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Argentine “Peace” Delegation Visits the Falkland Islands: 11 – 18 March 2017

A so-called “peace” delegation from an Argentine human rights organisation is visiting the Falkland Islands this week to promote “dialogue” with the Islanders. The Falkland Islands Government (FIG) has offered them a full briefing, whilst reminding them not to overlook the Islanders’ right to self-determination. But the Argentines come with all their usual prejudices and misconceptions about sovereignty. 

Fourteen members of the Argentine human rights organisation, Comision por la Memoria (CPM), are visiting the Falkland Islands this week (11-18 March). The delegation is led by CPM President, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for his work in exposing human rights abuses in Argentina, Their ostensible purpose is to draw attention to the abuse meted out to Argentine soldiers by their military superiors in the 1982 conflict. They will visit the Darwin cemetery where they will support the ICRC project to identify the remains of the 123 unnamed Argentine military personnel buried there. 

But their real purpose is to enter into dialogue with the Falkland Islanders over sovereignty, claiming that this is the only way to peace. When Argentine nationalists talk about peace, they mean Argentine sovereignty and for dialogue they mean negotiation towards Argentine sovereignty. They have already peddled the usual Argentine myth that the UK is “militarising” the SW Atlantic through its military base in the Falklands and they have a complete misunderstanding of the size and composition of the Falkland Islands civilian population. All of this can be corrected at the FIG briefing but for the visiting Argentines the truth is likely to fall on deaf ears. 

Despite his international reputation, Esquivel is a firm proponent of the Argentine sovereignty claim. Several years ago, he persuaded six other Nobel prize winners to write to David Cameron, as UK Prime Minister, calling for sovereignty negotiations. He is accompanied by Nora Cortinas, a founder member of the “Madres de la Plaza de Mayo” who have sought justice for the “disappeared” and others who suffered torture and abuse under the Argentine junta: her son “disappeared” in April 1977. The delegation also includes three Argentine senators and Fr. Jose Maria di Polo (“Padre Pepe”), who has worked in the slums of Buenos Aires (and who also brings a new statue of the Virgin of Lujan to replace the one vandalised this year in the Darwin cemetery). 

CPM Open Letter 

The CPM delegation wrote an open letter to the Falkland Islanders before they arrived, providing this rather poor English translation of the Spanish text: 

“Open Letter to Islanders. 

We are human rights activists, members of a public organisation fighting for their validity: the Comision por la Memoria in the Buenos Aires province. 

We have come here, where, since 35 years ago, our dead rest: young soldiers, recruited in compulsory enlistment, and that, without preparation or adequate equipment, they suffered not only war, but also torture and abuse from their superiors. 

During these days, we honor[sic] their memory in the name of peace. 

A lot of them still lay[sic] in anonymous graves under the quote “Argentine soldier only known by God”. We want each tombstone to bear the name of who rests there, that is why we support the identification of the 123 NN {i.e. unnamed] in the Darwin graveyard. 

We uphold that this territory is sovereignty of our Argentine nation and we support now and will continue to support this claim that has nothing to do with that war, declared by a genocidal military dictatorship that did not represent the Argentine people. All who have come here have suffered their horrors and their authoritarianism. 

These lands are part of our nation and also of the great homeland that is Latin America where we want to live in peace without militarism or territorial occupations. As established by the resolution of the UN, CELC, UNASUR and MERCOSUR Latin America is a zone free of nuclear weapons and Peace zone. 

We believe in peace, dialogue and fraternity. 

We are activists of life. We have defended it in difficult times and today we defend peace, justice and democracy. 

We want to establish a fraternal bond with the local community and tell them that the doors of our country are open for every one of you. 

We hope, in these days, to be able to dialogue with you. 

The Falkland Islands Government responded in the following letter: 

“We are writing with regards to your upcoming visit to the Falkland Islands. From reports in the press and on social media sites, we understand that a group of 14 members of the Comision Provincial de la Memoria (CPM) will be visiting the Falkland Islands as of Saturday March 11. 

“While we understand that the primary focus of your visit appears to be related to Argentine military treatment of its soldiers during the 1982 Falklands War we note that you expect to take time to learn more about our country and heritage. 

“As individuals, and as an organization which has been recognized and celebrated for championing human rights, we hope that during your stay you don’t overlook the rights of the Falkland Islanders themselves. 

“We take this opportunity to remind you of our fundamental right to self-determination, as enshrined in the UN Charter, and of the 35 years of attempts by the Government of Argentina to ignore our rights as a people and undermine our way of life. In recognizing the universal rights of all people, we welcome you in visiting our home, to see for yourselves our community and our heritage born of nine generations. 

“During your visit here, the Falkland Islands Government would like to invite you to a briefing on our modern, independent, well-governed, sustainable and thriving country, so that you can further your understanding of our citizens and way of life.” 

Swimmers for Peace 

Separately, but on the same flight, a large Argentine group of deep water swimmers have arrived to carry out some swims in the name of peace. Perhaps well intentioned, their exploits are unlikely to convince the Falkland Islanders to reconsider their massive referendum vote in favour of remaining a British Overseas Territory. Similar Argentine propaganda jaunts, like “Rugby sin Fronteras” and the more recent “Flag for Peace” have had little to no impact on the Islanders.

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