Argentina anger at UK refusal to discuss Falklands

Tue, Apr 3, 2012, 01:00

ARGENTINA’S PRESIDENT, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has lambasted Britain for refusing to discuss her country’s long-standing claim to the Falkland Islands, calling British control of the territory “a leftover story from the 19th century”.

Some 5,000 Argentinians braved freezing temperatures for an all-night vigil awaiting Ms Fernandez’s speech in Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city, to mark yesterday’s 30th anniversary of the country’s failed invasion of the islands.

According to the Argentinian constitution, Ushuaia is the capital of a vast South Atlantic territory that includes Las Malvinas – the Falklands.

“I am a Malvinist president,” Ms Fernandez said.

“It is an injustice that a colonialist enclave still exists a few hundred kilometres from our shores in the 21st century. It is absurd to pretend dominion 13,000km overseas.”

Ms Fernandez delivered her address before a large metal sculpture hollowed out in the shape of the islands, representing Argentina’s claim on what it considers its territory.

The Falklands have been under continuous British rule since 1833, except for the period of the invasion by the generals of Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship, which lasted for two months from April 2nd, 1982. The president said her government has requested the Red Cross test for DNA remains of still-unidentified Argentinian and British soldiers buried on the islands.

Commemorations of what is officially known in Argentina as Veterans’ Day were held at military bases and city squares all over the country, and left-wing groups took part in a march on the British embassy in Buenos Aires. In Mar del Plata, lyric tenor Dario Volonte, a survivor of the Belgrano, on which 323 Argentinian sailors died after it was torpedoed by a British submarine, led a large crowd in the national anthem.

Argentina had tempered its claim following the calamitous 1982 invasion, but the mood changed a few months ago when Ms Fernandez made the islands a theme of her self-termed “national and populist” government.

“The battle against 19th-century colonialism has to be resolved with 21st-century tools,” foreign minister Hector Timerman said on the 6-7-8 television programme yesterday.

“For the first time since the war, we have managed to put the Malvinas issue on the international agenda.”

Argentina has found some unexpected allies in the showbusiness world, including American actor Sean Penn and British singer Morrissey, who called for sovereignty negotiations with Britain while on tour in Argentina.

But not everyone in Argentina agrees with the commemoration of the invasion’s anniversary. “On the one hand, the dictatorship is condemned, but on the other the war is remembered and justified in a way that implies accepting it as a positive event in our history,” a group of leading intellectuals said in a statement last week.

Local luminaries, from Argentina’s top investigative journalist, Jorge Lanata, to important thinkers such as Beatriz Sarlo, also questioned the official events.

They said the national holiday seemed to condone “the painful tragedy provoked in 1982 by an unscrupulous dictatorship and exalted today by a retrograde nationalism”. – (Guardian service)