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United Nations Documents on the Falklands-Malvinas Conflict

The Meetings of the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation, 14-15 June 2012
President Kirchner’s Speech, Translated into English from the Official Argentine Text

This translation by the SAC is provided as a documentary record and is as accurate as we can make it. Additional explanatory points are in square brackets. Publication on this web site does not imply any endorsement of the arguments made by the President.

Remarks by the President of the Nation, 14 June 2012

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman: first of all, I want to thank this historic UN Decolonisation Committee for its generosity to me. It is a great honour for me to address this Committee and its members. This Committee was created when liberation movements emerged in Africa, when the UN General Assembly issued its landmark Declaration on Colonialism. Through the very creation of this Committee, the Assembly set up the institutional, multilateral, and global forum in which it is possible definitively to address the struggle against something which all have indicated constitutes a real anachronism: that is, colonialism.

Since this Committee was established, 80 cases of former colonies have been concluded, as have 11 cases of trust territories. Only 16 colonial situations remain to be resolved, 10 of which result from control by the United Kingdom of usurped territory. I have come here specifically to speak about the Malvinas issue.

I want to thank you for this opportunity, and I am honoured to be here today. I do not come alone. I have come as President of Argentina and I am also joined by the majority of political parties in Argentina that are represented in Parliament. There are here, on various seats behind me, fierce opponents of my government, who nonetheless regard the question of colonialism and the question of the Malvinas as something that is even more important than the national question or the issue of Argentine sovereignty. It has become an affront to the world, which we all dream about, for which many of us are fighting and for which so many died in wars of liberation. We do not want any more deaths, we do not want any more wars, because we have suffered them both internally and externally.

Also with me are veterans and the mothers both of combatants buried in the Falklands and those whose remains still have not been identified.

In a letter that I recently addressed to the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross we asked him about the possibility of setting up a forensic team whose work could enable these mothers of the Malvinas, who want to know where are the remains and the graves of their sons, to go there and place a flower.

These are not the only women still looking for their children in Argentina. There are also other mothers who are still searching for the remains of their children so that they can be identified, children who disappeared similarly under the dictatorship of 24 March 1976, which came to an end with the democratic government of 1983. That same dictatorship which brought about unilaterally – without consulting any Argentine – the events of April 2, as was even demonstrated from the military point of view when I had the Rattenbach Report declassified [incorrectly spelt, as “Rattembach”, in the original Spanish]. This was an analysis by the Argentine military themselves of what the conflict meant from the military point of view.

I have come to request human rights – people have talked about human rights – and I believe that our country today is a world leader in the area of human rights. Few countries can compare to the way Argentina is developing jurisprudence, through constitutional law, the supreme court and the rule of law appropriate to any civilised country. Few countries have such free immigration; few countries take in citizens from all round the world.

When I heard the wonderful description – from Mr. Vernet – about the Malvinas by his [great-]great-grandmother, where there were Scots, Germans, Indians, Tehuelches, it sounded like Argentina to me. Argentina is what Vernet’s grandmother [great-great-grandmother] described in 1929. [1]

Mr. Chairman, I am the granddaughter of Spaniards and President of Argentina. Our country was built on waves of European migration in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, then out of waves of immigration from our own region of South America in the second half of the century. We are now established as a truly cosmopolitan nation respectful of the rights of everyone who lives in our country. Furthermore, there are more English[-speaking] people living on the mainland [of Argentina] than in the Islands, where there is one soldier for every two inhabitants, as Mr Bestt [sic, Betts] also just noted. [2]

I also want to refer to history, to a history that other people want to deny. I am not here because of what happened thirty years ago. I am here because in a few months it will be 180 years since we were usurped. Captain Pinedo had to leave the Islands because of an English [sic] corvette that was far superior in military power, as was the British Empire at that time – the great naval empire of the nineteenth century. And this was not the first time they had come to Argentina. They had come earlier. They did so in 1806 when we were still a Spanish colony, with General Belford in charge. You see how things are? If they had succeeded at that time, maybe we would not be discussing here and we would be like Canada, a protectorate. [3] But no: they were soundly overcome by the people of Buenos Aires, by its mixed-race people, its black people and its native inhabitants. The better off families sided with the invaders. In reality, a popular revolt threw them out in 1806, but they tried again in 1807, with General Wailot, and were again defeated.

In 1833, after usurping the territory for a time, they were also besieged by rebels – like the Gaucho Rivero – who were hiding and controlled the situation for six months. They lowered the English [sic] flag and hoisted the national flag until they were finally imprisoned, and – in the case of the Gaucho Rivero – were even sent to London, where the authorities said they could not be brought to justice because they had committed no crime on English [sic] territory. [4] This is the truth of history, Mr. Chairman. But if this is not enough, I can draw your attention to a letter from an Argentine, better known and more famous than this President or any of those of us here on behalf of our country, a man to whom other peoples in America also owe their freedom. I am grateful for the contribution by the Deputy Foreign Minister of our sister Republic of Chile. [5] I am speaking about General José de San Martin, liberator of peoples, and a letter – that we have in the Foreign Ministry archives – written in 1816, when he was negotiating independence in Tucumán and when he preparing his army to cross the Andes. A letter addressed to the Lieutenant Governor of the City of San Juan, asking for more troops: “that all those of high calibre who are prisoners under his jurisdiction and sentenced to imprisonment in Patagonia, the Malvinas or elsewhere should be sent back to this capital, with copies of their convictions and the highest possible security, including also among them deserters and hardened criminals”. [The latter phrase is unclear.]

You see, we even had prisoners in the Malvinas, not merely Argentine people living there. [6] This letter is available to the Committee on Decolonisation. Before we were independent, before we established the Confederation there had been 32 Spanish Governors in the Islands.

And we all know how the world was divided up after the Treaty of Utrecht and the Treaty of Torrecillas [sic, this must be a reference to the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494] and what happened to those jurisdictions that were under Spanish rule when we became independent, at different times. This is why the letter from General San Martín, liberator of Chile and Peru, and, along with Bolívar, liberator of South America, is so important.

It is this history that brings us here today, but if that were not enough, history also repeated itself once more in 1845. This time it was not just the United Kingdom, but also the French, an Anglo-French fleet, which attacked and was rebuffed in the Battle of Vuelta de Obligado, by the forces under General Lucio V. Mansilla – cousin of Brigadier General Don Juan Manuel de Rosas, who presided over the destiny of the Confederation. You see that there were thus three attempts as well as this fourth, which remains a matter of shame and an anachronism in the twenty-first century.

But if we do not want to rely on history, we can speak of geography. How can it be claimed that this territory is integral to or part of British territory when it is 14,000 kilometres away? I live in Río Gallegos, Mr. Chairman, just over 700 kilometres from the Islas Malvinas. On the shores of the estuary of Río Gallegos one can see migratory birds coming from the Malvinas: cormorants and black-eyed terns which migrate and travel all the way to Ecuador. They do not reach London. They only reach as far as Ecuador. So not only are the Malvinas Argentine, but they form part of the South American continental shelf.

So, the needs of geography and zoology are reinforced by United Nations resolutions that have been passed and are one more tool – we are part of this multilateral organisation for global governance – eleven United Nations resolutions. [No direct grammatical match can be made to English from the disjointed Spanish.] The first was in 1965 and I must highlight a diplomatic achievement of a government that was not of my party, but was led by the Radical Civic Union, and the president was Dr. Arturo Umberto Illia. That was when the first resolution (2065) was passed, followed by ten more resolutions and 29 resolutions of the Committee on Decolonisation. In addition, there have been countless expressions of support from UNASUR, MERCOSUR, CELAP, SICA, from African countries and Arab countries. But none of this matters, because in reality what counts is the privileged position that the United Kingdom has as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

I also want to talk about diplomacy. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Chile uttered one phrase recently: “resume negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom”. You have never uttered more apposite words, Deputy Minister, because there were negotiations between the United Kingdom and my country, Argentina, which took place during the third presidency of President Perón. These occurred – in the strictest confidence – through what is called a wallpaper [7] – that is the case, is it not, Mr Foreign Minister? This is a paper, it is not an official document, but a secret paper, in which according to the Foreign Office the English [sic] ambassador to Argentina made contact with Viñas, [sic, Alberto Juan Vignes was Argentina Foreign Minister from July 1973 to August 1975] to see whether we could reach an agreement between the two countries. And it made a proposal which is also held in Argentina’s Foreign Ministry. [8]

I will read the five points that this agreement offered, which was based on joint sovereignty. The parties sharing sovereignty would be Her Majesty the Queen and His Excellency the President of Argentina. There are various forms of condominiums, but the basic elements might include the following:

“British and Argentine flags would be hoisted together, and English and Spanish would be the official languages.

“Second. – All the ‘natives’ of the Islands would possess dual nationality.

“Third. – The passports of the existing colony would be replaced by travel documents issued by the parties sharing sovereignty

“Fourth. – The current Constitution, administration and legal system would have to be tailored to the needs of a condominium. The Governor would be appointed alternately by the Queen and the President of Argentina.

“Fifth. – Other constitutional changes would require the agreement of the two parties to the condominium. ”

The British proposal was made known – this was in June 1964 [sic, this should read 1974] – to President Perón by the Foreign Minister, Vignes, in the strictest confidence. A memorandum, written later by the Directorate-General of Antarctica and the Malvinas and signed by Minister Carlos Lucas Blanco, referred to the British proposal in these terms: “This proposal, dated 11 June this year, was aimed at achieving a fundamental solution and was answered on 19 June by a counter-proposal, which was much more in favour of the Argentine position and a faster definitive solution.”.

I will now read out verbatim the Argentine counter-proposal:

“[1]   The flags of both countries will fly together on buildings and at public events.

[2]   The Argentine, British and local flags [sic, the President said “flags”, when clearly she meant “currencies”] will be legal tender in the islands and exchange rates set by mutual agreement.

[3]   The passports or whatever other documents are currently in use by the ‘natives’ of the Islands will be replaced by a single document that the joint administrators will determine.

4   His Excellency the President of Argentina and her Britannic Majesty will be joint rulers.

5   The official languages of the Malvinas will be Spanish and English, and all official documents must be prepared in them.

6   The legal frameworks of mainland Argentina, of Britain and that applicable in the Islands will be adapted to fit joint rule.

7   The ‘natives’ of the Islands will enjoy the benefit of dual, Argentine and British, nationality for all purposes.

The last [sic, more follow] point, number 8, says:

Each of the joint administrators will in turn appoint the Governor of the Islands for a term of two years. The first legislator [sic: presumably, this means the Governor] under the joint administration will be appointed by His Excellency the President of Argentina. The other joint administrator shall appoint the Secretary of the Interior or, if there is a change in the administrative organisation of the government of the Islands, the executive official who is next in seniority to the governor.

The ninth and most important point:

It will be a fundamental purpose of the joint administration to facilitate the gradual integration of the Islands into the political, economic, social and institutional life of the Argentine Republic.

On 19 June, Vignes and the then ambassador, Hodson, began negotiations. Unfortunately on 1 July 1974 President Peron died and shortly afterwards Ambassador Hodson died too. But it is good to know what view Britain took about this new situation. The assumption by María Estela Martínez de Perón of the Presidency created a climate of political uncertainty, which is why Secretary of State Kalaham [sic] acted quickly to send a telegram to Hodson, in which he said, “Let us make the most of this opportunity, because there could be a change of government or a coup in a matter of weeks”. [This must be a reference to James Callaghan, who was the British Foreign Secretary at this time.]

The department even prepared a form of words for a joint announcement of “a new round of talks to explore safeguards and guarantees to be offered to the inhabitants of the Malvinas Islands, in the event of a possible Anglo-Argentine condominium”. [It is unclear whether “the department” refers to the Argentine or the British ministry.]

Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, the thinking of the English [sic] foreign ministry – the Foreign Office – about the situation that would develop as a result of the death of President Peron and the imminence of a coup, which took a little longer, but occurred inexorably – had already been decided long before. It aborted the negotiations that were taking place between the United Kingdom and my country, the Argentine Republic, in the terms that gave rise to the United Nations resolution. Therefore we want – just as the Chilean Deputy Foreign Minister stated – the resumption of those negotiations.

What blame must we Argentines carry for what did not happen after 24 March, 1976!

When I saw the flag of what they call the Falkland Islands flying today at No 10 Downing Street, I felt embarrassed, Mr. Chairman, because nobody should celebrate nor commemorate wars.

Do you know why? Because the war cost many lives: 649 dead on the Argentine side, 255 on the British side; and 449 Argentines and 264 British killed themselves later.

Mr. Chairman, what would the German people or Mrs. Merkel think if on 8 May, the date of the unconditional surrender of Germany on 8 May 1945, the German flag was flying beneath the British flag at 10 Downing Street? What would Japan think if on 15 August, the President of the United States had the United States flag flying on the White House with the Japanese flag underneath?

I remind those of you who do not remember that on 15 August, after Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the Empire of Japan surrendered after World War II.

Why, then, do they insult us, we who had absolutely nothing to do with this dictatorship? More than that, we were fierce opponents: in fact, we were victims. I repeat, we are still searching for friends, colleagues, kids who today are the same age as my son. My son could have been one of those kids captured by the dictatorship.

How can anyone morally and honestly blame us, given who we are? How can they blame us for this when since 1983 we have only taken part in peace-keeping missions around the world? We are in Haiti, we are in Cyprus; they are not going to find us either in Iraq or in Afghanistan.

And if it is all about a referendum, why are they not having a referendum in Afghanistan or Iraq to see what people think of what they are doing?

So, Mr. Chairman, excuse my vehemence. I am not going to call anyone names or say things about any of those who have spoken defending their position, because our issue is with the United Kingdom. In addition, I believe that when there are historical, geographic, or political arguments, you do not need to insult or cause offence or lie; it is enough to tell it how it was and how it happened. And that is how things have been.

There is no need to mention resources, Mr. Chairman, fish and oil resources depleted without any sort of restraint in a zone of peace. Because in addition, Mr. Chairman, the support of our brother countries is not just a matter of neighbourly solidarity. It is almost an exercise in self-defence, because our region, the South Atlantic, is demilitarised, and Argentina, a leader in matters concerning human rights, is also a leader in nuclear non-proliferation, despite being the most advanced country in Latin America in nuclear science.

We have too strong a record of being a peaceful country, a country that opens its doors like no other. One thing Mr. Bets [Betts] said made an impression on me. He said that he had to leave the islands because they were persecuting him because he thought differently, because he really believes in something different from what others believe, no matter who. [9]

What is this way of life that does not allow others to think differently, so they have to leave? What is the way of life that insults, causes offence and does not even allow people to identify remains? What is this way of life which meant this President had to plead for the relatives of those buried in the Malvinas to be allowed to go there by plane? How bad are we, that we are offering weekly flights with our flag carrier directly from Buenos Aires to the Malvinas? How bad are we, that thousands of English[-speaking] people live on our mainland? How bad are we, that we have incredibly liberal immigration laws of a kind that no other country has? I dare to claim that in few countries of the world is there as much liberty, as much respect for the rights of others, for equal rights, for rights of freedom and for freedom of expression as there is in Argentina.

We believe therefore, Mr. Chairman, that this is not just a bilateral issue; we believe it is a global issue, Mr. Chairman. We believe this is a global issue, Mr. Chairman, because the world has many problems and the world has many problems specifically because the members of multilateral agencies, as is the case for the United Nations, have different standards – this is not the fault of the United Nations.

If one is not a permanent member of the Security Council, one may or may not respect a resolution of the United Nations. [It would appear that President Kirchner intended to say “if one is a permanent member”, instead of “not a member”.] If one is not a member of the Security Council, certainly, if one does not respect a resolution or if one violates human rights, rather, if one violates human rights in countries with oil, because when one violates human rights in countries without oil or any type of natural resource or plays some special game of chess in the international system, nothing happens, Mr. Chairman.
[When translated literally, this paragraph is incoherent. In the context of this speech, it appears to be saying that permanent members of the Security Council are not constrained about violating human rights in any other country.]

I think the fact that the United Kingdom does not comply with United Nations resolutions goes beyond a bilateral issue with Argentina. Obviously, we are affected in the first place, but I think it affects the world order. I think it affects the possibility of having a more just, more secure, more equitable, more egalitarian world, a world that is changing, Mr. Chairman.

We are facing a different era: some do not want to see this, and cling to the old world and I think this Malvinas issue, like the other few remaining issues, will have to be resolved sooner rather than later. For we must not only restore good sense, but also reclaim the instruments that allow us to live in a civilised order, in which everyone knows what to expect.

This is what we came to ask and it is why we say that the Malvinas is not only a national cause, it is also a regional cause, because we are defending the resources of South America and our demilitarised zone. But it is in addition a global issue because we are defending the role of a multilateral organisation like the United Nations, of which we are part, which is built on the San Francisco Charter and which is also based on respect for the resolutions which are passed by the General Assembly.

On what basis can you demand compliance from some countries and systematic violation from others? How long will this system last if it also expresses the same inequality and the same injustice in economic matters?

Well, perhaps what politics cannot achieve economics might finally achieve, Mr. Chairman. Because there will be big changes; perhaps they will not be evident immediately, but they are getting closer and there is a different world in the making.

Continuing to cling to positions that emerged in the nineteenth century or as a consequence of the Second World War, in a world where those who are truly threatening do not sit in the Security Council and many are not even part of it. [Again, the literal translation is not comprehensible.] The United Nations forces us all to rethink what we are doing.

Argentina is open to negotiation, as was demonstrated by the negotiations that began in 1974 but were cut short. And that implies also, on the United Kingdom’s side, recognition that there is a legal issue on the subject of sovereignty. If not, why did the United Kingdom government through its Ambassador send this paper secretly to the Foreign Minister, Vignes, to be considered and then answered by General Perón?

Well, these events feature in history. They often say that men do not shape history, but often men or what happens to certain men and women who are crucial to a historical moment has an impact; sometimes it is beneficial and sometimes it is fateful to the course of events.

But we come here without any rancour, without any offence, with the certainty and security that we are an open country and we will continue to comply strictly with the United Nations resolutions demanding the opening of those negotiations. Negotiations in which, on the other hand, in the world that is coming closer, where the three keys will be energy, food and science and technology, the United Kingdom should act with greater intelligence and not treated this issue as part of its domestic politics. They should act with more intelligence because negotiations between the two countries could unleash many things, could allow partnerships that might be beneficial for the whole of South America and all countries and for the world: because another effect that people who are taking globalisation forward have not drawn attention to is that no single situation can exist without it having an influence on someone else. Look at what is happening in the world of the global economy.

So I say getting bogged down and treating the Malvinas solely as a bilateral or territorial issue or one about sovereignty is to diminish the point. The Malvinas issue is something more: it is a challenge, a challenge to ourselves, to multilateral agencies, to governments that they need to be capable of overcoming prejudices, overcoming stereotypes that are already out of date and will not pertain again because the world has changed and there are new players.

The only thing we want, Mr. Chairman, is to leave this anachronistic history of colonialism behind us and build a new history based on dialogue.

Look how little we are asking: dialogue. We are not asking anyone to concede that we are right: we are not asking you to say “yes, the Malvinas are Argentine”. We are asking for nothing more and nothing less than that we sit down at a table and talk.

Can anyone in the modern world refuse to engage in discussion, and then want to become a champion of human rights, freedoms, of the civilised world, of the Western and Christian world? The truth … the truth is that they cannot, Mr. Chairman.

This is why I think that, after the interventions of Mr. Bets [Betts] and Mr. Vernet, my speech should not even have been necessary.

They described the Malvinas of those years and when I listened, as I said, it seemed as though they were describing a neighbourhood in the City of Buenos Aires or of an Argentine province, the mixture of cultures, the mix of nationalities.

That is what Argentina is, what it always was. To finish, I want to acknowledge the support I have received from innumerable countries of MERCOSUR, CELAC, SICA, and the Decolonisation Committee, from the Arab countries, from the African countries, and from all those who believe that colonialism is something we must leave behind once and for all so as to build the new world that we all deserve and of which we have far more need than we think.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, thank you very much, members of the Committee. (Applause)

Translated by Dr Ruth Thompson, with contributions by Professor Peter Willetts, from the original Spanish, at
This was difficult to render into English, because of the long Spanish sentences (which sometimes have to be broken into two or more English sentences), the errors in the copy (such as spelling of people’s names), the political errors (such as using “English” when “British” is meant) and the complex, ambiguous, rhetorical style. An attempt has been made at an accurate direct translation, with all editorial comments being given separately in square brackets. The use of [sic] indicates an obvious factual error.

Notes by the SAC

[1] These comments refer to a statement by Marcelo Luis Vernet, as a petitioner at the Special Committee, earlier in the same meeting. See the summary in UN Press Release GA/COL/3238.]
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[2] Alejandro Jacobo Betts had also spoken earlier in the same meeting of the Special Committee.
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[3] This literal translation of the comment about Canada cannot be given any comprehensible meaning. The word “protectorate” would imply that Canada is not currently independent. Canada was a colony of the United Kingdom and has been an independent dominion since 1931, but the term dominion is no longer used. Canada has never been a protectorate.
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[4] An alternative account portraying Antonio Rivero as a common criminal, rather than a nationalist hero, has been endorsed by the Argentine National Academy of History. See Laurio H. Destéfani, The Malvinas, the South Georgias and the South Sandwich Islands. The Conflict with Britain, (Buenos Aires: Edipress, 1982), pp. 91-92, as quoted in a Wikipedia article on Antonio Rivero.
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[5] Presumably, the Chile representative had just made an unrecorded comment about José de San Martin.
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[6] The suggestion that there was a functioning Argentine prison on the Islands in 1816 has no foundation. The most detailed study of the history of the Islands available in English records the Spanish withdrew in January 1811 and “the islands were once again abandoned to the elements”, until formal possession was claimed by Argentina in November 1820. See Julius Goebel, The Struggle for the Falkland Islands, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1927 and 1982), pp. 433-34 of the 1982 edition.
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[7] The President used the English word “wallpaper”. We do not know of any use of “wallpaper” in diplomacy. However, the term “non-paper” is standard, to describe documents containing content that is not the official public policy of the government. A non-paper may be used to engage in secret negotiations, while allowing the participants to deny that official communications are being exchanged. Alternatively, a non-paper may be tabled publicly, to put forward ideas for discussion, without the author making any commitment to endorse them.
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[8] We are not aware that these documents have previously been made public. However, the existence of talks between Britain and Argentina in 1974 on the possibility of a condominium over the Islands is confirmed by the Franks Report, Falkland Islands Review. Report of a Committee of Privy Counsellors, (Cmnd. 8787, January 1983), p. 8.
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[9] The suggestion that Betts was persecuted “because he thought differently” is challenged by the Islanders, on the grounds that Betts had personal reasons for leaving the Islands. See “El Penguin News responde a Alejandro Betts”, dated 11 December 2011.
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