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Argentinian president attacks UK refusal to negotiate on Falklands | UK news | The Guardian

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Falkland Islands This article is more than 7 years old

Argentinian president attacks UK refusal to negotiate on Falklands

This article is more than 7 years old Cristina Fernández de Kirchner calls British sovereignty a relic, but leading intellectuals criticise 'retrograde nationalism'

Uki Goni in Buenos Aires

Mon 2 Apr 2012 14.23 EDT First published on Mon 2 Apr 2012 14.23 EDT

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner throws flowers into Ushuaia Bay in tribute to the Falklands war dead. Photograph: Reuters

Argentina's president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has lambasted Britain for refusing to discuss her country's long-standing claim to the Falkland Islands, calling British control of the territory "a leftover story from the 19th century."

Some 5,000 Argentinians braved freezing temperatures for an all-night vigil awaiting Fernández's speech in Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city, to mark Monday's 30th anniversary of the country's failed invasion of the islands.

According to the Argentinian constitution, Ushuaia is the capital of a vast South Atlantic territory that includes Las Malvinas – the Falklands.

"I am a Malvinist president," Fernández said. "It is an injustice that a colonialist enclave still exists a few hundred kilometres from our shores in the 21st century. It is absurd to pretend dominion 8,000 miles overseas." Fernández delivered her address before a large metal sculpture hollowed out in the shape of the islands, representing Argentina's claim on what it considers its absent territory.

The Falklands have been under continuous British rule since 1833, except for the invasion by the generals of Argentina's 1976-83 dictatorship, which lasted for two months from 2 April 1982. The president also said her government has requested the Red Cross test for DNA the remains of still unidentified Argentinian and British soldiers buried on the islands. "Each one of them deserves a headstone with his name on it," she said.

Commemorations of what is officially known in Argentina as Veterans' Day were held at military bases and city squares all over the country, and leftist groups took part in a march on the British embassy in Buenos Aires. There were violent clashes outside the embassy on Monday night, with riot police employing water cannon and protesters throwing missiles.

In the Atlantic city of Mar del Plata, lyric tenor Darío Volonté, a survivor of the Belgrano, the cruiser on which 323 Argentinian sailors died after it was torpedoed by a British submarine, led a large crowd in the national anthem.

Argentina had tempered its claim following the calamitous 1982 invasion. But the mood changed a few months ago when Fernández made the islands a central theme of her self-termed "national and populist" government, declaring herself against the "de-Malvinisation" of Argentinian politics since the war.

"The battle against 19th century colonialism has to be resolved with 21st-century tools," foreign minister Héctor Timerman said on the 6-7-8 television programme on Monday. "For the first time since the war we have managed to put the Malvinas issue on the international agenda."

Argentina has found some unexpected allies in the showbusiness world, including the American actor Sean Penn and the British singer Morrissey, who called for sovereignty negotiations with Britain while on tour in Argentina.

But not everyone in Argentina agrees with the commemoration of the invasion's anniversary. "On the one hand, the dictatorship is condemned, but on the other the war is remembered and justified in a way that implies accepting it as a positive event in our history," a group of leading intellectuals said in a statement last week.

Local luminaries, from Argentina's top investigative journalist, Jorge Lanata, to important thinkers such as Beatriz Sarlo, also questioned the official events. They said the national holiday seems to condone "the painful tragedy provoked in 1982 by an unscrupulous dictatorship and exalted today by a retrograde nationalism".


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