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Foreign relations of Argentina

This article deals with the diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and international relations of Argentina.

At the political level, these matters are officially handled by the Ministry of Foreign Relations, also known as the Cancillería, which answers to the President. The Minister of Foreign Relations, since December 1, 2005, is Chancellor Jorge Taiana.


From isolation to nationhood

Owing to its remoteness, local authorities in what today is Argentina developed a sense for autonomy, early on. Based largely on economic needs, this pragmatism led to a flourishing parallel market in smuggled goods out of the then-small port of Buenos Aires, in contravention of the Spanish Kingdom's increasingly Byzantine trade laws. The 1776 creation of the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata helped attenuate this urgency; but, the decision to reject the authority of the Viceroy on May 25, 1810, was as much out of commercial need at is was out of disapproval of Joseph Bonaparte's new rump regime in Spain. The new regime, the United Provinces of South America was recognized by no sovereign state (least of all, the restored Bourbon Dynasty of Spain) and was, until 1820, sustained solely by the military brilliance of Generals José de San Martín and Manuel Belgrano. Before long, however, power struggles developed between lawmakers in Buenos Aires Province and those in much of the rest of the United Provinces, who were forced into a Federal League of their own. In practice, each side treated the other's grievances as a "foreign policy" matter.

The Buenos Aires-centric 1819 Constitution in tatters, a state of anarchy ensued, generally. Indeed, the only cause which began to bring unity to the disparate parties was the 1825 invasion of what today is Uruguay on the part of Brazil. Uruguay, then known as the "East Bank of the Uruguay River" among Buenos Aires policy makers, was considered a breakaway province and little more. This, then, not only led to new constitution and the Provinces' first semblance of united government; but, also to the first foreign policy crisis of the young nation (now known as "Argentina"), as it forced the nation into war with Brazil.

The common cause the crisis provided did lead to enough institutional stability to have the British Empire recognize Argentina (as Pres. James Monroe had ordered the U.S. State Department to do, in 1822) and led to the election of the first President of Argentina. The opportunity for unity, however, was wasted largely because the new president, Bernardino Rivadavia, pushed a new constitution even more biased towards Buenos Aires' agenda than the failed 1819 document. The war with Brazil, moreover, went badly. Land battles were won, early on, and despite some heroic feats on the part on Irish-born Admiral Guillermo Brown, the war dragged on, resulting in bankruptcy. This and the hated new constitution led to the end of the first republic by 1828; it also led, however, to peace with Brazil and the formation of an independent Uruguay.

The September 26, 1828 treaty itself beacame another foreign policy crisis, as it triggered a violent coup d'état by generals opposed to what they saw as an unilateral surrender. The murder of the man responsible for the treaty, Buenos Aires Governor Manuel Dorrego, itself led to a countercoup that brought with it the promise of lasting peace; but, led to destabilizing consequences, as time went on.

The countercoup brought a new governor to Buenos Aires and a new strongman to Argentina (now little more than a confederation). A hero from the wars of independence, Juan Manuel de Rosas made it his mission to stabilize Argentina in a confederacy under the tutelage of his Buenos Aires Province. This led to repression, massacres of native Americans in the pampas and, in 1838, an international embargo over the case of a French journalist tortured to death at Rosas' orders. An unyielding Rosas might have let the impasse continue for a decade or more; but, Admiral Guillermo Brown made his talents amenable once again, forcing the French blockade to be lifted in 1841.

Having come to power avenging the murder of a man who had decided to cease interference in Uruguay, Rosas invaded Uruguay upon the 1842 election of a government there antagonistic to his personal commercial interests (mainly centered in the export of cow hides and beef jerky, valuable commodities in those days). Commercially close with the French and British Empires, Uruguay's crisis met with swift reprisals against Rosas and the Argentine Confederacy from the two mighty powers. Slapped with fresh embargoes and a joint blockade, Argentina by 1851 found itself bankrupt and with "rougue nation" standing; on February 3, 1852, a surprise military campaign led by the Governor of Entre Ríos Province, Justo José de Urquiza, put an end to the Rosas regime and, until 1978, at least, serious Argentine foreign policy misadventures.

Constitution and conflict resolution

The deposal of Governor Rosas led to Argentina's present institutional framework, outlined in the 1853 constitution. The document, drafted by a legal scholar specializing in the interpretation of the United States Constitution put forth national social and economic development as its overriding principle. Where foreign policy was concerned, it specifically put emphasis on the need to encourage immigration and little else, save for the national defense against aggressions. This, of course, was forced into pactice by Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López's disastrous 1865 invasion of northern Argentine territory, leading to an alliance between 1820s-era adversaries Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay and the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives (particularly Paraguay's own).

Setbacks notwithstanding, the policy was successful. Domestically, Argentina was quickly transformed by immigration and foreign investment into, arguably, the most educationally and economically advanced nation in Latin America. Whatever else was happening domestically, internationally, Argentine policy earned a reputation for pragmatism and the realiance of conflict resolution as a vehicle to advance national interests. The era's new strongman, Gen. Julio Roca, was the first Argentine leader to treat foreign policy on equal footing with foreign investment and immigration incentives, universal education and repression as instruments of national development. His first administration occupied patagonia and entered into an 1881 agreement with Chile to that effect and his second one commissioned archaeologist Francisco Moreno to survey an appropriate boundary between the two neighbors, which brought Chile into the historic 1902 pact, settling questions over patagonian lands east of the andes. Later that year, endorsed his Foreign Secretary's successful negotiation of a debt dispute between Venezuela, France and Germany. Foreign Secretary Luis Drago's proposal in this, a dispute among third parties, became the Drago Doctrine, part of international law to this day.

This success led to a joint effort between Argentina, Brazil and Chile to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the United States' occupation of Veracruz, Mexico in April 1914. That May, the three nations' foreign ministers hosted U.S. officials in Canada, a conference instrumental in the withdrawal of U.S. troops that November. This also resulted in the 1915 ABC Pact signed between the three and, like Brazil and Chile, Argentina threafter pursued a pragmatic foreign policy, focused on preserving favorable trade relationships. This policy was in evidence during the 1933 Roca-Runciman Treaty, which secured Argentine markets among British colonies, and in the Argentine position during the Chaco War. Resulting from the 1928 discovery of petroleum in the area, the dispute developed into war after Bolivia's appeal for Argentine intervention in what it saw as Paraguayan incursions into potentially oil-rich lands were rejected. Bolivia invaded in July 1932 and, despite its legitimate claim to what historically had been its territory, its government's ties to Standard Oil of New Jersey (with whom the Argentine government was in dispute over its alleged pirating of oil in Salta Province) led Buenos Aires to withhold diplomatic efforts until, in June 1935, a cease-fire was signed. The laborious negotiations called in Buenos Aires by Argentine Foreign Minister Carlos Saavedra Lamas yielded him Latin America's first Nobel Prize for Peace in 1936 and a formal peace treaty in July 1938.

As they had during World War I, Argentine governments of different ideological stripes remained consistent in one important foreign policy point: they maintained Argentina neutral, preferring to avail the nation's vast agricultural export capacity to British and U.S. wartime needs; indeed, Argentine trade surpluses totalled US$1 billion during World War I and US$1.7 billion during World War II.

The incipient Cold War in evidence following World War II led the new administration of Juan Perón to conclude that a third world war might follow. Perón restored diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and, in 1949, articulated a "third way" as his foreign policy doctrine, in hopes of avoiding friction with either superpower, while opening the door to grain sales to the perenially shortage-stricken Soviets. Though commercial concerns continued to dominate foreign policy, conflict resolution was again ventured into when President Arturo Frondizi initiated negotiations between U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Cuban representative Ernesto Che Guevara during a Western Hemisphere summit in Uruguay in August 1961. Frondizi followed these exchanges with private discussions with Che Guevara in Buenos Aires, a misstep resulting in the Argentine military's opposition to further talks. Ultimately, Cuba was expelled from the Organization of American States in January 1962 and Frondizi was forced by the military to resign that March. The effort, though fruitless, showed audacity on the part of Frondizi, whom President Kennedy called "a really tough man.

A stray from precedent

Argentina's relations with its neighbor Chile, though generally cordial, have been strained by territorial disputes - mostly along their mountainous shared border - since the 19th century.

In 1978 the belligerent Argentine dictatorship abrogated the binding Beagle Channel Arbitration and started the Operation Soberania in order to invade Chile but called off the operation few hours later due to military and political reasons. The conflict was resolved after the Argentine defeat in the Falklands by Papal mediation in the Beagle conflict of Pope John Paul II and in the form of a Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984 between Chile and Argentina (Tratado de Paz y Amistad), granting the islands to Chile and most of the Exclusive economic zone to Argentina; since then, other border disputes with Chile have been resolved via diplomatic negotiations.

Since the return of civilian rule to Argentina in 1983, relations with Chile, the United Kingdom and the international community in general improved and Argentine officials have since publicly ruled out interpreting neighboring countries' policies as any potential threat; but Argentina still doesn't enjoy the full trust of the Chilean political class.

The same dictatorship in Argentina unilaterally invaded the Falkland Islands and an adjoining minor archipelago on April 2, 1982, after nearly twenty years of intermittent negotiations on the subject of their sovereignty (in question since the British navy expelled Argentine troops there in 1833) had failed. The Falklands War (Guerra de las Malvinas) cost the lives of nearly a thousand troops, Argentine and British, after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ordered the invasion repelled. The battles themselves lasted but six weeks, dealing the dictatorship a humiliating blow and, inadvertently, giving Argentina a way out of dictatorship.

Menem Presidency

Early on in the administration of President Carlos Menem (1989–1999), Argentina restored diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom and developed a strong partnership with the United States. It was at this time that Argentina left the Non-Aligned Movement and adopted a policy of "automatic alignment" with the United States. In 1990, Pres. Menem memorably pronounced the U.S.-Argentine alliance to be a "carnal relationship." Argentina was the only Latin American country to participate in the 1991 Gulf War and all phases of the Haiti operation. It has contributed to United Nations peacekeeping operations worldwide, with Argentine soldiers/engineers and police/Gendarmerie serving in El Salvador-Honduras-Nicaragua (where Navy patrol boats painted white were deployed), Guatemala, Ecuador-Peru, Western Sahara, Angola, Kuwait, Cyprus, Croatia, Kosovo, Bosnia, and East Timor. In recognition of its contributions to international security and peacekeeping, U.S. President Bill Clinton designated Argentina as a major non-NATO ally in January 1998. The country is currently the only nation in Latin America that holds this distinction.

At the United Nations, Argentina supported United States policies and proposals, among them the condemnations of Cuba on the issue of human rights, and the fight against international terrorism and narcotics trafficking. In November 1998, Argentina hosted the United Nations conference on climate change, and in October 1999 in Berlin, became one of the first nations worldwide to adopt a voluntary greenhouse gas emissions target.

Argentina also became a leading advocate of non-proliferation efforts worldwide. After trying to develop nuclear weapons during the 1976 military dictatorship, Argentina scrapped the project with the return of democratic rule in 1983, and became a strong advocate of non-proliferation efforts and the peaceful use of nuclear technologies.

Since the return of democracy, Argentina has also turned into strong proponent of enhanced regional stability in South America, the country revitalized its relationship with Brazil; and during the 1990s (after signing the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984 between Chile and Argentina) settled lingering border disputes with Chile; discouraged military takeovers in Ecuador and Paraguay; served with the United States, Brazil and Chile as one of the four guarantors of the Ecuador-Peru peace process. Argentina's reputation as a mediator was damaged, however, when President Menem and some members of his cabinet were accused of approving the illegal sale of weapons to Ecuador and to Croatia.

In 1998, President Menem made a state visit to the United Kingdom, and the Prince of Wales reciprocated with a visit to Argentina. In 1999, the two countries agreed to normalize travel to the Falklands/Malvinas Islands from the mainland and resumed direct flights.

In the 1990s, Argentina was an enthusiastic supporter of the Summit of the Americas process, and chaired the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) initiative.

Kirchner Presidency

Within the term of President Néstor Kirchner, from 2003 onwards, Argentina suspended its policy of automatic alignment with the United States and moved closer to other Latin American countries. Argentina no longer supports the UN Commission on Human Rights resolution criticizing the "human rights situation in Cuba" and calling upon the Government of Cuba to "adhere to international human rights norms", but has chosen instead to abstain. In the 2006 United Nations Security Council election, Argentina supported, like all Mercosur countries, the candidacy of Venezuela (a Mercosur member) over Guatemala for a non-permanent seat in the Security Council

The Mercosur has become a central part of the Argentine foreign policy, with the goal of forming a Latin American trade block. Argentina has chosen to form a block with Brazil when it comes to external negotiations, though the economic asymmetries between South America's two largest countries had produced tension sometimes.

Between November 4 and November 5, 2005, the city of Mar del Plata hosted the Fourth Summit of the Americas. Although the themes were unemployment and poverty, most of the discussion was focused on the FTAA. The summit was a failure in this regard, but marked a clear split between the countries of the Mercosur, plus Venezuela, and the supporters of the FTAA, led by the United States, Mexico and Canada. FTAA negotiations have effectively stalled until at least the conclusion of the 2006 Doha round global trade talks.

In 2005, Argentina assumes again (see history here ) the two-year non-permanent position on the UN Security Council.

As of 2007, under Kirchner's almost four years in power, Argentina entered into 294 bilateral agreements, including 39 with Venezuela, 37 with Chile, 30 with Bolivia, 21 with Brazil, 12 with the People's Republic of China, 10 with Germany, 9 with the United States and Italy, and 7 with Cuba, Paraguay, Spain and Russia.


  • Argentina claims two overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
  • It also has a territorial claim in Antarctica, which overlaps the British Antarctic Territory.
  • According to a 1998 treaty with Chile, 50 kilometers section of the boundary in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field is still pending of maping and demarcation(map of the area).
  • In November 2006, an Argentine judge issued an arrest warrant for former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani over the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires of the Jewish-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) community center. The federal judge also issued international arrest warrants for eight other ex-Iranian officials Iran decided not to pursue with the warrant and warned Argentina of consequences. As a result, President Nestor Kirchner ordered the security forces to be on the alert for incidents similar to the 1994 bombing
  • Argentina has an ongoing dispute with neighboring Uruguay about a pulp mill on the Uruguay side of the Uruguay River, across from the Argentine city of Gualeguaychu. Since January, 2006, residents of Gualeguaychu and their supporters have blocked access to bridges over the Uruguay River; the main bridge at Gualeguaychu is blocked continuously.


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