Tuesday, 23 February 2010
To have and to hold
I enjoyed William Langley’s profile of President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, the Botox Evita, in the Sunday Telegraph. Actually I think the parallel here should not be with the great Evita but more with Juan Peron’s second wife, Isabel, also one-time president of Argentina, the unlamented Isabelita. Or, considering her present posturing over the Falkland Islands, she might best be seen perhaps as the Botox Galterei.
I’m exaggerating, of course; nobody could possibly be as stupid as Leopoldo Galtieri, the man who embarked on an ill-advised military adventure to shore up the crumbling popularity of his murderous military junta. I don’t honestly think that the people of Argentina have the stomach for another fight, no matter how they shout about Las Malvinas. But Kirchner, increasingly unpopular, has decided on a spot of Argentinean machismo, imposing what amounts to an economic blockade on the Falklands.
Yes, she is drawing on a sense of grievance, on wounded national pride. The 1994 constitution, created after the end of the dictatorship- for which they have the British to thank – declares the recovery of ‘Las Malvinas’ to be “a permanent and unrelinquished goal of the Argentinean people. Recovery; that’s such an emotive word, don’t you think? Irredentism, the argument that lands should belong to the country to which they are ethnically or historically related.
There was a brief and questionable Argentinean occupation of the Falklands in the late 1820s, when a penal colony was established; but that’s it, that’s all. More than that, there is absolutely no ethnic link with any native Patagonian settlers; there never was. Besides, many of the natives of Patagonia itself were wiped out in the 1870s in an episode known in Argentinean history as the War of the Desert, by which control spread southwards from Buenos Aires to the areas adjacent to the Falklands. The very use of the word ‘desert’ gives some idea of how the native tribes were perceived.
Still, this is all quite arcane, really only of historical interest. The simple fact remains - a point I made on another blog - that the people of the Falklands are British and wish to remain British. British soldiers fought and died preserving their freedom from a brutal foreign aggressor, good at killing its own people, not so good at fighting wars. As long as the people of the Falklands want no change in their present status it is our duty to stand by them, no matter how much hot air is generated in Buenos Aeries. The only lift Kirchner is likely to get is from her continuing use of Botox.