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Coffee House

Cristina Kirchner forgets the most important people in the Falklands row: the Islanders

3 January 2013

9:20 AM

3 January 2013

9:20 AM

The British government has been gently rattling the bars in its stand-off with Argentina over the Falklands of late: giving the Queen a stretch of land in Antarctica which Cristina Kirchner’s government disputes the ownership of is one example. But today, ahead of a referendum in March for Islanders to decide whether they want the Falklands to remain under British sovereignty, Kirchner has upped the tension.

In a letter published as an advert in today’s papers, the Argentine President demands that the UK ‘abide by the resolutions of the United Nations’ to end colonialism and negotiate a solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Islands.

There’s a question about why Kirchner feels the need to buy this advertising space now, and the answer is that she is struggling a great deal with domestic policy in Argentina. Taking a stand on the Falklands is an easy way to distract voters for a little while. It’s also worth reading Graham Brady’s piece from May on Argentina’s credibility.

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Kirchner makes much of the ‘colonial history’ of the Falklands in her letter, which you can read in full below. She also insists that ‘the Question of the Malvinas Islands is also a cause embraced by Latin America and by a vast majority of peoples and governments around the world that reject colonialism’.

But what she fails to mention is that this Question isn’t embraced by arguably the most important group of people in this whole row: the Falkland Islanders themselves. It’s worth noting at this point, too, that it is the Falkland Islands government that runs the show in this British Overseas Territory, not Westminster. And the adverts don’t mention that Argentina hardly took the moral high ground by invading the territory in 1982.

The British government doesn’t plan to pour a great deal of resources into the referendum in March because it already knows how those who live there will vote: in favour of continuing British sovereignty. After that point, it will become even more difficult for Argentina to claim that regaining the Islands is simply an act of restoring territorial integrity.

Full text of Cristina Kirchner’s letter:

Mr Prime Minister David Cameron,

One hundred and eighty years ago on the same date, January 3rd, in a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism, Argentina was forcibly stripped of the Malvinas Islands, which are situated 14,000km (8700 miles) away from London.

The Argentines on the Islands were expelled by the Royal Navy and the United Kingdom subsequently began a population implantation process similar to that applied to other territories under colonial rule.

Since then, Britain, the colonial power, has refused to return the territories to the Argentine Republic, thus preventing it from restoring its territorial integrity.

The Question of the Malvinas Islands is also a cause embraced by Latin America and by a vast majority of peoples and governments around the world that reject colonialism.

In 1960, the United Nations proclaimed the necessity of “bringing to an end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations”. In 1965, the General Assembly adopted, with no votes against (not even by the United Kingdom), a resolution considering the Malvinas Islands a colonial case and inviting the two countries to negotiate a solution to the sovereignty dispute between them.This was followed by many other resolutions to that effect.

In the name of the Argentine people, I reiterate our invitation for us to abide by the resolutions of the United Nations.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
President of the Argentine Republic
Cc: Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations

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