ARGENTINA: Operation Patagonia

Black topsoil, rolling 350 miles west and south of Buenos Aires, has nourished Argentina's agricultural past; but for its heavy-industrial future, Argentina is looking toward continent's-end Patagonia. Outwardly, Patagonia seems little more than 300,000 sq. mi. of wasteland lashed by 60-m.p.h. antarctic winds, blinded by spinning dust devils, cursed by endless drought that is relieved by only 5 in. of rain a year. Its 500,000 inhabitants earn a rugged living by running 18 million sheep and 1,500,000 goats on scrub grass.

Yet hostile Patagonia hides riches that can make the difference between boom and bust for Argentina's dollar-short wheat-beef economy. With...

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