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Argentina: Diplomatic Conflict With United Kingdom Over Falklands

Argentina has been claiming sovereignty of the Falkland Islands since 1833, the year in which they were occupied by the United Kingdom. In 1982, the Falklands War broke out, lasting two and a half months and claiming the lives of 907 people: 649 Argentine soldiers, 255 British soldiers and 3 islanders.

The war was provoked by a dispute between Argentina and England over the sovereignty of the island, which was retained by Britain after its victory in the war.

However, the Argentine government continues to request a dialogue with Great Britain from the international organisations in order to reach an agreement on the sovereignty of the Falklands. These requests have intensified considerably during the last decade, and in 2011, prior to the presidential elections in Argentina, President Cristina  Fernández received a clear ‘no’ from British Prime Minister David Cameron:

As long as the Falkland Islands want to be sovereign British territory, they should remain sovereign British territory – full stop, end of story.

The Argentine president took only a few hours to respond, describing the United Kingdom as a “crude colonial power in decline” and the words of the prime minister as “an expression of mediocrity and almost of stupidity”. She also stated that Argentina would continue “tirelessly” with its demand in each and every global forum available.

This was perhaps the moment in which the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands became a recurrent topic in the various news media in Argentina, and an object of analysis and discussion amongst growing numbers of Internet users.

Monument to the Fallen in the Falklands, Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Image by Leonora Enkin under licence Atribución-CompartirIgual 2.0 Genérica (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Monument to the Fallen in the Falklands, Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Image by Leonora Enkin under licence Atribución-CompartirIgual 2.0 Genérica (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The ebb and flow of the conflict

At the beginning of January 2012, with the aim of pressuring Great Britain into engaging in a dialogue on the Falklands matter, Argentina coordinated a movement along with other Mercosur countries in which access to boats flying the Falklands flag was blocked. On January 12, the Argentine newspaper La Nación published [es] the following:

Por medio de las respectivas cancillerías, Uruguay, Brasil y Chile ratificaron el bloqueo de barcos con bandera de las Malvinas. [...] En todos los casos quedó en claro que aquellos buques que tengan bandera de las Malvinas no podrán ingresar en puertos del Mercosur, pero si cambian la insignia por la bandera roja comercial de Gran Bretaña sí podrán amarrar.

Through their respective chancelleries, Uruguay, Brazil and Chile have ratified the blockade of boats flying the Falklands flag. [...] In every case, it was made clear that those boats flying the Falklands flag will not be allowed to enter the ports of Mercosur states, but if they replace their insignia with the red commercial flag of Great Britain, they will be allowed to dock.

It was in the face of these events that on January 18, Prime Minister David Cameron aroused controversy accusing Argentina of being ‘colonialist', during a session in the House of Commons:

We support the Falklands’ right to self determination, and what the Argentinians have been saying recently I would argue is actually far more like colonialism, because these people want to remain British, and the Argentinians want them to do something else

Prior to this statement, the Member of Parliament Andrew Rosindell had urged the Argentines to remember that they had “lost the war”, words which were greeted by laughter from those present.

These criticisms were received with much controversy in Argentina and condemned by various politicians of the ruling party. The vice-President Amado Boudou made [es] the following comment:

Realmente es muy triste tener que escuchar esta falacia, este exabrupto. [...] como mínimo es una falacia histórica lo que Cameron ha dicho respecto del colonialismo. [...] Es un exabrupto torpe, ignorante, de ignorar la realidad histórica, nos deja medio impresionados tanta ignorancia. Que vuelva a los libros de historia.

It is really very sad to have to listen to this fallacy, this outburst. [...] at the very least, Cameron's comments on colonialism are a historical fallacy. [...] It is a clumsy and ignorant outburst which ignores historical reality, he has left us half-impressed with such ignorance. He should return to his history books.

The Foreign Affairs Minister Hector Timmerman added [es] that “Great Britain is synonymous with colonialism”, while the representative for Santa Fe, Agustín Rossi, published [es] on Twitter:

Estoy presentando en Diputados un proyecto de resolución para que expresemos nuestro enérgico repudio a los dichos de David Cameron.

I am presenting a draft resolution to Parliament calling for us to forcefully condemn David Cameron's comments.

In turn, certain opposition politicians received the criticisms in the same way as the ruling party. The national representative Ricardo Alfonsín said [es] that Cameron's words “displayed an appalling attitude” while the former presidential candidate Hermes Binner stated:

El hecho de que el gobierno conservador británico hable de ‘colonialismo’ suena a broma, dado que no se puede manosear la historia.

The fact that the British Conservative government should speak of ‘colonialism’ must be a joke, as you can't fiddle around with history.

National representative Fernando Iglesias, from the opposition, expressed [es] his disagreement with the government's position on the Falklands on Twitter:

Una cosa es el justo reclamo de retiro del Reino Unido y su base militar y muy otra la soberanía argentina sobre un pueblo que no la quiere

One thing is the fair request that the United Kingdom withdraw its military base from the island, but quite another is Argentine sovereignty over a people who do want it.

In the same way, internet users from Argentina and elsewhere are divided between those who believe that Argentina should abandon its claim for the Falklands and those who support this claim.

Journalist Florencia Etcheves (@fetcheves) published [es] the following comment on Twitter, in relation to the current conflict over mega-mining in Argentina:

Mientras la prioridad es Malvinas , arrasan el [cerro] Famatina. Qué plato.

While the priority is the Falklands, they are destroying the Famatina [valley]. How awful.

User Martín Caparrós (@martin_caparros) also made [es] the same observation:

¿No es maravilloso que simulen pelear por las Malvinas mientras le entregan toda la cordillera a las mineras multinacionales? #Famatina

Isn't it great that they are pretending to fight over the Falklands while they are handing over the entire mountain range to the multinational mining companies? #Famatina

Similarly, TV panellist Gustavo Noriega (@Gus_Noriega) pointed out [es] that there are more important matters to worry about:

#cosascotidianas la mitad del país sin cloacas, agua potable ni gas, pero ahora el tema es Malvinas.

#everydaythings Half of the country lives without sewers, drinking water or gas, but now the hot topic is the Falklands.

From Chile, journalist Felipe Avello Suazo declared [es] himself to be in favour of the Argentine demand:

Los chilenos apoyamos a los hermanos argentinos: LAS MALVINAS SON ARGENTINAS. Avergonzados estamos por ayudar a los ingleses en los 80.

We Chileans support our Argentine brothers: THE FALKLANDS ARE ARGENTINE. We are embarrassed for helping the English in the 1980s.

Bloggers have also been giving their opinions on the matter. Doctor Ana, in her blog ana-guev-logueando [es], reflects [es]:

Interesante y absurdo cruce diplomático con los ingleses, en donde los ciudadanos, argentinos e ingleses, caemos una vez más en la manipulación patriotera. [...] Hasta una escandalosa guerra protagonizamos, donde – como siempre – los pueblos ponemos la sangre y los titiriteros ponen las cortinas de humo y los fantasmas. [...] Tremenda paradoja de un mundo en donde valen más los quiebres que las comunicaciones, la fachada que la casa, los discursos que los actos, los fantasmas que los hombres.

This is an interesting and absurd diplomatic exchange with the English, in which the people, both Argentine and English, fall once again into jingoistic manipulation. [...] We went as far as to get into a scandalous war in which – as always – the people contributed their blood and the puppeteers contributed the smoke screens and the spectres. [...] A terrible paradox in a world in which breakdowns are valued more than communication, facades more than houses, speech more than acts, ghosts more than men.

And Fabio Baccaglioni [es], in a lengthy publication, concluded [es] with irony:

Ese país [Inglaterra] está utilizando la palabra “Colonialismo” para describir a otros, no podemos ofendernos, deberíamos tan sólo cagarnos de risa.

Argentina más bien es un país colonizado. La cordillera le pertenece a Barrick Gold y a otras empresas mineras, no hay casi ninguna mina cuyo beneficio termine en el país. [...] El agua poco a poco quedará en terrenos que no nos pertenecen, la patagonia es mitad inglesa o de Benetton, los campos de grandes empresas de afuera [...] Tal vez Cameron se equivocó al expresarse y lo que quiso decir es que Argentina era una colonia que se creía independiente.

That country [England] is using the word “colonialism” to describe others. We cannot be offended, we can only piss ourselves laughing.

Argentina is more of a colonised country. The mountain range belongs to Barrick Gold and to other mining companies, there is barely a single mine whose profit remains in the country. [...] The water will eventually end up in land which does not belong to us, Patagonia is half English or Benetton, the fields belong to large foreign companies [...] Perhaps Cameron made a mistake and what he meant to say is that Argentina is a colony which believes itself to be independent.

Thumbnail and featured image shows Stanley, Falkland Islands, from the air. Image by Flickr user Phil Gyford (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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