Argentina hurts itself in Falklands/Malvinas

On the 30th anniversary of Argentina’s ill-fated invasion of the Falklands/Malvinas islands, one thing seems clear: Argentina’s government is pursuing the worst possible course to recover the British-controlled South Atlantic islands.

Before we get into President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s disastrous policy regarding the islands, let’s state that Argentina’s historical claims to the Falklands-Malvinas are legitimate.

Great Britain’s position that there can be no negotiations on sovereignty as long as the estimated 3,200 islanders wish to remain British doesn’t hold up, most international law experts say.

Columbia University law professor Julius Goebel’s 1927 book The Struggle for the Falklands, and a 1983 sequel by Yale University international law professor Michael W. Reisman leave little doubt that Great Britain’s occupation of the islands is illegal.

To make a long story short, the only negotiated transfer of the Falklands/Malvinas sovereignty took place in 1767, when the French ceded them to the Spanish Crown. When Argentina became independent, it legally inherited all formerly Spanish territories.

So when the British occupied the islands in 1833 and called them the Falklands, it was basically a land grab.

The Falkland/Malvinas made headlines world-wide on April 2, 1982, when Argentina’s military dictatorship, in an obvious effort to boost its sagging popularity at home, invaded the islands.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent the British armada, and Britain regained the islands, after a war that left nearly 1,000 dead.

The fact that much of the world’s public opinion sided with the British because of a generalized revulsion over Argentina’s military junta’s actions, does not change the basic premise that the islands belong to Argentina, Reisman wrote. In most legal systems, title goes to the proper owner, not to the nicest person, he argued.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Now, with Fernández de Kirchner’s populist government facing growing public discontent at home, and with reports of huge oil and gas discoveries off the islands, the Argentine government is once again putting the Falkland/Malvinas dispute on the front burner.

Whether it’s because it wants to divert attention from Argentina’s rising inflation or because it is anticipating an oil bonanza in the South Atlantic, Fernández de Kirchner has launched a diplomatic offensive throughout Latin America to prevent ships flying Falkland Islands flags from stopping in their ports.

According to press reports, this is already causing shortages of fresh fruits on the islands.

In addition, Argentina is threatening legal action against firms drilling gas and oil off the Falkland/Malvinas, which the islanders fear may keep the islands from substantially increasing their income.

Nigel Haywood, the British governor of the islands, told Argentina’s daily El Cronista recently that “Argentina is constantly threatening to make our lives increasingly complicated.” He added, “Every week brings new threats” from Argentina’s government.

An Argentine friend who has just visited the islands confirmed to me this week that the Kelpers, as the islanders are known, are not angry at the Argentine people, but they see the Fernández de Kirchner government as the enemy.

The Kelpers are, among other things, worried about the Argentine president’s recent request to Chile to take over the Lan Chile airline-operated flights to the mainland, the only ones connecting the islands with South America. The islanders fear that if these flights are taken over by Argentina, they will be left at the mercy of the Argentine government‘s whims, he said.

One of the few voices of reason in this dispute has come from a group of 17 Argentine intellectuals who recently signed a document called ‘An alternative vision.‘ They stated that Argentina can’t keep ignoring the islanders’ wishes. Argentina’s current policy of demanding sovereignty over the islands without taking into account the islanders’ desires weakens Argentina’s justified demands for a negotiated solution, they said.

My opinion: Instead of scaring off the islanders with constant threats, Argentina should try to seduce them. It should offer them free medical airlifts and first-class medical treatment in Argentina for islanders with health emergencies, free shipments of whatever they need, and whatever cultural and sports exchanges they are willing to accept.

Given the islanders’ misgivings about the Argentine authorities, it won’t be easy. The wounds will take time to heal.

But the Argentine government’s current hard-line policy is more designed to win quick applause at home than to recover the islands. It may help shore up support for the government, but it hurts Argentina’s own national interests.

© The Miami Herald, 2012. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Media Services.

(Editor’s note: We regret that there will be no column by David Jessop this week or next.)

More in Features, Sunday

future notes1

Unifying general and technical education

I argued last week that the physical and institutional infrastructure and processes within the education system have changed significantly in recent times.

Latin View

Trump’s coronation was like that of a ‘maximum leader’

I learned in journalism school that what you see often is more important than what you hear, so I decided to turn off the television volume during much of the Republican National Convention that proclaimed Donald Trump as the Republican’s presidential candidate, and to take notes.

default placeholder

Three welcome developments: The appointment of the Tax Chief, the Head of FIU, and the Bid Protest Committee

Three important appointments were recently announced, namely the Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and members of the three-person Bid Protest Committee.

20160725Dave Chadee

Caribbean chases Zika preparedness, after death of mosquito expert

By Gerard Best   Gerard Best is a researcher and writer covering social issues across the Caribbean and Latin America. Based in Trinidad and Tobago, he is the former New Media Editor at Guardian Media Limited and the Caribbean Communications Network, the country’s largest media companies.

These children enjoyed being pushed home by a cousin


Riverstown, a village on the Essequibo Coast, is pressed between Pomona and Airy Hall. Once you cross the railway-like bridge over a black water creek, you’re in Riverstown, where there are more than 700 residents.


Mobile money: a technological fad or serious economic business?

No one knows Imagine talking to a friend on the phone while thousands of dollars are pressed to your ears and no one knows it. 


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: