Europeans arrived in the region with the 1502 voyage of Amerigo Vespucci. Spanish navigator Juan Diaz de Solias visited what is now Argentina in 1516. Spain established a permanent colony on the site of Buenos Aires in 1580, although initial settlement was primarily overland from Peru. The Spanish further integrated Argentina into their empire by establishing the Vice Royalty of Rio de la Plata in 1776, and Buenos Aires became a flourishing port. Buenos Aires formally declared independence from Spain on July 9, 1816. Argentines revere Gen. Jose de San Martin, who campaigned in Argentina, Chile, and Peru as the hero of their national independence. Following the defeat of the Spanish, centralist and federationist groups waged a lengthy conflict between themselves to determine the future of the nation. National unity was established, and the constitution promulgated in 1853. Two forces combined to create the modern Argentine nation in the late 19th century: the introduction of modern agricultural techniques and integration of Argentina into the world economy. Foreign investment and immigration from Europe aided this economic revolution. Investment, primarily British, came in such fields as railroads and ports. As in the United States, the migrants who worked to develop Argentina's resources--especially the western pampas--came from throughout Europe.
From 1880 to 1930 Argentina became one of the world's 10 wealthiest nations based on rapid expansion of agriculture and foreign investment in infrastructure. Conservative forces dominated Argentine politics until 1916, when their traditional rivals, the Radicals, won control of the government. The Radicals, with their emphasis on fair elections and democratic institutions, opened their doors to Argentina's rapidly expanding middle class as well as to groups previously excluded from power. The Argentine military forced aged Radical President Hipolito Yrigoyen from power in 1930 and ushered in another decade of Conservative rule. Using fraud and force when necessary, the governments of the 1930s attempted to contain the currents of economic and political change that eventually led to the ascendance of Juan Domingo Peron (b. 1897). New social and political forces were seeking political power, including a modern military and labor movements that emerged from the growing urban working class.
The military ousted Argentina's constitutional government in 1943. Peron, then an army colonel, was one of the coup's leaders, and he soon became the government's dominant figure as Minister of Labor. Elections carried him to the presidency in 1946. He aggressively pursued policies aimed empowering the working class and greatly expanded the number of unionized workers. In 1947, Peron announced the first 5-year plan based on the growth of industries he nationalized. He helped establish the powerful General Confederation of Labor (CGT). Peron's dynamic wife, Eva Duarte de Peron, known as Evita (1919-52), played a key role in developing support for her husband. Peron won reelection in 1952, but the military sent him into exile1955. In the 1950s and 1960s, military and civilian administrations traded power, trying, with limited success, to deal with diminished economic growth and continued social and labor demands. When military governments failed to revive the economy and suppress escalating terrorism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the way was open for Peron's return.
On March 11, 1973, Argentina held general elections for the first time in 10 years. Peron was prevented from running, but voters elected his stand-in, Dr. Hector Campora, as President. Peron's followers also commanded strong majorities in both houses of Congress. Campora resigned in July 1973, paving the way for new elections. Peron won a decisive victory and returned as President in October 1973 with his third wife, Maria Estela Isabel Martinez de Peron, as Vice President. During this period, extremists on the left and right carried out terrorist acts with a frequency that threatened public order. The government resorted to a number of emergency decrees, including the implementation of special executive authority to deal with violence. This allowed the government to imprison persons indefinitely without charge.
Peron died on July 1, 1974. His wife succeeded him in office, but a military coup removed her from office on March 24, 1976, and the armed forces formally exercised power through a junta composed of the three service commanders until December 10, 1983. The armed forces applied harsh measures against terrorists and many suspected of being their sympathizers. They restored basic order, but the human costs of what became known as "El Proceso," or the "Dirty War" were high. Conservative counts list between 10,000 and 30,000 persons as "disappeared" during the 1976-83 period. Serious economic problems, mounting charges of corruption, public revulsion in the face of human rights abuses and, finally, the country's 1982 defeat by the United Kingdom in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the Falklands/Malvinas Islands all combined to discredit the Argentine military regime. The junta lifted bans on political parties and gradually restored basic political liberties.
On October 30, 1983, Argentines went to the polls and chose Raul Alfonsin, of the Radial Civic Union (UCR), as President. He began a 6-year term of office on December 10, 1983. In 1985 and 1987, large turnouts for mid-term elections demonstrated continued public support for a strong and vigorous democratic system. The UCR-led government took steps to resolve some of the nation's most pressing problems, including accounting for those who disappeared during military rule, establishing civilian control of the armed forces, and consolidating democratic institutions. However, failure to resolve endemic economic problems, and an inability to maintain public confidence undermined the effectiveness of the Alfonsin government, which left office 6 months early after Peronist candidate Carlos Saul Menem won the 1989 presidential elections.
Despite having campaigned as a traditional populist candidate, as president, Menem launched a major overhaul of Argentine domestic policy. Largescale structural reforms dramatically reversed the role of the state in Argentine economic life. A decisive leader pressing a controversial agenda, Menem was not reluctant to use the presidency's extensive powers to issue decrees when the Congress was unable to reach consensus on his proposed reforms.
The so-called Olivos Pact with the opposition Radical Party led to the constitutional reform of 1994 that opened the way for Menem to seek and win reelection, winning 50% of the vote in the three-way 1995 presidential race. Late in Menem's second term, fears began to build among foreign investors about Argentina's ability to service its large public sector debt, especially in the wake of Russia's debt default in 1998 and Brazil's currency devaluation in January 1999. These fears were exacerbated when Argentina's fiscal deficit ballooned during 1999, Menem's final year in office.
Fernando de la Rua, of the Radical Party, running on an anti-corruption platform, defeated Peronist candidate Eduardo Duhalde in the 1999 presidential election. Upon taking office, he increased taxes to eliminate the huge fiscal deficit he had inherited, but the tax increase choked off economic growth and intensified the recession leading to a decline in government revenues. Political infighting hindered adoption of thoroughgoing reform measures by the government, and the economy continued to stagnate. The political situation deteriorated further when Vice President Chacho Alvarez (of the junior partner in the coalition) resigned, alleging a lack of support from other members of the executive branch to investigate charges of corruption within the administration.
Even a large IMF-led stabilization package in December 2000 was insufficient to prevent a looming crisis, given the De la Rua administration's inability to get a handle on the fiscal situation. Throughout 2001, production fell from already low levels, and unemployment continued to rise. By late 2001, depositors in Argentine banks were withdrawing funds as a run against the peso developed. The government's restrictions on depositors' access to their accounts only fueled popular discontent. Supermarket sackings and property damage proliferated, first in the provinces and then the Federal Capital. De la Rua resigned on December 20, 2001, after violence claimed several lives during riots in and around the plaza directly facing the seat of government.
A legislative assembly on December 23, 2001, elected Adolfo Rodriguez Saa to serve as president and called for general elections to elect a new president within 3 months. Rodriguez Saa announced immediately that Argentina would default on its international debt obligations, but expressed his commitment to maintain the currency board and the peso's 1-to-1 peg to the dollar. Rodriguez Saa, however, was unable to rally support from within his own party for his administration and this, combined with renewed violence in the Federal Capital, led to his resignation on December 30.
Yet another legislative assembly elected Peronist Eduardo Duhalde president on January 1, 2002. Duhalde--differentiating himself from his three predecessors--quickly abandoned the peso's 10-year-old link with the dollar, a move that was followed by currency depreciation and inflation. In the face of rising poverty and continued social unrest, Duhalde also moved to bolster the government's social programs.
Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, an export-oriented agricultural sector, and a diversified industrial base. Over the past decade, however, the country has suffered recurring economic problems of inflation, hugh external debt, capital flight, and budget deficits. Growth in 2000 was a negative 0.5%, as both domestic and foreign investors remained skeptical of the government's ability to pay debts and maintain the peso's fixed exchange rate with the US dollar. The economic situation worsened in 2001 with the widening of spreads on Argentine bonds, massive withdrawals from the banks, and a further decline in consumer and investor confidence. Government efforts to achieve a "zero deficit", to stabilize the banking system, and to restore economic growth proved inadequate in the face of the mounting economic problems. The peso's peg to the dollar was abandoned in January 2002, and the peso was floated in February; the exchange rate plunged and inflation picked up rapidly, but by mid-2002 the economy had stabilized, albeit at a lower level. Output was 14.7% below the previous year's figure, and unemployment remained high, at 21.5%. In order to reverse the crisis some economists recently have advocated that Argentina adopt the US dollar as the national currency, however, others argue tieing the economy closely to the dollar was precisely what led to Argentina's current problems.
The religions of Argentina include nominally Roman Catholic 92% (less than 20% practicing), Protestant 2%, Jewish 2%, and other 4%.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
As of the year 2001, the overall crime rate in Argentina was low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Argentina. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Argentina will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2001 was 8.24 per 100,000 population for Argentina, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.61 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2001 was 8.89 for Argentina, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 31.77 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2001 was 135.01 for Argentina, 4.08 for Japan, and 148.50 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2001 was 316.18 for Argentina, 23.78 for Japan, and 318.55 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2001 was 51.22 for Argentina, 233.60 for Japan, and 740.80 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2001 was 227.93 for Argentina, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2484.64 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2001 was 188.03 for Argentina, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 430.64 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 935.5 for Argentina, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4160.51 for USA. (Note that Japan data are for year 2000)
TRENDS IN CRIME
Between 1995 and 2001, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 4.02 to 8.24 per 100,000 population, an increase of 104.98%.
The rate for rape increased from 3.36 to 8.89, an increase of 164.58%. The rate of robbery increased from 3.17 to 135.01, an increase of 4158.99%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 5.55 to 316.18, an increase of 5596.94%. The rate for burglary increased from 0.01 to 51.22, an increase of 512100%. The rate of larceny increased from 176.75 to 227.93, an increase of 28.96%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 53.91 to 188.03, and increase of 248.79%. The rate of total index offenses increased from 416.27 to 935.5, an increase of 279.1%. (Note that larceny data are for year 1995-1997)
The President is the constitutional commander-in-chief, and a civilian Defense Minister oversees the armed forces. Several agencies share responsibility for maintaining law and order. The Federal Police (PFA) report to the Ministry of Justice, Security, and Human Rights, as do the Border Police ("Gendarmeria") and Coast Guard. The PFA has jurisdiction in the Federal Capital and over federal crimes in the provinces. Provincial police are subordinate to the provincial governors. Some members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. There were no reports of politically motivated killings; however, police and prison officers were responsible for a number of killings involving the use of unwarranted or excessive force. The authorities investigated and in some cases detained, tried, and convicted the officers involved; however, impunity for those who committed abuses was sometimes a problem. There were a number of killings, including prison killings with suspected official involvement, killings at the time of apprehension, killings of demonstrators, and killings by stray bullets. There were numerous charges of police corruption. Police activities were often not well financed and police were not well paid, with a starting monthly salary of $110 (400 pesos) compared with an average worker's earnings of approximately $150 (550 pesos) monthly. A police captain earns approximately $560 (2,000 pesos) monthly. Police often performed official contract guard duty to earn extra money. Police corruption was systemic; some of the most common practices included extortion of and protection for those involved in illegal gambling, prostitution, and auto theft rings, as well as detention and extortion of citizens under the threat of planting evidence to charge them for crimes. Addressing police corruption was difficult in part because the suspects intimidated whistleblowing colleagues, judicial officials, and civilian witnesses. Threats and beatings allegedly aimed to intimidate witnesses were common and, in some cases, occurred in connection with murders believed committed by members of security forces.
Provincial police and Federal Border Police clashed with demonstrators on numerous occasions during the year. On a number of occasions police used tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators, and injuries and deaths were reported. In a confrontation in Buenos Aires Province on June 26, two persons were killed and others were injured.
The Constitution prohibits torture, and the Criminal Code provides penalties for torture similar to those for homicide; however, torture and brutality by police and prison guards remained serious problems. Human rights organizations described widespread police brutality, the use of torture on suspects, and corruption within the prison and police forces. The Government investigated some reports of police or prison brutality, but few cases were tried and even fewer resulted in convictions. In some jurisdictions, such as Mendoza Province and greater Buenos Aires, threats to witnesses and advocates made prosecution of abuses and reform more difficult. A January 2001 report of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture recalled concerns raised in the U.N. Human Rights Commission's October 2000 review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In particular, the Rapporteur noted concerns about allegations that torture and excessive use of force by police officials were "a widespread problem and that government mechanisms established to address it are inadequate." The Rapporteur's report also expressed concern about prison conditions and cited specifically "the severe overcrowding and the poor quality of basic necessities and services, including food, clothing and medical care." The report also stated that it had been established that there had been "abuses of authority by prison officials, such as torture and ill-treatment and corruption." A Secretariat for Human Rights for Buenos Aires Province was created in January, with one of its first tasks being development of a Program for the Prevention of Torture.
The Penal Code limits the arrest and investigatory power of the police and the judiciary; however, provincial police sometimes ignored these restrictions and arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens. Human rights groups found it difficult to document such incidents and said that victims were reluctant to file complaints because they feared police retaliation or did not believe that their complaints would result in any action.
Police may detain suspects for up to 10 hours without an arrest warrant if the authorities have a well-founded belief that suspects have committed, or are about to commit, a crime, or if they are unable to determine the identity of a suspect. However, human rights groups argued that this provision of law was disregarded in order to extort money from persons by threatening to charge them with illegal weapons or drug possession.
A 2001 law permits the Federal Police to question suspects at the scene of the crime and to hold suspects incommunicado for up to 10 hours. It also gives police additional search powers. The law allows pretrial detention for up to 2 years, and the slow pace of the justice system often resulted in lengthy pretrial detentions. If convicted, a prisoner usually receives credit for time already served. According to local authorities, approximately 70 percent of the inmates in the federal prisons of the greater Buenos Aires area were in pretrial detention. The law provides for the right to bail, and it was utilized in practice. The law does not permit forced exile, and it was not used.
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, while the judiciary is nominally independent and impartial, its judges and judicial personnel were inefficient and at times subject to and apt to exercise political influence. The system was hampered by inordinate delays, procedural logjams, changes of judges, inadequate administrative support, and incompetence. Judges have broad discretion as to whether and how to pursue investigations, contributing to a sense that many decisions are arbitrary. Allegations of corruption were reported widely, but only a small number of investigations, judicial impeachment trials, and dismissals of judges actually took place. Allegations of corruption in provincial courts were even more frequent than at the federal level, reflecting strong connections between some governors and judicial powers in their provinces. Throughout much of the year, the National Congress pursued an effort to impeach all the members of the Supreme Court. Charges against the members ranged from failure to investigate the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy to a broad variety of ethics issues. There was a widespread perception that the impeachment effort was highly politicized. Although the Impeachment Committee of the Chamber of Deputies recommended the impeachment of all nine Justices, the impeachments were shelved in October when none gained a two-thirds majority in the full Chamber.
There were credible allegations of efforts by members of security forces and others to intimidate the judiciary and witnesses. On June 4, in Villa Carlos Paz, Cordoba Province, teenage Ian Duran was shot to death shortly before he was expected to testify in the investigation into the May murder of Pablo Jossens. In June a detective investigating the Jossens case was also shot to death, and, according to press accounts, the initial prosecutor for the case received threats and turned the case over to another prosecutor. In September Duranís family began receiving death threats, and in November Duranís mother, also a potential witness in the Jossens case, was attacked and told to keep silent. In December the former police chief was taken into custody and charged with secondary participation in the murder of Jossens. The Government provided a Border Police protection detail for public defender Maria Dolores Gomez, who was beaten and reportedly received threats attributed to prison authorities in March 2001. An investigation into the threats failed to substantiate them. There was no new information in the investigation into the 2000 death threats received by Judge Maria Romilda Servini de Cubria and her judicial secretary Ricardo Parodi, apparently in relation to investigations of kidnaping of children during the dirty war. Additional security was provided to them.
The judicial system is divided into federal and provincial courts, each headed by a Supreme Court with chambers of appeal and section courts below it. The federal courts are divided between the criminal courts and economic courts. The Council of Magistrates submits a slate of candidates for each federal judicial vacancy to the President, whose selection is subject to Senate approval. The Council also conducts impeachment hearings and administers the federal court system. In October there were 93 vacant positions and 67 slates awaiting Executive decisions. Two judges were removed by the Council.
Trials are public, and defendants have the right to legal counsel and to call defense witnesses. A panel of judges decides guilt or innocence. Federal and provincial courts continued the transition to oral trials in criminal cases, instead of the old system of written submissions. However, substantial elements of the old system remain. For example, before the oral part of a trial begins, judges receive pretrial written documentation regarding the case, which, according to prominent legal experts, could bias a judge before oral testimony is heard. Lengthy delays in trials were a problem. The 1994 Constitution provides for trial by jury; however, required implementing legislation has not been passed. There is a provision for counsel for indigents; however, in practice counsel may not always be provided due to a lack of resources. Several groups expressed concern regarding laws for judicial proceedings regarding minors.
As of year 2002, prison conditions were poor. Some facilities are old and dilapidated, and many prisons and jails were overcrowded. A notable increase in crime and stricter provisions for early release combined with a slow judicial system to fill prisons and police stations to well above capacity. According to CELS, in Buenos Aires Province (which accounts for over 37 percent of all prisoners nationwide) 24,200 prisoners were held in facilities designed for 15,900, and over 80 percent of those incarcerated were held in pretrial detention. The overcrowding contributed both to security problems--such as jailbreaks and riots--and to mistreatment of prisoners. Torture and brutality by prison guards and officials remained serious problems. A number of prisoners who had previously filed complaints about torture and mistreatment were killed in prison in 2001 and 2002. After filing a torture complaint at General Alvear Prison in 2001, Daniel Chocobar produced witnesses who testified that prison officials had offered other prisoners benefits in exchange for killing him. Chocobar was transferred but was stabbed by another prisoner at Prison Unit 9 in La Plata on June 17 and died the next day. Several other prisoners, such as Juan Ramon Gonzalez Sosa, who had testified about mistreatment at General Alvear prison, were also killed under suspicious circumstances in 2001. There was no reported serious investigation of these cases by the penitentiary service. Hernan Larranaga, a prisoner burned in his isolation cell after prison officials were seen carrying a suspicious liquid there in July 2001, survived after months of intensive burn therapy. He remained incarcerated, and there were reports that his life would be under threat in any of the Buenos Aires Penitentiary units. There was no new information on the investigation into the burning. Corruption among prison guards was a problem. Incidents in various prisons in Buenos Aires Province suggested the existence of a network of prison corruption aimed at retaliating against and silencing prisoners who filed complaints about torture. In a public trial that began in September for the killing of a police officer guarding a restaurant in 1998, a prisoner claimed he was released to commit crimes and shared a portion of the proceeds with prison guards, one of whom was also a participant in the restaurant incident. This case was linked to the 2001 prison guard taping of testimony by prisoner Carlos Sandez Tejada and the suspicious deaths of prisoners Maximiliano Noguera and his former cellmate and witness to prison irregularities, Miguel Angel Arribas. The January 2001 report of the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Torture noted concerns about "abuses of authority by prison officials, such as torture and ill treatment, and corruption." Under national regulations, pretrial prisoners may not be held together with convicted prisoners; however, reliable reports indicate that this segregation of prisoners often was not respected in practice. The law provides for separate facilities for women and for minors, and these were available. The Government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers.
Domestic violence and sexual harassment against women were recognized as serious social problems; however, the lack of official statistics on these crimes made accurate measure of the problems difficult. The Government, through the National Council of Women, implemented a new database system to standardize statistics on domestic violence, permit a more accurate evaluation of the scope of the problem, and promote better public policy. Although no national statistics on domestic violence were available, there were 658 complaints of sexual abuse filed in Buenos Aires in 2001, and experts estimated that only 10 to 20 percent of such incidents were reported.
Any person suffering physical or psychological domestic violence by a family member may file a formal complaint with a judge or police station; the level of injury inflicted determines the punishment under the civil and criminal codes. In addition, the Law on Protection Against Family Violence gives a judge the right to prevent the perpetrator of a violent act from entering the home or place of work of the victim and temporarily to decide issues of family support, child custody, and arrangements for communication with children. Reliable statistics as to the extent of rape were not available. The crime of rape falls under the Law of Crimes Against Sexual Integrity. Marital rape and acquaintance rape are offenses under the law, if force is involved, but the need for proof, either in the form of clear physical injury or the testimony of a witness, often presented problems. The penalties for rape vary from 6 months to 20 years and depend on the nature of the relationship between the rapist and victim and the physical and mental harm inflicted.
Public and private institutions offered prevention programs and provide support and treatment for women who had been abused, but transitory housing was almost nonexistent. The Buenos Aires municipal government operated a small shelter for battered women and a 24-hour hot line offering support and guidance to victims of violence, but few other shelters exist. NGOs working in the area of women's rights stressed that women often did not have a full understanding of their rights or of what actions could be considered punishable offenses. Sexual harassment was a serious problem. In 2001 Buenos Aires Province adopted the first law outlawing sexual harassment in provincial agencies. However, women lacked information about what constitutes sexual harassment. Prostitution is illegal but did occur. Some women have been trafficked to the country for purposes of prostitution in the past. Despite legal prohibitions, women encountered economic discrimination and occupied a disproportionate number of lower paying jobs. Often women were paid less than men for equivalent work, although this is prohibited explicitly by law. Working women also were represented disproportionately in the informal sector, where they did not have the work-related economic and social benefits enjoyed by registered workers. The National Council of Women, an interagency organization under the authority of the President's Cabinet Chief, carried out programs to promote equal opportunity for women in the social, political, and economic arenas. The Special Agency for Women's Issues, a unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in studying domestic law standards so as to adapt them to the rules of international law. This Agency and the National Council of Women, together with the Labor Ministry and union and business organizations, formed the Tripartite Committee on Equal Opportunity for Men and Women in the Workplace, which sought to foster equal treatment and opportunities for men and women in the job market.
The Government voiced strong commitment to issues of children's rights and welfare, including education and health; however, austere federal and provincial budgets meant that programs in these areas received insufficient funding. The Ministry of Justice, Security, and Human Rights' Under Secretariat for Human and Social Rights worked with UNICEF and other international agencies to promote children's rights.
The law requires that all children receive a minimum of 9 years of schooling, beginning at 6 years of age. Education is compulsory, free, and universal for children up to the age of 15; however, adequate schooling is unavailable in some rural areas. A 1999 study by the National Council for Childhood, Adolescence and the Family--an independent government organization reporting to the Ministry of Social Development and Environment--stated that approximately 99 percent of all children of primary school age attended schools, with roughly the same percentages for both genders. There were numerous federal and provincial health care programs for children, although not all children had access to them. NGOs and church sources indicated that child abuse and prostitution increased, although no corroborating statistics were available. A 2000 UNICEF report stated that sexual exploitation of children was widespread due to police inefficiency and lack of judicial intervention. The children involved usually worked in the same institutions as adults. The National Council for Childhood, Adolescence, and the Family has developed an Action Plan, together with the Attorney General, the Ministry of Justice, Security and Human Rights, the National Council of Women, and UNICEF, on the elimination of child prostitution. The country's economic crisis disproportionately affected children. Almost 3 out of 4 children under age 12 lived under the official poverty line. Nearly 40 percent of children were considered indigent, as their families did not earn enough to meet their basic food necessities. According to the Center for Studies on Infant Nutrition, malnutrition increased from 11 percent to 20 percent between 2001 and 2002. The public health system did not keep pace with the increased risks. The press reported over 60 deaths of children attributed to malnutrition, and the health minister estimated that some 11,000 children in Argentina die each year from such preventable causes. Schools often had meal programs, and elementary school attendance reportedly remained high even in poor communities. The Government's subsidy program for unemployed heads of households assisted more than 2 million people by year's end. An emergency feeding program was also implemented nationwide. Many school meal programs were kept open over the summer break in order to help ameliorate the situation.
There was a report of an isolated case of two Bolivian children trafficked to the country for labor. UNICEF and the National Council for Childhood, Adolescence and the Family were concerned about existing laws for judicial proceedings regarding minors. Children under the age of 16 have immunity. However, under the Law of Guardianship, those accused of a crime who are between the ages of 16 and 18 are taken before a judge and assumed guilty of the crime, without the benefit of either an oral or written trial. Punishment is then determined based not on the severity of the crime under the law but on the financial ability of the guardians to provide treatment and rehabilitation. Thus, minors who commit serious crimes but come from wealthier families may be released to the guardians, while minors from impoverished backgrounds may be sent to juvenile detention centers for lesser crimes.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
No laws specifically address trafficking in persons; however, other laws may be used to prosecute crimes associated with trafficking, such as kidnaping, forced labor, use of false documents, and prostitution. Laws against child abuse provide penalties for trafficking children for purposes of prostitution, and other laws prohibit alien smuggling, indentured servitude, and similar abuses. There were credible reports that women brought from the Dominican Republic to work in Argentina in the mid to late 1990s were coerced into prostitution. An investigation encompassing nearly a dozen such women was underway at year's end, and the International Organization of Migration approved the return of 51 Dominicans during the year. There also was a report of 15 Bolivians, including 2 children, who may have been trafficked to the country. While there were no government programs specifically to assist trafficking victims, the Office for Assistance to Migrants can provide help, and the Office for Assistance to the Victims of Crime provided practical, legal, and psychological support to several Dominican victims of trafficking who are pursuing cases in the legal system. The Government seldom detained immigrants on immigration-related charges.
Argentina is not a major drug producing country but it remains a transit country for cocaine flowing from neighboring Bolivia, as well as for undetermined amounts moving in transit from Peru and Colombia. In addition, the USG is concerned that increasing amounts of Colombian heroin may be transiting its territory to the U. S. Although drug use in Argentina apparently remains low, there is a growing problem with cocaine and psycho-pharmaceuticals such as "ecstasy." The smuggling of coca leaf into Argentina from Bolivia remains a problem; with possibly as much as a thousand tons of coca leaf transported illegally into Argentina's northern provinces annually for local consumption. While cognizant of its responsibilities in the interdiction area, the Argentine government focuses its counternarcotics efforts on demand reduction. A new draft law to modify existing money-laundering legislation is before the congress. Federal counternarcotics policy is coordinated by the Secretariat for the Prevention of Drug Addiction and Narcotics Trafficking (SEDRONAR). The Government of Argentina (GOA) has several national security forces involved in counternarcotics efforts, and provincial police forces also play an integral role. Argentina is a party to the 1998 UN Drug Convention.
Argentina is not a major drug producing country. Drug use is estimated to be low, approximately one percent of the population. Reliable statistics on usage are scarce, however, and the GOA will soon launch a national survey in an attempt to gather better data on which to base its policies. There is very limited refining or manufacturing, with small amounts of illicit drugs being produced in different areas of the country. Most officials continue to agree that the trafficking of narcotics through Argentina is a problem, although it is impossible to quantify the flow with any degree of accuracy. Argentina has a large and well-developed chemical industry, which manufactures almost all the precursors necessary for the processing of cocaine. Buenos Aires is a regional financial center, which could be exploited by money launderers. Private and commercial vehicles, containerized rail cargo, and foot traffic all serve as means for drugs to enter into Argentina. The thousands of uncontrolled airfields and small municipal airports in the northern and central regions of the country make it likely that drugs also enter via private planes. The lack of national radar coverage is a factor making air shipments attractive to potential traffickers, although the government has begun the process of acquiring a new radar system. Riverine traffic from Paraguay and Brazil is another probable method for moving narcotics into and through Argentina. Drug shipments out of the country are mostly via commercial aircraft or through Argentina's maritime port system. Couriers of Bolivian cocaine from Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport are primarily destined for Europe, including Russia. The USG is concerned that air couriers of heroin may be increasingly destined for the United States. Maritime transport of drugs from Argentina is conducted by both passengers as well as bulk and containerized cargo departing from Argentine ports such as Buenos Aires, Rosario, and other ports along Argentina's Atlantic coast. As a member of MERCOSUR, Argentina cannot open and inspect containers sealed in another member state which are passing through the country in transit. These sealed and uninspected containers are considered to be a high trafficking threat. The GOA actively opposes drug trafficking and the sale and use of illegal narcotics within the country.
Argentina is party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. In 1989, the Argentine Congress passed the laws necessary to bring the 1988 UN Drug Convention into effect. Various presidential decrees since then have targeted money laundering and allowed asset seizures. In March, President Menem signed a decree allowing for the creation of a witness protection program for key witnesses in drug-related prosecutions. Argentina remains very active in multilateral counternarcotics organizations such as the Inter-American Drug Abuse Commission (CICAD), the International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC), and the UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP). In 1998, Argentina hosted a meeting of CICAD's money laundering experts' group as well as the annual Egmont meeting.The GOA has traditionally focused its narcotics efforts on demand reduction. Drug use is treated as a medical problem and addicts are eligible to receive government-subsidized treatment. Buenos Aires province (the most heavily populated) has its own well-established demand reduction program.
In 1998, the U.S. Embassy funded the participation of an U.S. expert to help set up the "Partnership for a Drug-Free Argentina." The program was launched by the Argentine Ad Council in September with a media blitz, including the distribution of 2.5 million "parents' guides" in the two largest daily newspapers. Electronic media carried public service announcements. The Ad Council estimates that local media has donated over $7 million in free time and space. The campaign has been very successful, bringing in thousands of calls for more information about prevention and rehabilitation programs.
Argentina has many federal and provincial police forces involved in the counternarcotics effort. The primary federal forces involved are the Federal Police (with jurisdiction for crimes committed in, or connected to, the federal capital), the Gendarmeria Nacional (border police), the National Customs Service, the National Air Police, and the National Coast Guard. The provincial police forces of Buenos Aires, Salta, and Jujuy are also involved in the counternarcotics campaign. Many of the services involved in the counternarcotics efforts underwent serious personnel changes during 1998. The head of the Federal Police's anti-narcotics unit was replaced and many other members of the unit were shifted to new responsibilities. The Customs Service was completely reorganized, with its anti-narcotics unit seeing an almost complete turnover in personnel. The Buenos Aires provincial police underwent a dramatic house cleaning with almost the entire senior leadership being replaced. At the same time, the provincial narcotics unit was disbanded and is just now being reformed. The chief of police in the province of Salta was replaced, as was the head of the narcotics unit in Jujuy. The SEDRONAR also saw a complete change of leadership. The new secretary, Eduardo Amadeo, began his tenure by doing a bottom-up review of the secretariat's priorities and its resources. When the secretariat was founded in 1989, its budget was $22 million. Its current budget is about $16 million. All of Argentina's security forces face continuing severe counternarcotics budget limitations which have hampered investment in training and equipment. Also, a lack of coordination between the many, and at times, competing, law enforcement organizations hampers effectiveness. The GOA recognizes this problem and some steps are being taken to try to alleviate it. The changes in personnel and the resulting lack of experience in counternarcotics units has had a negative impact on the number of investigations and the amount of drugs seized this year. Seizures by all agencies are down. For the first nine months of 1998, 1,400 kilograms of cocaine were seized, compared to 5,192 kilograms in all of 1997. Arrest statistics for both years are comparable, however, which is consistent with the fact that there have been no major loads seized this year but a number of smaller seizures. Approximately 17 kilograms of heroin were seized in Argentina in 1998, with another 17 kilograms seized in the United States from people arriving from Argentina.
Corruption remains an important issue in Argentina and the government is taking steps to deal with it. Many of the changes in the various security forces mentioned above were related to charges of corruption or inefficiency. For example, former SEDRONAR chief Gustavo Green was charged in February with fraud for having illegally diverted millions of dollars from an anti-drug campaign to fictitious rehabilitation centers.
Argentina is a signatory to the Inter-American Anti-Corruption Convention. The GOA neither encourages nor facilitates the production or distribution of narcotics or other controlled substances, nor the laundering of the proceeds from illegal drug transactions. We have no information that any senior member of the government is involved in narcotics-related activities. In 1989 the governments of the United States and Argentina signed a cooperation agreement against drug trafficking which was implemented annually until 1995 through a series of memoranda of understanding. The programs continue, using money obligated during earlier years. During that time, USG assistance totaled approximately $2.9 million. Just over $2 million was used to supply equipment, with the balance used for training programs for Argentine law enforcement personnel.
In 1990, Argentina and the United States signed a mutual legal assistance treaty, which entered into force in 1993. In 1997, the U.S. and Argentina signed an extradition treaty. The U.S. recently ratified the treaty, but the Argentine Congress still needs to ratify it. A memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Treasury and SEDRONAR dealing with the exchange of financial information relating to money laundering was signed in 1995. The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the GOA. The GOA is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, and has bilateral narcotics cooperation agreements with Russia, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, Romania, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cuba, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. Dublin Group assistance, aside from the USG, remains limited. The United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, France, and Italy provide limited training and equipment support. Argentina has a well developed chemical industry which produces all but two of the necessary solvents, acids, and oxidizing chemicals needed for the extraction of cocaine from the coca leaf and its subsequent purification. The two exceptions being potassium permanganate and chloroform. A presidential decree signed in 1991 placed controls on essential chemicals and precursors. The decree required that all manufacture, import or export of precursor chemicals (and certain pharmaceutical drugs) be registered with SEDRONAR. In 1996, another decree was signed to rectify problems with the earlier decree and to include the need for distributors and transporters to register. Until very recently, not much was done to verify the bona fides of chemical transfers. Due to resources constraints and deficiencies in the relevant earlier decrees, there have been very few investigations into suspicious chemical transfers. The new SEDRONAR leadership quickly recognized long-standing problems with the old chemical register and began a bottom-up review to determine how to solve them. The GOA has introduced new and more secure import and export certificates. In November, SEDRONAR proposed certain modifications to the decrees, which could help streamline procedures. At the same time, SEDRONAR is attempting to re-build a national database of producers and distributors to gain a better understanding of the scope of the problem. Once that is in hand, it may be possible to control the flow of chemicals into and through the country. The GOA has proposed to its neighbors a closer working relationship to monitor the flows of chemicals in the region. SEDRONAR officials say they are willing and able to exchange records with USG law enforcement authorities. Overall, cooperation between the USG and Argentine authorities, both federal and provincial, continued to be excellent. While there has not been any bilateral memorandum of agreement since 1995, USG funding continues to be used to provide a wide variety of training programs to Argentine law enforcement officials. USG funding was also used to provide needed information technology equipment to better coordinate police counternarcotics efforts. In 1998, much GOA attention was focused on the establishment of the "Northern Border Task Force," a major DEA initiative in the frontier region with Bolivia. The task force has 20 officers, a mix of Salta provincial police and federal Gendarmeria, and is devoted exclusively to counternarcotics work. USG funding was used to provide equipment and training for the unit. DEA continues to support development of the unit in order to improve its arrest and drug seizure record.
The U.S. also provided two week-long U.S. Customs courses designed to inspect containers at both land border crossings (held in Misiones province with the participation of Brazilian and Paraguayan authorities) and at sea ports (held in Buenos Aires). Both courses were well received by GOA authorities. In addition, three Argentine officials attended an OAS-funded Regional Port Security Seminar in Lima, Peru in October 1998.
USG efforts will focus on the critical northern border area where the vast majority of cocaine enters Argentina, without neglecting other potentially important areas such as the tri-border area where Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil meet. The USG will work with the Argentine Customs Service and Air Police to target heroin trafficking to the U.S. East Coast. The GOA needs to collect more information to determine the extent of south Atlantic maritime trafficking. The U.S. Embassy will work with SEDRONAR to develop effective chemical controls and identify the illegal diversion of precursor chemicals.
Internet research assisted by Heng Hear