Caribbean Divided on Malvinas/Falkland Blockade

  • by Peter Richards (st. george's, grenada)
  • Inter Press Service

Four British oil exploration firms have announced plans to search for oil around the Falklands, located about 480 kilometres off Argentina. The oil companies suspect that as much as three times the UK's oil reserves lie beneath the archipelago, first claimed by Britain in 1820.

'Sadly, Argentina at the moment, probably because we are exploring for hydrocarbons offshore around the islands, is making life very difficult indeed,' head of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly, Roger Edwards, told IPS at the start of a visit to several Caribbean islands.

'They are putting us virtually under an economic blockade. They are threatening, through presidential decrees, to intercept shipping that has been trading in the Falkland Islands. They are trying to bring on-board countries around Argentina…to get them on their side that that they also would ban Falkland Island flagged vessels,' he added.

Last weekend, delegates to the summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) in Venezuela reaffirmed their commitment to back Argentina in any conflict over the Falkland Islands.

ALBA, which is President Hugo Chavez's vehicle for closer regional unity, now joins Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, Argentina's fellow member-nations in the four-nation MERCOSUR common market, which imposed the blockade two months ago.

Argentina's foreign minister Héctor Timerman, who was invited to the ALBA summit, said that London was isolated in its sovereignty claim over the Malvinas Islands.

'Today in Caracas, it is evident that the Malvinas cause has united Latin America and the Caribbean,' he said, adding 'Argentina is not alone in this. It is actually Great Britain who is alone.'

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said Buenos Aires will lodge a complaint with the United Nations Security Council over Britain's 'militarisation' of the seas surrounding the Malvinas/Falkland Islands.

'This is a regional and global issue because they are militarising the South Atlantic once again,' Fernández told her cabinet and military chiefs at the presidential palace earlier this week.

Edwards said that the plan for an embargo did not come as a surprise as Venezuela has traditionally been a supporter of Argentine policy regarding the disputed islands.

Edwards and his delegation arrived in St. Lucia for talks with Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony on Tuesday. He said that island residents are very positive about their socioeconomic future, insisting it does not lie in the hands of either Britain or Argentina.

'They are spreading myths and lies so we've decided that as a people we would come and give you the story first-hand,' Edwards said. 'The thrust of the message is we're an island people whose wishes should be paramount. We wish to determine our own future.'

'Internally, businesses are very buoyant and very positive. They are investing money into their future and they are doing everything they can to better the economy, the way of life, and everything for the people in the Falklands.

'We don't believe Argentina has a legal claim over the Falkland Islands but they want to dominate and colonise the Falkland Islands. We don't believe that is right but then we don't want the United Kingdom to determine our future either. We really do want to determine our own future,' Edwards told IPS.

But he may find that outside Grenada, where the delegation said they were 'well received', there is stronger resistance to this position. As prominent Caribbean economist and former secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States Professor Norman Girvan has noted, ALBA is proving to be a 'more dynamic' grouping than the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

'They are mobilising resources on a much more significant scale. The ALBA bank and Petrocaribe funding are much larger than those mobilised by the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) and ALBA is moving ahead they keep launching into new projects, for example, food security and agriculture that CARICOM has been talking (about) a lot but doing very little,' Girvan told the Barbados-based Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

ECOALBA, which is being projected as an alternative to trade and economic links dominated by the United States and the U.S. dollar, emphasises bartering and payments among ALBA members through a virtual currency, the sucre.

St. Lucia, for example, which was granted 'special membership' status within the eight-year-old ALBA grouping, has supported the right of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands to self-determination since 1985, three years after the British-Argentine conflict. But that support is coming under scrutiny as the island moves to join ALBA.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which like Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and Haiti, is a full-fledged member of ALBA, has already said its support of an ALBA resolution to ban ships with the Falklands Islands flag from entering its ports is 'symbolic'.

The island's Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told a news conference Wednesday on his return from Caracas that the ALBA summit merely added on a paragraph to a resolution adopted in December by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Gonsalves recalled that CELAC had indicated it was giving 'support for the cause of the Argentineans in principle but more particularly the request was being made for the issue to be resolved within the context of the discussion taking place on sovereignty of these islands through the United Nations mechanisms'.

'And that is basically what is restated in this declaration…the real addition was the paragraph that says 'Support the decision by the countries of the region to ban ships with the colonial flag imposed on the Malvinas from entering their ports',' he said, adding 'it is largely a symbolic gesture.'

'And when this declaration says support the declaration made by those countries … we don't have ships from the Falklands coming to St. Vincent.'

The Antigua and Barbuda government said it would also support a 'peaceful and definitive solution' to the dispute and is distancing itself from any blockade of ships flying the Falkland Islands flag.

'Antigua and Barbuda has never supported any call for the banning of flagships from any country in the region and therefore disassociates itself from any statement regarding the banning of ships carrying the flag of the Falklands (Malvinas) from entering our ports,' the government said in an official statement Wednesday.

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