This huge country occupies
most of the southern part of South America, and stretches
a total of 2,300 miles from Bolivia in the north to near
Cape Horn far away to the south. Just smaller than India
and the eighth largest country in the world, Argentina
totals 1,080,000 square miles. To the west, bordering the
length of Chile are the Andes Mountains and to the east,
down to the Atlantic are the great plains and pampas.
Climate ranges from sub-tropical to cold temperate.
Population and Economy -
Out of a 1980 population of 27,900,000, nearly 10 million
lived in and around the seaport capital of Buenos
Aires on the River Plate estuary. The great majority
of the people are of European origin, mainly from Spain
and Italy and the native Indian population is small.
Language is Spanish, the main religion Roman Catholic and
much of the country's culture is European Mediterranean in
character. Agriculture and livestock have long been an
important part of the country's economy, and the
meat-packing and food processing industries reflected
this. Apart from oil and mineral production, there had
been a considerable growth in recent years in the textile,
plastics, machine tool, car and steel product industries.
Exports to Britain in 1980 were worth £144 million, and
imports £173 million.
Communications by rail, road
and airline, and through the medium of television and
radio were well developed, and education compulsory from 6
to 13, with secondary education up to 17 plus in most of
the big cities and towns. Literature flourished, and
around 450 newspapers were published throughout the
History - The Spanish first
went ashore in what was to become Argentina in 1515.
Following three centuries of colonisation, a six year long
struggle led by General Jose de San Martin brought
independence in 1816. Then a long period of dictatorship by
Juan de Rosas was ended in 1852, Buenos Aires became the
seat of federal government, and the country developed
rapidly. The military took over in 1930, Juan Peron was
later elected president in 1945 with the strong support of
his wife Evita who died in 1952, and he was then ousted
three years later. Political and economic instability over
the next eighteen years led to Peron being recalled from
exile and becoming president again in 1973, but he died
within a year.
Further difficulties brought
about a bloodless military coup in 1976 along with
repressive and often brutal government by a junta composed
of the commanders of the armed forces. Lieutenant General
Videla served as the first president for the five years
until 1981, but after a few months, his successor Viola
was moved out and replaced in December by Army General
Leopoldo Galtieri, with the support of the other members,
Air Force Brigadier General Basilio Lami Dozo and Admiral
As the 150th anniversary of
British control over the Falkland Islands neared, the
junta gave priority to the recovery of the Islas Malvinas,
if necessary by force.
Argentina would thus resolve
what to them was a major and long-standing territorial
dispute, but to Britain a distant and almost forgotten
remnant of empire.