President Cristina Fernandez announced on Tuesday that 91 next of kin of Argentine combatants buried in NN graves at the Falkland Islands Darwin memorial have agreed and signed to have the remains DNA tested and clearly identified.
The president made the announcement during her speech at the Patagonian port of Puerto Madryn on occasion of the 31st anniversary of the beginning of the South Atlantic conflict (April 2) when Argentine military invaded the Falklands and finally were expelled 74 days later by a British task force with a loss of 649 Argentine lives, 237 of which are buried at the Darwin memorial.
A year ago on 2 April 2012 President Cristina Fernandez announced she had requested the International Red Cross to collaborate in the identification of 123 NN remains. So far of the 237 buried in 230 graves, 114 have been identified, the rest have a white cross which simply reads, “Argentine soldier only known to God”.
“Our commitment is with the 123 NN that rest at the Darwin cemetery” said the Argentine president adding that “the Ministry of Justice has found and contacted 100 next of kin of which 91 have signed to make the formal request to the International Red Cross”.
“All of them should have a plaque with their name and surname to that each mother can take a flower to mourn and honour our dead”, said Cristina Fernandez during the ceremony held in Puerto Madryn, where back in June 1982 in the aftermath of the conflict the Canberra returned 4.000 soldiers, mostly conscripts, to Argentina.
However the identification of remains has not been without controversy since the different organizations of Malvinas veterans and Malvinas next of kin are not unanimous about the proposal.
In effect the Commission of the Malvinas and South Atlantic Islands fallen relatives, and which manages the Argentine memorial at Darwin last year disagreed with the presidential initiative.
According to members of the commission two are the main concerns: fears that the forensic work will reignite a standing wish from the Falkland Islanders to have all the remains shipped back to Argentina. Allegedly the International Red Cross will be asked guarantees that this does not happen.
However, the most pressing impact for the next of kin is that the whole task of identifying the remains does not becomes “to express it brutally a festival of bones” according to reports in the Buenos Aires media.
But other Malvinas veterans’ groups applauded the initiative and requested before Argentine courts that the remains effectively be identified.
Of the remaining 412 Argentines who lost their lives during the conflict, 323 went down with the cruiser ARA Belgrano, torpedoed by a British submarine. The area where the old vessel, originally from the US Navy, rests has been declared a designated war grave.
The 74 day conflict which ended in a complete surrender of the Argentine forces to the British Task Force in June 1982 brought down the Military Junta in Buenos Aires and a year later a democratically elected government and president occupied Casa Rosada.
But the military adventure not only took the lives of 649 Argentines but also that of 255 British military and three Islanders.