Argentina, which holds mid-term legislative elections on Sunday, is Latin America's second giant after Brazil.
Located in southeastern South America, Argentina is the eighth biggest country in the world. It is three-tenths the size of the United States at 2,766,890 square kilometers (1,068,298 square miles).
41 million (World Bank, 2012).
Buenos Aires, with a population of 12.9 million people in the greater metropolitan area.
About 91 percent Roman Catholic. Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected the first American pope in March 2013, under the name Francis. Catholicism is the state religion, but religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution. Argentina has the biggest Jewish community in Latin America with 230,000 people.
Indigenous people resisted the Spanish invasion that started with the founding of Buenos Aires in 1536. Independence from Spain was declared in 1816.
Immigration from Spain and Italy resulted in enormous population growth while exports of grain and meat to Europe turned Argentina into a wealthy country from the mid-19th century. In the 1940s and 1950s President Juan Domingo Peron and his charismatic wife Evita redistributed some of that wealth to workers and the poor. The deterioration of global markets after World War II contributed to the downfall of Peron in 1955.
The following decades saw a series of military regimes, the last of which resigned after Argentina's defeat in the 1982 Falklands War against Britain.
The government consists of an executive branch, a bicameral legislature and a judiciary. The president is elected for four years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms. In 2007, Cristina Kirchner succeeded her husband, Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007). She won a second term in October 2011.
Argentina is the world's biggest exporter of soya flour and oil, and the third-biggest exporter of soya beans. It is the second-biggest corn exporter, and fifth biggest for wheat. It is the world's leading producer of biodiesel.
The Argentine economy grew by eight percent on average from 2003 to 2011, but slumped to 1.9 percent in 2012, before returning to 5.1 percent growth in the first half of 2013, according to official statistics.
The country suffers from high inflation, officially 10 percent in 2012 but in reality about 25 percent, according to experts.
Argentina's debt was slashed from 160 percent of national output to 40 percent between 2003 and 2013.
PER CAPITA GDP
$11,557 in 2012 (World Bank)
73,100 soldiers and 31,250 paramilitaries, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2013.