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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Argentina's constitution of 1853, as revised in 1994, mandates a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches at the national and provincial level. Each province also has its own constitution which roughly mirrors the structure of the national constitution.

The president and vice president were traditionally elected indirectly by an electoral college to a single six-year term. They were not allowed immediately to seek reelection. Constitutional reforms adopted in August 1994 reduced the presidential term to four years, abolished the electoral college in favor of direct election, and limited the president and vice president to two consecutive terms, but allowed them to stand for a third term or more after an interval of at least one term. Cabinet ministers are appointed by the president. The constitution grants the president considerable power, including a line-item veto.

Provinces traditionally sent two senators, elected by provincial legislatures, to the upper house of Congress. Voters in the federal capital of Buenos Aires elected an electoral college which elected the city's senators. The constitution now mandates a transition to direct election for all senators, and the addition of a third senator from each province and the capital. The third senator will represent the electoral district's largest minority party. The revised constitution reduces senatorial terms from nine to six years in office. One third of the Senate will stand for reelection every two years.

Members of the Chamber of Deputies are directly elected to four-year terms. Voters elect half the members of the lower house every two years through a system of proportional representation.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments (all links in Spanish)

Argentina's constitution establishes the judiciary as a separate and independent entity of government. The president appoints members of the Supreme Court with the consent of the Senate. Other federal judges are appointed by the president upon recommendation by the magistrates' council. The Supreme Court has the power, first asserted in 1854, to declare legislative acts unconstitutional.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Argentine Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in 2001; however, there were problems in some areas. Police continued to commit extrajudicial killings. Torture and brutality by police and prison guards were serious problems. In some cases the authorities investigated and sanctioned those responsible for abuses, but impunity is a problem. Police corruption is a problem. Prison conditions are poor. Police arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens, and lengthy pretrial detention is a problem. There were credible allegations of efforts by members of the security forces to intimidate the judiciary, witnesses, and local human rights groups. The press is free and vigorous; however, public officials harassed and threatened journalists on occasion. Police used excessive force against demonstrators on several occasions. Violence and discrimination against women also are problems. Child abuse and child prostitution are not widespread, although prosecutions demonstrate they exist. Anti-Semitism is a problem; however, the Government took steps to combat it. Discrimination against indigenous people persists. Discrimination against religious and racial minorities and foreign nationals persists. Child labor is a problem. There were reports that women, and unconfirmed reports that children, were trafficked into the country.

The judiciary continued to work through the legacy of human rights abuses of the "dirty war" of the 1976-83 military regime. Former military officers are being prosecuted for kidnaping the children and taking the property of dissidents, and there were several convictions. Two federal judges found the "full stop" and "due obedience" military amnesty laws to be unconstitutional. Judges pursued truth trials in an effort to force the military to provide information on the fate of those who disappeared during the military regime.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Legal Profession

Argentinian lawyers are generally known as Abogados. Legal practitioners can hold degress as Abogado (a five-year program), as a Doctor in Law or in Jurisprudence (an academic degree after Abogado), or as a Licenciado en derecho (which takes less time to earn than the Abogado degree).

Source: Kime's Directory

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Daniel Alejandro Casella
Assistant Professor of Corporate Law, Universidad de Belgrano Facultad de Derecho, Buenos Aires.