South Atlantic Council
Promoting communication and understanding
Malvinas: An Alternative Vision
Published in La Nación, 22 February 2012
Three decades after the tragic military adventure of 1982, there has yet to be a frank and open assessment of the public support that the military action received from almost all sectors of Argentine society. A significant part of this support arose from the belief in the Malvinas issue as a just and "irridentist" cause: the islands' "recovery" thus became an issue of national identity, placing it firmly at the top of our national and international agenda.
Any objective analysis of this issue reveals the gulf between the importance given to this issue in Argentina and the actual significance of the Malvinas question, with its only very tenuous connection to the major political, social and economic problems that we are facing. Yet a climate of nationalistic fervour, encouraged by both governments, seems to be affecting many of our leaders, both in government and opposition, who proudly proclaim their support for what they consider a vital 'affair of state'. We believe the time has come for a profound re-examination of that policy. Our conviction results from the belief that Argentine public opinion is ready for a strategy that will take into account legitimate national interests, as well as the principle of self-determination on which this country was founded.
A critical re-assessment of the Malvinas war must include an evaluation of the relationship between our society and the direct victims of that conflict, the conscript soldiers. It must entail the admission that the use of force in 1982 was unjustified, and a recognition that the decision to use force, and the defeat that followed, have had inevitable long-term consequences. The Argentine Government's demand for bilateral negotiations on sovereignty on the one hand, while on the other hand simultaneously announcing that Argentine sovereignty is non-negotiable, is contradictory and must change. We should instead offer the possibility of a real dialogue with the British people and especially with the inhabitants of the Malvinas, with an open agenda and in a regional context.
In keeping with the human rights treaties that were incorporated into our 1994 Constitution, the inhabitants of the Malvinas must be recognised as legal persons [with rights]*. Respect for their way of life, as the first transitional clause of our Constitution establishes, means abandoning the idea of imposing on them a citizenship, government and sovereignty that they do not want. The obsessive repetition that "Las Malvinas son argentinas" ("The Malvinas are Argentine"), and the denial or disregard for the subjugation this implies, weaken the just and peaceful claim for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom and its military base and make it impossible to move towards any process of Argentines and Islanders agreeing jointly to manage their natural resources.
The Argentine Republic was founded on the principle of the self-determination of for nations and for all the world's people. As a country whose history includes the Spanish Conquest, our own foundation as a nation is as impossible to separate from episodes of colonial occupation as is that of Malvinas. Yet history is not reversible, and any attempt to return national borders to a situation existing almost two centuries ago that is, prior to our own national unity, and at a time when Patagonia was not yet under Argentine control opens a Pandora's box that is not conducive to peace.
As members of a diverse and plural society, whose main source of population was immigration, we do not believe that we have preferential rights that allow us to subjugate those of the people who have been living and working in the Malvinas for generations, long before some of our own ancestors arrived in this country. The blood of those who died in the Malvinas demands, above all else, that we avoid falling once again into the kind of false patriotism that led them to their death, and that it not be used to create the aura of a sacred cause around issues that in any democratic system are subject to differing opinions.
We need to set aside once and for all the use of the Malvinas issue as a 'cause' for stirring up nationalist sentiment. We should instead devise an alternative vision that rises above the conflict and contributes to a peaceful resolution of the issue. Our main national problems and our worst tragedies have not arisen from loss of territory or a lack of natural resources, but rather from our lack of respect for life, human rights, democratic institutions and the founding values of the Argentine Republic, such as freedom, equality and self-determination. Let us hope that April 2nd, and the year 2012, do not provide an opportunity for the familiar clamour of jingoistic proclamations, but rather allow Argentines leaders and citizens to reflect together without prejudice on the link between our own mistakes and the failures of our country.
Emilio de Ípola, Pepe Eliaschev, Rafael Filippelli, Roberto Gargarella, Fernando Iglesias, Santiago Kovadloff, Jorge Lanata, Gustavo Noriega, Marcos Novaro, José Miguel Onaindia, Vicente Palermo, Eduardo Antin (Quintín), Luis Alberto Romero, Hilda Sabato, Daniel Sabsay, Beatriz Sarlo, Juan José Sebreli.
To add your name to the list of signatories, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org, providing name and surname and identity card number.
* Note: the original Spanish was "sujeto de derecho", which translates literally as "legal persons", but implies "persons with legal rights".
Translated by Dr Celia Szusterman, one of the additional later signatories of the statement, and Robin Wallis, Secretary of the SAC.
Copyright: Celia Szusterman, Robin Wallis and the South Atlantic Council, 2012.
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Page published on 6 March 2012. Translators' credit amended 14 March. Picture added 6 April 2012.