No Tears for Argentina

Letter From Argentina

“The failure of Argentina,” writes V.S. Naipal, “so rich, so underpopulated, is one of the mysteries of our time.”  The 2001 Nobel laureate has not been the only observer to express bewilderment regarding the failings of a country so blessed with resources and so impoverished as a nation. 

As Argentina slides into the economic abyss after defaulting on its $155-billion public debt, a brief glimpse into Argentine history reveals clear historical precedents.  As domination by the Spanish and British Empires in the Western Hemisphere began to ebb in the early 19th century, a string of independence and secessionist movements swept the southern region.  Argentina won its independence from Spain in 1810 largely by accommodating itself to British influence and interests.  (While Britain helped Argentina gain independence from Spain, this did not preclude two British invasions, the latter of which resulted in British sovereignty over the South Atlantic islands, 400 miles off the Argentine coast.)  After independence, nearly two centuries of Argentine statehood have been marked by chaos, revolt, hyperinflation, monetary instability, political assassinations, coups, and military dictatorships—only briefly interspersed with democracies, which ruled with little more aptitude than their unelected predecessors.

Geographically, Argentina has been endowed with a high percentage...

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