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Tango click on the image to enlarge
Argentines are a fusion of diverse national and ethnic groups, with descendants of Italian and Spanish immigrants predominant. 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's population is overwhelmingly Catholic, but it also has the largest Jewish population in Latin America, about 250,000 strong, and is home to one of the largest Islamic mosques in Latin America. In recent years, there has been a substantial influx of immigrants from neighbouring Latin American countries.

The indigenous population, 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 cities or towns of more than 2,000, and over one-third lives in the greater Buenos Aires area. With 13 million inhabitants, this sprawling metropolis serves as the focus for national life. Argentines enjoy comparatively high standards of living; however, the economic crisis during 2001 and 2002 left 47.8% of the population living below the poverty line as of June 2004.

Buenos Aires click on the image to enlarge
A majority of the population of Argentina is nominally Roman Catholic. About 2% are Protestant, and another 2% are Jewish. In the last decades, as in the rest of Latin America, there has also been a rise in Evangelical movements, which have mostly gathered converts from Catholicism in the lower classes. Although Jews only account for 2% of Argentina's population, Buenos Aires has the second largest population of Jewish people in the Americas.

Catholic practices (especially in the non-central areas) incorporate a great deal of syncretism; for example, religious festivals in the north-western provinces feature Catholic icons in (or along with) ancient Andean pagan ceremonies.

Argentina is a federal republic formed by 23 autonomous provinces and one autonomous territory, the capital city (Buenos Aires).  An elected president, who appoints a cabinet, holds the country’s executive power.  Its mandate, which may be renewed only for another similar term, lasts four years.  Legislative power is exercised by a bicameral legislature with a Lower Chamber (currently with 254 elected Deputies of the Nation) and an upper chamber or Senate (composed of 72 elected Senators from the provinces and the autonomous capital city).  The highest federal court is the Supreme Court, made up of nine judges.

National Military Service click on the image to enlarge
Each of the provinces has its own government and courts that mirror the federal system.  While substantive law is largely the same at both the federal and provincial levels, procedure may vary in provincial courts.  Under Argentina’s constitution, the provinces delegate to the federal legislature the power to enact laws of national scope governing civil and commercial issues, foreign relations, defence and other matters.  Individual provinces may also enact their own specific provisions.

National Military Service has become professional during the last decade when compulsory enrolment was abolished.

The defence policy stresses cooperation with the neighbouring countries and participation in the peace operations and missions approved and directed by the United Nations.

Argentina's economy has traditionally been based on agriculture, but the industrial and service sectors have also grown in importance in recent years. Livestock (cattle and sheep) and grains have long been the bulwark of its wealth; its cattle herds are among the world's finest. As an exporter of wheat, corn, flax, oats, beef, mutton, hides, and wool, Argentina rivals the United States, Canada, and Australia. Its other agricultural products include oilseeds, sorghum, soybeans, and sugar beets. Argentina is the world's largest source of tannin and linseed oil. The Pampa is the nation's chief agricultural area; however, since the 1930s there has been a great rise in production in other areas, especially in the oases of the Monte and the irrigated valleys of N Patagonia.

Although Argentina has a variety of minerals, they are of local importance and are not completely adequate to support the country's industries. Domestic oil and gas production has made the nation self-sufficient in energy; pipelines connect the oil and gas fields with Buenos Aires and other major refining centers. Argentina also exploits its ample hydroelectric resources. The large coal field of S Patagonia has low-grade coal.

Argentine industry click on the image to enlarge
Argentine industry, developed after World War I and long protected by a strong nationalistic policy, made the country virtually self-sufficient in the production of consumer goods and many types of machinery. Food processing (in particular meatpacking, flour milling, and canning) is the chief manufacturing industry; textiles, leather goods, and chemicals are also major products. Argentina's principal imports are machinery, metals, and other manufactured goods. The chief trading partners are the United States, Brazil, and Italy and other European Union countries. Argentina is a member of Mercosur.

In recent decades Argentina has experienced both inflation and recession. Privatization and other economic reforms begun by President Menem in the early 1990s produced unprecedented economic growth, but significant economic problems remained, including high unemployment and a massive national debt (due to freehanded government spending and widespread tax evasion). The economy was hurt by Brazil's recession and currency devaluation in the late 1990s, but the pegging of the peso to the dollar combined with Argentina's own economic problems resulted in economic collapse in 2001. The economy did not begin to grow strongly again until 2003.
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