On January 3rd, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner addressed a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron calling on the United Kingdom to return the Falkland Islands (in Spanish, Islas Malvinas) to Argentina. According to Ms. Fernandez, the letter was published the same day on which 180 years ago, “the Argentines on the islands were expelled by the Royal Navy.”
The Falklands/Malvinas question is well known throughout South America, and is a controversial topic. Buenos Aires claims that it inherited the islands with the fall of the Spanish Empire and that it was forced out by the United Kingdom. Britain states that their claim goes back to 1690, that they never dropped the claim, and that the islanders’ right of self-determination is paramount for any negotiations. In 1965, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 2065, in which it called for a peaceful end to colonialism in the region. The Falklands are especially remembered when 30 years ago, Argentina unsuccessfully invaded the islands. Argentina also claims South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands.
This is not the first time Buenos Aires pushes London for the South Atlantic islands in recent years. In fact, there are many views as to why Argentina keeps claiming the islands. The Argentine and most of South America’s view is that Argentina’s integrity and sovereignty will not be complete until the British return the islands. The British see it as a right for self-determination of the islanders, who will have another say on their relationship with the United Kingdom on a referendum set to occur on March 11 of this year.
Argentina fully understands that it does not have the military capacity to take on the British armed forces, especially when Britain can count on European (and possibly American) support. Diplomatically, the Falklands War ended any chances of returning the islands without the islanders’ consent. In fact, had Buenos Aires waited, it could have received them in a similar fashion as Hong Kong was returned to China.
Another issue is that most Latin American countries support the Argentine claim. Some do it because they want Argentina’s national integrity to be complete; others do it as they want to see all forms of colonialism out of the region. Yet, what makes the Falklands issue different from the others in the region? Or for that matter, why would Britain act differently when Latin American nations would act the same way if asked to give back their own territory? An obvious example is Chile, which acquired territory from Peru and Bolivia during the War of the Pacific. It is highly unlikely that the government in Santiago will return said territories. Similarly, Peru gained territory from Ecuador; Colombia, Brazil and Guyana from Venezuela; Brazil from Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Paraguay; Paraguay from Bolivia, and finally, Argentina and Brazil from Paraguay. Lastly, no one is discussing the end of colonialism for the French department of Guiana, which is roughly 4410 miles (798 kilometers) from Paris.
It can be considered unreasonable to ask the United Kingdom to return territory that they fought for when all the nations in South America will refuse to do what they want Great Britain to do – relinquish land.