Argentina Briefing - Geopoliticalmonitor.com

Argentina Briefing

July 9, 2012

Adriano Marchese

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez

Timeline

1580: Buenos Aires is established as a permanent Spanish colony.

1806: A British invasion of Rio de la Plata during the Napoleonic Wars is repelled by local militia without any assistance from the Spanish military.

1810: Napoleon deposes Spanish King Ferdinand VII, and the Primera Junta replaces the Spanish Viceroy in Argentina.

1816: Argentina declares independence.

1853: Argentina adopts a constitution and becomes a republic.

1930: The democratically elected government of Hipolito Yrigoyen is deposed by a military coup led by General Jose Felix Uriburu.

1945: Argentina enters World War II on the side of the Allies and eventually becomes a founding member of the United Nations.

1946: Juan Peron elected President and Eva ‘Evita’ Peron assumes the role of First Lady.

1952: Evita dies of cancer.

1955: Juan Peron is ousted by the predominantly Catholic “Liberating Revolution” while serving his second term.

1966: General Juan Carlos Ongania assumes power in a military coup; political repression of opposition groups is stepped up.

1973: A surge in popular demand for elections results in Juan Peron being re-elected as president after a period of exile.

1974: Juan Peron dies and is replaced by his second wife and standing Vice President Isabel Peron.

1976: The ‘National Reorganization Process’ military coup led by General Videla deposes Isabel Peron, resulting in her being sent into exile; the ‘Dirty War’ against political opposition groups intensifies.

1982: Argentina sends troops to Falkland Islands, resulting in the outbreak of the Falklands War.

1983: The failed Falklands campaign is a tipping point after years of repression, torture, and murder. General elections are held and democracy is restored.

1991: Argentina contributes to the Gulf War under UN mandate.

2001: Years of government mismanagement of the economy comes to a head, resulting in a widespread breakdown of public order; the government eventually defaults on $93 billion of IMF debt.

2002: Widespread economic deprivation grips Argentina society; GDP shrinks by 10.8 percent.

2003: Economy begins to show signs of recovery.

2007 Cristina de Kirchner elected president (re-elected in 2011).

Politics

Argentina has a democratic, multi-party presidential system in which the standing president serves as both Head of State and Head of Government. While the president is able to exert some degree of influence over the process, most legislative power lies in the bicameral Argentine National Congress.

The democratic process in Argentina has been plagued by military coups since democracy was first usurped in 1930.  However, democracy seems to have entrenched itself since the last military junta collapsed in 1983. Currently, the Argentine political landscape consists of several regional, federal and provincial parties that are spread throughout the Argentine National Congress.

Political Parties

Justicialist Party (PJ)

This party was formed in 1947 by Juan and Eva Peron and it has come to be the dominant party in Argentine politics. Its current policies draw heavily from Juan Peron’s first presidency, primarily in the form of a center-left agenda that stresses populism, justice and equality. The PJ is the party that is currently in power, headed by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. It holds 128 of the 257 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 42 of the 72 seats in the Senate.

Radical Civic Union

This party was created in 1891, making it the oldest party in the history of Argentina. Originally the product of an extreme liberal political agenda, the Radical Civic Union was involved in unsuccessful revolution attempts in 1893 and 1905. After the introduction of universal male suffrage in 1912, the party managed to form several governments in the pre-Peron era. Since then, the Radical Civic Union has defined itself as a force in opposition to Peronism. Today, the party holds 42 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 17 seats in the Senate.

The Republican Proposal

This party is relatively young and right-wing, having only formed in 2010. Thus far, its biggest successes have been outside the realm of federal politics having won a decisive victory in recent municipal elections in Buenos Aires. The party holds only 11 federal seats in the Chamber of Deputies and none in Senate.

Economy

Argentina is the third largest economy in Latin America and it enjoys several socioeconomic and demographic advantages, mainly in the form of a high quality of life, high GDP per capita, and highly education population.  There is also substantial growth potential in the Argentine economy given its past neglect and its abundance of natural resources and arable soil.

Argentina is one of the world’s largest producers of agricultural products, such to the degree that agriculture accounts for nine percent of Argentina’s GDP and one third of its exports. The manufacturing industry in Argentina is the single largest sector in the nation’s economy at 19 percent of GDP.  Mining in Argentina is still a growing industry and shows great room for development. It currently accounts for four percent of GDP. The country also has modest oil reserves, and its domestic oil extraction hovers at around one million barrels a day.

The economy has been growing at a pace of 5-9 percent yearly in spite of staggering double-digit inflation. Argentina is moderately export dependent, and exports accounted for around 32 percent of the country’s GDP in 2010. It’s worth noting that foreign direct investment (FDI) has dropped significantly in 2011 from $3.5 billion to $2.4 billion; in stark contrast to neighboring countries which have all experienced steady increases. This may be the result of difficulties stemming from the repayment of its 2001 debt. Argentina is still largely on the outside of international borrowing markets looking in. Consequently, it has been expanding domestic bank reserves to finance government spending, and this policy has produced some of the highest inflation rates in the world.

Military

As a country with a long history of military coups, the military has evolved a complex role in Argentine society. Over the years, it has been used as a police force, for national defense, a political vanguard for dictators, and as a tool to silence opposition.

Nowadays, it is still in the long process of transitioning to civilian control, often to the displeasure of senior military officials. Defense spending has been reduced in recent years to roughly less than one percent of GDP. Yet some vestiges of Argentina’s militaristic past still remain. Several reports have recently come to light suggesting widespread corruption among military leaders and even cases of spying on prominent politicians.

The Argentine military maintains close military links with the United States. Most military equipment and supplies are purchased from U.S. weapons producers.

Argentina remains active in the United Nations and NATO, and Argentine troops have participated in various peacekeeping missions around the world, including Bosnia, Kosovo and Haiti.

Adriano Marchese is a contributor to Geopoliticalmonitor.com.

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