President Alberto Fernández has reiterated Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands while commemorating troops who fell in an unsuccessful attempt to reclaim them in a war with Britain that began 40 years ago on Saturday.
“The Falklands were, are and will be Argentines,” the president, using the Spanish term for the South Atlantic archipelago, said at a ceremony on Saturday in which he awarded medals to 15 alumni. fighters.
He urged Britain “to abandon its unjustified and disproportionate military presence on these islands, which does nothing more than bring tension to a region characterized by being a zone of peace and international cooperation”. .
Britain and Argentina were in long-running talks over the status of the islands when the South American nation’s military dictatorship launched an invasion on April 2, 1982, hoping to strengthen its position at home.
Instead, Britain rallied to the defense and recaptured the remote islands, prompting the discredited military regime to finally relinquish power a year later.
The conflict claimed the lives of 649 Argentines – many of whom were crude or ill-equipped soldiers – and 255 British soldiers.
The government has declared 2022 a year of “tribute to the dead” and has continued its efforts, together with the island government and the Red Cross, to identify the remains of those who died and were buried there.
Argentina claims Britain has illegally occupied the islands since 1833. Britain disputes this and says Argentina is ignoring the wishes of the 3,000 residents who wish to remain British. He argues that the Falklands are now a self-governing overseas territory rather than a colony.
No other active Latin American heads of state attended Saturday’s ceremony at the Malinas Museum in Buenos Aires, although leftist former presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay and Pepe Mujica of Uruguay were present.
It was one of many commemorations and demonstrations across the country, including a protest march through the center of the capital to the British Embassy and a vigil with a field of crosses by candlelight in the city of Pilar late Friday night.
While the two nations have made continuous efforts in recent years to improve relations, there is still resentment at British control of the islands and anger at the military leaders who started the fight.
Young people of “16, 17, 18 went to fight in the Falklands in a completely destitute context, with nothing, against the English, a world power”, said neighborhood activist Agustina Scaronne, who took part in the protest march. “It seems to me that they are part of our history and our identity.”