♠ Posted by Emmanuel in Latin America at 1/04/2013 07:46:00 AMmidyear 2012, the UK government announced plans to hold a Falklands referendum to determine its allegiances once and for all--whether to the UK or Argentina. Coming thirty years after the Falklands War stemming from Argentina's invasion of the islands, let's just say it raises sensitive issues in Latin America concerning colonialism, imperialism and the rest of it. I was particularly struck by how David Cameron framed the issue as giving a voice to the inhabitants of the Falklands:
In a strongly worded statement, David Cameron said that Buenos Aires wants to put the islanders' choice of sovereignty in doubt "by shouting down the islanders' ability to speak for themselves and punishing them for exercising their own free choice. That's why it's absolutely right that the islanders have today set out how they intend to make their voices heard once more. And Britain will be resolute in supporting that choice."What a stirring call for democracy; wave the Union Jack high! Alas, there's more to it than that. Over the many decades the UK has exercised dominion over the Falklands, it has naturally had discretion in choosing who gets to stay there. To make a Chinese analogy, it's like repopulating Xinjiang province with Han Chinese to lessen the proportion of Uighurs and claiming the "residents" approve of the resettlement and authority of Beijing.The FCO confirms as much:
The majority of the population of the Falkland Islands are British by birth or descent. Indeed, many can trace their family origins in the Islands back to the early nineteenth century. The last census (in 2006) recorded 2,478 Falkland Islanders. In addition to these, the census also recorded a significant minority of resident Chileans and St Helenians. Most of the remaining population comprises people from the UK mainland and third countries working under contract at either the Mount Pleasant Airfield, or in certain government positions that require specialist skills.In other words, they've gotten rid of the (potentially) traitorous Argentinians over time. In a recent open letter addressed to fellow G-20 head of state David Cameron, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez cites a "population implantation process" while citing the United Nations' wishes for a negotiated solution. Once more that's all well and good, but her memory of history is selective. General Galtieri tried to forcibly take over the islands in 1982 to no avail--the sort of manoeuvre that seemingly contradicts the spirit of negotiation she mentions the UN with. Way back when even the US President Ronald Reagan remonstrated against Thatcher's show of neo-colonialism, but to no avail.
Bottom line: Cameron's referendum is a farce since they kicked out Argentinian sympathizers from these islands long ago. There is no chance the Falkland island residents will vote for being part of Argentina. Does this mean Argentina has a better claim to these islands? Again, no--the Latin Americans tried to take them by force and lost, negating Fernandez's stated wishes to bring about a peaceful resolution. Had they not invaded, the Argentinians would have a more legitimate claim to being the aggrieved party today, but that's not how things panned out thirty years ago. Certainly, it still influences how people view this territorial conflict. Fernandez may think it's a neat distraction from Argentina's dubious economic situation, but quite frankly it's an issue where Argentina lost the moral high ground a long time ago--30 years back, to be precise.