By Heather Briley, Buenos Aires - The ashes of the notorious Argentine general who oversaw the brutal occupation of the Falklands have been scattered in secret on the islands after being smuggled over in a Tupperware box, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Islanders have reacted with fury after learning that the remains of Mario Menendez have been left on a battlefield where 23 British soldiers were killed, and also in the grounds of Government House in the capital, Port Stanley.
As military governor after the invasion in April 1982, Menendez held islanders prisoner and subjected them to beatings, leaving many in fear of their lives. He surrendered to British forces in June 1982 after a ten-week conflict which saw 255 British troops slain.
His ashes were taken to the Falklands by an Argentinean woman in December 2015, shortly after his death at the age of 85.
Some were scattered on Mount Longdon, site of a pivotal battle in which 23 British troops died before Argentine forces were defeated in a key setback for the regime of General Galtieri, who had laid claim to the islands Argentines call the Malvinas.
Menendez’s remains were also left at Government House, the official residence he requisitioned from the Governor of the Falkland Islands, Sir Rex Hunt, and in the cemetery for the Argentine dead.
The story only recently emerged in the Argentine press and has now been confirmed by the MoS.
The ashes of Menendez’s son Benja, who fought in the war, have also been secretly scattered in the garden of a bed-and-breakfast on the Falklands after being smuggled in a packet of herbal tea in 2017. He had died at 59 from a heart attack.
Gen. Menendez was hated by islanders and his compatriots alike. In Argentina, he was branded a coward for surrendering to the British against the orders of military dictator Leopoldo Galtieri.
He was also accused of torturing political prisoners in Argentina and had been due to stand trial.
Last night, his daughter, Maria Jose Menendez admitted she had arranged for her father’s and brother’s ashes to be taken to the Falklands in secret, saying: ‘My father always talked about the 649 Argenantinians who lost their lives on the islands. That’s why I decided it was right to scatter some of his ashes there, back with his troops.
‘I asked a couple of friends to take their ashes to the islands, a man and a woman.’
The Mail on Sunday has spoken to both the woman, who took the general’s ashes, and the man, who took the son’s, but has agreed not to identify them because of fear of reprisals in Argentina. Several Argentine veterans the MoS spoke to were horrified to learn Menendez’s ashes had been taken in secret to the islands, where there is an Argentine graveyard officially approved by the islanders. One veteran feared the news would cause furious locals ‘to dig up our war dead and throw them in the sea’.
Falkland islander Mike Rendell ex-Royal Marine, said: ‘The fact that it was done is distressing. If they’d said they wanted to do it, they might have got permission but sneaking in like this is very disappointing.’
Patrick Watts, who kept the local radio station running during the occupation, said: ‘They feel they have achieved something by scattering ashes of a soldier of defeated forces. If they’d asked permission to scatter the ashes at the Argentine cemetery, I don’t think there would have been a problem. ‘We treat the Argentine bodies with respect. It’s not a good thing they feel they have to do this instead of asking permission.’
The woman who smuggled the general’s ashes on to the island carried the ashes in a container with a lid, ‘like a Tupperware container’.
She said: ‘Menendez was always very hurt by what happened in the islands and had said he’d like some of his ashes taken there. ‘I had to carry out this mission. It was a humanitarian act. He wanted to be laid to rest with his troops.’
A Government House spokeswoman said: ‘We’ve heard rumours. There’s no evidence this is true and we have no further comment.’