Chilean says Falklands revelations won't hurt ties with Argentina
Chilean Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker on Thursday downplayed the possibility that the recent statements of a retired general over the aid Santiago lent Britain in the 1982 Falklands War might hurt relations with Argentina.
"We, since we restored democracy in 1990, are obviously in another stage of neighborly closeness. We practice good neighbor policies," Walker said.
As an example, he pointed out this week's visit to Chile of Argentine Defense Minister Jose Pampuro, "whom we decorated precisely because of the close ties between our nations." "So, the players in the dictatorship will have to assume responsibility for what they said and did during that time. We'll assume responsibility for what we have done in democracy, and that is to build ties of trust," Walker added.
"Democracies do not take upon themselves either the mistakes, or the atrocities, or the trivialities of dictatorial pasts. They are part of history," Minister-Spokesman Osvaldo Puccio said earlier on behalf of President Ricardo Lagos's government.
"I did everything possible so that Argentina would lose the Malvinas War," Matthei said Wednesday night on Chilean television.
Argentina calls the Falkland Islands, which have been under British control since Jan. 3, 1833, the Malvinas.
As he had stated before, Matthei, who retired in 1991, said the Chilean air force assisted British forces during the 1982 war, especially with intelligence and logistics, in exchange for planes, missiles and radar systems.
The new twist on the story is that Matthei now claims the assistance to Britain was provided on his own initiative, with Pinochet not being given many details.
"I kept (Pinochet) vaguely informed, so he could have plausible deniability if something went bad," said Matthei, who served as a military attache at the Chilean Embassy in London from 1971 to 1974.
"The entire Argentine nation can take offense at me. Chile had nothing to do with the Malvinas. It was me, on my own," Matthei said.
Matthei explained his actions by noting that Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, who was Argentina's dictator at the time, "said the Malvinas were the first step, and the next was the recovery of other territories," which he took as a threat of future aggression against Chile, then involved in a territorial dispute with its neighbor.
"I did whatever I had to do to defend Chile. That's what I was paid for," Matthei underscored.
In April 1982, the Falklands were occupied by Argentine forces.
After a 72-day war in the South Atlantic, a British task force regained control of the islands.
Some 1,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen died on both sides in the short but bloody conflict.
The current chief of the Chilean navy, Adm. Rodolfo Codina, said the affair "was a thing of history, of the past," and that what is important is the good relationship the nation now enjoys with Argentina. He also pointed out that during the 1982 conflict; Chile offered a ship to rescue survivors of the Belgrano, an Argentine cruiser sunk by the British.