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Tensions have been running dangerously high these past few months. With Argentina and Britain engaging in an internationally-reported heckling match over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, an issue that is deep-rooted in both countries’ recent histories. A brief, though intensely brutal, war fought in 1982 still inflames jingoistic sentiment on both sides: one side triumphant, echoing a return to ‘Rule Britannia!’, with the other having incurred overwhelming casualties for spoils they deem legitimately theirs. The question of who determines their future is key: and Britain’s argument holds the greater weight.
So thousands of miles away, these beautiful Islands, engulfed by stunning blue skies and monopolized by toddling King and Macaroni penguins, are once again centre-stage: both David Cameron and Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner branding each other “colonialist”, the latter instigating a South American trading bloc (Mercosur) to prohibit any Falkland flag-flying ships from docking at their ports, and the former deploying Prince William and an incredibly sophisticated destroyer, HMS Dauntless. So, why the spike in tensions?
At this moment, Argentina is having to implement a raft of tough anti-inflationary measures, something no Peronist government has done with any grain of success, and so the Malvinas issue is a lively diversion to economic difficulty. Mark Jones, an expert in Latin American politics at Rice University in Texas, states that “it’s one of the few issues outside football that you can get universal consensus on” in Argentina. Furthermore, with potentially substantial reserves of oil about the islands, the distance of 300 or so miles would seem gloriously appetizing to a country with its economy on the rocks.
It is clear Britain can’t claim it’s not over 2,000 miles away from the British mainland, but this does not mean we are aggressors still consumed by grandiose imperial ambition. In fact, The Guardian declares this as something of “a post-imperial anachronism”, in the same way as Gibraltar. It is so intrinsic to understand that these people actually want to be – and remain – British. It is brazenly clear that to equate the Falklands’ governance to British rule in India is delusional, political and, frankly, insulting to the Falklanders’ very existence; questioning the legitimacy in their own thinking. That is why Britain is inflexibly ignoring various UN resolutions; a resolution invites compromise – and compromise is wholly inappropriate.
In fact, the argument of distance, as a rule for Argentina’s rule of the archipelago, is fundamentally a fatuous one. I mean, if based upon proximity, any island close to a country – despite difference in culture and sentiment – would simply have to genuflect to their neighbour’s demands – regardless of the actual will of the people. Mexico and South Africa would, respectively, have an equal claim to the French-owned Clipperton and Crozet Islands, and the Faroe Islands are probably nearer to Britain than Denmark: so where do we draw this magical line?!
Argentina is sin duda a fabulous country, and it so tragic that something so bitterly divides countries so tremendously aligned on so many other issues. A gigantic monolithic monument to their war-dead piercing the central boulevard, with another memorial garden in the city, really highlights the significance of the issue. Discovery of oil was certainly a finger in the wound for Argentinians, though with the Islanders actually wanting to remain under the British crown, it is disgraceful that de Kirchner’s presidency has initiated the possibility of another war. With Argentina’s sabre-rattling and initial provocations, the smoke and mirrors of political expediency have reduced Anglo-Argentine relations to a grizzly ash, and caused an overwhelming sense of unease in the Falklands. And if these innocent Islanders want to remain British, we should fight tooth-and-nail for their right to remain so.