Argentina is still obsessed with the Falkland Islands / Malvinas

Forty years ago, on June 14, 1982, the Falklands War ended, which lasted more than two months between Argentina and the United Kingdom for control of the archipelago known in Argentina as the Malvinas Islands (which is why we talk a lot about the Falklands / Malvinas. ). The war, which ended with the surrender of Argentina, was one of the most important of the second half of the twentieth century and had lasting effects on both nations in which it participated: in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s power was consolidated, while in Argentina he favored the downfall of the military regime and the subsequent democratization of the country.

But in Argentina, a country that has come out defeated by the war, the question of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas is not really over: nationalist sentiments – both regarding the war and about claims to sovereignty over the islands – have remained so strong, they are. Present in many aspects of life. Every day, from banknotes to the constitution, in films and TV series: perhaps one of the few things that unites Argentines, “like the national football team.”

The territory of the Falkland Islands / Malvinas consists of three archipelagos – the islands of the same name, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands – under British control since 1833. Today it is a British Overseas Territory, self-governing but under British control. Under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, on which it depends for foreign policy and defence.

Argentina has claimed sovereignty over all of the islands since the early 19th century, but its claims have become more pressing since the late 1970s, when a right-wing military dictatorship seized power in the country.

About 3,500 people live on the islands, mostly of British ancestry and closely related to the United Kingdom: since the 1960s, the British government has explored various possibilities for ceding the islands to Argentina, seeing in the colony a low value and an obstacle to trade with South America, but it has always been hampered by by the inhabitants of the archipelago. After several decades of war, in 2013, Falkland Islanders held a referendum in which 99.8 percent of respondents voted to remain British.

The war was anticipated by a long series of tensions and provocations, especially on the part of the Argentine military regime, which sought to provoke the indignation of the Falklands/Malvinas affair to divert attention from the country’s serious economic crisis and frequent protests against brutality. for dictatorship. On March 19, 1982, fifty Argentine soldiers in civilian clothes landed in South Georgia and raised the Argentine flag. The British army tried to stop them, but the Argentine warships stopped them as well.

After this first provocation, convinced that the United Kingdom would not start a war on the sparsely populated islands located tens of thousands of kilometers from its borders, the Argentine generals decided to invade the Falkland Islands: on April 2, the Argentine army landed on the islands. In a short time he invaded Stanley, the capital, and encountered limited but very resolute resistance.

However, it was not at the time that the Argentine dictatorship considered that Margaret Thatcher, the first Conservative minister in the United Kingdom, was also trying to revive British nationalism: despite certain skepticism on the part of her government as well, in the months leading up to the war Thatcher strengthened the British naval presence in The area, and after the invasion sent ships, planes and submarines to expel the Argentine forces that occupied the archipelago.

The war lasted 74 days, and resulted in the deaths of 650 of the Argentine army and 255 of the British. Argentina surrendered on June 14, 1982.

British newspapers in 1982 (Central Press / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Diplomatic relations between Argentina and the United Kingdom resumed in 1989, but Argentina never stopped claiming the Falkland Islands/Malvinas. Even when the now-democratic Argentina rewrote the country’s constitution in 1994, the restoration of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas was listed in the text as “the permanent and inalienable goal of the Argentine people”.

In particular, Argentine nationalism has grown in strength again under the Peronist Néstor Kirchner, who was president between 2003 and 2007, and under his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who succeeded him after his death and continued to rule from 2007 to 2015 (today Cristina Kirchner is deputy President of Argentina, and one of the most influential politicians in the country).

Kirchner revived claims to the Falkland Islands, making the islands a national symbol and one of the few things that united the majority of Argentines. Cristina Kirchner, in particular, has photographed herself several times with banners reading “Las Malvinas son of Argentina,” the Argentine Malvinas, a kind of emblem of the nationalist movement.

Kristina Kirchner in 2012 with a sign showing the Falkland Islands/Malvinas (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

The symbols of Argentine claims to the islands are often very visible and scattered throughout the country. It relates to toponyms, for example: dozens of streets and boulevards are called “Malvinas Argentinas”; Moreover, in some inhabited centers, municipal administrations put up signs indicating the distance of the city from the islands.

On April 2 every year, the day of the invasion, public celebrations are held in Argentina, and children at school are required to sing patriotic hymns. like he said France Press agencythe image of the border of the islands, often against the background of the Argentine flag, has become a symbol appearing on T-shirts and tattoos, especially on the 50 pesos note, which explicitly depicts the islands as the “soil” of “home”.

50 pesos denomination

In 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital, Cristina Kirchner opened a Museum of the Malvinas Islands that “expresses the collective memory of the Argentine people in the Malvinas Islands and the South Atlantic Islands.”

After Kirchner, liberal Mauricio Macri, who ruled the country between 2015 and 2019, timidly tried to reduce attention to the issue, but the return of the Peronists to the presidency with Alberto Fernandez (of whom Kirchner was deputy) brought the claims to the center of the political debate. Last April, commemorating the start of the war, Fernandez said, “We have the inalienable goal of restoring full sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands.”

(Ryan Noble/Zumapress)

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