Argentina downplays protest involving Chilean students Falklands’ visit
The Argentine consul in Punta Arenas downplayed the alleged repercussions of the recent trip of eight Chilean students to the Falkland Islands allegedly in the framework of a “written understanding” between the extreme south Chilean city council and Falklands authorities.
“There was no need for a formal claim from the Argentine embassy much less a meeting at ministerial level. An informal meeting was enough” said Argentine General Consul in Punta Arenas, Martin Rivolta who added “there was no phone call from the Embassy in Santiago to Punta Arenas mayor Vladimiro Mimica to protest the agreement between the British administration of Malvinas and local Chilean authorities”.
However La Prensa Austral, Punta Arenas main daily stands by its original report quoting a recording from the Argentine embassy in Santiago Press officer, Natacha Martínez who provided the information.
“The issue had strong repercussions in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, so the mayor called us. We had an informal meeting, based on our friendship, but with no intent at all of interfering with political relations”, underlined Consul Rivolta.
However in spite of the friendly phone calls and informal meeting the exchange trip of the eight Punta Arenas students who remained in the Falklands three weeks to polish their English and learn about the Islands’ culture, could have unexpected consequences.
Argentina under no circumstances can allow that Chile, via a city council, agrees to an understanding which could mean recognizing “the legality of a government in a territory under sovereignty dispute”.
Nevertheless Rivolta said that leaving aside the events and the understanding, “it is not the Argentine embassy’s business to protest before a city council of the host country, much less demand explanations, since that would inevitable harm bilateral relations”.
According to La Prensa Austral that is why Consul Rivolta approached mayor Mimica to downplay the whole event and its repercussions.
“I only asked him as a good friend what was going on, but there was never inconvenience, just surprise” said Rivolta who revealed that the mayor was taken back by the repercussions of the whole incident involving a students’ exchange program.
“It is a very sensitive issue; we can’t forget a lot of people were killed in a war (1982) and that calls from international organizations for Malvinas sovereignty talks between Argentina and the UK are constant”, pointed out Rivolta.
He also mentioned to mayor Mimica that his reference to the Islands as ‘Falklands’ instead of Malvinas caused an uproar, particularly in neighbouring Tierra del Fuego.
In fact, “mayor Mimica told me that for Argentina and Chile, at all times and in all circumstances they are the Malvinas Islands”, revealed Rivolta.
At the time the Chilean consul in Ushuaia Francisco Gomez Lira immediately reacted recalling Chile’s permanent recognition of Argentine sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, but acknowledging that mistaking Falklands for Malvinas “was a regretful error and a major carelessness” from a city councillor.
This way the misunderstanding surrounding the Chilean students exchange program trip to the Falklands, --and the Argentine over-reaction--, has been overcome in friendly terms, described as “a careless blunder”
The trip took place June 5 and involved eight Punta Arenas students sponsored by Punta Arenas city government, LAN Chile and the British consulate.