In a rare interview, the Argentine Colonel who was responsible for placing mines in the occupied Falkland Islands in 1982 as part of the defense strategy against the advancing British forces, admits that between 15.000 and 20.000 of antipersonnel and anti tank explosives were planted, but also claims some stretches of the Islands' coast already had mines which had been placed by the British.
Colonel Manuel Dorrego, (81), only recently decided to talk about his Malvinas war experience and mainly the mining of fields surrounding Stanley. He arrived in the Falklands a few days after the Argentine invasion, called by acting military governor General Mario Benjamín Menéndez, and was given the job of Public Works director of the interim government.
Dorrego was basically in charge of ensuring power, water supply, opening roads in the camp and field-mining, but to his great surprise the British already had mines in areas along the coast.
Mining fields is a job which he described as demanding 'extreme concentration' with maps clearly registering where mines are planted, exact distances and measurement to protect your own forces.
Although Dorrego alleges he quickly became aware that defeat was round the corner, he followed instructions and planted mines to the very last minute in a desperate attempt to slow the British advance. We placed some 15.000 to 20.000 antipersonnel and anti tank mines in the Islands
Following defeat all the maps and registries of mined fields were handed to Mayor Roderick Mac Donald and during weeks Argentine officers and NCO worked next to the British clearing the fields with the data supplied by us.
However the British suspended mine clearance to avoid Argentina from appealing to international military agreements which state that the army of a country must eliminate the mines in its territory, points out Dorrego.
But why does the UK deny having information on the mined areas and why hasn't it cleared those areas. Thirty years ago there were already mine detecting systems, insists the Argentine officer. But despite criticism, Dorrego admits the British forces treated the Argentine military as true gentlemen, following the war.
As to the conflict, Dorrego states that Argentine officers and troops were not prepared for war and much less in the aggressive inhospitable conditions of the Malvinas. It was an attempt, ill planned, ill elaborated, we were not prepared and if the blockade imposed by the British towards the end of the conflict had continued a few more days, we would have starved.
At some point, Dorrego admits, we thought this could happen, but we also knew that it wasn't politically sustainable for the British
Despite the complete defeat suffered by the Argentine army, they were not prepared for an even harder and sadder return home, admits Dorrego. Soldiers felt betrayed; they had to return in defeat, heads down, nobody was here to receive them, they were hidden from public sight, and we never received any acknowledgement for what we did.
The war changed Dorrego's life: he lost his son in law in Malvinas, he retired from the Army and has since made a living selling farm equipment.
Over three decades later, there can only be a peaceful solution. continue appealing at international forums and looking for some understanding so that we can share with the Islanders as a community, but that will demand at least another three decades.