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Montevideo, April 20th 2019 - 12:31 UTC

Falklands/Malvinas controversy: “Minds closed, indeed”

Saturday, February 19th 2011 - 16:36 UTC
Full article 227 comments

The following article from Mr. Andres Cisneros is a reply to “Unilateral Facts II” (MP Feb. 12th) by Dr. Graham Pascoe and Peter Pepper. The first piece of this enriching exchange (Unilateral Facts) from Dr. Pascoe and Mr. Pepper was published in the BA Herald January 21st and a first reply from Mr. Cisneros (Unilateral Facts, indeed), Feb 6th in MP.

In my article of February 6, I explained that in a conflict lasting almost two centuries, the worst thing we can do is quibble and distract ourselves from the main problem — that two friendly countries (once major partners) maintain a territorial dispute which one of them refuses to discuss in legal terms, hanging on to that territory by might, not right.
But in his answer listing the blunders which he attributes to me Mr. Pepper plunges into precisely that quibbling which contributes so little to the basic question.

In accusing me of being anti-British, he evidently does not know my modest career in public service. Although we profess the highest admiration for the contributions of England and English-speaking peoples to Western culture and world progress, we cannot overlook that, --value judgments apart--, they built the biggest empire the world has ever known on the basis of force over alien lands and peoples. British imperialism in 1833 is thus not my opinion but an objective fact.

The usurpation of the Malvinas in 1833 was thus not the isolated or spontaneous initiative of an obscure Captain Onslow any more than the two invasions to Buenos Aires in 1806 and 1807 — there were orders from on high, obeying a plan of planetary dimensions to dominate strategically important sea-lanes worldwide. It happened to Gibraltar, for example, and it happened to us with the appropriation of the Malvinas to control the strategic Strait of Magellan. There was nothing fortuitous but rather the manifestation of an imperial project repeated in many parts of the world. The Malvinas dispute cannot be understood without reference to this framework.

Briefly responding to Mr. Pepper’s letter last Saturday:

1. Affirming sovereignty in our own Constitution does not violate the mandate of the United Nations. And if it does, both sides have infringed — Argentina with its 1995 constitutional amendments and Britain in European constitutional treaties. To assert: “This will probably prevent negotiations from ever starting” after 178 years of British stonewalling, sounds almost like black humor.

2. Mr. Pepper claims that Argentina tried General Leopoldo Galtieri for losing rather than starting the 1982 war and with a different result he would have been a hero. He then speculates about Argentina invading Chile (impossible to prove). Victory has many fathers, defeat is always an orphan and British history has more than one case in point. While on the subject of conflicts with Argentina, they tried to invade us twice before 1833 and failed both times — in 1806 and 1807 (episodes practically absent from any British historiography apart from a fleeting mention in the British Army Museum in London where in a Napoleonic war-room “Attack on Buenos Aires in 1807”, on a map is the only reference, according to Rosendo Fraga’s “La Argentina y la versión británica del Imperio”, (January, 2005)

3. As for the use of violence, Mr. Pepper’s statements are surprising, to say the least. After denying force, Pepper informs us: “Onslow only expelled the Argentine garrison.” But don’t you need force to expel? He then continues: “Captain Onslow of the Clio had orders not to molest civilians” but none stayed after the arrival of Englishmen armed to the teeth — can that be a coincidence?

Referring to the pre-1833 settlers, Pepper says: “Such a group cannot be considered a genuine population at all” after describing “most them (as) gauchos.” If one did not know that Mr. Pepper is surely a distinguished citizen of the 21st century, both statements would sound racist. We Argentines have plenty of respect for the gauchos, whom we declared full citizens from the day we became independent. The Malvinas Islanders had to wait a little longer, from 1833 to 1982 to acquire the same status.

As if that were not enough, let us dwell on Mr. Pepper’s own description of the blessings awaiting the Argentines who elected to remain under British rule — before 1833 we Argentines ruled the roost in the Malvinas but (Pepper dixit) Onslow proposed reducing the local population to “hunting the wild cattle and supplying fresh beef to visiting ships.” A striking change — the Argentines retreating to the Stone Age while the English had the whaling and the seal-hunting, the fishing permits, the ship chandlery, the sheep-rearing and control of the strategic Magellan. No wonder the Argentines “elected” to leave.

By the way, Mr. Pepper talks of “wild cattle” without explaining that they were not naturally present but came from herds previously introduced to the Islands. The question then arises: who brought them there? Apparently not the Argentines because, according to Mr. Pepper, they had only been there since September, 1832. The British, then?

Improbable since before 1833 the United Kingdom had only occupied the Islands for a total of nine years (1765-1774) while the Spanish and Argentines held them for 57 or 60 if we add the three years of France, who recognized our legitimate rights. And the Argentines alone were there not for a few months but 13 years, since 1820, after nine unoccupied and 44 under Spain. As far as I can see, the cattle came from the mainland 300 miles away and not Britain 8,000 miles distant.

Mr. Pepper notes barely 50 Argentines on the Malvinas when the persuasive Captain Onslow arrived. Nevertheless, the figure is significant by the standards of the time and even now. But in any case if we go by inhabitants, over 50 Argentines had been there for 13 years whereas the last British settler had left 59 years previously.

Mr. Pepper repeats: “I have on several occasions offered to make a historical presentation.” I do not doubt that for a moment but I frequent the places in Argentina where the Malvinas are discussed and I have no way of corroborating his claim.

As everybody knows, the most distinguished think tank here by far is CARI (Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales) while academically the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) is surely the most respected. I have checked up in both institutions and have found nothing to back up Mr. Pepper’s claim. Checking up further with various universities (also private), the Parliamentary Malvinas Observatory and local experts, none of them seem to have received a formal proposal from him to set up a debate between academics of the two sides. I hope this is not the case and that Mr. Pepper can provide concrete evidence of his always laudable wish for constructive dialogue.

In my personal experience as the politician in charge of the Malvinas issue for almost nine years in the 90s at the Argentine Foreign Ministry, I never heard of any such offer from either Pepper or Graham Pascoe, and I’m talking about the most cordial period of relations between Britain and Argentina between 1982 and now. There were many meetings, none with them present.

The only appearance mentioned in last Saturday’s letter is a 2007 presentation to the Argentine Embassy in an attempted answer to an Argentine official communiqué. I’ve checked the text, which is a long, pro-British harangue without any proposal for a debate with Argentine academic and legal experts. I suppose Mr. Pepper would not expect an Embassy to get mixed up in an argument with private foreign individuals in their own country, that’s not their job.
On the contrary, far from proposing clashes, on the Argentine side via CARI, at least seven annual meetings were organized between 1990 y 2003, alternating between London and Buenos Aires, the well-known Argentine-British-Conference or ABC, with numerous and prominent scholars and personalities with an interest in the issue from both countries to build bridges and explore possible solutions. I never met Messrs Pepper or Pascoe there and, after consulting the records, they do not figure as having attended on any occasion.

Mr. Pepper concluded his letter last Saturday’s letter by saying: “Minds seem to be closed on the subject.” I close my own today by saying that I could not agree with him more.


 Unilateral Facts  By Graham Pascoe and Peter Pepper

Unilateral Facts, indeed By Andrés Cisneros

Unilateral Fact II By Peter Pepper


Top Comments

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  • Be serious

    A very poor and disappointing response.

    Feb 19th, 2011 - 05:41 pm 0
  • ed

    only two details from British History ;

    1828 ... Argentine settlements colony founded in Malvinas Islands..

    1831 ...US Warship destroy the islands..

    1832 ...Argentina sends new Governor who killed in mutiny which
    organized by British Navy Secret Services..

    1833 ...British Forces return and grabbed the Malvinas Islands...

    1882 ... Egypt invaded by British..

    1914 ... British declared Egypt Sultanate..

    1922 ... British Puppet Regime..independence of Egypt..

    1952 ... Nasser coup..

    1953 ... declaration of Republic..British withdrawal from Suez Canal

    1954 ... Nasser president ...British withdrawals completely...

    Feb 19th, 2011 - 05:46 pm 0
  • LegionNi

    “while the Spanish and Argentines held them for 57 or 60 if we add the three years of France, who recognized our legitimate rights”

    Eh???! Spain is not Argentina. France is not Argentina. 57 - 60 years. What a ludicrous statement to make.

    France sold their settlement to Spain on threat of war, but what France did is irrelevant as Britain didn't recognise French sovereignty any more than it ever recognised Spanish sovereignty.

    His statements regards 1806 and 1807 are also laughable. At the time Argentina did not exist, it was a colony of Spain, and ally of France, which at the time was lead by a tyrant bent on domination of the continent of Europe. Has he never heard of Napoleon?! Attacking Spanish holdings in the Americas in 1806 and 1807 was a valid act of war... we were at war with Spain.

    It is truly staggering to read logic applied with such infantile abandon.

    Feb 19th, 2011 - 05:49 pm 0
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