Britain, Argentina ramp up rhetoric over Falklands

| Jan. 19, 2012 | Caracas, Venezuela

Published by GlobalPost

Just a few months ahead of the 30th anniversary of Britain's war with Argentina over Las Malvinas as they are known across Latin America, or the Falklands as much of the rest of the world knows them, the two countries are ramping up a war of words over the disputed territory.

Speaking to parliament, British Prime Minister David Cameron accused Argentina of "colonialism," yesterday before Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman hit back describing Britain as a "synonym for colonialism," reports Reuters.

It is not only the round-number anniversary that is sparking tensions between the two nations. British firms have begun carrying out deep-sea oil exploration around the islands, 300 miles off Argentina's coast, and there is excitement that large oilfields are about to be discovered.

Read more: Oil in Falklands Islands renews territorial tensions

On top of the financial capital to be made through ownership of the islands, there is much political capital on offer to both sides, as memories of the conflict resurface.

In Britain, Prince William, second in line to the throne, will be posted to the islands next month with the Royal Air Force. A recently released biopic about the life of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher will be another reminder to the Brits of the conflict which claimed nearly 1,000 lives, the majority Argentine.

In Argentina, around 80% of the population believe the islands rightfully belong to them. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is keen to play up to that majority. Last year, she described Britain as a "crass colonial power in decline."

Mercosur, an alliance of four Latin American nations, including Brazil, agreed last month to ban ships flying the Falklands flag from its members’ ports. British Foreign Secretary William Hague, on a visit to Brazil at the moment, faced criticism in Brasilia, for London's position.

Hague's counterpart in Brazil, Antonio Patriota, said all of Latin America "backs Argentine sovereignty over the Malvinas and backs the UN resolutions calling on the Argentine and British governments to hold talks on the issue."

Hague echoed his Prime Minister's comments, though watered them down a little. "We believe in the self-determination of the people of the Falkland Islands."

Read more: Mercosur closes ports to Falkland Island ships