Argentina

Free
84
100
PR Political Rights 35 40
CL Civil Liberties 49 60
Last Year's Score & Status
84 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Argentina is a vibrant representative democracy with competitive elections, lively media and civil society sectors, and unfettered public debate. Economic instability, corruption in the government and judiciary, and drug-related violence are among the country’s most serious challenges.

header2 Key Developments in 2021

  • The center-right Together for Change (JxC) bloc performed well in the November legislative elections, winning more at-stake seats than the ruling Front for Everyone (FdT) bloc of President Alberto Fernández in both houses. However, the FdT maintained pluralities in both houses after the polls.
  • Media outlets came under physical attack during the year. In February, the offices of Río Negro were ransacked by a crowd that included members of a labor union; the newspaper had covered a sexual-harassment case against the leader of one of a union branch. In December, the Buenos Aires headquarters of the Clarín Group was firebombed, causing minor damage.
  • In December, former president Mauricio Macri faced charges for allegedly ordering the surveillance of family members of sailors who died in a 2017 submarine sinking. Macri denied the charges, calling them politically motivated.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

Argentina is a federal republic with a presidential system. The president serves up to two four-year terms. Candidates can be elected in one round if they obtain at least 45 percent of the vote, or earn more than 40 percent with a 10-point lead over the second-place contestant.

The October 2019 election was deemed free and fair by domestic and international observers. Center-left candidate Alberto Fernández won in the first round with 48.2 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Mauricio Macri, who obtained 40.3 percent. Fernández was viewed as benefiting from having former president and Peronist Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (no relation) as his vice presidential candidate.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

The National Congress consists of a lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, and an upper house, the Senate. The Chamber of Deputies has 257 members elected for four-year terms, while the Senate has 72 members elected for six-year terms. Half of all deputies and a third of senators are up for election every two years through a proportional-representation system with closed party lists. Legislative contests are generally free and fair.

The FdT did poorly in the November 2021 legislative elections, the results of which represented an end to a decades-long majority for Peronist-led coalitions. The FdT won 50 at-stake lower-house seats, while the JxC won 61; the FdT maintained a narrow lower-house plurality. The JxC won 14 at-stake Senate seats, while the FdT won 9; after the elections, the FdT held a total of 35 Senate seats, while the JxC held 31. The FdT notably lost ground in Buenos Aires Province, while the left-wing Workers’ Left Front and the far-right Freedom Advances did well nationally.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 3.003 4.004

Argentina has a clear and relatively fair framework for conducting elections. There is universal suffrage: Voting is compulsory for people between 18 and 70 years old, and voluntary for people between 16 and 18, or older than 70.

However, the system suffers from shortcomings including inconsistent enforcement of electoral laws and campaign finance regulations. An outdated electoral system mandates that each party print and distribute its own paper ballots on election day, providing opportunities for abuse and favoring larger parties.

Aspects of election management fall under the purview of the executive branch; National Electoral Chamber works in conjunction with the National Electoral Directorate, a department of the Interior Ministry.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 4.004 4.004

Argentina has competitive political parties that operate without encountering undue obstacles. Primary elections are mandatory for presidential and legislative elections, and only party candidates that obtain 1.5 percent of the national vote in primary elections can contest general elections.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4.004 4.004

Argentina’s multiparty system affords opposition candidates the realistic opportunity to compete for political power. Opposition parties command significant popular support and hold positions in national and subnational government. The center-right JxC bloc performed well in the November 2021 polls, though the ruling FdT maintained legislative pluralities.

The 2019 presidential election marked a return of Peronism; former president Macri was the only non-Peronist to complete a presidential term since 1928.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 4.004 4.004

Argentinians’ political choices are generally free from domination by democratically unaccountable groups. However, political choices are influenced by voter intimidation and clientelism, particularly in poorer regions.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 4.004 4.004

Members of ethnic and religious minority groups have full political rights in Argentina. The constitution mandates gender equality in political-party and elected positions. A Ministry of Women, Genders, and Diversity (MMGD), which promotes equality and combats gender-based violence (GBV), was formed in 2019. In practice, poorer Argentinians, ethnic minorities, and Indigenous people have limited access to political power.

All National Congress party lists must respect full gender parity by law, with men and women alternating. After the November 2021 elections, women held 44.8 percent of lower-house seats and 43.1 percent of upper-house seats.

Women are poorly represented in the cabinet. Only two women serve as ministers, including the MMGD minister. Men dominate national-level judicial and political positions. Only 2 of Argentina’s 24 provinces are led by female governors.

LGBT+ people are well represented in Argentina. Legal protections for LGBT+ people are robust. Argentina was the first country in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 3.003 4.004

Elected officials are duly installed without interference. However, the political system is characterized by a powerful executive, with the president having authority to implement some policies by decree, bypassing the legislative branch. Provincial governors are also powerful and tend to influence national lawmakers representing their provinces.

Vice President Fernández de Kirchner is the driving force behind the electoral coalition that brought Presidnet Fernández to power, and handpicked him as the presidential candidate. Several ministers and lawmakers answer personally to her.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 2.002 4.004

A weak institutional framework hampers anticorruption efforts. For instance, the country’s main anticorruption agency is part of the executive. Further, many politicians hold immunity in connection with their elected posts, and are thus protected from legal consequences for corrupt behavior.

The judiciary system is widely considered to be politicized, especially at the provincial level. Convictions against members of the political class who were accused of malfeasance in recent years remain rare.

Vice President Fernández de Kirchner faces numerous investigations for alleged corruption during her 2007–15 presidential term and has been indicted on several occasions. The government has attacked the Supreme Court and the judiciary for ajudicating corruption cases involving the vice president and other kirchnerista officials.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 3.003 4.004

An agency to guarantee access to public information was created by law in 2017 but is not independent from the presidency. Adherence to and enforcement of public-asset disclosure regulations is inconsistent. The health emergency declared in March 2020 relaxed procurement regulations, reducing transparency in government purchases.

The national government has endeavored to digitize records and procedural documents, but local and provincial governments have been slower in this work.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 3.003 4.004

The law guarantees freedom of expression and bans official censorship. There is a robust and lively media environment. However, media ownership is concentrated among large conglomerates that frequently favor a political grouping, and state-advertising allocation tends to favor government-friendly media groups. Journalists face occasional harassment and violence, especially when covering LGBT+ issues, corruption, and drug-related criminality. Some journalists have faced charges in connection with their investigative work.

In February 2021, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that authorities in Formosa Province regularly harassed, detained, and intimidated media workers during the pandemic-related lockdown.

Media offices were physically targeted during 2021. In February, 100 people, including members of the Argentine Workers’ Central Union, ransacked the offices of Río Negro. The newspaper had reported on a sexual-harassment case against the leader of a union branch. In November, the Buenos Aires headquarters of the Clarín Group was firebombed, though only minor damage was reported.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed and enforced in practice. The population is largely Roman Catholic but public education is secular, and religious minorities express their faiths freely.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4.004 4.004

Academic freedom is guaranteed by law and largely observed in practice.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4.004 4.004

Private discussion is vibrant and largely unrestricted. However, the government has been known to monitor social media activity; it launched “cyberpatrols” to combat COVID-19-related disinformation in 2020.

In December 2021, former president Macri was charged with ordering the surveillance of the family members of 44 sailors who died when their submarine sank in 2017. Macri denied the charges, calling them politically motivated.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of assembly is generally respected, and citizens frequently organize protests.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 4.004 4.004

Nongovernmental organizations generally operate without restrictions. Civic organizations, especially those focused on human rights and abuses committed under the 1976–83 dictatorship, play a major role in society, although some fall victim to corruption.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 3.003 4.004

Organized labor is dominated by Peronist unions, and union influence remains significant, although it has decreased in recent years. Most labor unions have been controlled by the same individuals or groups for decades, and internal opposition to union leadership has been limited by fraud and intimidation.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 2.002 4.004

The Supreme Court is relatively independent and has resisted executive overreach during the Fernández de Kirchner, Macri, and Fernández administrations. However, lower and province-level courts have close ties with political actors and engage in corrupt practices. Since taking office, President Fernández and Vice President Fernández de Kirchner have attacked the judiciary for its alleged bias and proposed legal reforms that, if enacted, could diminish judicial independence.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 3.003 4.004

The right to due process is constitutionally protected and generally upheld. However, security officers and some judges are suspected of maintaining criminal ties. Prisons are overcrowded and inmates live in unsuitable conditions. Some are permanently held in police stations; in April 2021, the Supreme Court ordered a provincial court to address the issue in Buenos Aires Province. Pretrial detainees represented 44.6 percent of the country’s prison population in 2020.

In June 2021, the attorney general’s office reported that a total of 1,030 convictions for crimes committed during the 1976–83 dictatorship were attained.

In March 2021, President Fernández reversed a decree signed by Macri in 2017 that allowed for the deportation of foreigners who were subject to criminal legal proceedings.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 2.002 4.004

Argentina’s murder rate is low compared to other Latin American countries, but violence from criminal groups and from the security forces remains a serious issue. International criminal organizations use Argentina as both an operational base and a transit route; the northern and central regions are particularly affected. The port city of Rosario has been at the center of a spike in drug-related violence and unrest that has featured armed attacks against courts and intimidation of public officials.

Police misconduct, torture, and brutality against suspects in custody is endemic. Arbitrary arrests and abuses by police are rarely punished in the courts, and police officers commonly collude with drug traffickers. Enforcement of the coronavirus-induced lockdown led to a rise in cases of excessive force, especially against the poor.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 3.003 4.004

Argentina has robust antidiscrimination laws, but enforcement is uneven outside well-off urban areas. Indigenous peoples, who comprise approximately 2.4 percent of the population, face government neglect, disproportionate levels of poverty, and poor access to services, all of which were aggravated by pandemic-related lockdowns. Displays of xenophobia against migrants and race-based discrimination are common. Women enjoy legal equality, but continue to face economic discrimination and gender-based wage gaps.

Argentina’s LGBT+ population enjoys full legal rights, including marriage, adoption, and the right to serve in the military. In July 2021, a presidential decree recognized nonbinary identities by allowing a third gender option in national identification documents. At the same time, LGBT+ people face some degree of societal discrimination, and occasionally, serious violence.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 3.003 4.004

The government generally respects citizens’ constitutional right to travel both inside and outside of Argentina. People are free to change their place of education or employment.

Argentina implemented one of the world’s strictest and most prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns. Bans and restrictions on domestic and international travel were sometimes arbitrary and gave way to abuses; security officers used disproportionate force to enforce measures. Authorities in Formosa Province were especially strict, with travelers forced into quarantine under wide-ranging measures. A strict national lockdown was imposed for part of May 2021. In September, the government ended most pandemic restrictions, including border controls.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 3.003 4.004

Citizens generally enjoy the right to own property and establish private businesses. However, cumbersome regulations, bureaucratic abuses, and corruption affect the private sector at all levels.

Approximately 70 percent of the country’s rural Indigenous communities lack titles to their lands, and forced evictions, while technically illegal, still occur. Indigenous communities continue to struggle to defend their land rights and reclaim traditional lands.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 4.004 4.004

Argentinians enjoy broad freedom regarding marriage and divorce. Same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples were legalized in 2010. A 2012 gender-identity law allows people to legally change their gender.

GBV remains a serious problem, which worsened when COVID-19 measures were imposed. Calls to a government hotline rose by 18 percent during the March-to-October 2020 period compared to the same period in 2019; calls increased 13 percent in the first quarter of 2021 over the first quarter of 2020.

In 2020, the National Congress legalized abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy, a development with few precedents in Latin America.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 3.003 4.004

Argentinians face high poverty rates, which worsened due to lockdown restrictions. The poverty rate stood at 40.6 percent in the first half of 2021; 10.7 percent of people lived in extreme poverty.

Forced labor of Argentinans and citizens of neighboring countries is high in sectors such as garment and brick production, agriculture, domestic work, and street vendors. Half of the Argentinian workforce is informally employed and lacks legal protections. Sex trafficking is a serious concern, and efforts to combat it have been hindered by corruption and the complicity of some officials according to the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2021.

On Argentina

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  • Global Freedom Score

    84 100 free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    71 100 free