Argentina: Page 3 of 8

May 5, 2010, by the Chamber of Deputies, and on July 15, 2010, by the Senate. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it on July 21. On July 22, the law was published in the Official Gazette. Argentina became the first country in Latin America and the second in the Americas to allow same-sex marriage nationwide. It was the tenth country to allow same-sex marriage. 
Government
Argentina is a constitutional republic and representative democracy. The government is regulated by a system of checks and balances defined by the Constitution of Argentina, which serves as the country's supreme legal document. The seat of government is the city of Buenos Aires, such location is regulated by the Congress. Suffrage is universal, equal, secret and mandatory. 
The national government is composed of three branches:
•    Legislative: The bicameral Congress, made up of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, makes federal law, declares war, approves treaties, has the power of the purse, and has the power of impeachment, by which it can remove sitting members of the government. 
•    Executive: The president is the commander-in-chief of the military, can veto legislative bills before they become law, and appoints the members of the Cabinet and other officers, who administer and enforce federal laws and policies. 
•    Judicial: The Supreme Court and lower federal courts, whose judges are appointed by the president with Senate approval, interpret laws and overturn those they find unconstitutional. 
The Chamber of Deputies has 257 voting members, each representing a province for a four-year term. Seats are apportioned among the provinces by population every tenth year. As of 2012, ten provinces have just five deputies, while the Buenos Aires Province, the most populous province, has 70. The Senate has 72 members with each province having three senators, elected at-large to six-year terms; one third of Senate seats are up for election every other year. A third of the candidates presented by the parties must be women. The president serves a four-year term and may be elected to the office no more than twice in a row. The president is elected by direct vote. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The Supreme Court has seven members appointed by the President in consultation with the Senate. The judges of all the other courts are appointed by the Council of Magistrates of the Nation, a secretariat composed of representatives of judges, lawyers, the Congress and the executive. 
The provincial governments must be representative republics and may not contradict the national constitution and national laws, but beyond that, each province is allowed to have its own constitution and organize their local government as desired. For example, some provinces have bicameral provincial legislatures, while others have unicameral ones. Buenos Aires is not a province but a federal district, but its local organization has similarities with the provinces: it has a local constitution, an elected mayor and representatives to the Senate and the Chamber of deputies. The national government reserved control of the Argentine Federal Police (the federally administered city force), the Port of Buenos Aires, and other faculties, however. 
On 1 November 2012, the voting age was lowered from 18 to 16. Voting is compulsory for Argentineans between 18 and 70, but voluntary for 16 and 17-year-olds under the new law. 
Foreign relations
Argentina is a full member of the Mercosur block together with Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Since 2002 Argentina has emphasized the role of Latin American integration and the bloc, which has some supranational legislative functions, as its first international priority. Argentina is a founding signatory and permanent consulting member of the Antarctic Treaty System and the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat is based in Buenos Aires. Argentina is also a full member of the Union of South American Nations. The former president of Argentina Néstor Kirchner was the first Secretary General of this organization. Argentina is part of the G-20 as well.
Argentina claims sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Spanish: Islas Malvinas), and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, which are British Overseas Territories of the United Kingdom, as well as almost 1,000,000 square kilometres (390,000 sq mi) in Antarctica, between 25°W and 74°W and south of 60°S. The Antarctic claim overlaps claims by Chile and the United Kingdom, though all claims to Antarctica fall under the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty of 1961. Since 1904, a scientific post has been maintained in Antarctica by mutual agreement. 
Argentina and Brazil remain major trading partners in the Southamerican region. In addition, these countries work together in making satellites orbiting over South America performing different jobs.
Argentina is currently participating in major peacekeeping operations in Haiti, Cyprus, Western Sahara and the Middle East. 
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 have produced tension at times.
Between 4 and 5 November 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 assumed again the two-year non-permanent position on the UN Security Council.
As of 2007, during 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.[85]
Geography
Argentina is situated in southern South America, with the Andes on the west and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east and south. Argentina has a total surface area (excluding the Antarctic claim and areas controlled by the United Kingdom) of 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,500 sq mi); of this, 43,710 km2 (16,880 sq mi), or 1.57%, is water. Argentina has six main regions. The Pampas are fertile lowlands located in the center and east. The Mesopotamia is a lowland enclosed by the Paraná and Uruguay rivers, and the Gran Chaco is between the mesopotamia and the Andes. Cuyo is at the east side of the Andes, and the Argentine Northwest is at the North of it. The Patagonia is a large plateau to the south. 
The highest point above sea level is in the Mendoza province at Cerro Aconcagua (6,959 m (22,831 ft)), also the highest point in the Southern and Western Hemisphere. The lowest point is Laguna del Carbón in Santa Cruz province, −105 m (−344 ft) below sea level. This is also the lowest point in South America. The easternmost continental point is northeast of Bernardo de Irigoyen, Misiones, the westernmost in the Perito Moreno National Park in Santa Cruz province. The northernmost point is at the confluence of the Grande de San Juan and Mojinete rivers in Jujuy province, and the southernmost is Cape San Pío in Tierra del Fuego. 
The major rivers are the Paraná (the largest), the Pilcomayo, Paraguay, Bermejo, Colorado, Río Negro, Salado and the Uruguay. The Paraná and the Uruguay join to form the Río de la Plata estuary, before reaching the Atlantic. Regionally important rivers are the Atuel and Mendoza in the homonymous province, the Chubut in Patagonia, the Río Grande in Jujuy and the San Francisco River in Salta.
The 4,725 km (2,936 mi) long Atlantic coast varies between areas of sand dunes and cliffs. The continental platform, the Patagonian Shelf, is unusually wide; this shallow area of the Atlantic is called the Argentine Sea. The two major ocean currents affecting the coast are the warm Brazil Current and the cold Falkland Current. Because of the unevenness of the coastal landmass, the two currents alternate in their influence on climate and do not allow temperatures to fall evenly with higher latitude. The southern coast of Tierra del Fuego forms the north shore of the Beagle Channel. 
Climate
The generally temperate climate ranges from subtropical in the north to subpolar in the far south. The north is characterized by very hot, humid summers with mild drier winters, and is subject to periodic droughts. Central Argentina has a temperate climate, with hot summers with thunderstorms, and cool winters; and higher moisture at the east. The southern regions have warm summers and cold winters with heavy snowfall, especially in mountainous zones. 
Major wind currents include the cool Pampero Winds blowing on the flat plains of Patagonia and the Pampas; following the cold front, warm currents blow from the north in middle and late winter, creating mild conditions. The Zonda, a hot dry wind, affects west-central Argentina. Squeezed of all moisture during the 6,000 m (19,685 ft) descent from the Andes, Zonda winds can blow for hours with gusts up to 120 km/h (75 mph), fueling wildfires and causing damage; when the Zonda blows (June–November), snowstorms and blizzard (viento blanco) conditions usually affect higher elevations. The Sudestada usually moderates cold temperatures but brings very heavy rains, rough seas and coastal flooding. It is most common in late autumn and winter along the central coast and in the Río de la Plata estuary. 
Biodiversity
Subtropical plants dominate the Gran Chaco in the north, with the Dalbergia genus of trees well represented by Brazilian Rosewood and the quebracho tree; also predominant are white and black algarrobo trees (prosopis alba and prosopis nigra). Savannah-like areas exist in the drier regions nearer the Andes. In central Argentina the humid pampas are a true tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The original pampa had virtually no trees; the only tree-like plant native to the pampa is the evergreen Ombú. The pampa is one of the most agriculturally productive on Earth; however, this is also responsible for decimating much of the original ecosystem, to make way for commercial agriculture. The western pampas receive less rainfall, this dry pampa is a plain of short grasses or steppe. The national government maintains 4 natural monuments and 33 national parks. 
Prominent animals from the subtropical north include big cats like the jaguar, Most of Patagonia lies within the rain shadow of the Andes, so the flora, shrubby bushes and plants, is suited to dry conditions. The soil is hard and rocky, making large-scale farming impossible except along river valleys. Coniferous forests in far western Patagonia and on the island of Tierra del Fuego, include alerce, ciprés de la cordillera, ciprés de las guaitecas, huililahuán, lleuque, mañío hembra and pehuén, while broadleaf trees include several species of Nothofagus such as coihue, lenga and ñire. Other introduced trees present in forestry plantations include spruce, cypress and pine. Common plants are the copihue and colihue.
In Cuyo, semiarid thorny bushes and other xerophile plants abound. Along the many rivers grasses and trees grow in significant numbers. The area presents optimal conditions for the large scale growth of grape vines. In northwest Argentina there are many species of cactus.
Prominent animals from the subtropical north include big cats like the jaguar, puma, and ocelot; primates (howler monkey); large reptiles (crocodiles), the Argentine Black and