Argentine President Fernandez demands return of Falklands
Fernandez's flagging popularity at home is thought to be behind her open letter to David Cameron
THE TENSE issue of the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands has been pushed to the top of the political agenda after Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner published an open letter demanding the return of ‘Las Malvinas' to Argentina.
President Fernández's move was designed to "embarrass" the UK into negotiations, according to The Guardian, where the open letter to David Cameron appeared in a paid-for advertisement.
Fernández said it was exactly 180 years ago to the day that the Royal Navy "expelled" Argentinians living on the islands "in a blatant exercise of 19th century colonianism". She noted that the Falklands are 8,700 miles away from London and called on Britain to abide by a 1960 UN resolution which urged member states to "end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations".
The letter – which attracted over 1,000 comments on The Guardian's website - comes ahead of a referendum on 10-11 March in which the 3,000 Falkland islanders will be asked if they want to continue to be British. PM David Cameron said the UK would "respect and defend" the result of the referendum.
The attack may be intended to deflect attention from Fernández's flagging popularity in the polls ahead of Argentine elections in October, with inflation and corruption real concerns, says the Daily Mail.
The result of the March referendum is almost certain to be in favour of the Falklands remaining British. Dr Barry Elsby, a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falklands, told the Daily Telegraph: "We are not a colony – our relationship with the United Kingdom is by choice."
Argentina is fighting to convince the islanders to vote the other way. As the Buenos Aires Herald reports, Argentina's ambassador to London, Alicia Castro, has been called to Buenos Aires to help devise an "anti-referendum" campaign.
Fernández's letter follows the British government's controversial decision in December to name a part of Antarctica after the Queen – Argentina also lays claim to what is now Queen Elizabeth Land.
The situation may be worsening but at least one observer has ruled out a repeat of the 1982 Falklands conflict. Robert Munks, deputy editor at Jane's Intelligence Review, said: "Relations are probably at their worst now than at any time since 1982 – but there will not be another war."