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Geography - note: second-largest country in South America (after Brazil); strategic location relative to sea lanes between South Atlantic and South Pacific Oceans (Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage).

total: 2,766,890 sq km
land: 2,736,690 sq km
water : 30,200 sq km

Area - comparative: slightly less than three-tenths the size of the US.

Coastline: 4,989 km

Climate: mostly temperate; arid in southeast; subantarctic in southwest.

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

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

Environment - current issues: erosion results from inadequate flood controls and improper land use practices; irrigated soil degradation; desertification; air pollution in Buenos Aires and other major cities; water pollution in urban areas; rivers becoming polluted due to increased pesticide and fertilizer use.

Population: 35,797,985 (July 1997 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 28% (male 5,042,521; female 4,855,874)
15-64 years : 62% (male 11,133,884; female 11,155,104)
65 years and over: 10% (male 1,499,538; female 2,111,064) (July 1997 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.3% (1997 est.)

Birth rate: 20.01 births/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Death rate: 7.68 deaths/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 19.6 deaths/1,000 live births (1997 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 74.31 years
male: 70.67 years
female: 78.12 years (1997 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.69 children born/woman (1997 est.)

Ethnic groups: white 85%, mestizo, Amerindian, or other nonwhite groups 15%

Religions: nominally Roman Catholic 90% (less than 20% practicing), Protestant 2%, Jewish 2%, other 6%

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

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96.2%
male : 96.2%
female: 96.2% (1995 est.)

National capital: Buenos Aires

Independence: 9 July 1816 (from Spain)

National holiday: Revolution Day, 25 May (1810)

Constitution: 1 May 1853; revised August 1994

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Political parties and leaders: Justicialist Party or PJ [Carlos Saul MENEM] (Peronist umbrella political organization); Radical Civic Union or UCR [Rodolfo TERRAGNO] (moderately left-of-center party); Union of the Democratic Center or UCD (conservative party); Dignity and Independence Political Party or MODIN [Aldo RICO] (right-wing party); Front for a Country in Solidarity or Frepaso (a four party coalition) [leader Carlos ALVAREZ]; several provincial parties.

Economy - overview: Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, an export-oriented agricultural sector, and a diversified industrial base. Nevertheless, following decades of mismanagement and statist policies, the economy in the late 1980s was plagued with huge external debts and recurring bouts of hyperinflation. Elected in 1989, in the depths of recession, President MENEM has implemented a comprehensive economic restructuring program that shows signs of putting Argentina on a path of stable, sustainable growth. Argentina's currency has traded at par with the US dollar since April 1991, and inflation has fallen to its lowest level in 50 years. Argentines have responded to price stability by repatriating capital and investing in domestic industry. Growth averaged more than 8% between 1991 and 1994, then fell to 4.6% in 1995, largely in reaction to the Mexican peso crisis. The economy grew at 4.4% in 1996, with the strongest growth occurring in the second half of the year. Unemployment increased slightly - to over 17% - and Buenos Aires was forced to renegotiate fiscal targets with the IMF. Although the economy is expected to grow by at least 5% in 1997, unemployment and fiscal concerns will continue to challenge the MENEM administration.

GDP - real growth rate: 4.4% (1996)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 7%
industry: 29%
services: 64% (1995 est.)

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

Agriculture - products: wheat, corn, sorghum, soybeans, sugar beets; livestock

total value: $23.8 billion (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities : meat, wheat, corn, oilseed, manufactures, fuels
partners: Brazil 26.1%, US 8.5%, Chile 7.0%, Netherlands 5.7%, Italy 3.5% (1995)

total value: $23.7 billion (c.i.f., 1996)
commodities: machinery and equipment, chemicals, metals, transport equipment, agricultural products
partners: Brazil 20.8%, US 20.7%, Italy 6.3%, Germany 6.2%, France 5.2% (1995)

Debt - external: $95 billion (1996 est.)

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 9,056,532 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 7,344,910 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $4.6 billion (1997)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 1.5% (1997)

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