Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Malvinas update

Cristina Fernández' government is escalating the pressure on Great Britain to leave the Malvinas Islands, called the Falklands by Britain. And Argentina is receiving substantial support from other South American countries, who are organized in such regional organizations as Mercosur and Unasur.

Britain recently sent a warship with Prince William on board and a nuclear submarine to the area of the Malvinas archipelago in response to diplomatic moves by Argentina to bring Britain to the negotiating table. Both the United Nations and the United States support bilateral negotiations between Britain and Argentina to resolve the status of the Malvinas.

Perú just refused to allow another British warship on the way to the Malvinas to replace the one currently there to refuel in Puerto del Callao, in solidarity with Argentina's stance. (Perú no recibirá a una fragata británica Página 12 20.03.2012)

2012 is the 30th anniversary of the ill-fated attempt by the last Argentine military dictatorship to retake the Malvinas by military force. Although the Reagan Administration had taken pains to show diplomatic favor to the Argentine junta as a way to repudiate the Carter Administration's human rights policy, when it came to military conflict between Maggie Thatcher's Britain and Argentina, the Reagan Administration backed Britain.

Cristina's government is anything but sympathetic to the politics of the 1976-83 junta, quite the contrary. But reclaiming the Malvinas in a national cause, and she has won endorsement from essentially the entire political spectrum for her current policy of diplomatic pressure.

There is oil involved. (Andy Beckett, Falklands 30 years on: oil dream could end days of squid and subsidy Guardian 03/20/2012) Which is part of the point of this cartoon, also from Página 12:

Journalist questioning the White House: Should the Malvinas belong to Argentina or Great Britain?
White House: We're neutral. Besides, if there's oil there, they should belong to us.

Since Britain is largely subservient to the US and is damaging their relationships to other EU members badly, I would read into this cartoon a dig that if the United States unambiguously supported not just negotiations over sovereignty but the recognition of Argentine sovereignty to the Malvinas, Britain would be much more cooperative.

There are important fishing rights at stake. But there are also offshore oil mineral rights involved as well as national pride. So Britain's Conservative government under David Cameron isn't being cooperative. Cristina's government recently announced it was initiating legal actions against oil companies currently drilling under drilling rights from the British based on their colonial possession of the Malvinas. (Timerman: "Protegeremos los recursos naturales del Atlántico Sur" Página 12 20.03.2012) From Andy Beckett's report linked above:

With fishing in likely slow decline, most hopes for long-term prosperity now rest on oil. In the 70s the surrounding seabed was found to be a potentially oil-bearing sedimentary basin. In the 90s, exploration licences were sold, some oil was found, but then the oil price collapsed. Now, the price is high again, exploration has resumed and many expect a working Falklands oilfield this decade. "There are strong winds and high seas, but fewer extremes of either than in the North Sea," says Stephen Luxton, the Falklands' director of mineral resources. A floating production and storage vessel could be anchored above the seabed, he says, and oil tankers could fill up there, without the need for a refinery in the Falklands or on the south American mainland. Last week, Argentina promised legal action against any participating firms, but Luxton says that commercial and geographical realities – a Falklands oilfield could function without anyone crossing Argentinian territorial waters – will limit this threat's effectiveness.

The resulting taxes and royalties would bring the Falklands government revenues in the "low hundreds of millions a year without much difficulty". The government's entire annual income is currently £40m. Luxton grew up on a farm on the island of west Falkland, traditionally the sleepiest part of the archipelago. His department is still housed in a bungalow. With oil, he says, "the Falklands way of life will change".
Britain's diplomacy currently displays open contempt for Argentina's position, with Foreign Miniter Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Jeremy Browne, for instance, saying that a majority of Argentinians had never visited the Malvinas. (Un mensajero británico antes del arribo de CFK Página 12 12.03.2012) I don't know if the Argentine government even bothered to point out that neither had a majority of Britons; they may have considered it too dumb to respond to directly.

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