South American leaders “frank and crude” debate last week on the controversial agreement to deploy US forces in seven Colombian bases brought back memories and experiences of the Falkland Islands war between Argentina and Britain in 1982.
At the opening of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) summit in Argentina, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner recalled that Great Britain has a military base “unilaterally” established in the disputed Malvinas/Falkland Islands, which means Argentina “is not absent from the essence” of the debate on the Colombia/US military agreement.
Uruguayan president Tabaré Vazquez revealed that only a month ago, a British military aircraft tanker was not allowed to land in Montevideo to load fuel for “fighter planes stationed in the Malvinas islands”. He added “South America must be a land of peace of freedom, with no foreign military bases”.
Ecuadorian leader Rafael Correa, one of the most emphatic against the military agreement between the US and neighbouring Colombia said that “what better example to understand the dangers of the agreement than recall what happened in the Islas Malvinas in 1982”
“At that moment an agreement was effective signed by all countries of the region, but which United States simple tore to pieces. They (US) and other countries from the region collaborated with the British troops and the Argentines know that. Memory is fragile and condemns us to commit the same mistakes”, said Correa.
The Ecuadorian president was talking of the Inter American Reciprocal Assistance Treaty, TIAR, which had been signed in 1947, and which “was ignored by the US and Chile” during the conflict for the Malvinas.
Chilean president Michelle Bachelet also recalled the South Atlantic conflict when expressing her country’s doubts about the treaty signed by Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and his United States peer Barack Obama.
“I would like to reiterate our standing solidarity with the sister Republic of Argentina in their legitimate sovereignty claim over the Malvinas Islands. Chile historically has supported the Argentine claim and this is a most appropriate occasion, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, to renew our commitment, Chile’s support to the legitimate demand from the Argentina people and government”, said president Bachelet.
Finally it was President Alvaro Uribe, the target of concentrated criticism during the Unasur summit who said Colombia holds an “undisputed and unmoveable position” regarding Argentine sovereignty over the Islas Malvinas.
Historically Unasur presidents have expressed their support to the Argentine claim over the Malvinas/Falklands islands and normally have added to the official declarations of the group a few lines calling on the United Kingdom to cease “the illegal occupation of the South Atlantic islands”.