North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Falkland Islands

Among the many legacy tensions of the era of the British Empire are a conglomeration of islands just 180 or so miles east of the southern coast of South America. Much of the following is pulled from Wikipedia which summarizes the history of the islands as follows.

The Falkland Islands, population just 3200 or so, 180 miles east of Argentina,and not all that far north of Antartica

Controversy exists over the Falklands' original discovery and subsequent colonization by Europeans. At various times there have been French, British, Spanish, and Argentine settlements. Britain re-established its rule in 1833, but the islands continued to be claimed by Argentina. On April 2, 1982, Argentina invaded the islands which resulted in a conflict as Britain countered with a task force which steamed to the islands and retook them after a two month conflict. And today, April 2, 2012, is the 30th anniversary of the beginning of that conflict.

Geographically speaking, these islands are an awful long way from UK, which provides its defense, and awfully close to Argentina, who claims the islands are part of its territory

The archipelago comprises East Falkland, West Falkland, and 776 lesser islands. Stanley, the capital and only city, is on East Falkland. The islands are a self-governing British Overseas Territory, with the United Kingdom responsible for its defense and foreign affairs. The population, estimated at 3,140, primarily consists of Falkland Islanders, the majority of British descent. Other ethnicities include French, Gibraltarian, and Scandinavian. Immigration from the United Kingdom, Saint Helena, and Chile has reversed a former population decline. The predominant and official language is English. Under the British Nationality Act of 1983, Falkland Islanders are British citizens. (Note that citizenship was granted after the conflict ...)

Despite its defeat, Argentina still pursues its claim to the islands (called Malvinas by the Argentinians), and on the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict, the festering sore point is still being noted in both Argentina and Britain.

Protests by Argentinians who consider the Malvinas their own, are relatively frequent these days

Argentina's claim is it inherited its rights to them from Spain, and Argentina has asked for negotiations about sovereignty. The British government says they will not do so without the agreement of the islanders.

Falkland Islanders, who were granted UK citizenship status one year after the 1982 conflict.

A BBC article notes, "London has also accused Buenos Aires of trying to impose an economic blockade on the islanders, after it banned Falklands-flagged ships from docking in its ports, as well as those of other countries which are members of the Mercosur trading block. Argentina has also complained about what it calls British "militarisation" in the south Atlantic, after one of the Royal Navy's newest warships was deployed to the region.

The UK keeps a significant military presence at the islands

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner is expected to visit the southern port of Ushuaia on Monday, to remember the Argentine troops that died. She is expected to lead rallies to commemorate the Argentine dead and light an eternal flame.

Current Argentine President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner continues to speak out regarding the country's position that the islands are part and parcel of their territory.

Mr Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, is expected to sound a conciliatory tone by suggesting the anniversary be used to remember the Argentine dead as well as British losses. Though the text of a speech he is expected to give Monday, doesn't sound all that open ... as the words are, "Thirty years ago today the people of the Falkland Islands suffered an act of aggression that sought to rob them of their freedom and their way of life."

He will say: "We are rightly proud of the role Britain played in righting a profound wrong. And the people of the Falkland Islands can be justly proud of the prosperous and secure future they have built for their islands since 1982. Britain remains staunchly committed to upholding the right of the Falkland Islanders, and of the Falkland Islanders alone, to determine their own future. That was the fundamental principle that was at stake 30 years ago: and that is the principle which we solemnly reaffirm today."

30 years ago, it was the UK's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who decisively chose to send a fleet of ships to the islands, thousands of miles away, to dislodge 10,000s of thousands of Argentinian troops who had taken over the island, at the behest of what was then a notorious junta of generals running the country. After short but fierce naval and air battles, the British landed at San Carlos Water on 21 May, and a land campaign followed leading to the British taking the high ground surrounding Stanley on 11 June. The Argentine forces surrendered on 14 June 1982. The war resulted in the deaths of 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors and airmen, as well as 3 civilian Falklanders.

A memorial on the island for those killed during the 1982 conflict

After the humiliating defeat of Argentina by the task force from so far away, the military dictatorship, led by Gen Leopoldo Galtieri, collapsed. In the 1983 electoral campaign that followed, the man who would become President, Raúl Alfonsín called for national unity, restoration of democratic rule and prosecution of those responsible for the violence of the previous dictatorship. He established the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP) to investigate the forced disappearances. The CONADEP generated a report detailing 340 centers of illegal detentions and 8961 forced disappearances. The 1985 Trial of the Juntas sentenced all the heads of government of those years.

So, what to do, Argentina has progressed in so many ways the past three decades, a much more responsive government with reasonably fair elections, even between parties assuming and relinquishing political control of the government apparatus. Argentina has a market-oriented economy with abundant natural resources, a well-educated population, an export-oriented agricultural sector and a relatively diversified industrial base.

Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital has a population itself of 15 million. The country as a whole has 42 million, has first world health and longevity measures, and is Spanish speaking - probably an issue for Falkland Islanders if they are anglophiles

Its just this pesky island issue. From a geographical standpoint, it sure seems as though the Falklands might be best integrated with South America, its just that the islanders don't want it. The issue is similar to that of Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, as the majority of the population wish to remain British, not become part of the Irish Republic. It is vaguely similar to the island of Taiwan which maintains its sovereignty, though China considers it a wayward province that eventually must be reunited. It is similar too, to the partitioned island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean, which has Turkish and Greek populations and a militarized internal border.

Here's to trust-building and tolerance in the face of history and current status - in so many places in the world.

No comments: