With elections on both sides of the Atlantic, we can expect the Falklands to be on the news more throughout 2015. Indeed, Presidential elections in Argentina and General elections in the UK in the months to come. Does it not seem just a little bit too similar to the 1980s dialectic? Both Argentina and the United Kingdom were (and are) going through deep crisis, not necessarily financial ones but social and political. Back in the 80s, it was very convenient for both of them at that time (is it the same now?) for personal and political internal agendas. That is to say, Ms Margaret Thatcher and the Military Junta; Mr David Cameron and Ms Cristina Fernández de Kirchner: the characters seem different. But wait a minute, the play is the same! So it is not that the characters are different but the actors! We are in presence of the same play with the same script played again in the same theatre but now by different actors.
The government of Argentina only knows about either rejecting the Falkland islanders, the British government of, if convenient, the international society and legal order. The British government, sometimes proactive, sometimes reactive. Proactive in inviting the Falkland islanders to ANY negotiations; reactive, to any declaration coming from the Argentinean government.
For a very brief view of the Falklands’ conflict see the first article of this blog:
Falklands: an Argentinean invention? A British solution? Malvinas: un invento argentino? Una solución británica?
And for a more recent account, see Professor Klaus Dodds’ post:
In what if of interest here, Prof Dodd says that:
“In March and April, however, two stories emerged about these islands that make it ripe for coverage. The first involved a parliamentary statement by the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, which outlined the findings of a defence review for the Falkland Islands. Citing the risk of Argentine aggression and noting the ‘potential for development of an oil and gas industry’, as well as noting a post-Afghanistan context, the Islands’ military base would be supported by additional helicopters. The communication facilities and air defence systems stationed at Mount Pleasant Airbase are to be upgraded as well. Overall, £180 million has been earmarked for the modernisation of the British military presence.
The second story involved claims via the former NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden (now exiled in Moscow) that the British government spied on Argentina between 2006–2011 and was intent on infecting Argentine computer systems with viruses and spreading rumour and innuendo in the hoping of discrediting the Argentine government of President Christina Kirchner. At the time of writing, the British government had made no official statement about these allegations but interestingly President Kirchner ordered all the classified Argentine documents relating to the 1982 conflict to be released. She also criticised the British government for allocating further monies to defend the Falklands in the midst of domestic UK austerity.
While there has been no major oil strike thus far, the UK and Falkland governments are clearly working hard to garner support in Latin America – with an array of trade missions, diplomatic exchanges, cultural visits and military collaboration. Earlier news that Argentina might lease long-range bombers from Russia in return for beef and wheat reminds one of what former UK Prime Minister James Callaghan used to say about ‘dots on the map’ and their capacity to provoke crisis at a proverbial drop of a hat.”
But, what do the Argentinean and British electorate think of the dispute? What do Falkland Islanders have to say about it? What do Argentineans think of the Britons and the Falkland Islanders? What do the Britons know about Argentina and the Falklands?
After almost four decades of hearing the story of Falklands/Malvinas from both sides, more than two decades researching the topic, having lived in Argentina and living in the United Kingdom, being in contact with Falkland Islanders, I can tell that, more often than not, the many take their side depending on their nationality or country of origin without really knowing much about what they are referring to. And not only about the Falklands but in regards a culture as a whole: the English are… the British are … (for instance, do they know English and British mean something different? That the Union Jack and the English flag are two different flags?). And on the other side, the Argentineans are… (When did you go to Buenos Aires? Have you been to Mar del Plata? Do you know there are places in Patagonia where people speak and study in both Welsh and Spanish?). And of course, the Falkland Islands: the islanders, those people … has anyone met a Falkland Islander? Has anyone been to the Falkland Islands? Do you know they have families there that work, pay taxes and send their children to school? Yes, they have children too! They are as human being as any Argentinean or Briton.
Media and social media are part of our daily life but they exist as long as we use and/or buy them. Governments come and go. We elect them, they come; we do not vote for them, they go. They’re our representatives; they’re high ranked civil servants, but civil servants. Unfortunately, some of them cannot separate the public side from the private side, and it is then when private, selfish or self-centred interests come into play. So next time we read or listen to a speech, let’s try to have a critical eye and dissociate that what is simply orientated by selfish, one sided interests from that reflecting what population, the people they represent, want.
Why? Kofi A. Annan, in his ‘Two concepts of sovereignty’ said it clearly when referring to international intervention in humanitarian crises and it’s perfectly applicable here: “Because, despite all the difficulties of putting it into practice, it does show that humankind today is less willing than in the past to tolerate suffering in its midst, and more willing to do something about it.” (The Economist, 18 September 1999).
It‘s true, we’re either citizens of one or another country. However, we’re far more than that. We’re part of a broader net called mankind. It’s the time to work together. It’s the time to leave behind selfish, self-centred, one-sided policies or speeches. It’s time to address serious issues with serious agendas by mature representatives. All of us, Argentineans, Britons and Falkland Islanders deserve better. 2015 and elections in Argentina and the United Kingdom: we will hear and see about the Falklands again. But, any real, actual solution to the dispute from Kirchner, Macri, Scioli, Cameron, Miliband, Farage or any other? Doubt it…