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ARGENTINA in BRIEF

History

MALVINAS ISLANDS

 

Jesuit ruins of San Ignacio in the Province of Misiones

Before the arrival of Europeans at the beginning of the 16th century, the area that is now known as Argentina had a population of about 100 000, with established settlements in the north west that were part of the Inca empire, and nomadic Indians scattered throughout the rest of the territory.  In 1516 Juan Díaz de Solís became the first European to set foot on Argentine soil, coming from the sea.  The first settlement of Buenos Aires in 1536 by Pedro de Mendoza, who came from Paraguay, was destroyed by the Indians.  Then in 1580, Buenos Aires was founded for a second and definitive time by Juan de Garay.  The colonizers brought with them the Spanish language, Catholicism and European traditions.  On May 25th 1810, the first independent government was established, however, independence was not formally declared until 9 July, 1816.  During this period and the first years of the following decade, Argentina fought to consolidate its independence and contributed through significant military campaigns to achieve the independence of neighbouring countries, Chile and Perú in particular.  From the 1820s a period of intense domestic struggle took place among political groups, which lasted until the middle of the century.  At the centre of the political dispute were the ideas of Unitarism and Federation, as well as the supremacy of Buenos Aires.

In 1833, British Forces invaded and occupied the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, a territory 500 kilometres east of the southern coast of Argentina, expelling the local government and Argentine citizens living there. [1]

In 1853 the first National Constitution was agreed upon, and Justo José de Urquiza was appointed as the first President of the Argentine Republic.  Although the province of Buenos Aires was not part of the first constitutional state, it joined nine years later in 1862.  The city of Buenos Aires was named capital of Argentina by Federal Law in 1880.

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San Jose Palace,  Province of Entre Rios

In 1889, the Civic Union, a political movement, which later became a party known as the Radical Civic Union, was formed.  It demanded electoral reform and the introduction of the secret ballot for the adult male population.  Years after, in 1912, President Roque Saenz Peña enacted the Law of Universal Ballot requiring secret compulsory votes for all men over 18 years of age.  Due to this reform, the Radical Civic Union candidate, Hipolito Yrigoyen was elected President from 1916 to 1922 and again in 1928.  A military coup lead by the Army deposed Yrigoyen in 1930 interrupting 77 years of civilian and democratic rule.  A succession of military and civilian governments mingled for the next fifty years. During this time, political and economic instability and autocratic governing were mixed with periods of civilian government, economic growth and political tolerance.

After the Second World War, the military officer Juan Domingo Perón, who headed a political movement known as Justicialismo or Peronismo, won the Presidency with a significant majority.  His government, during the second term, was ousted by the Armed Forces in September of 1955.  In 1973 after 18 years of exile, while several democratic and military governments alternated in power, Perón returned to the country and was again elected President.  He died one year later in 1974, and was succeeded by his third wife, María Estela Martinez de Perón, who was deposed by a military coup in 1976.  The subsequent government engaged in political persecutions, committing grave violations of human rights under the justification that it fought terrorist groups.

Democracy was definitively re-established in 1983.  In December of that year, Raúl Alfonsín from the Radical Union Civic Party was elected President of the Argentine Republic.  He was succeeded by Carlos Saúl Menem in 1989 from the Justicialist or Peronist Party, who finished his second period in December 1999.

Dr. Fernando de la Rúa was elected President on 24 October 1999 taking office on 10 December  of the same year. At the end of December 2001, following general protests against the persistence of the four-year economic recession, President de la Rúa resigned from his position. The National Assembly, formed jointly by the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, after a brief interregnum, designated as President of the Nation, from 1 January 2002, Senator Eduardo Duhalde, former Governor of the Province of Buenos Aires and former Vice President of the Nation. His term of office ended on 25 May 2003, when he was succeeded by Nestor Kirchner, who won the federal elections for the term 2003 - 2007. It is worth mentioning that in the 20-year period since 1983, during which four elected governments have alternated in power, and profound institutional reforms have been accomplished, the consolidation of democracy in Argentina has been firmly established.

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1. Argentina’s legitimate sovereignty rights over the Islands have been claimed repeatedly before the British Government and International Organisations since the date of occupation, and from 1948 before the United Nations which in 1965 enacted a Resolution calling the parties to resolve the dispute.  In April 1982, the military government took over the Malvinas Islands from Great Britain.  The British Forces recovered control of the Islands in June of the same year after a brief war.  With the definitive return of democracy in 1983 after 50 years of military and civilian governments alternating in power, Argentina returned to its traditional policy of seeking the recognition of its legitimate sovereignty rights through peaceful means.  It has tried since then to make the United Kingdom agree to engage in negotiations in accordance with the United Nations' Resolutions that call for the settlement of the dispute.

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