Twenty years ago, this month, one of Argentina's then leading political analysts and journalist publicly admitted the Falkland Islands belong to the Islanders. Mariano Grondona had been invited to the Islands by the Legislative Council and during a gathering with locals said the famous quote, “The Falkland Islands belong to you, the Islanders”.
A statement Grondona reiterated and again supported in 2012 when the 30th anniversary of the start of the South Atlantic conflict, Grondona: “What Argentina needs to understand is that the key to the Malvinas question is in the hands of the Islanders. Forty million Argentines, a few kilometers away from 3.000 Islanders, have failed in seducing them.
According to the Penguin News 9 October 1998 edition Grondona after spending two days in the Falklands during which time he met heads of government departments and visited Camp settlements, faced a large gathering of local residents in the Court and Council Chamber to exchange views of his experience.
Grondona was that month the first individual to enter the Islands on an Argentine passport since the end of the Falklands conflict in 1982.
Former Councilor Lewis Clifton invited Dr. Grondona to open the meeting with his first impressions on the Islands. The visitor started admitting that some of his preconceptions were wrong and was surprised “to what extend the Islands are a community”. He explained that in Argentina a small town with a similarly sized population would be wholly dependent on a nearby large town, “but you function as a mini-state”.
“I was surprised to see you as an autonomous community with your own targets, goals and resources” admitting he was under the impression the Islands would be greatly dependent on Britain but “it is all under your control”.
Dr. Grondona added that it is a common misconception in Argentina that the Islands are simply an “appendix of Britain’s”. He felt that if there was a closer relationship with Argentina, his countrymen would begin to see their relationship with the Islands was not just a challenge with Britain”.
The visitor said at the time that Argentina sees the problem of the Islands as unfinished business with Britain arguing that “Islanders are victims of that perception”. He added speaking to each other is the first step to knowing each other, respecting each other and appreciating each other”.
When a local resident said that the 1982 conflict could not be forgotten because of the continued Argentine claim reminded the people of the war and “nothing has changed”, Grondona mooted the idea of “freezing the sovereignty issue” for a considerable amount of time.
“Let us not talk about the claim, but talk to each other and form another relationship”
Further on Grondona spoke of a double utopia saying that Argentines mistakenly think they can achieve their aims by forcing the hand of Britain, who would then force the hand of the Falklands.
Likewise Islanders believe they can in the foreseeable future persuade Argentina to drop their claim: “this, said Grondona, is also a mistaken belief”. And finally when asked who he felt the Falklands belonged to Grondona surprised everybody at the public meeting by replying “They belong to you”.