Argentina: A Development Overview

Simply the name Argentina evokes an assortment of historical images and names—from Eva Perón to the futbolista Diego Maradona; from the proud horseriding gauchos to the passionate tango. For some, the unparalleled wonders of Patagonia represent the most striking natural beauty in the world. The shadow of Argentina, however, tells a very different story about the country and its history. Argentina endured severe hardship in recent decades, and the nation struggles to rectify the impact of the thousands whom "disappeared" during the violent military dictatorship, the desperation caused by the 2001 economic crisis, and the clash of classes between indigenous groups and descendants of Spain. This full spectrum of lightness and darkness makes Argentina one of the more fascinating development stories.

The economic crisis of 2001, one of the largest in modern world history and by far the biggest shock in the Latin America region, left the country with over 50 percent of the population unemployed and a poverty rate of over 60 percent in urban areas. By 2003, the recovery began and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a vital new loan. Argentina proceeded to restructure its massive debt, offer creditors new bonds for the defaulted ones, and repay its debt to the IMF. But with poverty still rife, many Argentines still await the benefits of the economic upturn. Although the government is applying emergency social programs to alleviate the poor conditions of its people, Argentina's lack of jobs, high debt, and the inability of the people to adjust with their "new poor" lifestyle is making the process difficult.

The most unique result of Argentina's 50-plus percent poverty rate following the crisis is the creation of a "new" kind of poor—a highly educated middle class that lost its privileges and was forced to live with a greatly reduced quality of life. This "new poor" amplified the presence of social movements and political expression, triggering a rebirth of the ideals espoused by Juan Perón and his authoritarian rule over Argentina a half century ago. Well educated and severely discontent, the "new poor" is taking things into their own hands through organization, solidarity, and civil disobedience. With masses of Argentines coming together to find solutions on their own, the country is growing into a rich resource for nonprofit development and grassroots movements. This thriving culture of people's movements gives FSD interns and volunteers a unique opportunity to participate and learn from real, new, and creative ideas in the realm of sustainable development initiatives.

In addition to the 2001 economic crisis fueling the instability of Argentina, the unresolved wounds of a seven-year violent dictatorship is wedged like a knife, ripping the country apart. Although the "Dirty War" ended over 20 years ago, the legacy of its reckless military rule from 1976-1983 remains an open wound throughout the country. The fate of the tens of thousands of desaparecidos—people who disappeared as a result of their opposition to the government—is still unclear. Immunity laws, which protected former junta members from prosecution, were recently rescinded, giving new hope of healing for the country. Argentina's recent legacy, marked by enormous human rights violations and silent political suffering, is in dire need of national accountability, reparations to its victims, and assurance that it will never happen again—"nunca más."

FSD partners with a diverse group of organizations that work in different ways to find sustainable solutions to Argentina's most urgent needs and instabilities. Read more about programs and opportunities initiated by our Community Partners in Argentina.

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