Since mid January when Dr Graham Pascoe and Peter Pepper first published an article under the heading of “Falklands’ Facts”, Argentina’s former Ambassador and Deputy Foreign Affairs minister during the Menem administration Andrés Cisneros has systematically replied with his own point of view, establishing an illuminating debate on an issue that is controversial but also passionate.
Now Anglo-argentine Henry Whitney who has the benefit of understanding both cultures and idiosyncrasies has joined the debate.
Furthermore we believe Mr. Whitney has more than sufficient credentials: his grandmother’s family originally migrated to the province of Santa Cruz from the Falkland Islands in the late 1880’s when Argentina was more than interested in settling Patagonia, (even with British farmers), which until then was a forgotten territory, and allegedly a western neighbour’s temptation.
Because my grandmother was born there, the two articles on The Falklands in last Sunday’s Herald were very interesting: There is much more to consider apart from Pepper and Pascoe’s legalistic verbiage and Cisneros’ cry-baby response:
Defending the frontier
In the 1870’s Chile claimed Patagonia. In 1876 one of their warships actually seized a French ship in the Santa Cruz River (and in 1878 an American one) and killed some French settlers claiming that they were trespassing on Chilean sovereign land. When the Argentine Minister of War, General Roca, heard of this, he had a problem: His army did not even control the land south of Azul, just 200 kilometres from Buenos Aires. How could he keep the Chileans out of Patagonia?
Roca had a brilliant idea: Put British settlers in Patagonia. The British had five war ships and troops on the Falklands and these would defend the British settlers should the Chileans bother them. So Moyano, the first governor of Santa Cruz, went to the Falklands and offered 4000 hectares of land to any Falklander that would settle in Santa Cruz.
Among the half dozen families that accepted the offer was my maternal great grandfather, William Halliday. He landed with his family on the North side of the Rio Gallegos on July 31, 1885.
Was this action by Roca and Moyano an admission of British sovereignty over the Falklands? Hmmm….
People Not Land.
Universities teach that, in international disputes, developed countries think in terms of people and underdeveloped ones in terms of land. That certainly is the case in the Falkland Islands dispute. The Kelpers are overwhelmingly British descended. That is why the UK stands up for them. The Argentine side never mentions people, they only claim the land.
The United Nations considers that colonialism exists when a country has a possession inhabited by people of another race, language, inheritance, etc.
Since the Falklands are inhabited nearly exclusively by Brits, the Argentine claim that the British are colonialists carries no weight. On the contrary, if the Argentines had the Islands, they would be the colonialists because they are quite different in origin, language, customs, etc from the Kelpers.
Crime against humanity?.
The majority of the MercoPress readers would agree that if Argentina had a quality of government at least slightly resembling the UK, the Brits would have a different attitude towards negotiations. But to turn over the Falklands, with its remarkably developed democracy, reliable justice and honest leadership, to Argentina would qualify as a crime against humanity. Studies indicate that practically across the board Argentina ranks badly on corruption, injustice, poverty and economic miss-management.
The Kelpers have voted in free elections that they want to continue their present relationship with the UK. MP readers might ask themselves, were the forty million Argentines to have the Falklands, would they respect the wishes of the 3.000 Kelpers?
No matter what the intentions might be, if Argentina were to control the Falklands they would most probably end up treating the Kelpers like they do with the Wichi, Toba and Mapuche Indians.
When I was a blond, blue-eyed child growing up in the Northern Buenos Aires suburbs I was insulted on various occasions because I looked like a foreigner. Argentina is a surprisingly discriminatory society. So much so that the Argentine Constitution actually says in Article 25 (*) “The Federal government will encourage European immigration…”
What other country has a constitution that out rightly discriminates against all but Europeans? Chau English language, driving on the left side, local autonomy.
Fair weather People.
Mainly because of the climate, sixty percent of the population of Santa Cruz Province is Chilean or their descendents. To my grandparents, Patagonia had a beautiful climate compared to the Falklands or Scotland, but for the majority of Argentines, seeing the whales in Puerto Madryn is one thing, Perito Moreno Glacier is worth a few days, but few Argentines want to live south of the Rio Negro. Years ago I remember that the Santa Cruz government had to offer Argentines from the North an airplane trip per month back to Buenos Aires to get them to go down to Santa Cruz.. I don’t know if they still do
If the Argentines have such a problem with the Patagonian weather, how will they survive the even worse Falkland Islands weather?
A wider vision
Before the Panama Canal and the transcontinental railway in the USA, ships had to go around Cape Horn to get to the Pacific and to the California gold rush. The number of ships entering Port Stanley for supplies or repairs was very large. One photo I have, taken at the turn of the century shows 11 ships anchored off Port Stanley. Later, with the appearance of steamships, the Falklands became an important coaling station.
In World War I the British had a fleet there to stop German ships from going around the Horn. The Fleet that fought the Battles of Coronel and Falklands sailed from Port Stanley. In WWII the Falklands was the base the British fleet sailed from to battle the German cruiser Graff Spee.
Today the Falklands are still of strategic importance to Britain and her allies. With Diego Garcia, Ascension, Gibraltar, etc, they form a network essential to World peace. Argentina, on the other hand, thinks inwards. Because of that attitude, the country can’t even protect its own fishing grounds, let alone the Falklands.
Controlling the Falklands would create problems Argentina could not handle.
So what does the future hold?
Kelpers don’t want to be Argies. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to have relations. If Argentina lowered its voice and allowed contacts with the Falklands, barriers would slowly fall. Trade between the two would grow, and with it friendship. Is it so important to “own” the Falklands? What’s wrong with a good friendship? Let the Kelpers live their lives.
A Humorous story
Every time my Falklands-born grandmother, Mary (Halliday) Jamieson, travelled to Britain she took both Argentine and English passports. Arriving in England, she’d present the Argentine one. HM’s customs would have a fit and confiscate it. So Granny would pull out here English one and all was well. Before returning, she’d get a new Argentine passport from the Argentine embassy. She’d produce here a British passport on arrival in Argentina and the authorities would have a tantrum and confiscate it. Then she’d come up with her Argentine one and the officials were satisfied.
That went on for some thirty years.
Henry Whitney (BAH)
(*) Art. 25º.- El Gobierno federal fomentará la inmigración europea; y no podrá restringir, limitar ni gravar con impuesto alguno la entrada en el territorio argentino de los extranjeros que traigan por objeto labrar la tierra, mejorar las industrias, e introducir y enseñar las ciencias y las artes.