The Argentine blockade can’t stop the Falkland Islands and “if Argentina believes that these aggressions are going to change the mind and spirit of the Islanders, they are dead wrong, much on the contrary”, said Falklands’ lawmakers currently visiting Guatemala on a tour of Central America and Mexico.
Interviewed by Guatemala’s daily Prensa Libre, the country’s most influential newspaper, Falklands’ lawmakers Dr Barry Elsby and Dick Sawle said that the purpose of their visit is to present the Falklands people’s case, their right to self determination, to continue developing the economy, having good relations with Latinamerica and to inform on the coming referendum on the Islands political status.
“Even admitting that the trade, communications and other hurdles imposed by the Argentine blockade on a population of 3.000 are a nuisance since they impact on the free movement of vessels by having them banned from the region’s ports, it won’t change our minds or hearts, the Argentines are dead wrong, it’s never going to happen”, said MLA Elsby specifically asked about the Argentine blockade on the Falklands.
MLA Sawle went on to say that it was very important to understand that what happened in 1982 with the Falklands/Malvinas war did not stop the clock and that Argentina’s version of events since is not correct.
“Wars are terrible; nobody likes wars, much less those who have suffered them. But we must explain to the world, to whoever we meet that we are a country entirely different to that of 1982. Since then we’ve had three constitutions, each of them has advanced our self government, and power now rests on the eight elected members of the Legislative Assembly, except for defence and foreign affairs which remain with London, because we so decided in full exercise of our self determination”, explained MLA Sawle .
“The Falklands are no longer a colony, they are an Overseas Territory in full exercise of our right to self determination, and that is how we want to remain. The British government is very clear on this, they support self determination and they will until we say so. This has been official policy from all UK governments since 1982” added Sawle.
“Who else but us has the right to decide on our future, the UK 12.000 miles away, Argentina, 300 miles away? No, the people of the Falklands and any talks about our future are not a bilateral issue between UK and Argentina, they must include the Falklands, this is a three sides issue: London respects it, Buenos Aires insists in ignoring us”, explained Dt. Elsby.
MLA Sawle recalled that relations with Argentina were good in the nineties: there was a fisheries agreement of common interest; there was a hydrocarbons agreement which would have opened the Falklands’ oil industry to Argentina; from 1999 Argentine passport holders could travel to the Islands; a memorial to the fallen Argentine soldiers buried in the Islands was built, but with the arrival of the Kirchner couple all changed.
“Nestor and Cristina Kirchner ignored the fisheries and oil agreements, limited air links and adopted a stance that recalls events surrounding the 1982 Argentine military invasion of the Falklands. More trade and communications aggressions, all very disappointing; we believe they are trying to distract the people from domestic problems by waving the Malvinas flag”, said MLA Sawle.
The Falklands’ lawmakers admit that the oil and gas issue puts more pressure on the issue, “but Argentina will never have sovereignty over the Falklands, because the British government supports our right to self determination and to develop our economy. And furthermore as we have said before any decisions on our future, any possible discussions must include the people of the Falklands which Argentina insists in ignoring”.
Furthermore next year the Falklands are holding a referendum on the Islands’ political status to send a clear transparent undisputed message to the world of what the Falkland Islanders want and their future.
“The referendum is being organized following international criteria; we will invite international observers, hopefully also from South America, and with the question correctly drafted free of all suspicions. We want a clear, plain direct message referred to our right to self determination”.
Regarding relations with Latin America Dr. Elsby said that before the Argentine blockade and the ban on Falklands’ flagged vessels, the Islands had fluid trade, labour and people’s links with Chile, Uruguay, Brazil with some of those connections going back a couple of centuries.
“Our population is small but we have Argentines, Uruguayans, Brazilians and a significant Chilean community living with us. With the new scenario things have changed, the Falklands have to look for other links and we regret losing those long established links. But I also think Chile and Uruguay are disappointed and will miss the opportunity of trade and other venues”, concluded Dr Elsby.
Before leaving for Mexico the Falklands’ lawmakers met with representatives of the Guatemalan Government, the civil society as well as with members of the Congress, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, university students and opinion formers, amongst others.