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Falkland Islanders ‘have treated us kindly’ say visiting Argentine veterans

Thursday, March 19th 2009 - 04:44 UTC
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Travel Agent Ezequiel Gatti, War Veterans Julio Mena and Marcelo Gustavo Sanchez, Journalist Carlos Porto - in the 1982 War section of the Stanley Museum Travel Agent Ezequiel Gatti, War Veterans Julio Mena and Marcelo Gustavo Sanchez, Journalist Carlos Porto - in the 1982 War section of the Stanley Museum

ARGENTINE war veterans visiting the Falkland Islands have been treated with, “…respect and kindness,” by Islanders, Marcelo Gustavo Sanchez of Centro de Veteranos de Guerra de Lujan, told Mercopress.

The group of 17 plus three family members, two film crew, a travel agent and a journalist arrived in the Islands on Saturday and since then have paid their respects to “…those who lost their lives on both sides,” at battlefields all around East Falklands.

Sanchez explained, “…the journey here is not about politics, it is not about sovereignty, it is a mission of peace and healing and honouring both Argentine and British war dead.

“Each day of this visit we feel more and more comfortable with the mission, we are very happy we made the journey.”

Asked how the veterans had reacted to the emotional pilgrimage, Sanchez said, “All of the veterans had a very bad time in the war; now they are in the middle of a healing process and every day they feel better and better. We have been made welcome and we feel this is the starting point for something new and positive.”

Another veteran, Julio Mena, said, “When the war happened the mothers of the Argentine soldiers suffered great worry when they came to the Islands, but this time they can be happy that the main objective of this mission is to open doors and make the difficult attempt to bring the two societies closer.

“From me I want to give all Islanders a big hug from the heart and hope that peace and love will always be with us.”

Asked about the reaction from Islanders, journalist Carlos Porto said, “We have had the opportunity to chat to Islanders at the hotel, in the shops and in taxis and they have always been kind and interested. One evening when I did not know my way back to my hotel I called into the Police Station to ask if they would help me find a taxi; instead they gave me a lift to my hotel in one of their patrol vehicles and shook my hand when I left them. I was very surprised”

In Argentina some radical groups have not been pleased by the message of peace being carried to the Falkland Islands.

“Some groups are trying to hit us hard,” said Sanchez, “Since we have been here they have already stolen photographs from our site and published them on their own site, and have changed our words in an attempt to cause trouble.”

The group says they have been “amazed” by the Islands, “It is just so organised and clean and meticulous and the people are very respectful. It is a very secure place with its lack of crime. The Islands itself is very beautiful.”

The Lujan group is part of the International Veterans Association.

Plaques brought to the Falklands by the group include the words ‘peace is the way’ in both Spanish and English.

Also on the same flight to the Falklands was another group of around 15 visiting Argentine veterans, plus the group of five Argentine marathon runners that competed in the Stanley Marathon on Sunday.

By Lisa Johnson - SeAledPR - Stanley

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