Argentine President Christina Fernandes de Kirchner’s labeling of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to fly the Falkland Islands flag as a celebration of war and lost life was the latest in an extremely pointless and avoidable war of words between the two over the sovereignty of the Falklands Islands. To most casual observers, and apparently many member states of the increasingly clueless United Nations, it is hard to understand why these small islands on the Argentine coastal shelf should possibly belong to the U.K.
A lack of information, and perhaps even a lack of effort truly to understand the debate, is leading to increased support for Argentina’s frankly laughable claims to the islands and the oil that speculators appear convinced is off their shores. It is no coincidence either that Kirchner is waging this aggressive and public diplomatic war at a time when the economy of Argentina is struggling, as it was during the first Argentine occupation in 1982. Cameron need not descend to such pitiful levels but does so because he would equally benefit from what would be a well-timed distraction from the disappointing nature of his first term in office.
Firstly it is important to clarify exactly why there is no legitimate argument over sovereignty. Argentina’s claim to the Falklands is as part of its heritage from the Spanish empire, although no formal agreement was made with the Spanish. Argentina claims, rather hypocritically, that the existence of this British island is merely a remaining vestige of colonialism that should not survive in the modern world. This claim falls down rather quickly. The original settlers in the Falklands were in fact French and although a formal agreement was made whereby the land became the possession of the Spanish Empire this ceased to be relevant decades before Argentina seceded from Spain’s empire. The important change came in 1767 when the Spanish had all but abandoned the islands and groups of British settlers began to take root and build homes in Port Egmont. The Spanish were aware of this but after a brief skirmish allowed the settlement to continue without any objections, one can only assume that this was because they had none and that they were withdrawing their remaining settlers anyway.
Squatter’s rights are universal and once a person has lived on an area of land for over 20 years without any notice of eviction from the landowner that land de facto becomes theirs. There is no doubt, under international law, that the islands belong to the people of the Falklands but this raises an interesting question. Legal complexities make it very hard to decide whether or not the people of the Falklands claim British citizenship, having been born in disputed territory. Fortunately for the British they win either way. If those people were in fact British then the island is also British under international law. If they were not then they would become a unique “people”. Enshrined within the U.N constitution is the right of a “people” to self-determination. The people of the Falklands have voted almost unanimously on multiple occasions to remain British and Ms. Kirchner has no legitimacy when she attempts to strip these people of what are fundamental rights.
Kirchner’s position has been partly founded on the idea of proximity, which begins to look rather foolish when one takes into account the fact that the Falklands are as far from Buenos Aires as Lisbon is from London. Kirchner also supports the Argentine claim to South Georgia which is as far from Buenos Aires as Benghazi is from London. If Kirchner wants to use proximity as an argument she should perhaps invest in a dictionary and look the word up. One might think it is a strange anomaly to have a British island in the middle of the south Atlantic and colonialism has become a buzzword in her feeble attempts to undermine the rights of the Falkland Islanders. Kirchner’s claims are amazingly hypocritical for the president of a country, which incidentally is the result of marauding Spanish imperialists slaughtering entire civilizations, whose claims to the Falklands would see a people forced to join a nation that they have expressed a very clear desire not to be a part of. It seems clear who the imperialist is here.
It would be a shame if these two failing world leaders were to get away with using this issue to distract their people from their flailing at home. Kirchner is running Argentina into the ground and Cameron is massively unpopular, with masses of his conservative supporters defecting to UKIP. The fact remains that nothing will be done about the Falklands. The British have offered to take the case to the United Nations Courts but Argentina has refused, most likely because they are aware of the weakness of their position. The only option that could remain to Kirchner would be another invasion. Although the countries of Latin America have provided nominal support for the ridiculous concept of “Las Malvinas” it is unlikely that they would provide her with military support. This would leave a very small and dated Argentinian invasion force with a two week window to take and fortify the islands, which have been given heavy protective forces since the last conflict, before an irresistible British Naval force would arrive. This is not a realistic time frame and the Argentines know it.
The debate about the sovereignty of the Falklands is over and for all Kirchner’s posturing she is aware of the weakness of her position on the issue. Since there is no danger of the Falklands changing hands it would be nice to see these two leaders talking about the real issues that are tearing their countries apart from within rather than wasting time with jingoistic posturing and empty rhetoric. Not much can be expected of the incompetent Kirchner but this is yet another example of Cameron betraying the conservative base and failing his country.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Prince Arthur Herald.
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