Falklands/Malvinas, From Rhetoric to Pressure

  •  buenos aires
  • Inter Press Service

The sharp exchange of words between representatives of Buenos Aires and London intensified over the past few weeks, creating a tense climate precisely on the 30th anniversary of the war over this southern archipelago lying 450 kilometres off the continental coast of Argentina in the Atlantic Ocean.

'There is a change in Argentina's political stance that's putting Britain on edge, but we don't know what the costs and benefits of this strategy will be,' said Federico Merke, an Argentine international relations expert.

According to Merke, who teaches at the private Salvador and San Andrés Universities, what Argentina is trying to do is 'push up the costs of occupation' for Britain. But, he said, 'There's still a long way to go before there can be any negotiations.'

The Malvinas/Falkland Islands, occupied by Britain since 1833, were invaded by Argentina on Apr. 2, 1982 when the country was under military rule (1976-1983). The dictatorship went ahead with its decision to invade the islands despite a United Nations resolution adopted in 1966 that called on both countries to negotiate the territory's sovereignty.

The armed conflict, which cost some 900 lives, lasted until Jun. 10, 1983, when Argentine forces surrendered in the face of the military and technological superiority of the British troops.

Relations between the two countries were severed until the 1990s, but Argentina has consistently called for peaceful talks at every international forum where it is represented.

Argentina 'is going to continue demanding dialogue and negotiations' and 'gathering (international) support', President Cristina Fernández declared on Jan. 25, in what was her first public appearance following her recovery from thyroid surgery earlier this month.

Over the last two months, the Fernández administration sought and secured the support of other Latin American nations, which pledged to back Argentina's sovereignty claim over the archipelago.

At its biannual summit held in Montevideo in December 2011, Mercosur (the Southern Common Market), South America’s biggest trade bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, passed a resolution preventing ships sailing under the Falkland flag from putting in at any member's port.

The decision was ratified individually by the governments of the Mercosur countries and communicated to British Foreign Secretary William Hague during his visit to Brazil. Chile, too, as an associate member of the bloc, declared that it would ban Falkland ships from its ports. However, it has not yet taken a position with respect to Argentina's repeated request to cancel passenger and supply flights from the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas to the Malvinas/Falklands.

According to Merke this could be hinging on Argentina's decision regarding its neighbour's request for extradition of a Chilean guerrilla leader. In 2010, Argentina granted Galvarino Apablaza, who is wanted in Chile for the murder of a senator, political asylum.

'Argentina has to give something in exchange for Chile's cancelling of those flights. But I have my doubts. Chile seems very reluctant. If it were to agree to it, things would get very complicated for the islanders,' he said. Argentine Foreign Secretary Héctor Timerman toured Central America this month and garnered the support of Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.

Argentina had already received renewed support from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), which gathers the 12 countries of South America, as well as of the recently formed Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations (including the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean), and the Organisation of American States (OAS).

'Unasur is key in that it leverages Argentina's diplomatic efforts. Having all of Latin America united behind it is a great advantage. It's a success, perhaps not on a major scale, but it's instrumental,' the expert said. Nonetheless, London continues to refuse to engage in bilateral negotiations on the sovereignty issue, claiming to defend the islanders' right to self-determination, and has responded to Argentina's demands by reinforcing the number of troops deployed there. British Prime Minister David Cameron rejected Argentina's efforts to renew talks, calling them 'unfounded and counterproductive', and went on to describe Buenos Aires's sovereignty claim as 'colonialism'.

© Inter Press Service (2012) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service