Argentina

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The flag of Argentine Republic.

Argentina, officially the Argentine Republic (Spanish: República Argentina), is a country in South America. With a total surface area of 2,766,890 km² (1,078,000 sq mi), it is the second largest country in the continent, next to Brazil, and the eighth largest in the world. It is bordered by Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. It is a federal republic, currently lead by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner since December 10, 2007. She succeeded her husband Nestor Kirchner, who had been president since May 2003. Its official language is Spanish. It has a total population of 40,301,927, as of a July 2007 estimate, making it the 30th country in the world by population. Its currency is the Argentine peso, issued by the Central Bank of Argentina. It is divided into 23 provinces and its capital and largest city, Buenos Aires. It gained its independence from Spain on July 9, 1816.

According to the CIA World Factbook,[1] 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 authoritarian rule and interference in subsequent governments was followed by a military junta that took power in 1976. Democracy returned in 1983, 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 resignation of several interim presidents. The economy has recovered strongly since bottoming out in 2002.

Economy

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 9% annually over the subsequent five 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, however, reached double-digit levels in 2006 and the government of President Nestor Kirchner responded with "voluntary" price agreements with businesses, as well as export taxes and restraints. Multi-year price freezes on electricity and natural gas rates for residential users stoked consumption and kept private investment away, leading to restrictions on industrial use and blackouts in 2007.

International

While Argentina has agreed not to pursue its claim on the Falklands, it continues to have territorial disputes. One territorial claim in Antarctica partially overlaps UK and Chilean claims.

There is an unruly region at convergence of Argentina-Brazil-Paraguay borders, which is a locus of money laundering, smuggling, arms and illegal narcotics trafficking, and fundraising for extremist organizations.

A dispute between Brazil and Uruguay over Braziliera/Brasiliera Island in the Quarai/Cuareim River leaves the tripoint with Argentina in question; in January 2007, the International Court of Justice provisionally ruled Uruguay may begin construction of two paper mills on the Uruguay River, which forms the border with Argentina, while the court examines further whether Argentina has the legal right to stop such construction with potential environmental implications to both countries; 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)

Security

Argentina was part of Operation Condor, Senior leaders of the military Juntas were tried and convicted for human rights violations. Most lower-ranking individuals, however, received immunity under two new law: “Punto Final” (Final Point) and “Obediencia de Vida” (Justification Defense). Some other initiatives included the appointment of a civilian as head of the State Intelligence Agency and the functional delimitation of the different components of the intelligence community by the National Defense Law [Law No. 23.554, April 13, 1988] and the Internal Security Law [Law No. 24.059 , December 18, 1991.]

Argentina has military and police, but also, "security forces", or intermediate forces between police forces (provincial and federal) and the armed forces. They are coordinated, rather than commanded, by the National Direction of Internal Intelligence, located in the Interior Ministry. They are national organizations, without decentralized police: the Naval Prefecture, National Gendarmerie, Federal Police Force, and Local Police Forces.

The Argentine system is, in some respects, more decentralized, and, in other respects, more decentralized than the US intelligence community. There is no equivalent to the US Director of National Intelligence, but there is a National Intelligence Center (CNI) that has a coordinating rather than management role. CNI, in principle, is responsible for medium and long-term analysis, while the State Intelligence Secretary (SIDE) is responsible for short-term strategic intelligence. [2]

Military operations

In 1982, Argentina started the Falklands War, to established what it considered its natural and historic authority over islands it calls the Malvinas. These islands, however, were under British control, and the residents identified as British. After hard fighting, the British achieved a military victory, and maintain a small military force there.

Security and human rights

See also: U.S. intelligence activities in Argentina

There still needs to be external control, but a basic internal control mechanism could involve separating monolithic intelligence organizations into separate agencies with distinct roles, beginning with foreign versus domestic, and then, in the domestic area, among police and counterterrorism. This type of control is only beginning to evolve in Argentina, where three are issues of authoritarian traditions, as well as the need for designing constitutional controls and a consensus on the role of security organizations. In the historical context, the military became a force for internal control rather than dealing with external issues; the Falklands War was an anomaly.

The intelligence agencies, moving forward, were not seen as effective or objective. During the 1990s, Argentina experienced terrorism against the AMIA (Israeli Association) and the Israeli Embassy bombings, with over 100 dead. While responsibility has not been established, Hezbollah has been reported to have a connection. [3]

SIDE went through major changes in January 2000. First, the civilian head of the agency, Fernando de Santibañes, fired over 1000 employees. Many of the discharged agents were related to the military dictatorship of the seventies, with histories of extortion, kidnapping, torture, disappearances and assassinations. A new set of priorities were established: rather than focus on a threat of internal and external subversion, the new focus is on "illicit trafficking, corruption, white-collar crime, terrorism, money la undering, organized crime, and the formulation of strategic policies in different areas for the President."[2]

Scandal struck them in August 2000, when the head of the State Intelligence Agency, Fernando de Santibañes, was accused of paying bribes to opposition senators. "The scandal created an institutional crisis within Argentina. The head of the agency and several senators resigned in the last month. Additionally, the vice president Carlos Alvarez also resigned as an act of protest because he believed that the Executive Branch was not actively condemning the episode. A Federal Judge is still investigating the case."[2]

References