It would be amusing if it were not so sad in the modern world that grown-up nations have to revert to tit-for-tat spats in their respective national presses to make serious points, that could potentially affect a lot of people’s lives. Argentina currently has internal problems and in the mode of many leaders of nations with similar problems, Her president has tried to divert attention from her own difficulties by trying to unite the nation against an external, real or invented, threats or perceived unfair treatment. Perhaps following last year’s 30th anniversary of the invasion of 1982 and in the light of rounds of recent British defence cuts, including crucially to our long range air and carrier capabilities, a good time to strike!
Cristina Kirchner of Argentina is doing exactly that. She has published as an advert, an open letter to the UK in two of our major newspapers, demanding that we open negotiations with them over the future of the Falkland Islands, which they claim we dispossessed them of in the early 1800s. In response, David Cameron has quite rightly said that it is entirely up to the inhabitants as to their future and allegiances. There will be referendum on the subject held in the islands within the next two or three months on the determination of the islander’s future. The Falkland Islands representatives have pointed out that the British had much earlier claimed the Islands and removed an invading garrison force from Spain in about 1733, well before the foundation of the state of Argentina, so Kirchner’s claim is totally inaccurate. The population, although primarily of British stock was not a colonial implant as part of imperial colonisation measures by Britain, but were all voluntary settlers who had come for personal and financial reasons. Some had been related to the fishing and whaling industries and others for farming and escape from troubles at home. There were also a number of nationalities represented in the population, many of whom are descended directly from immigrants of over 200 years ago. Argentina itself is far more a nation of imperial colonists implanted originally by Spain, who had dominated and enslaved the native populations before winning independence (with some British help) from their Spanish masters.
In terms of the tit-for-tat journalism, The Sun newspaper has published a letter in the Buenos Aires national paper refuting the Argentinian president’s claims and telling her to keep her hands off the Falklands. Her government has refused to talk to the Falkland islanders directly over mutual matters and has tried to cripple the islands by harrassing fishermen, oil exploration companies and restricting flights and cruise ships to the area. Economic sanctions are a reality of life of the aggressive Argentinian government, who have absolutely no rights over sovereignty or anything else in the immediate area.
I visited the islands a couple of times during my military service and found them to be delightful – if somewhat windswept – havens of wildlife, beautiful in the mode of the Orkneys and Shetlands, and populated by a hardy but very British people who work hard for their incomes and have many hardships to put up with. A country and a principle well worth defending!