In Brief

Falklands: after Sean Penn, the experts have their say

Geopolitics prof explains Falklands issue is 'vastly more complicated than Penn might imagine'

Sean Penn

FALKLAND ISLANDS watchers are well aware of the opinions of Hollywood actor Sean Penn regarding the ongoing sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the UK. Yesterday, another celebrity, Pink Floyd's Roger Water, weighed in on the side of Buenos Aires. Now, it's the turn of less famous commentators, with expertise in the region, to have their say.

Klaus Dodds, a professor of geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London, writes to The Guardian to point out that the situation between Britain and Argentina is "vastly more complicated than Mr Penn might imagine".

Referring to a letter by Penn published in the paper last week, Dodds observes that the actor's "very short introduction to US-UK-Latin American relations during the cold war sounds like it has been extracted from the James Bond film, Quantum of Solace."

Professor Dodds points out that Britain has a number of other overseas territories in the region, including South Georgia and the British Antarctic Territory. "For some Argentines at least," he writes, "removing the British presence from the Falklands is part of a wider strategy to remove Britain from the wider South Atlantic and Antarctic".

In another letter, the BBC's former Latin America correspondent Harold Briley describes an encounter with "a young, well-educated Argentine businesswoman", who said: "You [the British] won the war. You keep the islands!"

Being a frequent visitor to both, he is struck by the differences in the living standards of Argentina and its tiny neighbour. Argentina "is beset with unrest and demonstrations, widespread crime, poverty and child starvation in a land of plentiful food".

The Falkland Islands, meanwhile, enjoy "unprecedented prosperity" thanks to fishing, wildlife tourism and sheep farming. "Their children enjoy a happy, active life in a virtually crime-free society, with one of the most generous government-financed education systems in the world, up to and beyond university placements in the UK.

"Why would they want to be part of Argentina?" he asks.

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