Just back to work after medical leave, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on Wednesday accused British Prime Minister David Cameron of portraying Argentina as “violent” in the Falkland Islands dispute.
Fernandez, dressed in black and with a small surgery scar visible on her throat, plunged back into one of her country’s most sensitive and longest-running disputes — over the South Atlantic islands Britain has held since 1833 and Buenos Aires considers its own.
“They [Britain] are trying to paint us as bad guys, or violent guys, and really that is not who we are,” Fernandez told a packed auditorium in a lengthy speech after 20 days of medical leave for thyroid surgery.
Cameron had accused Argentina of a “colonialist” attitude, a comment which enraged many in Argentina.
Protesters marched on the British embassy in Buenos Aires on Friday last week, burning the Union Flag and demanding Argentina cut diplomatic ties with London.
“The UN Committee on Decolonization has 16 cases open on places that remain colonies, of which 10 are British colonies, and one of the best known is our beloved Malvinas islands,” Fernandez said.
She said she would keep using diplomacy to try to bring back the islands under the control of Buenos Aires.
“We are not part of any country’s invading strike force,” Fernandez said in a swipe at Britain’s international military role. “Our armed forces only take part in peacekeeping missions and that is a political decision of democratic governments since 1983.”
The renewed tensions come months before the 30th anniversary of the brief, but bloody, war between the two countries over the islands.
The 74-day war for control of the Falklands started on April 2, 1982, and it killed 649 Argentines and 255 British. It also forced Argentina to withdraw from the islands in the South Atlantic.
Cameron has also convened Britain’s National Security Council to ensure military defenses are ready to defend the Falklands.
Tension between Buenos Aires and London has intensified since 2010, when London authorized oil prospecting around the islands.
The US Department of State, meanwhile, has called for negotiations between Argentina and Britain to resolve the dispute.
Fernandez, 58, underwent surgery to remove her thyroid gland after a cancer diagnosis, which later tests showed was inaccurate. She had the surgery less than a month after her inauguration on Dec. 10, with Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou assuming her executive duties.