Falklands 30 years post-war: Riots and saber rattling

An Argentine Falklands War veteran burns a Union Jack flag during a demonstration outside the British embassy in Buenos Aires April 2, 2012 (Reuters / Marcos Brindicci)
Argentine protesters clashed with riot police after attempting to storm the British Embassy in Buenos Aires. The unrest broke out on the 30th anniversary of the 74-day-long war between the two nations over the Falkland Islands.

­The violence erupted on Monday as masked members of the left-wing group Quebracho marched through Buenos Aires towards the embassy. The rioters ended up stoning the building and throwing firebombs at the armed officers protecting it. The response from the riot police was tear gas and rubber bullets.

Angry protesters also burnt effigies of Prince William, the Mail Online reports. The second heir to the throne of Britain and the Commonwealth realms has recently completed a six-week posting to the Falklands as a search and rescue pilot of the Royal Air Force. His deployment there had been condemned by Argentina as a "provocative act."

On the same day, Argentine president Cristina Kirchner said the British government was maintaining a colonial enclave on the disputed islands, known to the Argentinians and elsewhere in Latin America as the Malvinas. At a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the war, she accused Britain of being "colonialist" and violating human rights by holding on to the Falklands.

“It’s an injustice that in the 21st century, colonial enclaves exist like the one we have here just a few kilometers away,” she said, speaking in the southern city of Ushuaia. “We demand justice so that they don’t continue depleting our environment, our natural resources, fishing and oil resources, justice so that our territorial integrity is respected.”

On the other hand, in an apparent sign that Buenos Aires would not seek to retake the islands by force, she added that Argentinians “don’t want helmets for [their] soldiers; [they] want them for [their] workers.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron has also voiced his stance on the issue. He assured that the UK was no less committed now to protecting the right of the islands’ inhabitants to self-determination than in 1982.

“Britain remains staunchly committed to upholding the right of the Falkland Islanders, and of the Falkland Islanders alone, to determine their own future,” he said, adding that it was “a day to remember all those who lost their lives” on both sides of the conflict. Cameron also praised “the heroism of the Task Force” sent to correct a “profound wrong,” as he referred to Argentina’s 1982 invasion.

The Falkland Islands are an archipelago located over 250 nautical miles (460 kilometers, or 290 miles) east of Argentina’s coast and home to some 3,000 inhabitants. At various times there have been French, British, Spanish, and Argentine settlements. Eventually, the territory was declared by Britain as part of its Overseas Territories in 1833.

Argentina, however, has never accepted the British claim over the islands, and the two countries fought a 74-day war, which commenced on April 2, 1982. The conflict ended with Argentina’s defeat. However, Buenos Aires has not given up its claims.

London has so far refused UN calls on Britain to discuss decolonization.

The tension between the two countries escalated when Britain launched the exploration of oil resources in the islands in 2010.

At the present time, British forces in the Falklands include over 1,000 troops, four Typhoon fighter jets and four warships. In addition, one of the vessels is to be replaced by HMS Dauntless – one of the Royal Navy’s newest and most powerful warships. The vessel is leaving Portsmouth on Tuesday – the move is viewed as an apparent signal from London to Buenos Aires.