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 indigenous population, now estimated at 700,000, is concentrated in the 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.
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 limited the president and vice president to two consecutive terms, but allowed them to stand for a third term or more after an interval of at least one 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 will stand for reelection every two 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 autonomy for the city of Buenos Aires, which now elects its own mayor. 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 the president upon recommendation by the magistrates' council. The Supreme Court has the power, first asserted in 1854, to declare legislative acts unconstitutional.
Natural resources: Fertile plains (pampas). Minerals: lead,
zinc, tin, copper, iron, manganese, oil, uranium.
Agriculture (5% of GDP, about 40% of exports by value):
Products--grains, oilseeds and by-products, livestock products.
Industry (28% of GDP): Types--food processing, oil refining,
machinery and equipment, textiles, chemicals and petrochemicals.
Trade: Exports ($23.3 billion)--grains, meats, oilseeds,
manufactured products. Major markets--Brazil 25%; EU 20%; U.S. 11%; Chile 7%. Imports ($25.5 billion)--machinery, vehicles and transport products, chemicals. Major suppliers--EU 28%; Brazil 22%; U.S. 20%.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General in Argentina are located at 4300 Colombia Avenue in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires. Mission offices can be reached at tel (54)(11) 4777-4533/34; fax (54)(11) 4777-0197. Mailing addresses : U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires, APO AA 34034; or 4300 Colombia, 1425 Buenos Aires, Argentina. Embassy home page: firstname.lastname@example.org/baires_embassy.