Americas Summit expected to release support-statement for Argentina’s Falklands claim
Thirty years after the Falklands/Malvinas war, Latin America seems to be closing ranks behind Argentina's sovereignty claim over the disputed islands and reviving a bid for control in the resource-rich South Atlantic.
All countries of the region back Buenos Aires in its bitter dispute with London over the remote South Atlantic archipelago and oppose any British military presence in the region, Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said in late March.
A statement on the issue is expected to be issued this month at the VI Summit of the Americas (April 14/15), hosted by Colombia in the city of Cartagena and to which most leaders, if not all, have confirmed their attendance including President Barack Obama.
Argentina lost the war in 1982 but on this sensitive issue, London is facing a united Latin American front, led by Brazil, the region's dominant power that has become the world's sixth largest economy, displacing the UK.
Besides Brazil is en route to become a world leading producer and exporter of oil from its massive offshore reserves and is most alert to whatever happens in the South Atlantic which it considers its area of influence.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota made this position abundantly clear in a meeting with his British counterpart William Hague in Brasilia early this year.
He told Hague that Brazil and the region back Argentine sovereignty over the Falklands and the UN resolutions calling for dialogue between the Argentine and British governments on this issue.
Also early this year, Patriota said Brazil was working with Uruguay to convene a meeting of the proposed South Atlantic Zone of Peace and Cooperation, bringing together South American and southern African countries.
Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay have an interest in creating a South Atlantic security zone. This has been on the agenda for decades, said Tullo Vigevani, a professor at Sao Paulo State University.
Alberto Pfeifer of the Analysis of International Relations think-tank at Sao Paulo University noted the South Atlantic was extremely important for countries on both sides of the ocean.
The geology of this region is a mirror. What you have on the South American side, you will find on the southern African side. Already large oil reserves have been discovered on the African coast, in addition to the resources of the ocean, like fishing, he added.
Brazil is also beefing up its naval might in the South Atlantic, including with an ambitious submarine program, to protect its huge sub-salt oil reserves.
The oil fields, located off Brazil's southeast Atlantic coast beneath kilometers of ocean and bedrock, could contain more than 100 billion barrels of high-quality recoverable oil, according to official estimates.
It is no secret that Brazil believes the South Atlantic is the “blue Amazon” and no country from the northern hemisphere should be occupying it. Since former president Lula da Silva took office in 2003 it has been clear Brazil’s growing support for Argentina in the Falklands issue, they don’t want the UK near their oil reserves.
In Brazil’s long term strategy Argentina does not pose a threat, UK yes because it is associated with NATO and the last Brazilian national defense plan considers that the South Atlantic must be a security priority for Brasilia.
Tensions between London and Buenos Aires escalated anew since 2010, when the Falklands elected government with the support from Britain authorized oil companies to explore for oil in the Islands’ waters.
Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman has accused Britain of accumulating the biggest military power in the South Atlantic, including nuclear arms. He used a 53-nation summit on nuclear security in South Korea last month to urge Britain to confirm it has no nuclear weapons in the South Atlantic. London dismissed the insinuations as unfounded and baseless.
Raul Bernal-Meza, an international relations professor at Buenos Aires University, however noted that Latin American support for Argentina was not so open and unanimous 30 years ago in the middle of the Cold War when the region was ruled by right-wing dictatorships.
Chile, then under the rule of the late Augusto Pinochet, gave covert support to Britain and the only regional country to provide true aid to Argentina was Peru, which sent weapons and Mirage jets.
Today, Latin American countries depend more on each other and are less dependent on Europe and the United States and have China as the main trade partner for the many metals, grains and oilseeds from the region. Countries in the region also seek to assert a common identity.
The Union of South American Nations, Unasur, set up in 2007 has given more cohesion to the stance of solidarity with Argentina because it is much easier to secure agreements and consensus, said Peruvian analyst Ernesto Velit Granda.