ON April 2, 1982, Argentina and the United Kingdom fought a war for sovereignty of the Malvinas Islands, which resulted in the death of 649 Argentine soldiers, 255 British troops and three civilians from the islands.
This dispute dates back to January 2, 1833, when Captain John James Onslow of the British Navy communicated to the Argentine authorities on the islands that he was taking possession of them and asked them to leave the area.
The few Argentines who lived in these territories were forced to leave by the British expedition, which used violence to take control of the archipelago and established a small outpost there, thus confirming the colonial nature of the conflict.
The islands, steadfastly claimed by the Argentine government, are perceived as an inseparable part of its territory illegally occupied by an invading power. In this context, they are part of the province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and the South Atlantic Islands, where they are located together with South Georgia, South Sandwich and the South Orkney Islands. The dispute includes the surrounding maritime areas.
Various analysts have put forward the theory of the existence of a British Intelligence operation in the 1982 war. Argentine workers were sent to Georgia and raised their national flag there. This provided the pretext needed for British indignation at the mobilization of its warships to the area. If Argentina had remained impassive to the provocation, it would have supposed an implicit renunciation of its sovereign rights over the Malvinas. The trap worked, as described by Bruno Tondini in the text Malvinas Islands: Their History, War and Economy, and Juridical Aspects and Their Link with Humanitarian Law.
For the British strategy it was essential for Buenos Aires to play the role of aggressor. “The British objective was to seek the possibility of a military reaction with all the resources of the Royal Navy, as planned since 1976 and, ignoring the UN, act in its own defense and construct its ‘Falkland Fortress.’ Such a fortress would totally liquidate our assertion of sovereignty,” Tondini states.
In her memoirs, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher highlighted the importance of the British victory as a personal triumph of her government. It contributed to her remaining in power for two further terms at a moment when conflicts were damaging the fabric of British society. It is a fact that the Iron Lady rejected any possibility of a negotiated solution.
In this context, in one of his Reflections, Fidel described the “criminal dispossession signified by stripping Argentina of a little piece of its territory in the extreme south of the continent. There, the British deployed their decadent military apparatus to murder rookie Argentine recruits wearing summer clothing in the middle of winter. The United States, and its ally Augusto Pinochet, shamelessly supported them.”
It is totally correct that the U.S. shamelessly supported the United Kingdom during the war. Its objective: to shore up the latter’s dominion in an area which is part of the NATO integrated defense system and American military plans in the South Atlantic.
Declassified documents from the U.S. Department of State and the CIA reveal details of White House participation during the Malvinas War. In Página/12, journalist Martín Granovsky notes a letter from President Ronald Reagan to his Secretary of State Alexander Haig. Reagan says, “after reading your report on your talks in London, the difficulty involved in achieving a compromise which will allow Maggie (Thatcher) to continue and at the same time pass the test of ‘equity” with our Latin American neighbors is clear. In those conditions there is not much margin for maneuver in the British position and one cannot be optimistic.”
Reagan proposed that Haig should insist on a multinational presence and obtain from Leopoldo Galtieri (who de facto occupied the Argentine presidency from 1981 to 1982, during the so-called Proceso de Reorganización Nacional dictatorship), a commitment to withdraw his forces in return for what was being asked of the United Kingdom in terms of a minimum distance for its nuclear submarines.
Washington’s backing of Britain ratified the farcical and inoperable nature of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, the Rio Pact of 1947. Its Article 3.1 establishes that an armed attack by any state on an American state will be considered as an attack on all American states. The Rio Pact has been invoked at least 20 times, but only in accordance with U.S. interests, whether to judge Cuba or to justify its so-called war on terror.
Thirty years after that military escalation, Buenos Aires is still demanding its rights over the South Atlantic archipelago, while confronting a London all the more intransigent and arrogant.
Dispatching Prince William to the islands and the presence of the powerful HMS Dauntless destroyer in the waters of the South Atlantic, are not in accordance with the Argentine policy of negotiating and resolving the conflict through dialogue. Obviously, London rejects this line and has opted to ignore the recommendations of the UN Decolonization Committee and the General Assembly Resolution 2065, which urges both sides to seek a peaceful solution to the dispute.
Argentina described these recent actions as a provocation “to show the British military presence in an area of peace where there is no armed conflict.”
In response, The UK government merely upped the tone by further militarizing the South Atlantic in violation of regional agreements for the area’s denuclearization. Prime Minister David Cameron proclaimed, as did Thatcher in her time, the right to use nuclear submarines to kill.
Argentine political analyst Atilio Borón considers that, for a long time, “the country was trapped in the paralyzing consequences of the ignominious defeat inflicted 30 years ago – the result of the genocidal dictatorship’s incompetence, bravado and demagogy – and the dead end of a diplomatic strategy which, despite perseverance, bore no fruit because the misnamed ‘world order’ is in real terms a cruel and unjust disorder in which the law of the strongest rules almost without exception.”
However, valuable support for the cause in the Latin American region demonstrates that Argentina is not alone in its legitimate demand. The peoples south of the Rio Bravo have made common cause with this battle waged for 179 years in rejection of British colonialism. The UK government seems unaware of the fact that the world is changing, and the contempt of the hemisphere and the majority of peoples toward the oppressor is steadily growing, as Fidel affirms.
Regional bodies such as CELAC, MERCOSUR, UNASUR and ALBA have expressed valiant, strong positions. Their statements share a call for the renewal of negotiations and the confirmation that this southern archipelago occupied by Britain is an inseparable part of Argentine national territory.
Although the solution to this prolonged controversy has not yet taken form, the firmness with which the Argentine government and people have maintained their just demand is admirable. History remains indebted to this sister nation.