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Volume 52 Number 11, May 21, 2022 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Fortieth Anniversary of the Malvinas War

Reminder of Need to End British Colonial Rule


Veterans of the Malvinas Islands War occupy the English Tower in downtown Buenos Aires, March 21, 2012, to protest Britain's continued possession of the islands. The monument was given to Argentina by the British in 1916 on the 100th anniversary of its independence. (Xinhua)

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of Britain's undeclared war against Argentina, waged by the Thatcher government in 1982.

The immediate cause of the conflict was Argentina's attempt on April 2, 1982, to militarily reoccupy the Malvinas (Falkland Islands), as well as South Georgia and Sandwich Islands which are located off the coast of Argentina. These islands have been occupied by colonial settlers from Britain since the early nineteenth century; they were claimed by Britain following military occupation in 1833 and declared a crown colony in 1841. In 1833, Argentina protested against Britain's military occupation and has never consented to it. It is on this colonial premise that Britain first invaded and occupied these islands thousands of miles away in 1756 that they continue to be claimed by successive British governments. The war with Argentina continued until its government surrendered on June 14, 1982. It lasted just seventy-four days and was responsible for the deaths of 649 Argentinian military personnel, 255 British military personnel and three British settlers. Some 368 Argentinian military personnel lost their lives in just one engagement, the infamous sinking of the ship General Belgrano by British torpedoes on May 2, 1982. However, recent media reports have mainly focused on the use by Argentina of Exocet missiles, supplied by France, which led to the deaths of 46 British sailors and injuries to many more.

In itself, the war solved nothing since, although it did further expose the colonial nature of Britain's occupation of the Malvinas. Successive governments of Argentina have continued to claim Argentinian sovereignty over the territory, while British governments have continued to deploy a significant military presence to preserve their occupation. The conflict reportedly cost Britain about £2.8bn (£9.5bn today) and the islands' defence costs upwards of £60m annually. Today there are less than 4,000 inhabitants. In 2012 it was estimated that more than £20,000 per islander was paid from the public treasury for "defence" alone [1].

The war occurred after many years of negotiations between the two governments and there are indications that Britain was attempting to hand sovereignty back to Argentina. Such discussions first began during the 1960s and resulted in closer relations between the islands and Argentina. After 1982, the UN general assembly in resolution 37/9 again called on both governments to settle the dispute through negotiation. However, successive British governments have continually refused such overtures, claiming that the question of the Malvinas is not one of "decolonisation" as presented by Argentina and UN resolutions but rather one of self-determination, a matter only to be decided by the inhabitants of the islands. When a referendum was last held on this question in 2013, around 1,500 inhabitants, most of them employed by the British government, voted for the islands to remain a British Overseas Territory, a status which is itself essentially a form of colonial rule. Such claims about the self-determination of islanders are an attempt to re-write the history and geography of the islands and to obscure the negotiations of the past.

Writing about the Malvinas in the Guardian recently the Foreign Minister of Argentina, Santiago Cafiero, reminded the British government that the 1994 Constitution of Argentina includes the following:

"The Argentine Nation ratifies its legitimate and non-prescribing sovereignty over the Malvinas, Georgias del Sur and Sandwich del Sur Islands and over the corresponding maritime and insular zones, as they are an integral part of the National territory. The recovery of said territories and the full exercise of sovereignty, respectful of the way of life of their inhabitants and according to the principles of international law, are a permanent and unrelinquished goal of the Argentine people." [2]

Cafiero stated that "No Argentine government will cease its pursuit of our sovereign claim." The claims of Argentina are supported by other states in the region, which have also raised objections to exploration for hydrocarbons in the region. Both the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and Mercosur have supported Argentina's claims, while the Group of 77 and the Organisation of American States have called for Britain and Argentina to recommence negotiations. It must be noted that the dispute over the Malvinas is regarded by the UN as one relating to colonialism and since 1965 has been regularly examined by the UN's Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

On the fortieth anniversary of what must be seen as a colonial war against Argentina all democratic people must demand an end to colonial rule in the Malvinas, Gibraltar, British Virgin Islands and all other such territories.

Notes
1. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/apr/07/british-sovereignty-falklands-absurd-imperial-hangover-argentina
2. National Constitution, First of the Temporary Provisions
https://publicofficialsfinancialdisclosure.worldbank.org/sites/fdl/files/assets/law-library-files/Argentina_Constitution_1994_en.pdf


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