'Sun' defends British claim to Falklands in open letter to Argentinian president

Sat, Jan 5, 2013, 00:00

British tabloid the Sun has waded into the latest diplomatic row over the Falkland Islands by publishing an advert in a Buenos Aires newspaper telling Argentinian president Cristina Kirchner to keep her “hands off” the disputed South Atlantic archipelago.

The move was in response to a strongly worded letter from Ms Kirchner to British prime minister David Cameron published as an advert in several London newspapers on Thursday. In it she said Britain had “forcibly stripped” the islands from Argentina “in a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism” and demanded it abide by a 1965 UN resolution that called on the two sides to negotiate a solution to the sovereignty dispute.

But the Sun claimed that Britain’s claim dates back to 1765 – “before the Republic of Argentina even existed” – and that until the islands’ residents “choose to become Argentinian, they remain resolutely British”.

Mr Cameron had already brushed off Ms Kirchner’s demand for sovereignty talks saying the archipelago’s future should be determined by the Falkland Islanders themselves.

The 3,000 islanders have long claimed that the UN charter guarantees their right to self-determination and are planning to hold a referendum later this year to formalise their overwhelming desire to remain a British Overseas Territory.

The Sun’s intervention revived memories of its jingoistic front pages during the Falklands conflict in 1982 such as “Stick It Up Your Junta” and “Gotcha” which celebrated the British sinking of the General Belgrano.

Conflict

Three hundred and twenty three of those on board the cruiser were killed – the single biggest loss of life during the 74-day conflict in which 907 people lost their lives.

Yesterday’s Sun advert by appeared in the English-language Buenos Aires Herald, the 137-year-old daily that was once the newspaper of Argentina’s sizeable British community.

Ms Kirchner’s letter was timed to mark the 180th anniversary of Britain’s seizure of the islands from a small Argentinian garrison.

Britain has always claimed that the action was a reassertion of a prior claim to the uninhabited islands whose sovereignty it had disputed with France and Spain during the 18th century.

Most Argentinians strongly back their country’s claim to the islands and their governments have used this support in the past to deflect attention from their domestic troubles with Ms Kirchner’s latest intervention coming amidst mounting problems at home.

Massive protests

In recent months she has faced massive protests by the country’s middle class and there was sporadic looting in several urban centres in the run-up to Christmas. Discontent is being stoked by galloping inflation which is eating into real wages just as the once white-hot economy slows to a crawl.

Ms Kirchner also suffered a judicial setback last month in her high-profile battle to break up the country’s biggest media conglomerate. A decision by the country’s supreme court granted a reprieve for the Grupo Clarín in its battle against the government to hold onto its most valuable assets.

Clarín was a close ally of Ms Kirchner until the two sides fell out in 2008. Since then Ms Kirchner has sought to dismember the group which dominates the country’s radio and television markets.