A Short History of Argentina
The first navigator who arrived was Juan Díaz de Solís in 1516. He did in a fight with the natives shortly after his arrival.
In 1520 Fernando de Magallanes stopped for a short while during one of his voyages around the world. He died during the trip
Sebastián Cabot arrived in 1526, naming Rio de la Plata in hopes that it would make him wealthy. Cabo found neither treasures nor wealth, however he was fortunate to returne tho his homeland safely.
Even though the Spanish navigators did not find wealth, they claimed the territory for their king. During 300 years Argentina, as well as most of South America, was a Spanish territory.
Thousands of Spanish settlers arrived to build houses, forts, mines and ports. The founded the city of Buenos Aires, which today is the capital of Argentina.
The Spanish integrated Argentina into their system by establishing the Vice Royalty of Rio de la Plata in and Buenos Aires became a flourishing port.
In 1806 British forces arrived the land, but their invasion failed. That boosted the confidence of the colonists who sought independence from Spain. Buenos Aires formally declared independence from Spain on July 9, 1816.
Argentina’s new president faces a formidable task in fixing his country’s economy. Tom Bailey takes a look at exactly how the South American nation found itself in its current condition
Argentina was once one of the world’s richest economies. Only as recently as the turn of the 20th century, Argentina, along with several European and North American economies, was part of an elite club of prosperous countries – a club that, following the rapid rise of China and other emerging market economies, has grown in size in the decades since.
It is popular to talk about the ‘rise of the rest’. Although the US remains preeminent in its economic sway for the time being, European economies have gradually fallen behind in terms of GDP size as other countries have steadily caught up, rising among the ranks of the world’s largest and most dominant economies. A few years ago, Brazil overtook the UK in terms of total GDP, while Germany recently saw Russia’s economy eclipse its own. For the most part, however, this was to be expected: European nations comprise a small corner of the earth, and as larger nations turn their subsistence farmers into industrial workers (and then service sector employees), overtaking the old powers of Europe is inevitable. It is less of a fall and more of an expected correction and relative decline.
Argentina, however, really has fallen: while a century ago it was one of the world’s most prosperous economies, it has now, according to the World Bank, been downgraded to an upper-middle income country. This rating is still better than that of the majority of countries today, but its relative position is a far cry from scarcely 100 years ago, when its wages rivalled those of the UK. In terms of prosperity, the nation has failed to maintain its position among the European and North American economies it once rivalled. Income per capita is now on average 43 percent of that of the world’s richest nations, among whom it once ranked (see Fig. 1).
A republic on the rocks
Behind this rise and fall has primarily been poor economic policy: a reliance on exports led to both the nation’s initial rise and later decline, while a subsequent attempt to seal itself off from the world economy merely furthered this descent.
Argentina has recently elected a new president, however: the former mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, of the centre-right Republican Proposal party. Since its fall from grace, Argentina has seen persistent poor policy and economic management from its leaders, creating a continually rising and falling economic pendulum (see Fig. 2). As such, the new leader has a formidable task ahead of him. Macri will have to grapple with both a historical legacy of Argentinian economic decline and the country’s currently poor economic performance, which largely comes thanks to his predecessor, Cristina Kirchner.
According to the World Bank’s Latin America and Caribbean Regional Outlook report, which was published in January, the country faces a number of challenges in the coming months and years: while the Argentinian economy saw a modest rebound of growth to 1.7 percent in 2015, the report noted that this was largely due to a surge in government spending. This increase, and the resulting rebound in growth, was unleashed by the previous administration in the run-up to election in the hope of buying the support of the electorate, but was ultimately unsustainable. As such, projected GDP growth for Argentina in 2016 is 0.7 percent.
Net exports, as noted by the report, have been falling, while private consumption is weak. Argentina has also been seeing soaring inflation, reaching over 15 percent in the first half of 2015 and around 14 percent in later months. This figure currently stands at around 20 percent.
Of course, some of the problems being faced by the Argentinian economy are cyclical: across the world there are fears of a new global downturn, while Argentina in particular is being hit by the economic troubles of neighbouring Brazil. The Portuguese-speaking giant is Argentina’s largest trading partner, and so some of its economic sectors, including the automobile industry, rely on Brazil for up to 80 percent of their trade. As the World Bank noted in its report: “Growth declines in Brazil tend to have measurable or statistically significant spill-overs to its South American neighbours. A one percentage point decline in Brazil’s growth tends to reduce growth in Argentina, after two years, by 0.7 [percent].”
Yet the country’s woes are not all imported: investor confidence in Argentina is particularly low at present as a result of unease over the nation’s fiscal and monetary policies, particularly with regards to its afflicting debt levels (see Fig. 3). Since the 1980s, the country has defaulted multiple times on its debt obligations most notably, but not most recently, in 2001, when it failed to pay creditors a total of $95bn – the biggest default in history.
The nation’s credit grade remains consistently low, being at the bottom of ratings compiled by financial advisory service Standard & Poor’s. Furthermore, since the mid-2000s, the country has been locked in a long-running dispute with so-called ‘holdout creditors’ – those holding bonds who refused debt swap options following Argentina’s multi-debt restructuring efforts. This has made Argentina something of a pariah on international bond markets, from which it is effectively barred.
On top of the world
This reputation is in stark contrast to how the Argentinian economy was performing and perceived in the past. Writing in 1905, economics observer Percy F Martin heaped praise upon the future of Argentina in his essay Through five republics of South America: “In spite of its enormous advance, which the republic has made within the last 10 years, the most cautious critic would not hesitate to aver that Argentina has but just entered upon the threshold of her greatness.”
He optimistically predicted that Argentina’s “next generation is destined to see as great a rate of progress in this country’s trade as the past 20 years have witnessed”, while he also showed admiration for the “common sense of the cosmopolitan commercial population”. This cosmopolitan population was made up of waves of European immigrants. While the story of the huddled masses of Europe seeking opportunity in the US now dominates historical memory, many also made a similar journey to Argentina – so many, in fact, that in the early 20th century, half of the capital’s population was foreign-born. These migrants went to find work in the country’s booming agricultural and cattle industry.
In the late 19th century, in the lead-up to the outbreak of the First World War, Argentinian GDP surged at an annual growth rate of 6 percent. Although the world has since seen growth rates much higher than this, at the time it was the fastest rate of growth recorded anywhere on the planet.
This impressive growth rate allowed the country to rank among the 10 wealthiest nations on earth at the time, ahead of France, Italy and even Germany. At the time, Argentina had a per capita income that was 50 percent greater than Italy’s, and nearly twice that of Japan’s. According to The Economist: “Income per head was 92 percent of the average of 16 rich economies.” Furthermore, Argentinians were four times as wealthy as Brazilians.
However, as The Economist starkly noted, “it never got better than this”. Since these glory days, Argentina’s “standing as one of the world’s most vibrant economies is a distant memory”. After a long decade of relative decline, while much of the rest of the world excelled, Argentinians ended the 20th century with an income that was less than fifty percent of that of the Italians and Japanese.
President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, following his swearing-in ceremony on December 10, 2015
The country’s great wealth was based on a boom in global trade. The period before World War One was an era of unprecedented globalisation and free trade, of which the Argentinians took full advantage, most notably through the export of beef. The country’s abundant supply of various resources allowed it to find prosperity through exporting to the rest of the world – yet this possibility turned to dependency, putting the country’s fortunes at the behest of the rest of the world. When the era of free trade and economic liberalism fell victim to war and depression, Argentina began its long decline.
For a nation so reliant upon exports, the tariffs and blockades of war were a disaster. They also underlined a fundamental problem with the Argentinian economy: despite being one of the richest in the world prior to the war, it was not a modern, industrialising power like those that it surpassed in terms of wealth were. This meant that it was hit especially hard by the external shock of the new, war-torn era.
This was not unique to Argentina – the period of 1914 to 1945 was a catastrophe for most economies around the world. However, as much of the rest of the world subsequently went through an era of economic reconstruction, Argentina was for the most part left by the wayside.
Then, in 1946, Juan Perón came to power. His political philosophy, now known as Peronism, was a form of corporatism, chiefly favouring large state enterprises and an overbearing regulation on the economy. Of course, state protectionism itself isn’t always responsible for economic failure: South Korea and Taiwan both favoured protectionism in order to foster domestic industries in the 20th century, with the intent of using the method to build up industries to compete on the world market – which they did, very successfully. However, the protectionist policies of the two East Asian tigers and that of Argentina were very different.
Protectionism in Asia was intended to foster industry and ready it for the world market, while Argentina’s was an attempt to withdraw from the world economy and its fluctuations. The present fortune of each country speaks for itself. Under the command of Perón, the state even went so far as to monopolise all foreign trade, a policy generally associated with countries east of the Iron Curtain. The Asian countries also had a greater degree of political stability at the time, boasting secure property rights – something that Argentina was, and still is, sorely lacking.
Argentina attempted to liberalise in the 1970s, but without any industry able to meaningfully compare with international competitors, this only served to precipitate another decline. Peronism had allowed some industries to grow, but they were massively inefficient, shielded from the world market. Any local industry that had been fostered by protectionism was no match for the outside world, and so its products were outcompeted by foreign goods entering the market.
Manufacturing had seen growth in the period of protectionism, but now started a long period of decline. Ultimately, turning in from the world had merely created inefficient industries, rather than providing a protected space in which industries could grow. Between the 1970s and 1990, Argentinians experienced a real per capita income drop of over 20 percent.
The long road ahead
After a century of decline, the Argentinian economy approached the 21st century with a brewing financial crisis, with poor economic policy once again taking a toll on the fortunes of Argentinians. Following a huge build-up of public debt and a period of high inflation in the 1980s, in the following decade the Argentinian Government decided to peg their currency to the US dollar. This was intended to reduce inflation and allow imports to become cheaper through currency appreciation.
While an appreciation of the Argentinian peso was indeed needed, pegging it to the US dollar meant that it overshot the mark. This had a disastrous effect on Argentinian exports, and by the late 1990s Argentina had entered into a deep recession, with unemployment sitting at 15 percent. Along with longer-term issues such as poor tax collection and corruption, the recession resulted in a rise in state spending and a diminished revenue base.
By 1999, creditors had lost confidence in Argentina’s ability to service its debts, leading Argentinian bonds to appreciate. The response was a round of austerity cuts at the behest of the IMF, yet this only further deepened the Argentine recession. By 2001, Argentina had defaulted on its debts and did away with its currency peg: this was the only option afforded to the country, but the subsequent devaluation further impoverished Argentinian citizens.
As capital fled the country, consumer spending collapsed and savings were wiped out. The economy, however, was able to start to rebound after the devaluation, with Argentinian exports once again picking up (see Fig. 4). Furthermore, the onset of a boom in commodity demand in the 2000s also arose, largely fuelled by Chinese and emerging market demand.
However, this once again caused Argentina to become reliant upon exports and vulnerable to external shocks – something that has just recently happened again with the global collapse of commodity prices. Add to this crisis the poorly thought out policies of the previous administration, and the formidable economic task facing Argentina’s new president becomes clear.
The last few years under the presidency of Cristina Kirchner included polices such as “instituting capital controls, running down foreign exchange reserves, [and] in effect having the central bank print money to finance a public deficit”, according to the Financial Times. While these wrongheaded policies were for a while hidden by a world commodity boom, after commodity prices went into the doldrums, the full extent of Kirchner’s economic mismanagement has become apparent.
It would be churlish to expect the new president to be able to completely rectify this century of economic decline: Argentina will not return to its once high-ranking place among the world’s economies anytime soon, nor will the legacy of certain economic calamities be swiftly overcome. However, Macri can set about addressing certain problems with the economy, particularly with regards to cleaning up the mess left by his immediate predecessor.
Argentina has defaulted multiple times on its debt obligations – most notably in 2001, when it failed to pay creditors a total of $95bn
As the World Bank’s report noted, Macri’s new administration is “expected to implement monetary and fiscal tightening in 2016”, which is hoped to lead to a pick up in growth in 2017 “as investment slowly strengthens on renewed investor confidence and leads the recovery”. Along with this, the government has announced that it will make efforts to reach a compromise with holdout bondholders from Argentina’s previous defaults, with the hope that Argentina will lose its pariah status among international creditors. Macri has also pledged to end the policy of capital controls and bring the country’s exchange rate to a more realistic level, while the country’s central bank is also expected to finally move to combat inflation, tightening monetary policy by increasing interest rates.
This will be a tough task, as exports will undoubtedly be hit by such policies and ordinary Argentinians will feel the pinch. Yet it is hoped that the new regime will begin to restore some normalcy to the economy and reinstate confidence in it for businesses. The new fiscal and monetary policies of Macri, after countless years of economic mismanagement, should lay the foundations for a much-needed reversal of fortunes for Argentina. However, none of this will see Argentina return to its former economic glory anytime soon: such a turnaround will require a long-term compromise between being either entirely export dependent or overly protectionist and inward-looking – both of which it has been, and suffered from, in the past.
Argentina must become neither dependent on nor cut off from the world economy, but find a middle ground that allows it to take advantage of world trade, while being able to deal with any external shocks that may arise. Only then can Argentina hope to regain – and sustain – the economic prosperity that it lost a century ago.
Connection to Europe
It's not like World War II ended one day in 1945 and suddenly everyone realized how horrible the Nazis had been. Even after Germany was defeated, there were many powerful men in Europe who had favored the Nazi cause and continued to do so.
Spain was still ruled by the fascist Francisco Franco and had been a de facto member of the Axis alliance many Nazis would find safe if temporary, haven there. Switzerland had remained neutral during the war, but many important leaders had been outspoken in their support of Germany. These men retained their positions after the war and were in a position to help out. Swiss bankers, out of greed or sympathy, helped the former Nazis move and launder funds. The Catholic Church was extremely helpful as several high-ranking church officials (including Pope Pius XII) actively aided in the Nazis' escape.
Religion in Argentina
Argentina's population is more than 92% Roman Catholic, 2% Protestant with small Muslim and Jewish communities.
Social Conventions in Argentina
The most common form of greeting between friends is kissing cheeks. It is customary for Argentines to kiss cheeks on meeting and departing, regardless of gender. Dinner is usually eaten well into the evening - from around 2100 onwards. While Argentina is famous for its wonderful wine, Argentinians as a whole do not have the same propensity for drinking large amounts of alcohol as Europeans, and in bars and even nightclubs many will be drinking soft drinks and few will appear noticeably drunk.
Formal wear is worn for official functions and dinners, particularly in exclusive restaurants. A smoking ban was introduced across Argentina in 2011, it prohibits smoking in public areas, including museums, theatres, all forms of public transport, bars and restaurants.
Queuing and waiting for things in public places can seem a little less ordered than in Europe an example is the Subte in Buenos Aires &ndash people will continue to board the carriage until the platform is empty, whether there seems to be space in the carriage or not. It can make for a rather crowded and sweaty journey.
The Dirty War in 1976 and the Falklands War in 1982
In 1976, a military coup led to the beginning of the most oppressive regime in Argentina’s history and the start of the “Dirty War”
The territorial dispute between Argentina and Britain over the Falkland Islands led to the Falklands War of 1982
Argentina’s defeat by Britain resulted in the fall of the dictatorship and the end of the 7 year “Dirty War”, during which time thousands of Argentinians were killed or “disappeared”
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner became Argentina’s First Female President in 2007. Photo credit: https://firstladies.international.com
Little is known of the earliest inhabitants of the region. Only in NW Argentina was there a native population with a material culture. They were an agricultural people (recalled today by ruins N of Jujuy), but their importance was eclipsed later by the Araucanians from Chile. Europeans probably first arrived in the region in 1502 in the voyage of Amerigo Vespucci. The southern inhabitants at that time primarily hunted and fished, while the northwestern Incas were agricultural and quite advanced, having built a highway before the arrival of the Spanish. The search for a Southwest Passage to Asia and the East Indies brought Juan Díaz de Solís to the Río de la Plata in 1516. Ferdinand Magellan entered (1520) the estuary, and Sebastian Cabot ascended (1536) the Paraná and Paraguay rivers. His delight in native ornaments may be responsible for the names Río de la Plata [silver river] and Argentina [of silver].
Pedro de Mendoza in 1536 founded the first settlement of the present Buenos Aires, but native attacks forced abandonment of the settlement, and Asunción became the unquestioned leading city of the Río de la Plata region. Buenos Aires was refounded in 1580 by Juan de Garay. His son-in-law, Hernando Arias de Saavedra (Hernandarias), secured the division of the Río de la Plata territories, and Buenos Aires achieved (1617) a sort of semi-independence under the viceroyalty of Peru.
The mercantilist system, however, severely hampered the commerce of Buenos Aires, and smuggling, especially with Portuguese traders in Brazil, became an accepted profession. While the cities of present W and NW Argentina grew by supplying the mining towns of the Andes, Buenos Aires was threatened by Portuguese competition. By the 18th cent., cattle (which were introduced to the Pampas in the 1550s) roamed wild throughout the Pampas in large herds and were hunted by gauchos for their skins and fat.
In 1776 the Spanish government made Buenos Aires a free port and the capital of a viceroyalty that included present Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and (briefly) Bolivia. From this combination grew the idea of a Greater Argentina to include all the Río de la Plata countries, a dream that was to haunt many Argentine politicians after independence was won.
A prelude to independence was the British attack on Buenos Aires. Admiral Sir Home Popham and Gen. William Carr Beresford took the city in 1806 after the Spanish viceroy fled. An Argentine militia force under Jacques de Liniers ended the British occupation and beat off a renewed attack under Gen. John Whitelocke in 1807.
On May 25, 1810 (May 25 is the Argentine national holiday), revolutionists, acting nominally in favor of the Bourbons dethroned by Napoleon (see Spain), deposed the viceroy, and the government was controlled by a junta. The result was war against the royalists. The patriots under Manuel Belgrano won (1812) a victory at Tucumán. On July 9, 1816, a congress in Tucumán proclaimed the independence of the United Provinces of the Río de La Plata. Other patriot generals were Mariano Moreno, Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, and José de San Martín.
Uruguay and Paraguay went their own ways despite hopes of reunion. In Argentina, a struggle ensued between those who wanted to unify the country and those who did not want to be dominated by Buenos Aires. Independence was followed by virtually permanent civil war, with many coups by regional, social, or political factions. Rule by the strong man, the caudillo, alternated with periods of democratic rule, too often beset by disorder.
Anarchy was not ended by the election of Bernardino Rivadavia in 1826. The unitarians, who favored a centralized government dominated by Buenos Aires, were opposed to the federalists, who resented the oligarchy of Buenos Aires and were backed by autocratic caudillos with gaucho troops. The unitarians triumphed temporarily when Argentines combined to help the Uruguayans repel Brazilian conquerors in the battle of Ituzaingó (1827), which led to the independence of Uruguay. The internal conflict was, however, soon resumed and was not even quelled when Gen. Juan Manuel de Rosas, the most notorious caudillo, established a dictatorship that lasted from 1835 to 1852. Ironically, this federalist leader, who was nominally only the governor of Buenos Aires, did more than the unitarians to unify the country. Ironically, too, this enemy of intellectuals stimulated his political opponents to write in exile some of the finest works of the Spanish-American romantic period among the writers were Domingo F. Sarmiento, Bartolomé Mitre, José Mármol, and Esteban Echeverría.
Rosas was overthrown (1852) by Gen. Justo José de Urquiza, who called a constituent assembly at Santa Fe. A constitution was adopted (1853) based on the principles enunciated by Juan Bautista Alberdi. Mitre, denouncing Urquiza as a caudillo, brought about the temporary secession of Buenos Aires prov. (1861) and the downfall of the Urquiza plans. Under the administrations of Mitre (1862–68), Sarmiento (1868–74), and Nicolás Avellaneda (1874–80), schools were built, public works started, and liberal reforms instituted. The War of the Triple Alliance (see Triple Alliance, War of the), 1865–70, brought little advantage to Argentina.
In 1880 federalism triumphed, and Gen. Julio A. Roca became president (1880–1886) Buenos Aires remained the capital, but the federal district was set up, and Buenos Aires prov. was given La Plata as its capital. Argentina flourished during Roca's administration. The conquest of the indigenous peoples by General Roca (1878–79) had made colonization of the region in the south and the southwest possible. Already the Pampa had begun to undergo its agricultural transformation. The immigration of Europeans helped to fill the land and to make Argentina one of the world's granaries.
Establishment of refrigerating plants for meat made expansion of commerce possible. The British not only became the prime consumers of Argentine products but also invested substantially in the construction of factories, public utilities, and railroads (which were nationalized in 1948). Efforts to end the power of the great landowners, however, were not genuinely successful, and the military tradition continued to play a part in politics, the army frequently combining with the conservatives and later with the growing ranks of labor to alter the government by coup.
The second administration of Roca (1898–1904) was marked by recovery from the crises of the intervening years a serious boundary dispute with Chile was settled (1902), and perpetual peace between the two nations was symbolized in the Christ of the Andes. Even before World War I, in which Argentina maintained neutrality, the wealthy nation had begun to act as an advocate for the rights and interests of Latin America as a whole, notably through Carlos Calvo, Luis M. Drago, and later Carlos Saavedra Lamas.
Internal problems, however, remained vexing. Electoral reforms introduced by Roque Sáenz Peña (1910–14) led to the victory of the Radical party under Hipólito Irigoyen (1916–22). He introduced social legislation, but when, after the presidency of Marcelo T. de Alvear, Irigoyen returned to power in 1928, his policies aroused much dissatisfaction even in his own party. In 1930 he was ousted by Gen. José F. Uriburu, and the conservative oligarchy—now with Fascist leanings—was again in power.
The administration (1932–38) of Agustín P. Justo was opposed by revolutionary movements, and a coalition of liberals and conservatives won an election victory. Radical leader Roberto M. Ortiz became president (1938), but serious illness caused him to resign (1942), and the conservative Ramón S. Castillo succeeded him. In 1943, Castillo was overthrown by a military coup. After two provisional presidents a palace revolt in 1944 brought to power a group of army colonels, chief among them Juan Perón. After four years of pro-Axis neutrality, Argentina belatedly (Mar., 1945) entered World War II on the side of the Allies and became a member of the United Nations. A return to liberal government momentarily seemed probable, but Perón was overwhelmingly victorious in the election of Feb., 1946.
Perón, an admirer of Mussolini, established a type of popular dictatorship new to Latin America, based initially on support from the army, reactionaries, nationalists, and some clerical groups. His regime was marked by curtailment of freedom of speech, confiscation of liberal newspapers such as La Prensa, imprisonment of political opponents, and transition to a one-party state. His second wife, the popular Eva Duarte de Perón, helped him gain the support of the trade unions, thereafter the main foundation of Perón's political power. In 1949 the constitution of 1853 was replaced by one that permitted Perón to succeed himself as president the Peronista political party was established the same year.
To cure Argentina's serious economic ills, Perón inaugurated a program of industrial development—which advanced rapidly in the 1940s and early 50s, although hampered by the lack of power resources and machine tools—supplemented by social welfare programs. Perón also placed the sale and export of wheat and beef under government control, thus undermining the political and economic power of the rural oligarchs. In the early 1950s, with recurring economic problems and with the death (1952) of his wife, Perón's popular support began to diminish. Agricultural production, long the chief source of revenue, dropped sharply and the economy faltered. The Roman Catholic church, alienated by the reversal of close church-state relations, excommunicated Perón and, finally, the armed forces became disillusioned with him. In 1955, Perón was ousted by a military coup, and the interim military government of Gen. Pedro Aramburu attempted to rid the country of Justicialismo (Peronism). Perón fled to Paraguay and in 1960 went into exile in Spain.
In 1957, Argentina reverted to the constitution of 1853 as modified up to 1898. In 1958, Dr. Arturo Frondizi was elected president. Faced with the economic and fiscal crisis inherited from Perón, Frondizi, with U.S. advice and the promise of financial aid, initiated a program of austerity to stabilize the economy and check inflation. Leftists, as well as Peronistas, who still commanded strong popular support, criticized the plan because the burden lay most heavily on the working and lower middle classes.
Frondizi later fell into disfavor with the military because of his leniency toward the regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba and toward Peronistas at home, who, in the congressional elections of 1962, scored a resounding victory. Frondizi was arrested and José María Guido assumed the presidency, but the military was in control. The Peronista and Communist parties were banned before presidential elections were held in 1963. Following the election of the moderate liberal Dr. Arturo Illia, many political prisoners were released and relative political stability returned. The new president was faced, however, with serious economic depression and with the difficult problem of reintegrating the Peronist forces into Argentine political life.
In 1964 an attempt by Perón to return from Spain and lead his followers was thwarted when he was turned back at Rio de Janeiro by Brazilian authorities. The Peronists, however, remained the strongest political force in the country unwilling to tolerate another resurgence of Peronism, a junta of military leaders, supported by business interests, seized power (1966) and placed Gen. Juan Carlos Onganía, a long-time right-wing opponent of Illía, in the presidency. Under Onganía, the new government dissolved the legislature, banned all political parties, and exercised unofficial press censorship Onganía also placed the national universities under government control.
Widespread opposition to the rigid rule of the Onganía regime grew, and the military deposed him (1970), naming Gen. Roberto M. Levingston president. Economic problems and increased terrorist activities caused Gen. Alejandro Lanusse, the leader of the coup against Onganía, to dismiss (1971) Levingston and initiate an active program for economic growth, distribution of wealth, and political stability. His direct negotiations with Juan Perón and his call for national elections and a civilian government led to the return of Perón to Argentina in 1972.
After failing to achieve unity among the various Peronist groups, Perón declined the nomination from his supporters to run for president in the Mar., 1973, elections, which were won by Dr. Hector Cámpora, the Peronist candidate, who subsequently resigned from office to make way for Perón's return. When new elections were held in Sept., 1973, Perón was elected president and his third wife, Isabel Martínez Perón, vice president. Perón died in July, 1974, and was succeeded by his widow. Her government faced economic troubles, labor unrest, political violence, and deep divisions within the Peronista party.
In 1976, Isabel Perón was deposed by a military junta under the leadership of Jorge Rafael Videla, who served as president until 1981. The government suspended political and trade union activity, dissolved the congress, made alterations to the constitution, and removed most government officals. During the military rule thousands of citizens suspected of undermining the government disappeared in what became known as the dirty war. In 1981 Argentina petitioned the United Nations for possession of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), which had been occupied and claimed by the British since 1832. Tensions escalated until, on Apr. 2, 1982, Argentina, now under the rule of Lt.-Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, invaded and occupied the islands. British forces responded quickly, forcing a surrender by Argentine forces within 6 weeks. The Argentine defeat led to Galtieri's resignation and subsequently to the end of military rule. Retired Gen. Reynaldo Bignone succeeded Galtieri as president and oversaw the return to democracy.
In 1983, Raúl Alfonsín won the presidency, but persistent economic problems plagued his tenure in office. Carlos Saúl Menem was elected president in 1988, bringing the Peronist Justicialist party back into power. A reform-minded leader, he stimulated economic growth and subdued hyperinflation in the early 1990s by instituting a major program of privatization, encouraging foreign investment, and tying the Argentine peso to the U.S. dollar. Constitutional amendments approved in 1994 placed curbs on presidential power and increased opposition power in the senate, while clearing the way for Menem to seek a second successive term as president. He was reelected in 1995. The Justicialists lost legislative elections to the opposition Alianza coalition in 1997, as the country struggled with recession and continuing high unemployment. Argentina's relations with Paraguay soured in 1999 when Menem's government sheltered Paraguayan Gen. Lino Oviedo for eight months Oviedo was wanted for the murder of Paraguay's vice president.
In Oct., 1999, Fernando de la Rúa of Alianza was elected president, soundly defeating the Peronist candidate. De la Rúa's victory was in part a rejection of Menem's perceived flamboyance and tolerance of corruption during his last term. The new president moved quickly to institute austerity measures and reforms to improve the economy taxes were increased to reduce the deficit, the government bureaucracy was trimmed, and legal restrictions on union negotiations were eased. De la Rúa also purged (2000) the army and state intelligence agency of the last suspected participants in the dirty war of the 1970s and 80s.
By late 2000, however, de la Rúa's presidency was under siege on two fronts. Several senators, mainly from the Justicialist party, were accused of taking bribes to vote for the government's labor-code revisions, and two cabinet members were also implicated. When the cabinet members were retained after a reorganization, Vice President Carlos Álvarez resigned in protest. The Argentine economy had slipped into recession in late 1999, and Argentina was forced in to seek help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and private banks to reduce its debt. In Dec., 2000, an aid package of nearly $40 billion was arranged, and the government announced a $20 billion public works program that was designed to help revive the economy.
Further economic measures designed to revived the ailing economy were adopted in 2001, including the pegging of the peso for imports and exports to the average value of the dollar and the euro combined, additional government austerity measures, and additional billions in IMF aid. The economy remained in recession, however, aggravating the problems posed by the debt and by the restrictions that the IMF imposed in return for aid, and unemployment rose to around 20% at the end of 2001. In legislative elections in Oct., 2001, the opposition Justicialist party became the largest party in both houses of the national congress. In November the government began restructuring the debt, putting it essentially in default. Ongoing economic problems led to a crisis of confidence as depositors began a run on the banks, resulting in limits on withdrawals (largely lifted a year later), and the IMF took a hard line, insisting on a 10% cut in the budget before making further payments.
Nationwide food riots and demonstrations erupted in late December, leading the president to resign. A series of interim presidents and renewed demonstrations ended with the appointment of Justicialist senator Eduardo Alberto Duhalde as president in Jan., 2002. Duhalde, who had been a free-spending provincial governor and the Peronists' 1999 presidential candidate, devalued the peso, which lost more than two thirds of its value. The depressed economy, meanwhile, remained in disarray until early 2003, when it showed some signs of slow improvement.
Néstor Carlos Kirchner, the governor of Santa Cruz prov. in Patagonia, won the spring 2003 presidential race when former president Menem withdrew from the runoff election polls indicated that Kirchner would win by a landslide. Congress subsequently repealed two amnesty laws, passed in the 1980s, that had protected military officers accused of human rights offenses, and in 2005 the supreme court upheld the move, overturning the amnesty laws as unconstitutional. Pardons given to several military government leaders were subsequently also overturned by the court, and arrest warrants were issued for Isabel Perón, who was in exile in Spain, and others. A number of former military officers and others were later convicted of human-rights crimes, including former Presidents Bignone and Videla.
Kirchner won favorable terms from from the IMF in Sept., 2003, refusing to make concessions in exchange for refinancing Argentina's debt. Kirchner's government continued into 2004 its policy of aggressively seeking more favorable terms, but was not successful in negotiating new terms for repaying private creditors until 2005, when some three quarters of its bondholders agreed to accept partial repayment. The economy grew strongly in 2003–5, reducing the unemployment rate, but the effects of the 2001–2 economic collapse continued to hurt many Argentines.
In Oct., 2005, the popular Kirchner benefited from the improved economy when his Peronists won control of the senate and a plurality in the lower house. With a strengthened political hand, Kirchner replaced his respected but more conservative economy minister with an ally. Argentina paid off its IMF debt in Jan., 2006, in an effort to regain greater flexibility in its economic policy. Kirchner also used the influence of his office to fight inflation by pressuring Argentinian companies into holding down price increases. His presidency also saw a trend toward renationalization of certain Argentinian businesses, including railroads and telecommunications companies.
In 2006 there were tensions with Uruguay over plans there to build pulp mills along the Argentina border on the Uruguay River. Argentinians fearing possible pollution from the mills blockaded several bridges into Uruguay, and Argentina accused Uruguay of contravening the treaty on joint use of the river. Argentina took the issue to the International Court of Justice, which accepted it but allowed construction of the one mill that Uruguay ended up building to proceed while the court decided the case. The court also refused to order Argentina to halt the protests, which continued until June, 2010. In 2010 the court largely ruled in favor of Uruguay, determining that it had met its environmental obligations under the treat, and it refused to order the mill to close.
Kirchner chose not to run in 2007 for a second term, but his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who had served as a provincial and national deputy and national senator, mounted her own candidacy. Running strongly and promising to continue her husband's policies, she was elected in Oct., 2007, becoming the first woman to be elected president. In a court case in Florida, U.S. prosecutors later (Dec., 2007) alleged that $800,000 found (Aug., 2007) by Argentinian customs officers on a private flight from Venezuela was intended to be a secret Venezuelan government contribution to Fernández de Kirchner's campaign. The Argentinian government denounced the allegation, but two Venezuelans and a Uruguayan arrested in the United States in connection with the money pleaded guilty to acting as unregistered foreign government agents and revealed details of the payment and its coverup and a third Venezuelan was convicted on similar charges in Nov., 2008.
Beginning in Mar., 2008, farmers protested increased export taxes on farm products by striking and blockading roads, leading to some food shortages in major cities at times. The government abandoned the tax increases in July after the Senate narrowly failed to approve them. Tensions between the government and farmers continued, however, into 2009, aggravated by drought and falling demand. In Mar., 2009, both sides reached accords on compensation for several clases of farm products.
In Oct, 2008, the government moved to nationalize 10 private pension plans. The government asserted it was acting to protect them from the global financial crisis, but many viewed it as a repudiation of the privatizations of the 1990s and also possibly as an attempt to secure funds in the face of a looming budget shortfall. The move caused stocks and the Argentinian peso to fall sharply the national airline was also nationalized. The government subsequently used some of the pension assets as part of an economic stimulus package. Congressional elections in June, 2009, resulted in losses for the governing party, which failed to secure majorities in both houses.
In Jan., 2010, a move by the government to use foreign currency reserves to repay some of Argentina's international debt sparked a conflict between the president and the head of the central bank, Martín Redrado, who refused to transfer the reserves. The president sought to remove Redrado by emergency decree, but a court ruled that she could neither remove him nor use the reserves. Redrado, however, subsequently resigned. In Mar., 2010, the president issued new decrees transferring $6.6. billion of the reserves, and an appeals court upheld the decrees when the opposition challenged them. Debt swaps agreed to by June by most of the holders of the remaining bonds that Argentina had defaulted on in 2001 left about 8% of the original bonds outstanding.
The start of oil exploration in the waters surrounding the Falkland Islands in Feb., 2010, led the Argentinian government to impose restrictions on vessels traveling through its waters to the islands. The islands' status became an increasingly contentious issue in Argentina's international relations in subsequent months, leading to strained relations with Great Britain by the time of the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War in Apr., 2012. In Oct., 2011, President Fernández de Kirchner, bouyed by significant economic growth, easily won reelection and her Front for Victory won control of Congress, but high inflation associated with the growth was an increasing concern and led to government regulations designed to control capital flight. Discontent over the economy and other issues led to demonstrations and strikes beginning in 2012. In May, 2012, the Congress approved the nationalization of the former national oil company, which had been privatized in 1999. The Front for Victory retained control of Congress after the Oct., 2013, elections. In December, police strikes over pay in many of the country's provinces led to outbreaks of looting across Argentina.
In Jan., 2014, after the government's long-standing efforts to support the peso had depleted its currency reserves, it abandoned those efforts, which led to a drop in the peso's value, and then relaxed foreign exchange controls. In June, 2014, Argentina lost its appeal against a U.S. court decision that required it to pay the owners of the outstanding bonds that it defaulted on in 2001 if the country paid bond owners who had exchanged their defaulted bonds in the debt swaps of 2005 and 2010. Argentina subsequently refused, and in September the country was declared in contempt of court the case restricted Argentina's access to international credit markets. Also that month, Vice President Amado Boudou was charged with corruption in connection with government aid received by a printing company he was accused of secretly owning he was convicted in 2018.
In early 2015 the president was accused by a prosecutor of shielding Iranians involved in a 1994 terrorist bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in order to secure a trade deal. The prosecutor's death by a gunshot wound sparked a public crisis. A second prosecutor sought to pursue the charges, but they were dismissed. The president denounced the affair as a plot by Intelligence Secretariat agents to undermine her government, and had the congress vote to reorganize the agency.
Fernández de Kirchner was barred from running in the 2015 presidential election. Although the first round in October was won by the Front for Victory candidate, Daniel Scioli, he did not win by a large enough margin to avoid a runoff. In the November runoff, the candidate of the Let's Change coalition, Mauricio Macri, the center-right mayor of Buenos Aires, won 51% of the vote. In office Macri ended most currency controls and devalued the peso, resolved (2016) the outstanding bond claims that remained from the 2001 default, and moved to reduce government spending that subsidized the price of utilities and other items. In the Oct., 2017, legislative elections Macri's coalition won a plurality of the seats.
The withdrawal of international investments in the first half of 2018, due to changing international conditions and concerns about the Argentinian economy, created a liquidity crisis and led Macri to seek IMF aid, and the IMF approved a $50 billion credit line (later increased to more than $57 billion). Argentina's economy, however continued to be plagued by inflation (which approached 50% in 2018), devaluation, and a contracting economy. Late in 2018 the government adopted an austerity budget.
In Aug., 2019, President Macri placed a distant second in the country's open presidential primary to Alberto Fernández, the candidate of the main opposition coalition, the Peronist Frente do Todos Fernández's running mate was former president Fernández de Kirchner. Macri subsequently announced a number of economic relief measures. In October, Fernández won the presidential election in the first round. In December, the new government's economic emergency package, including tax and spending increases and emergency government powers, was enacted. The subsequent COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 worsened the economic crisis, and the government sought to restructure its foreign debt.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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Nature and wildlife in Argentina
Argentina is super-rich in animal species. The coast of Patagonia is home to elephant seals, fur seals, penguins and sea lions. Sharks, orcas, dolphins and salmon swim in the waters off the Atlantic coast.
The north of Argentina is home to flamingos, toucans, turtles, tortoises, and crocodiles and caimans, too! There are also many large cat species such as the cougar, jaguar and the ocelot.
Patagonia is a sparsely populated area rich in natural resources and wildlife, including herons, condors, pumas, tortoises and guanacos – elegant animals closely related to llamas and alpacas.
Two guanacos in the hills of Argentina
Establishment of Diplomatic Relations and the American Mission in Buenos Ayres, 1823 .
Diplomatic relations were established on December 27, 1823, when American Minister Plenipotentiary Caesar Rodney presented his credentials to the Government of Buenos Ayres.
American Mission Moved to Parana, 1857 .
James A. Peden was commissioned as Chargé d’Affaires to the Republic of Buenos Aires on May 22, 1854 but did not proceed to post in that capacity. Soon after Peden was nominated as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Argentine Confederation, eventually receiving a commission in 1856 with letters of credence to both Buenos Aires and the Confederation. Peden resided at Buenos Aires until about May 1, 1857, when he closed the Legation at that city and moved to Parana .
American Mission Returned to Buenos Aires, 1862 .
Following the collapse of the Argentine Confederation and national reunification as the Argentine Republic, Peden returned the U.S. Legation to Buenos Aires on February 25, 1862.
Elevation of American Legation to Embassy Status, 1914 .
The United States elevated its Legation in Buenos Aires to Embassy status on October 1, 1914, when Frederic Jessup Stimson was appointed as U.S. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. He presented his credentials on January 8, 1915.
Diplomatic Relations Interrupted, 1944 .
After a 1942 military coup, General Pedro Ramirez assumed power and maintained Argentinean neutrality in World War II, causing the United States to refuse Argentine requests for Lend-Lease aid. Ramirez eventually broke relations with Germany and Japan on January 26, 1944, but resigned in favor of his vice-president, General Edelmiro Farrell a few weeks later on February 25, 1944. The United States believed the Farrell regime was “not in sympathy to the declared Argentine policy of joining the defense of the hemisphere,” and instructed Ambassador Norman Armour to refrain from entering official relations with the new government. Armour was instructed to return to Washington on June 27, 1944. Edward L. Reed subsequently became Chargés d’Affaires of the Embassy in Buenos Aires.
Diplomatic Relations Resumed, 1945 .
The United States resumed normal diplomatic relations with Argentina and formally recognized the Farrell government on April 19, 1945, according to a State Department notice released that same day. The decision came from a meeting of the Inter-American Conference in Mexico City , where all the participants agreed to resume relations with Argentina following its declaration of war against the Axis powers.
Argentina Declassification Project: History
For over a year prior to the March 1976 coup, U.S. government officials and other observers consistently characterized the situation in Argentina as “deteriorating.” Both the press and U.S. intelligence agencies reported on political instability and uncertainty, especially in coverage of the inner circle of President Isabel Peron, the Argentine congress, and military leaders.
Crime and terrorism disrupted daily life in Argentina, and due to Cold War foreign policy priorities, U.S. government agencies generally paid more attention to the threat of terrorism committed by ideologically leftist than by rightist groups. Leftist guerrilla groups operating in both the cities and the countryside—the Montoneros and ERP—seemed to be gaining followers and control over certain geographic areas, successfully financed their operations through kidnapping and extortion, sometimes targeted U.S. citizens, and increasingly seemed able to repulse the efforts of the Argentine security forces to contain them.
At the same time, right-wing death squads with links to the Peron government and the security forces, notably the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance (Triple A), increasingly targeted labor leaders and left-wing Peronist political leaders as well as leftist guerrillas.
Ford Administration Policy, Through the March 1976 Coup
Throughout 1975 and into early 1976, U.S. officials in Argentina repeatedly warned Washington that a coup was likely due to crime, violence, and instability under the government of Isabel Peron. The coup came on March 24, 1976 when an Argentine military junta removed Peron from power. The U.S. gave limited support to the new government, through the end of the Gerald Ford Administration in January 1977.
On March 26, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said in a staff meeting that he thought the new Argentine government “will need a little encouragement from us.” Kissinger met with Argentine Foreign Minister Cesar Guzzetti in June and October of 1976. At both meetings, Kissinger said that he wanted to see the Argentine government “succeed.”
U.S. officials in Buenos Aires and in Washington also reported on the ideology and actions of the junta, including about human rights violations, throughout 1976. Officials tried to glean the character of the new government, concluding that it would likely be “moderate” but that the U.S. government “should not become overly identified with the junta.” Officials also repeatedly wondered if junta president Jorge Videla, the commander of the army, had enough control over the security forces to end human rights abuses—or if an end to human rights abuses was even one of Videla’s goals.
In July, the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires reported to Washington that estimates of the number of people who had been illegally detained “run into the thousands and many have been tortured and murdered.” In response to the dramatically increasing volume of such cases, U.S. Ambassador to Argentina Robert C. Hill protested to the Argentine government concerning human rights abuses in May 1976. In July, Assistant Secretary of State Harry Shlaudeman told Kissinger that the Argentine “security forces are totally out of control” and that the U.S. would “have to wait until somebody surfaces to get a handle on this.”
In September, Hill protested again, directly to Videla, that “not one single person has been brought to justice or even disciplined” for violations of human rights. In response, Videla said that “Kissinger understood their problem and had said he hoped they could get terrorism under control as quickly as possible.”
Carter Administration policy
The Carter Administration’s emphasis on human rights in U.S. foreign policy heavily influenced its approach to Argentina. In addition, during 1977 and 1978 the Carter Administration’s policy toward Argentina was shaped by the Kennedy-Humphrey Amendment (P.L. 95-92, sec. 11), a Congressionally-mandated halt on all U.S. military aid, training, and arms sales to Argentina, which was enacted in August 1977 and went into effect on October 1, 1978.
The Carter Administration also had other goals for its policy toward Argentina. U.S. policymakers wanted to moderate and encourage an end to the military government and a return to elective democracy, prevent Argentine disputes with its neighbors from devolving into war, prevent Argentina from working towards becoming a nuclear power, and encourage the stabilization and growth of the Argentine economy, which suffered from high inflation rates.
Officials struggled to balance these competing interests, many of which required discussions with and persuasion of Argentine officials, with the new pressure from the White House, Congress, victims’ relatives, and NGOs to get the Argentine government to demonstrate real improvement on human rights issues. There were disagreements among U.S. officials about the rate at which the junta’s human rights record was improving, but no one at this stage tried to argue that the military government deserved the unwavering support of the United States.
By early 1977, most U.S. officials believed that the leftist guerrilla groups had been defeated, and that the vast majority of the continued detentions, torture, and disappearances were perpetrated by people or groups accountable to the Argentine government and unrelated to any real threat from the armed left. U.S. Ambassador Raul H. Castro continued to press the junta to improve its performance on human rights, to return to democracy, and, at times, to account for the missing and punish those responsible for abuses. The U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires also continued to collect data on human rights abuses, documenting 9,000 kidnappings and disappearances and conducting interviews with those who had been detained or who were searching for missing relatives.
The disagreement inside the U.S. government was over exactly what tactics to use to change the regime’s behavior and how to identify the better actors within Argentina’s ruling circles. During 1977 and most of 1978, the impending new ban on arms sales, aid, and training provided the U.S. with some leverage, as did the U.S. vote on Argentine loans in International Financial Institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. However, policymakers did not always agree on how to use those points of leverage, or about what exactly to tell their interlocutors in the Argentine government about how the U.S. interest in promoting human rights would affect other areas of relations.
As early as May 1976 and throughout 1977, some U.S. policymakers thought Videla would act as the necessary “moderate.” When he spoke with U.S. envoys, Videla promised he could compel the junta to publish lists of the state’s prisoners, release a few high-profile prisoners, and release others into voluntary exile. Ultimately, these U.S. officials wanted to support Videla to help him balance the U.S. demand for improvements in human rights with the demands of Argentine military hardliners who opposed “concessions” to the U.S. on human rights.
These U.S. officials wanted the U.S. to vote in Argentina’s favor in the IFIs and argued for the approval of arms transfers before the Kennedy-Humphrey embargo went into effect, believing that these moves would support Videla’s claim to the junta presidency. Other U.S. policymakers did not trust Videla. They believed that maintaining pressure on Videla and the junta as a whole for improvements in human rights should be prioritized over other U.S. interests in Argentina. They wanted the government of Argentina to face concrete sanctions if it did not halt its abuses—they opposed arms transfers and wanted the U.S. to vote against Argentine loans in the IFIs.
Disappearances in Argentina slowed to a trickle by the early 1980s, but it is unclear whether this improvement was primarily due to pressure from the U.S., to an internal decision made by the Argentine junta in its war against perceived leftists, or to other factors. Carter’s human rights pressure also pushed the junta to look for allies elsewhere who were less focused on human rights, including in the Eastern bloc and the Soviet Union.
Argentina’s staunchly anticommunist junta signed two trade agreements with the Soviet Union in 1980, agreeing to provide 5 million tons of grain in 1980 and 22 million tons of corn, sorghum, and soybeans over the next 5 years—in defiance of Carter’s grain embargo on the USSR.
Reagan Administration Policy
The Reagan administration sought to improve U.S.-Argentine relations and focused on private diplomacy regarding human rights in Argentina. They worked to restore military ties between the two anti-communist counties and to weaken or overturn the 1978 Kennedy-Humphrey Amendment’s restrictions on military aid to Argentina.
Reagan and his Secretary of State, Al Haig, viewed Carter’s public criticisms of Argentina as misguided and thought that any valid concerns about human rights abuses by the Argentine military should be raised privately. Thus, when the Argentine military junta replaced Videla with Roberto Viola as president in March 1981, Haig told Viola that there would be “no finger-pointing” regarding human rights, adding: “if there are problems, they will be discussed quietly and confidentially.” Reagan agreed, telling Viola that “there would be no public scoldings and lectures.”
With warmer bilateral relations secured and disappearances apparently on the wane, the Reagan administration felt that it could make progress on many of the central issues faced by Carter: stabilization of an economy that was in deep recession and carrying massive foreign debt, nuclear proliferation and the ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, Argentina’s lack of participation in the grain embargo against the Soviets, and a return to electoral democracy. Reagan was also interested in securing Argentine assistance in securing his administration’s goals in Central America, particularly in El Salvador.
Optimism waned when Leopoldo Galtieri, installed as president by the junta in December 1981, decided that invading the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands would shore up his government, which faced dire economic problems, labor unrest, and growing public displeasure with military rule. When Argentina lost the war against the United Kingdom over the islands, the junta was widely discredited for its human rights abuses, economic mismanagement, and the loss of the war.