%

Age Structure:

0-14 years: 25.4% (male 5,429,488/female 5,181,289)
15-64 years: 63.6% (male 13,253,468/female 13,301,530)
65 years and over: 11% (male 1,897,144/female 2,706,807) (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate: 0.997% (2012 est.)

Birthrate: 17.34 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Death Rate: 7.36 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Net Migration Rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth: 77.14 years

male: 73.9 years
female: 80.54 years (2012 est.)

Total Fertility Rate: 2.29 children born/woman (2012 est.)

Languages: Spanish (official), Italian, English, German, French

Literacy: 97.2% (2001 census)

Urbanization: 92% of total population (2010) growing at an annual rate of change of 1.1% (2010-15 est.)


Europeans arrived in the region with the 1502 voyage of Amerigo Vespucci. Spanish navigator Juan Diaz de Solias visited what is now Argentina in 1516. Spain established a permanent colony on the site of Buenos Aires in 1580, although initial settlement was primarily overland from Peru. The Spanish further integrated Argentina into their empire by establishing the Vice Royalty of Rio de la Plata in 1776, and Buenos Aires became a flourishing port. Argentina formally declared independence from Spain on July 9, 1816. Argentines revere Gen. Jose de San Martin--who campaigned in Argentina, Chile, and Peru--as the hero of their national independence. Following the defeat of the Spanish, centralist and federalist groups waged a lengthy conflict to determine the future of the nation. A modern constitution was promulgated in 1853, and a national unity government was established in 1861.

Two forces combined to create the modern Argentine nation in the late 19th century: the introduction of modern agricultural techniques and integration of Argentina into the world economy. Foreign investment and immigration from Europe aided this economic revolution. Investment, primarily from Britain, came in such fields as railroads and ports. As in the United States during this same period, the migrants who worked to develop Argentina's agricultural resources and early industrialization came principally from throughout Europe.

From 1880 to 1930, Argentina became one of the world's 10 wealthiest nations as a result of the rapid expansion of agriculture and foreign investment in infrastructure. The Great Depression brought a halt to this period of booming expansion, and combined with other social and political changes to usher in a period of less stable governance. The governments of the 1930s attempted to contain the currents of economic and political change that eventually led to a military coup and the subsequent emergence of Juan Domingo Peron (b. 1897). New social and political forces were seeking political power, including a modern military and labor movements that emerged from the growing urban working class.

The military ousted Argentina's constitutional government in 1943. Peron, then an army colonel, was one of the coup's leaders, and he soon became the government's dominant figure as Minister of Labor. Elections carried him to the presidency in 1946. He created the Partido Unico de la Revolucion, which became more commonly known as the Peronist or Justicialista party (PJ). He aggressively pursued policies aimed at empowering the working class and greatly expanded the number of unionized workers. In 1947, Peron announced the first 5-year plan based on the growth of industries he nationalized. He helped establish the powerful General Confederation of Labor (CGT). Peron's charismatic wife, Eva Duarte de Peron, known as Evita (1919-52), played a key role in developing support for her husband. Peron won re-election in 1952, but the military sent him into exile in 1955. In the 1950s and 1960s, military and civilian administrations traded power, trying, with limited success, to deal with diminished economic growth and continued social and labor demands. When military governments failed to revive the economy and suppress escalating domestic terrorism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the way was open for Peron's return.

On March 11, 1973, Argentina held general elections for the first time in 10 years. Peron was prevented from running, but voters elected his stand-in, Dr. Hector Campora, as President. Peron's followers also commanded strong majorities in both houses of Congress. Campora resigned in July 1973, paving the way for new elections. Peron won a decisive victory and returned as President in October 1973 with his third wife, Maria Estela Isabel Martinez de Peron, as Vice President. During this period, extremists on the left and right carried out violent acts with a frequency that threatened public order. The government resorted to a number of emergency decrees, including the implementation of special executive authority to deal with violence. This allowed the government to imprison persons indefinitely without charge.

Peron died on July 1, 1974. His wife succeeded him in office, but a military coup removed her from office on March 24, 1976, and the armed forces formally exercised power through a junta composed of the three service commanders until December 10, 1983. The armed forces applied harsh measures against those they considered extremists and many others suspected of being their sympathizers. While they were able to gradually restore basic order, the human costs of what became known as "El Proceso," or the "Dirty War," were high. Official sources have identified approximately 9,000 persons who were "disappeared" during the 1976-83 military dictatorship, while some human rights groups put the figure as high as 30,000. Serious economic problems, mounting charges of corruption, public revulsion in the face of human rights abuses and, finally, the country's 1982 defeat by the United Kingdom in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the Falklands (Malvinas) Islands all combined to discredit the Argentine military regime. The junta lifted bans on political parties and gradually restored basic political liberties.

Democracy returned to Argentina in 1983, with Raul Alfonsin of the country's oldest political party, the Radical Civic Union (UCR), winning the presidency in elections that took place on October 30, 1983. He began a 6-year term of office on December 10, 1983. The UCR-led government took steps to resolve some of the nation's most pressing problems, including accounting for those who disappeared during military rule, establishing civilian control of the armed forces, and consolidating democratic institutions. However, inability to resolve endemic economic problems eventually undermined public confidence in Alfonsin, who left office 6 months early after Justicialista Party (PJ) candidate Carlos Saul Menem won the 1989 presidential elections.

President Menem imposed peso-dollar parity (convertibility) in 1992 to break the back of hyperinflation and adopted far-reaching market-based policies. Menem dismantled a web of protectionist trade and business regulations and reversed a half-century of statism by implementing an ambitious privatization program. These reforms contributed to significant increases in investment and growth with stable prices through most of the 1990s. Unfortunately, persistent allegations of corruption also accompanied many of the reforms, eventually undermining public confidence in the government and economy. Neither Menem nor his successor President Fernando De la Rua, who won election in 1999 at the head of a UCR-led coalition of center and center-left parties known as the "Alianza", were able to maintain public confidence and the recovery weakened. Also, while convertibility defeated inflation, its permanence undermined Argentina's export competitiveness and created chronic deficits in the current account of the balance of payments, which were financed by massive borrowing. The contagion effect of the Asian financial crisis of 1998 precipitated an outflow of capital that gradually mushroomed into a 4-year depression culminating in a financial panic in November 2001. In December 2001, amidst bloody riots, President De la Rua resigned.

After a period of political turmoil and several provisional presidents, a legislative assembly elected Eduardo Duhalde (PJ) President on January 1, 2002 to complete the term of former President De la Rua. Duhalde--differentiating himself from his three predecessors--quickly abandoned the peso's 10-year-old link with the dollar, a move that was followed by a sharp currency depreciation and rising inflation. In the face of increasing poverty and continued social unrest, Duhalde moved to bolster the government's social programs and to contain inflation. He stabilized the social situation and advanced presidential elections by 6 months in order to pave the way for a new president elected with a popular mandate.

In the first round of the presidential election on April 27, 2003, former President Carlos Menem (PJ) won 24.3% of the vote, Santa Cruz Governor Nestor Kirchner (PJ) won 22%, followed by smaller party/alliance candidates Ricardo Lopez Murphy with 16.4% and Elisa Carrio with 14.2%. Menem withdrew from the May 25 runoff election after polls showed overwhelming support for Kirchner in the second round of elections. After taking office, Kirchner focused on consolidating his political strength and alleviating social problems. He pushed for changes in the Supreme Court and military and undertook popular measures such as raising government salaries, pensions, and the minimum wage. On October 23, 2005, President Kirchner, bolstered by Argentina's rapid economic growth and recovery from its 2001-2002 crisis, won a major victory in the midterm legislative elections, giving him a strengthened mandate and control of a legislative majority in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

Although Kirchner enjoyed approval ratings of over 60%, he announced in July 2007 that he would not seek re-election and backed his wife, then-Senator Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, as the candidate to succeed him. Fernandez de Kirchner had a decades-long pedigree in politics, having served in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. She won 45% of the vote in the October 2007 presidential election and defeated her closest competitor, Elisa Carrio of the Civic Coalition, by 22.25 percentage points. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner became the first Argentine woman elected to the presidency. "Cristina," as Argentines often refer to her, was sworn into office on December 10, 2007. Fernandez de Kirchner was overwhelmingly re-elected on October 23, 2011, winning 54% of the vote; Santa Fe Governor Hermes Binner (Socialist) received 17%, Ricardo Alfonsin (UCR) earned 11%, San Luis Governor Alberto Rodriguez Saa received 8%, and former president Eduardo Duhalde came in with 6%. Fernandez de Kirchner won the largest share of the vote and the widest margin of victory (37 percentage points) of any presidential candidate since the restoration of democracy in Argentina in 1983. She, Vice President Amado Boudou, and her cabinet were sworn into office on December 10, 2011.


Argentina's constitution of 1853, as revised in 1994, mandates a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches at the national and provincial level. Each province also has its own constitution, roughly mirroring the structure of the national constitution. 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 the office considerable power, including authority to enact laws by presidential decree under conditions of "urgency and necessity" and the line-item veto.

Since 2001, senators have been directly elected, with each province and the Federal Capital represented by three senators. Senators serve 6-year terms. One-third of the Senate stands for re-election 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. By decree, one-third of the candidates for both houses of Congress must be women. As a result, Argentina's female representation in Congress ranks among the world's highest.

Government Type: Republic

Capital: Buenos Aires - 12.988 million  (2009)

Other Major Cities: Cordoba 1.493 million; Rosario 1.231 million; Mendoza 917,000; San Miguel de Tucuman 831,000 (2009)

Administrative divisions:  23 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and 1 autonomous city*;

  • Buenos Aires,
  • Catamarca,
  • Chaco,
  • Chubut,
  • Ciudad Autonoma de Buenos Aires*,
  • Cordoba,
  • 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 - Antartida e Islas del Atlantico Sur (Tierra del Fuego),
  • Tucuman


Source: Mediawiki Commons


Independence Date:  9 July 1816 (from Spain)

Legal System:   civil law system based on West European legal systems; note - efforts at civil code reform begun in the mid-1980s has stagnated. Argentina has not submitted an International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction declaration; but accepts International criminal court (ICCt) jurisdiction. The constitution establishes the judiciary as an independent government entity. The president appoints members of the Supreme Court with the consent of the Senate after a public vetting process. The president, on the recommendation of a magistrates' council, appoints other federal judges. The Supreme Court has the power to declare legislative acts unconstitutional.


Buenos Aires Panorama. Source: Luis Argerich/Mediawiki Commons

International Environmental Agreements

Argentina is party to international agreements on: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, and Whaling. It has signed, but not ratified and international agreement on Marine Life Conservation.


Total Renewable Water Resources: 814 cu km (2000)

The Rio Parana in Argentina (running north-south through image center) appears brown from its sediment; it eventually drains into the Delta del Parana and the Rio de la Plata estuary. Where the Rio de la Plata empties into the Atlantic, the brown, sediment-filled river water mixes with clearer ocean water and creates swirls and cloudy formations. Visible in this image (in gray) is Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina, located where the Rio Parana meets the Rio de la Plata. Montevideo, Uruguay's capital, is located on the opposite side of the Rio de la Plata. Photo courtesy of NASA.
The Parana is the second longest river is South America; its delta is a huge forested marshland about 32 km (20 mi) northeast of Buenos Aires. The area is a very popular tourist destination with guided boat tours that venture into this vast labyrinth of marsh and trees. The Parana River delta is one of the world's greatest bird-watching destinations. This false color satellite image highlights the striking contrast between dense forest and wetland marshes (deep red and violet), and the winding blue ribbon of the Parana River. The large north-south-trending water body on the right is the Uruguay River. Image courtesy of USGS.
A rainbow appears in the mist of Iguazu Falls. The falls are part of a nearly virgin jungle ecosystem surrounded by national parks on both the Argentine and the Brazilian sides of the cascades. The Iguazu River begins in Parana state of Brazil, then crosses a 1,200-km (750 mi) plateau before reaching a series of faults forming the falls.
Ushuaia, the southernmost point in Argentina.

Freshwater Withdrawal:   29.19 cu km/yr (17% domestic, 9% industrial, 74% agricultural)

Per Capita Freshwater Withdrawal: 753 cu m/yr (2000)


Agricultural products: sunflower seeds, lemons, soybeans, grapes, corn, tobacco, peanuts, tea, wheat; livestock

Irrigated Land: 15,500 sq km (2008)


Natural Resources: fertile plains of the pampas, lead, zinc, tin, copper, iron ore, manganese, petroleum, uranium

Land Use:

Arable land: 10.03%
Permanent crops: 0.36%
Other: 89.61% (2005)

International Disputes:

  • Argentina continues to assert its claims to the UK-administered Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands in its constitution, forcibly occupying the Falklands in 1982, but in 1995 agreed no longer to seek settlement by force; UK continues to reject Argentine requests for sovereignty talks;

  • Territorial claim in Antarctica partially overlaps UK and Chilean claims; (Note: the US does not recognize any claims to Antarctica)

  • uncontested dispute between Brazil and Uruguay over Braziliera/Brasiliera Island in the Quarai/Cuareim River leaves the tripoint with Argentina in question;

  • in 2010, the ICJ ruled in favor of Uruguay's operation of two paper mills on the Uruguay River, which forms the border with Argentina;

  • the two countries formed a joint pollution monitoring regime;

  • the joint boundary commission, established by Chile and Argentina in 2001 has yet to map and demarcate the delimited boundary in the inhospitable Andean Southern Ice Field (Campo de Hielo Sur);

  • contraband smuggling, human trafficking, and illegal narcotic trafficking are problems in the porous areas of the border with Bolivia


Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, an export-oriented agricultural sector, and a diversified industrial base.

Although one of the world's wealthiest countries 100 years ago, Argentina suffered during most of the 20th century from recurring economic crises, persistent fiscal and current account deficits, high inflation, mounting external debt, and capital flight.

A severe depression, growing public and external indebtedness, and a bank run culminated in 2001 in the most serious economic, social, and political crisis in the country's turbulent history. Interim President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa declared a default - the largest in history - on the government's foreign debt in December of that year, and abruptly resigned only a few days after taking office. His successor, Eduardo Duhalde, announced an end to the peso's decade-long 1-to-1 peg to the US dollar in early 2002. The economy bottomed out that year, with real GDP 18% smaller than in 1998 and almost 60% of Argentines under the poverty line.

Real GDP rebounded to grow by an average 8.5% annually over the subsequent six years, taking advantage of previously idled industrial capacity and labor, an audacious debt restructuring and reduced debt burden, excellent international financial conditions, and expansionary monetary and fiscal policies. Inflation also increased, however, during the administration of President Nestor Kirchner, which responded with price restraints on businesses, as well as export taxes and restraints, and beginning in early 2007, with understating inflation data.

Cristina Fernandez De Kirchner succeeded her husband as President in late 2007, and the rapid economic growth of previous years began to slow sharply the following year as government policies held back exports and the world economy fell into recession.

The economy has rebounded strongly from the 2009 recession, but the government's continued reliance on expansionary fiscal and monetary policies risks exacerbating already high inflation.

GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): $709.7 billion (2011 est.)

GDP (Official Exchnage Rate): $435.2 billion (2011 est.)

GDP- per capita (PPP): $17,400 (2011 est.)

GDP- composition by sector:

agriculture: 10%
industry: 30.7%
services: 59.2% (2011 est.)

Industries: Food processing, motor vehicles, consumer durables, textiles, chemicals and petrochemicals, printing, metallurgy, steel

Natural Resources: Fertile plains of the pampas, lead, zinc, tin, copper, iron ore, manganese, petroleum, uranium

Currency:  Argentine pesos (ARS)

Further Reading

  • David Rock. 1987. Argentina, 1516–1982. University of California Press
  • Curtis Dubay. [ Argentina's Economic Crisis: An Absence of Capitalism].
  • C. Michael Hogan. 2008. ''Pali Aike'', The Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham []


Agency, C., Fund, W., Hogan, C., & Department, U. (2012). Argentina. Retrieved from


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