Argentina and the Falklands: A background post
There has been a lot of reaction, both here and at my Facebook page, to Wednesday’s post on the USA’s statement at the Organization of American States siding with Argentina on Argentina’s demand for negotiations over the Falkland Islands.
Pablo Kleinman, commenting on Facebook, linked to his 2007 article, ¿De quién son las Malvinas? (Whose Falklands?) (link in Spanish), which sheds light on the islands’ background. Kleinman wrote the article on the 25th anniversary of the Falklands war. I translated it, so please, if you use any of this translation, link to this post and credit me (emphasis added):
Most Argentinians do not know today, and did not know in 1982, that the Argentinian colonization of the islands is little more than fiction, and when it took place it lasted barely longer than the Argentinian dictatorship than started the 1982 war. The fact that the Falklands are part of the American continental platform, or that are 500 kilometers away from the Argentinian coastline, two of the most used rationalizations when trying to claim Argentinian sovereignty over them, lacks weight in International Law.
During the lengthiest period of time when any Argentinian inhabited the Falklands, between 1826 and 1833, there never was any government representation in the islands. There was a governor only between 1829 and 1831; back then there were only some 40 people, workers at a fishery owned by the “governor”, a French entrepreneur from Hamburg named Louis Vernet.
Vernet had been ceded Soledad Island (East Falkland) for commercial exploitation as payment for a debt the Buenos Aires Government owed him. Aside from Vernet’s worker, among which Argentinians were a minority, a few gauchos and adventurers lived in the Falklands.
Vernet’s daughter was the only person born in the Falklands during that precarious settlement. “Precarious” since there was no town hall, no churches, nor any civil society of any type. Aside from the couple of years of the Frenchman’s enterprise, there was nothing more than a pirate encampment.
In 1833 the Falklands had some 20 inhabitants of various nationalities. All were expelled by the British. Interestingly, shortly after, dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas offered more than once to cede the islands to the United Kingdom to pay off a debt Buenos Aires owed British banking institutions. However, London ignored the Argentinian claim or offer.
The United Kingdom founded a colony in the Islands 165 years ago. That was when, for the first time in history, a constant human presence was established permanently in the Falklands. Generationally speaking, the Falklanders have been longer in the Falklands than the majority of Argentinians in Argentina. There should be no doubt, then, that the Falklanders are the legitimate masters of the Falklands, and that their will is to be respected, within the framework of the right of self-determinatioon recognized by international law.
Clearly, Argentina’s claim is a nationalistic mirage, not based in historical facts, but used for propaganda – and possibly economic – purposes.
In my original translation I used Malvinas; after consulting with Pablo Kleinman he said he would use the English term Falklands throughout the English text rather than Malvinas, so I changed the text above, and corrected the name of Soledad Island to East Falkland.
The author of the piece makes two notable mistakes, one of which is oft repeated by the Argentine Government.
The settlers were not all expelled by the British authorities.
The British had first named the islands in 1690 and positioned a garrison there from 1765. The British forces were withdrawn in 1774 as a result of the logistics of the American Revolution but sovereignty was maintained. Argentina did not exist as a nation until 1816.
Vernett had British permission to settle the islands and the British authorities were keen for him to continue in 1833. As a result only two settlers left along with the mutinous Argentine garrison which had only been there two moonths and had already murdered their leader. The records of the Argentine ship ‘Sarandi’ are evidence of who left as it was used to remove all those who hadn’t been arrested for the crimes. Further evidence is provided by Charles Darwin who arrived on the islands in March 1833 in the Beagle. His diaries are avaiable on-line.
The Falkland islanders are entitled to exercise self-determination under the UN Charter. It is only Argentina’s beligerence that keeps them British.
For more information – http://www.falklandshistory.org/gettingitright.pdf
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