Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
ARGENTINAArgentina is a federal constitutional democracy with an executive branch headed by an elected president, a bicameral legislature, and a separate judiciary. In 1995 voters reelected President Carlos Saul Menem to a second term that runs until 1999. The judiciary is independent but inefficient. The President is the constitutional commander in chief, and a civilian Defense Minister oversees the armed forces. Several law enforcement agencies share the responsibility for maintaining law and order. The Federal Police report to the Interior Minister, as do the Border Police and Coast Guard. Provincial police are subordinate to the respective provincial governors. Members of the police continued to commit human rights abuses. Argentina has a mixed agricultural, industrial, and service economy. An economic reform and structural adjustment program has led to high growth with low inflation and spurred competitiveness. Gross domestic product (GDP) increased about 8 percent, and per capita GDP was $8,900. As a result of privatization, private sector adjustment, and rapid labor force growth, the national unemployment rate, although declining slowly, remained high at 16 percent. The high cost of living affected those on low fixed incomes the most, although the entire country benefited from the end of hyperinflation. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. There continued to be instances of extrajudicial killings and brutality by the police, who also arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens. However, the authorities took action to prosecute or punish a number of persons for such abuses. Prison conditions are poor. The judicial system is subject to political influence at times and to inordinate delays, resulting in lengthy pretrial detention. There were numerous threats against journalists, and one journalist was killed. Discrimination and violence against women are also problems.