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Return of Leftists in Argentina could mean renewed claims over Falkland Islands

Return of Leftists in Argentina could mean renewed claims over Falkland Islands

The resurgence of Argentina’s firebrand Leftists has raised concern among Falklanders that Sunday’s election could return anti-British sentiment to the country.

Cristina Kirchner, who made sabre-rattling over the Falklands a pillar of her 2007- 2015 presidency, is poised to make a return to the frontlines as vice president to her successor Alberto Fernandez.

“A generation of young islanders have been taught by the Kirchner regime not to trust Argentina,” said Roger Spink, a member of the Falkland Islands legislative assembly.

Polls have put Mr Fernandez comfortably ahead of the centre-right President Mauricio Macri, despite the prominence of Mrs Kirchner, who has faced 13 corruption cases since she stepped down.

Economic meltdown that forced the largest International Monetary Fund bailout in history and seen inflation rocket to 55 per cent has destroyed Mr Macri’s reputation, pushing Argentinians back in the arms of Peronists.

Mr Macri pursued a pragmatic approach to the Falklands, but Mrs Kirchner made the fate of the territory the focus of British-Argentine relations and pursued policies to disrupt its economy.

During her presidency, Mrs Kirchner attempted to stop the weekly flights that cross Argentina airspace from Chile to get to the islands.

She also sought to discourage cruise ships from stopping off in the archipelago, trying to prevent them from passing from Argentine ports to Falkland ones.

And she made every effort to disrupt the Falklands’ burgeoning oil industry, which is scheduled to come online around 2024.

“I wouldn’t say that there was universal joy when she announced her comeback,” Mr Spink told The Telegraph. “We absolutely respect the rights of the Argentine people to choose their own president, just as we expect them to respect our right to remain British, as we choose.

“But of course you’re always interested to find out what angle the new president is coming from.” The Falklands have been in British hands since 1833, but Argentina has waged a diplomatic battle - that spilled into economic and then actual warfare - since the 1960s to try to gain control of the archipelago.

Argentine troops invaded the windswept islands for 74 days in 1982, before Britain swiftly defeated them. In 2013 a referendum was held in the Falklands, where 99.8 per cent of the 3,000 islanders voted to remain British.

Of the 1,517 voters, only three said 'No', while one ballot was invalid. Mr Macri, Mrs Kirchner’s predecessor, has charted a “less aggressive” course, said Mr Spink.

He has, of course, not renounced Argentina’s claim to the islands. But he realized that making the Falklands the focus of all encounters between London and Buenos Aires was not necessarily in his peoples’ best interests.

“Over the past couple of years we have pressed forwards with our commitments,” said Mr Spink. DNA from 89 fallen Argentina soldiers was identified, 35 years after their deaths, by a mutually-agreed team.

Argentine relatives in March 2018 travelled to the islands to pay their respects at graves which finally bore their loved ones’ name – a triumph of diplomacy.

“This is all to the benefit of their people too,” said Mr Spink. “I think that whoever is elected we would wish to have a constructive relationship. “We’ve been through difficult times before. We have to just wait and see.”

 

 

 

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