U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes: Argentina, March 1998 
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs. 


OFFICIAL NAME: The Argentine Republic 


PROFILE 

Geography

Area: 2.8 million sq. km (1.1 million sq. mi.); about the size of the 
U.S. east of the Mississippi River; second-largest country in South 
America.
Cities: Capital--Buenos Aires (city: 3 million; metropolitan area: 12 
million). Other major cities--Cordoba (1.2 million); Rosario (950,000); 
Mar del Plata (900,000); Mendoza (400,000). 
Terrain: Andes mountains and foothills in west. Aconcagua, (7,021 m; 
23,034 ft) is highest peak in the Western Hemisphere; remainder of 
country is lowland; central region characterized by vast grassy plains 
(pampas).
Climate: Varied--predominantly temperate with extremes ranging from 
subtropical in the north to arid/subantarctic in far south.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Argentine(s).
Population (mid-1995): 34.6 million.
Annual population growth rate: 1.3%. 
Ethnic groups: European 97% , mostly of Spanish and Italian descent. 
Religions: Roman Catholic 92% , Protestant 2% , Jewish 2% , other 4%.
Language: Spanish.
Education: Years compulsory--7. Adult literacy--96.2%. 
Health: Infant mortality rate--23.6/1000. Life expectancy--72.3 yrs.
Work force: Industry and commerce--36%. Agriculture--19%. Transport and 
communications--6%. 

Government

Type: Republic.
Independence: July 9, 1816.
Constitution: 1853, revised 1994.
Branches: Executive--president, vice president, cabinet. Legislative--
bicameral congress (72-member Senate, 257-member Chamber of Deputies). 
Judicial--Supreme Court, federal and provincial trial courts.
Administrative subdivisions: 23 provinces and one federal capital 
district.
Political Parties: Justicialist, Radical Civic Union, FREPASO, numerous 
smaller national and provincial parties.
Suffrage: Universal adult. 

Economy (1997 figures) 

GDP: $310 billion.
Annual real growth rate: 8.1% .
Per capital GDP: $8,900.
Natural resources: Fertile plains (pampas). Minerals: lead, zinc, tin, 
copper, iron, manganese, oil, uranium.
Agriculture (8.5% of GDP, about 60% of exports by value): Products--
grains, oilseeds and by-products, livestock products.
Industry (30% of GDP): Types--food processing, oil refining, machinery 
and equipment, textiles, chemicals and petrochemicals. 
Trade: Exports $26.1 billion--grains, meats, oilseeds, manufactured 
products. Major markets--Brazil 30%; EU 15.5%; U.S. 9%. Imports $27.5 
billion--machinery, vehicles and transport products, chemicals. Major 
suppliers--EU 29%; Brazil 23%; U.S. 21%.

U.S.-ARGENTINE RELATIONS 

The United States and Argentina currently enjoy a close bilateral 
relationship, which was highlighted by President Clinton's visit to 
Argentina in October 1997. The efforts of the Menem Administration to 
open Argentina's economy and realign its foreign policy have contributed 
to the improvement in these relations, and the interests and policies of 
the two countries coincide on many issues. Argentina and the United 
States often vote together in the United Nations and other multilateral 
fora. Argentina has participated in many multilateral force deployments 
mandated by the United Nations Security Council, including recent 
missions to Haiti and the former Yugoslavia. Reflecting the growing 
partnership that marks ties between the two countries, on October 16, 
1997, Secretary of State Albright and Argentine Foreign Minister Di 
Tella held the first meeting of the Special Consultative Process to 
address important issues in the bilateral relationship. 

U.S. Embassy Functions

The U.S. Mission in Buenos Aires carries out the traditional diplomatic 
function of representing the United States Government and people in 
discussions with the Argentine Government, and more generally, in 
relations with the people of Argentina. The excellent political 
relationship between the United States and Argentina is increasingly 
reflected in the U.S. embassy's efforts to facilitate cooperation in 
nontraditional areas such as counter-terrorism, anti-narcotics, and 
scientific cooperation on space, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and 
the environment. 

The embassy also provides a wide range of services to U.S. citizens and 
businesses in Argentina. Officers from the U.S. Foreign Service, Foreign 
Commercial Service, and Foreign Agricultural Service work closely with 
the thousands of U.S. companies which maintain offices and/or do 
business in Argentina, providing information on Argentine trade and 
industry regulations and assisting U.S. companies starting or 
maintaining business ventures in Argentina. Attaches accredited to 
Argentina from the Department of Justice, including the Drug Enforcement 
Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs, the 
Federal Aviation Administration, and other federal agencies work closely 
with Argentine counterparts on issues related to international crime and 
other issues of concern. 

An active, sophisticated, and expanding media environment, together with 
growing positive interest in American culture and society, make 
Argentina an uncommonly receptive environment for the information and 
cultural-exchange work of the United States Information Service. The 
number of Argentines studying in U.S. universities is rapidly growing, 
and the Fulbright fellowship program has more than tripled the annual 
number of U.S. and Argentine academic grantees since 1994. 

The embassy's consular section provides vital services to the more than 
20,000 U.S. citizens resident in Argentina as well as to the more than 
330,000 who visit Argentina annually. Services include issuing 
passports, documenting the birth of U.S. citizens abroad, assisting in 
participation in U.S. elections by registered voters, offering tax and 
Social Security information, assisting U.S. citizens arrested and/or in 
jail in Argentina, and provision of other services in the event of 
death, destitution, or other emergencies abroad. 

Principal U.S. Embassy Officers

Ambassador--Vacant
Charge d'Affaires, a.i.--Manuel Rocha
Deputy Chief of Mission--Thomas Martin (acting)
Political Counselor--Mark A. Sigler
Economic Counselor--Patrick Syring (acting)
Commercial Counselor--Michael Likila
Consul General--Bryant J. Salter
Science Counselor--Philip Covington
Administrative Counselor--Benjamin Castro
Defense Attachˇ--Col. Jeffrey W. Whisenhunt, USAF
Commander, U.S. Military Group--LTC (P) Clark Lynn III, USA
Public Affairs Officer--Alexander Almasov 

The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General in Argentina are located at 4300 
Colombia Avenue in Buenos Aires' Palermo district. Mission offices can 
be reached at tel. (54)(1)777-4533/34; fax (54)(1)777-0197. Mailing 
addresses are: U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires, APO AA 34034; or 4300 
Colombia, 1425 Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

ECONOMY 

In 1989, after decades of economic decline and chronic bouts of 
inflation, Argentina under President Menem began an unprecedented, 
profound, and remarkably successful economic restructuring based on 
trade liberalization, privatization, public administrative reform, and 
macroeconomics stabilization. 

The 1991 Convertibility Law established a quasi-currency board which has 
provided the pillar of price stability but constrains monetary policy 
severely. The government privatized most state-controlled companies, 
opened the economy to foreign trade and investment, improved tax 
collection, and created private pension and workers compensation 
systems. 

As a result of these measures, Argentina is experiencing a boom in 
economic growth, which started in the early 1990s. Following a year-and-
a-half-long local recession, Argentina's real GDP growth reached 8% in 
1997--higher than the average of 6% for the 1991-1997 period. Industry, 
agriculture, construction, energy and mining all expanded considerably 
during the year. Real GDP growth will likely slow to approximately 4% in 
1998 (the Argentine Government projects over 5% growth). One of 
Argentina's challenges is to generate growth with more equitable 
distribution of income. 

The structural reforms undertaken this decade--coupled with monetary 
stability--fostered major new investments in industrial sectors 
producing goods for exports. This was most notable in the food products, 
oil and gas, automotive, and mining and metals sectors. As a result, 
Argentina's exports doubled in five years--from about $12 billion in 
1992 to about $25 billion in 1997. Similarly, imports almost doubled 
during the same period--rising from $15 billion to about $27.5 billion. 
Foreign direct investment flow--which averaged $3.5 billion annually 
from 1990 to 1995--exceeded $6 billion in 1997, according to reliable 
estimates. 

The October 1997 unemployment rate was 13.7%--down from 18.4% in mid-
1995. However, larger and more significant declines will come slowly 
over the longer term. This is likely because the government intends to 
implement several more privatization programs, labor productivity will 
rise as major private investments are implemented, and future growth 
will be strongest in the capital intensive sectors.

Argentina is vulnerable to abrupt changes in capital flows. However, 
strong leadership and earlier structural reforms helped the country 
weather the 1995-96 financial storm. Argentine authorities, supported by 
the U.S., Japan, Europe, and international financial institutions, 
reacted decisively to bolster the peso. The government has continued to 
demonstrate credibility through further economic adjustment and 
conclusion of a new Extended Fund Facility arrangement with the 
International Monetary Fund at the end of 1997. 

Argentina's principal economic policy challenges in 1998 are:

-- Stimulating job creation through labor market reform; 
-- Continuing the reform of provincial administration and banking; and 
-- Simplifying tax collection and combating tax evasion. 

Banking

Argentina's banking system began 1998 further consolidated and 
strengthened by recent large foreign investments. Peso and dollar 
deposits in the banking system grew strongly and reached nearly $70 
billion at the end of 1997--close to twice the level in June 1995, when 
bank deposits hit a low of $37 billion. Foreign-controlled banks now 
hold about 35% of total Argentine bank deposits.

In late 1997, shortly after the Asian financial crisis began, the 
Government of Argentina reassured investors that the country's banking 
system and reserves were strong enough to withstand the storm. Rapid 
growth in bank deposits indicates growing confidence in the financial 
system and in Argentina's reforms. Bank financing and lending costs are 
still high by industrialized country standards. Credit is very expensive 
for certain sectors. Easier lending for small and medium sized firms and 
improved credit risk management are essential to foster job creation.

In late 1997, the Menem Administration announced its intention to 
privatize Banco de la Nacion, Argentina's largest commercial bank. 
Strong political opposition, however, makes the timing of this 
privatization uncertain. During 1998, the government also intends to 
privatize the National Mortgage Bank.

Foreign Trade

A key development in helping Argentina meet its external payments is the 
dramatic growth in Argentina's foreign trade since 1990. Foreign trade 
plays an increasingly important role in Argentina's economic 
development. Exports currently represent less than 10% of Argentina's 
GDP. This percentage will rise steadily as Argentine export 
competitiveness improves--as a result of increased productivity 
generated by new investments, diversification of export products and 
markets, and very low domestic inflation.

Grain output is expected to reach a record 60 million tons before the 
end of the decade. Fresh Argentine beef was exported to the U.S. market 
in August 1997 for the first time in over 50 years, and other export 
prospects improved tremendously.

However, export growth decelerated modestly in 1997 due to lower than 
expected shipments of some primary products, notably oilseeds, cotton, 
petroleum, and derivatives. Meanwhile, GDP growth led to a surge in 
imports. Capital goods imports in 1997 (which account for 44% of 
Argentina's total) grew nearly 40% from 1996 levels--more than double 
the rate of other import categories.

MERCOSUR, a regional customs union and emerging trade bloc (which 
includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, and has associations 
with Chile and Bolivia), is one of the largest and most dynamic 
integrated markets in the developing world. Close cooperation between 
Brazil and Argentina--historic competitors--is key to MERCOSUR's 
impressive growth. Argentina's trade with the other members of MERCOSUR 
has grown fivefold since 1991. (During that period, its total foreign 
trade doubled). As a result, Argentina will focus more attention on 
deepening MERCOSUR relations. MERCOSUR needs closer coordination of 
macroeconomic policies and better dispute resolution mechanisms.

Ties to MERCOSUR will take on added importance in coming years. 
Argentina's trade and investment have tremendous potential to grow along 
with hemispheric economic integration. The 1997 financial turbulence 
triggered by the East Asian financial crisis underscored that 
macroeconomic conditions in Brazil--Argentina's most important trading 
partner--are important variables for Argentina's foreign trade in 1998 
and beyond. On an upbeat note, Chile's association with MERCOSUR has 
improved access for Argentine exports to East Asia via Chilean ports. 

The U.S. registered trade surpluses with Argentina every year from 1993 
to 1997 totaling nearly $13 billion. The annual surplus reached $3 
billion in 1997--due in large part to Argentina's continued demand for 
capital goods, as well as the recovery of the local economy. The U.S. 
surplus with Argentina could climb to a record $3.6 billion in 1998. 
This trend reflects the Argentine Government's policy of encouraging 
modernization and improved competitiveness for Argentine industry.

Argentina adheres to most treaties and international agreements on 
intellectual property. It is a member of the World Intellectual Property 
Organization and signed the Uruguay Round agreements in December 1993--
including measures related to intellectual property. However, extension 
of adequate patent protection to pharmaceuticals has been a highly 
contentious bilateral issue. In May 1997, the U.S. suspended 50% of 
Argentina's GSP benefits because of its unsatisfactory pharmaceutical 
patent law. 

Investment

U.S. direct investment in Argentina, an estimated $12 billion in mid-
1997, is concentrated in telecommunications, banking, electric energy 
generation, gas and petroleum production, food processing, and motor 
vehicle manufacturing. Additional direct U.S. investment of $3 billion 
is expected in 1998. 

The U.S. and Argentina have an Overseas Private Investment Corporation 
(OPIC) agreement and an active U.S. Export-Import Bank (EXIMBANK) 
program. Total EXIMBANK exposure in Argentina approaches $2.5 billion, 
and the OPIC portfolio is approaching the country limit.

Under the 1994 U.S.-Argentine bilateral investment treaty, U.S. 
investors enjoy national treatment in all sectors except shipbuilding, 
fishing, nuclear power generation, and uranium production. The treaty 
allows for international arbitration of investment disputes.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS 

After years of instability, Argentina is today a fully functioning 
democracy. During President Carlos Menem's first term (1989-1995), he 
dramatically reordered Argentina's foreign and domestic policies. His 
overwhelming reelection in May 1995--in the face of hardships caused by 
economic restructuring and exacerbated by the Mexico peso crisis--
provided a mandate for his free market economic strategy and pro-U.S. 
foreign policy. Menem's second term ends in July 1999; the constitution 
does not currently provide for a sitting president to succeed himself 
more than once. 

The 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 which roughly mirrors the structure of the national 
constitution. 

The president and vice president were traditionally elected indirectly 
by an electoral college to a single six-year term. They were not allowed 
immediately to seek reelection. Constitutional reforms adopted in August 
1994 reduced the presidential term to four years, abolished the 
electoral college in favor of direct election, and allowed a sitting 
president to stand for reelection after his or her first term. Cabinet 
ministers are appointed by the president. The constitution grants the 
president considerable power, including a line-item veto. 

Provinces traditionally sent two senators, elected by provincial 
legislatures, to the upper house of Congress. Voters in the federal 
capital of Buenos Aires elected an electoral college which elected the 
city's senators. The constitution now mandates a transition to direct 
election for all senators, and the addition of a third senator from each 
province and the capital. The third senator will represent the electoral 
district's largest minority party. The revised constitution reduces 
senatorial terms from nine to six years in office. One third of the 
Senate stands for reelection every three years. 

Members of the Chamber of Deputies are directly elected to four-year 
terms. Voters elect half the members of the lower house every two years 
through a system of proportional representation. 

Other important changes to the constitutional system included the 
creation of a senior coordinating minister to serve under the president 
and the popular election of the mayor of the city of Buenos Aires. The 
constitution establishes the judiciary as a separate and independent 
entity of government. The president appoints members of the Supreme 
Court with the consent of the Senate. Other federal judges are appointed 
by a special judicial commission. The Supreme Court has the power, first 
asserted in 1854, to declare legislative acts unconstitutional. 

Political Parties

The two largest political parties are the Partido Justicialista or 
Peronist Party (PJ), which evolved out of Juan Peron's efforts to expand 
the role of labor in the political process in the 1940s, and the Union 
Civica Radical, or Radical Civic Union (UCR), founded in 1890. 
Traditionally, the UCR has had more urban middle-class support and the 
PJ has received more labor support. Support for both parties is broadly 
based. A grouping of mostly left parties and former Peronists--the Front 
for a Country of Solidarity (FREPASO)--has emerged in the 1990s as a 
serious political contender especially in the Federal Capital. Smaller 
parties occupy various positions on the political spectrum and some are 
active only in certain provinces. 

Historically, organized labor (largely tied to Menem's Peronist Party) 
and the armed forces have also played significant roles in national 
life. Labor is only just emerging from disarray; its political power has 
been significantly weakened by Menem's free market reforms. The armed 
forces are firmly under civilian control. Repudiated by the public after 
a period of military rule (1976-83), marked by human rights violations, 
economic decline, and military defeat in the 1982 Falkland/Malvinas 
Islands war, the Argentine military is now a slimmed-down, all volunteer 
force focused largely on international peacekeeping. 

Government Policy

The Menem Administration has pursued wide-ranging economic reforms 
designed to open the Argentine economy and enhance its international 
competitiveness. Privatization, deregulation, fewer import barriers, and 
a fixed exchange rate have been cornerstones of this effort. All these 
changes have dramatically reduced the role of the Argentine state in 
regulating the domestic market. The reform agenda, however, remains 
incomplete, including improvements in the judicial system and provincial 
administration. 

National Security

The president and a civilian minister of defense control the Argentine 
armed forces. The paramilitary forces under the control of the Ministry 
of Interior are the Gendarmeria (border police) and the Prefectura Naval 
(coast guard). The Argentine armed forces maintain close defense 
cooperation and military supply relationships with the United States. 
Other countries also have military relationships with the Argentine 
forces, principally Israel, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. The lack 
of budgetary resources is the most serious problem facing the Argentine 
military. Current economic conditions and the government's commitment to 
reduce public sector spending have slowed modernization and 
restructuring efforts. Under President Menem, Argentina's traditionally 
difficult relations with its neighbors have improved dramatically and 
Argentine officials publicly deny seeing a potential threat from any 
neighboring country.

PEOPLE 

Argentines are a fusion of diverse national and ethnic groups. 
Descendants of Italian and Spanish immigrants predominate. 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, mainly in urban areas. Argentina has 
the largest Jewish population in Latin America, about 250,000 strong. In 
recent years, there has been a substantial influx of immigrants from 
neighboring Latin American countries. The native Indian population, now 
estimated at 50,000, is concentrated in the peripheral provinces of the 
north, northwest, and south. The Argentine population has one of Latin 
America's lowest growth rates. Eighty percent of the population resides 
in urban areas of more than 2,000 and more than one-third of the 
population lives in the greater Buenos Aires area. This sprawling 
metropolis, with about 12 million inhabitants, serves as the focus for 
national life. Argentines enjoy comparatively high standards of living; 
half the population considers itself middle class. 

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS 

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. They further integrated Argentina into their 
empire following the establishment of the Vice-Royalty of Rio de la 
Plata in 1776, and Buenos Aires became a flourishing port. 

Buenos Aires formally declared independence from Spain on July 9, 1816. 
Argentines revere General 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 between themselves to determine the future of 
the nation. National unity was established and the constitution 
promulgated in 1853. 

Two forces combined to create the modern Argentine nation in the late 
19th century: the introduction of modern agricultural techniques and the 
integration of Argentina into the world economy. Foreign investment and 
immigration from Europe aided this economic revolution. The investment, 
primarily British, came in such fields as railroads and ports. The 
migrants who worked to develop Argentina's resources came from 
throughout Europe, but mostly from Italy and Spain.

Conservative forces dominated Argentine politics until 1916, when their 
traditional rivals, the Radicals, won control of the government through 
a democratic election. The Radicals, with their emphasis on fair 
elections and democratic institutions, opened their doors to Argentina's 
expanding middle class as well as to elites previously excluded from 
power for various reasons. The Argentine military forced aged Radical 
President Hipolito Yrigoyen from power in 1930 and ushered in another 
decade of Conservative rule. 

Using fraud and force when necessary, the governments of the 1930s 
attempted to contain forces for economic and political change that 
eventually helped produce the governments of Juan Domingo Peron (b. 
1897). New social and political forces were seeking political power. 
These included the modern military and the labor movement 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 aggressively pursued policies 
aimed at giving an economic and political voice to the working class and 
greatly expanded the number of unionized workers. In 1947, Peron 
announced the first five-year plan based on nationalization and 
industrialization. He presented himself as a friend of labor and 
assisted in establishing the powerful General Confederation of Labor 
(CGT). Peron's dynamic wife, Eva Duarte de Peron, known as Evita (1919-
1952), helped her husband develop his appeals to labor and women's 
groups. Women obtained the right to vote in 1947. 

Peron won reelection in 1952, but the military deposed him in 1955. He 
went into exile, eventually settling in Spain. In the 1950s and 1960s, 
military and civilian administrations traded power. They tried, 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 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 J. Campora, to the presidency. Peron's followers 
also commanded strong majorities in both houses of the National 
Congress, which assumed office on May 25, 1973. 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 
terrorist 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 her 
administration was undermined by economic problems, Peronist intraparty 
struggles, and growing terrorism from both left and right. A military 
coup removed her from office on March 24, 1976. Until December 10, 1983, 
the armed forces formally exercised power through a junta composed of 
the three service commanders.

The armed forces applied harsh measures against terrorists and their 
sympathizers. They silenced armed opposition and restored basic order. 
The costs of what became known as the "Dirty War" were high in terms of 
lives lost and basic human rights violated. 

Serious economic problems, defeat by the U.K. in 1982 after an 
unsuccessful Argentine attempt to forcibly take control of the 
Falklands/Malvinas Islands, public revulsion in the face of severe human 
rights abuses, and mounting charges of corruption combined to discredit 
and discourage the military regime. This prompted a period of gradual 
transition and led the country toward democratic rule. Acting under 
public pressure, the junta lifted bans on political parties and restored 
other basic political liberties. Argentina experienced a generally 
successful and peaceful return to democracy.

On October 30, 1983, Argentines went to the polls to choose a president, 
vice president, and national, provincial, and local officials in 
elections international observers found to be fair, open, and honest. 
The country returned to constitutional rule after Raul Alfonsin, 
candidate of the Radial Civic Union (UCR), received 52% of the popular 
vote for president. He began a six-year term of office on December 10, 
1983. 

In 1985 and 1987, large turnouts for mid-term elections demonstrated 
continued public support for a strong and vigorous democratic system. 
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, constant friction with 
the military, failure to resolve endemic economic problems, and an 
inability to maintain public confidence undermined the Alfonsin 
Government's effectiveness, which left office six months early after 
Peronist candidate Carlos Saul Menem won the 1989 presidential 
elections. 

As President, Menem launched a major overhaul of Argentine domestic 
policy. Large-scale structural reforms have dramatically reversed the 
role of the state in Argentine economic life. A decisive leader pressing 
a controversial agenda, Menem has not been reluctant to use the 
presidency's extensive powers to issue decrees advancing modernization 
when the congress was unable to reach consensus on his proposed reforms. 
Those powers were curtailed somewhat when the constitution was reformed 
in 1994 as a result of the so-called Olivos Pact with the opposition 
Radical Party. That arrangement opened the way for Menem to seek and win 
reelection with 50% of the vote in the three-way 1995 presidential race.

The 1995 election saw the emergence of the moderate left FREPASO 
political alliance. This alternative to the traditional two main 
political parties in Argentina is particularly strong in Buenos Aires, 
but as yet lacks the national infrastructure of the Peronist and Radical 
parties. In an important development in Argentina's political life, all 
three major contestants in the 1995 race espouse free market economic 
policies. 

Argentina held mid-term congressional elections in October 1997. The 
opposition UCR-FREPASO alliance made major gains in the number of seats 
it held and deprived the Peronists of an absolute majority. The 
elections are widely seen as setting the stage for the 1999 presidential 
race. The government's pro-market policies remain unchallenged, but 
continued high unemployment and growing public concern over perceived 
corruption have hurt the government's standing in public opinion polls. 

FOREIGN POLICY 

In foreign policy, Menem has dramatically made partnership with the 
United States the centerpiece of his approach. Argentina was the only 
Latin American country to participate in the Gulf war and all phases of 
the Haiti operation. It has contributed to UN peacekeeping operations 
worldwide, and has offered to send peacekeepers to Eastern Slavonia and 
police to the international Police Task force in Bosnia. It has recently 
offered to send a military medical unit to the Gulf in support of the 
effort to secure Iraqi compliance with United Nations resolutions. In 
recognition of Argentina's contributions to international security and 
peacekeeping, the U.S. Government designated it as a major non-NATO ally 
in January 1998. Menem was an enthusiastic supporter of the December 
1994 Summit of the Americas. At the UN, Argentina is one of the U.S.'s 
closest collaborators. In regional fora, such as the OAS and Rio Group, 
Argentina has repeatedly advanced U.S. goals. The Menem Administration 
supports the U.S. campaign to improve human rights in Cuba and joins 
with the U.S. in international disarmament efforts from nuclear supply 
to control of missile technology.

Eager for closer ties to developed nations, Argentina has pursued 
relationships with the OECD and has left the Non-Aligned Movement. It 
has become a leading advocate of nonproliferation efforts worldwide. A 
strong proponent of enhanced regional stability in South America, 
Argentina has revitalized its relationship with Brazil; settled 
lingering border disputes with Chile; served with the U.S., Brazil, and 
Chile as one of the four guarantors of the Ecurador-Peru peace process; 
and restored diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom. In September 
1995, Argentina and the UK signed an agreement to promote oil and gas 
exploration in the Southwest Atlantic, defusing a potentially difficult 
issue and opening the way to further cooperation between the two 
nations.

Principal Government Officials

President--Carlos Saul Menem
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Guido Di Tella
Ambassador to the United States--Diego Guelar 
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--Alicia Martinez Rios
Ambassador to the United Nations--Fernando Petrella 

Argentina maintains an embassy in the United States at 1600 New 
Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington DC 20009 (tel. 202-939-6400; FAX 202-332-
3171). It has consular offices in the following locations:

Atlanta: 
245 Peachtree Center Ave., Suite 2101
Atlanta, GA 30303
Tel: (404) 880-0805; Fax: (404) 880-0806 

Chicago:
205 North Michigan Ave., Suite 4209
Chicago, IL 60601
Tel: (312) 819-2620; Fax (312) 819-2612 

Houston:
1990 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 770
Houston, TX 77056
Tel: (713) 871-8935; Fax (713) 871-1639 

Los Angeles:
5055 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 210
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tel: (213) 954-9155 fax (713) 871-9076 

Miami:
800 Brickell Ave. PH1
Miami, FL 33131
Tel: (305) 373-7794; Fax: (305) 371-7108 

New York:
12 West 56th St.
New York, NY 10019
Tel: (212) 603-0400; Fax: (212) 541-7746 

Washington, DC:
1718 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20009
Tel: (202) 797-8826 

Office of the Economic and Trade Representative
1901 L St., NW
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 56-4475 

OTHER CONTACT INFORMATION:

American Chamber of Commerce in Argentina
Viamonte 1133, 8th floor
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tel: (54)(1) 371-4500; Fax: (54)(1) 371-8400
Home page: http://www.amchamarg.com

U.S. Department of Commerce
Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
International Trade Administration
14th and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 202-482-2436; 1-800-USA-TRADE; Fax: 202-482-4726; Internet: 
http://www.ita.doc.gov
Automated fax service for trade-related information: 202-482-4464

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION 

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel 
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the country.

Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information 
quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term 
conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of 
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by 
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information 
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:  
and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the 
modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set 
terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop 
bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the 
password is info (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries 
international security information from the Overseas Security Advisory 
Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs 
Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on 
obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased 
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 
202-512-2250.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
4000. 

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate 
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648).

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water 
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information 
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is 
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication). 

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas 
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country 
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). 
Registering with the embassy may help you to replace lost identity 
documents or help family members contact you in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information: 

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; 
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign 
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at 
http://www.state.gov.

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual basis by 
the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact 
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or 
fax (202) 512-2250. 

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, 
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet 
(www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-
1986 for more information.

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