Mon, Feb 06, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Argentina, UK still spar over Falklands

PEACEFUL RESOLUTION:While 75% of Argentines said recovering the islands was important, only 3% said they supported military action, with most favoring diplomacy


A man looks at pictures and articles about the Falklands War displayed by Argentine veterans outside the Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

London’s tabloids and British leaders are depicting Argentina as dangerous and belligerent 30 years after its invasion of the Falkland Islands. Argentines say the UK should consider its own history of waging war around the globe and acknowledge that the islands and seas around them rightfully belong to Argentina.

Despite weeks of overheated rhetoric, there seems to be zero hunger among Argentines for another “military adventure” no matter how much they want to reclaim the islands 480km off their southern shores.

Tensions are sure to rise even more with the London’s Daily Mail reporting on Saturday that British Prime Minister David Cameron personally approved sending a nuclear submarine to the Falklands before the April 2 anniversary. The sub reportedly carries a team of Spanish speakers to monitor regional communications and cruise missiles to deter Argentina’s military.

Cameron’s office and the British Foreign Office referred calls to the British Ministry of Defence, which said it does not comment on submarine deployments, but Argentines were already upset that London dispatched Prince William to the islands on a six-week military tour, along with the Royal Navy’s most advanced destroyer, the HMS Dauntless.

“It seems to me to be an ostentatious and unnecessary show of force,” Argentine Defense Minister Arturo Puricelli said on Friday. “We could have told them that they could have saved themselves thousands of pounds.”

Every Argentine schoolchild is taught that the British stole the Malvinas, as Argentines call the islands, as well as the South Georgia and South Sandwich islands nearly two centuries ago, claiming along with them a huge expanse of the South Atlantic.

However, hardly anyone here wants to use force to recover them, least of all Argentine President Cristina Fernandez.

She has ordered the declassification of the Rattenbach Report, a long-secret analysis of mistakes made as the 1976-1983 military junta went to war with the UK in 1982. She said she wants it understood that her campaign to recover Argentine territory will remain one of diplomacy and economic pressure.

Argentina’s dictatorship invaded to cover up its torture and killing of political opponents and distract people from a devastated economy, Fernandez said.

“They couldn’t think of anything better to do than send unprepared boys to a suicidal war,” she said.

A total of 649 Argentines and 257 Britons died in the 74-day war, humiliating the junta and hastening Argentina’s return to democracy.

Declassifying the report, which described the invasion as a poorly planned “military adventure,” will show “it wasn’t a decision of the Argentine people, but of a despotic government,” Fernandez said.

Argentine Colonel Augusto Rattenbach recalled in an interview with how his father, General Benjamin Rattenbach, challenged the junta, calling dictators to testify and then urging them to reveal their mistakes. He died suddenly of a stroke only days after learning his work had been shelved.

“My father didn’t want to hide anything,” Rattenbach said, insisting that “many of the report’s lessons are just as valid today.”

For years, Argentines were so ashamed of the dictatorship that they wanted to forget about the islands. Polls suggest that is no longer the case.

Almost three-fourths of Argentines, cutting across all ages and classes, say recovering the islands is important and more than two-thirds said they support Fernandez’s campaign, according to the Ibarometro polling firm.

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