'We won't give an inch': Falkland Islander's defiant message to Argentina's new President

'We won't give an inch': Falkland Islander's defiant message to Argentina's new President

FALKLAND Islanders will NEVER give up their right to be British, a native of the famous archipelago in the South Atlantic has told Argentina's new President Alberto Fernandez.

Gavin Short, news editor of Falklands Radio, delivered his defiant message days after Mr Fernandez ousted incumbent Mauricio Macri, after a campaign in which he called for fresh talks on the issue of sovereignty of what Argentinians call the Malvinas. Mr Fernandez's vice-president, Cristina Elisabet Fernandez de Kirchner, is herself a former President of the country who adopted a hardline stance towards the Falklands during her tenure, having succeeded her husband Nestor, who served as Argentina's leader from 2003 to 2007.

More than 37 years after the Falklands War, triggered after Argentina invaded the islands in 1982, prompting then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to send a Royal Naval task force to liberate them, the issue remains enormously contentious, with Buenos Aires never having renounced its historical claim.

Mr Short, who was still a teenager when the invasion took place, said there were also concerns the Fernandez administration could still seek to prevent a second scheduled flight to South America by refusing permission to use Argentinian airspace.

The 57-year-old said: "Most of us would rather go hungry than cede on inch of our country to anyone - and we shan’t be going hungry either."

"For most people here, Argentina isn’t in their thoughts most days. It’s only when we have unruly visitors from their country or it is mentioned on the radio or they bump into it on the internet, do they become aware of whatever the latest shenanigans are."

Nevertheless, he acknowledged there was "a real wariness" among all islanders, adding: "There are those here, and I am one, who are Argentina watchers.

"Part of that is my general interest in politics in the 'southern cone' and especially in Argentina as I want to know what they are up to and are thinking, as far as it may impact the Falklands."

Specifically, he said, there were concerns about what the change of regime might mean for transport to and from South America, and therefore the rest of the world.

Currently, transport options for people wishing to travel to the Falklands from the continent are limited to a once-weekly LATAM flight from Chile's capital of Santiago, which stops each way at the southern Chilean city of Puntas Arenas plus, once a month, in Rio Gallegos in southern Patagonia in the far south of Argentina.

The second flight, from Sao Paulo in Brazil, is due to begin on November 20, and this one will stop over in Cordoba in Argentina once a month.

Mr Short explained: "We have the existing LATAM flight between here and Chile that came around after the 99 agreement.

"Many folk were unhappy because we were forced to accept a touchdown in Argentina twice a month and the same can be said of the second LATAM link which is due to run to Brazil.

"I can't find anyone who says that they are totally against more connectivity but there are a very large number that object to Argentina holding the whip hand and only allowing the flight to happen if it touches down in their country twice a month.

"When it comes to the second flight, it is not so much the stopover in their country that would stop it but the refusal of overflight rights.

"It is actually, I believe, against international rules to stop a flight on this basis but in the past Argentina has refused overflight permission to aircraft heading to the Falklands.

"I suspect, if Alberto was to take it into his head to stop it, it would be done by having a very quiet word with LATAM and gently posing the question what do they value most.

"Their many flights into and through Argentina or the once weekly flight to the Falklands. Nice and clean and it would put the onus on LATAM to make an excuse as to why it has been stopped.

"The reason for insisting on the stops in their country is purely political.

It is to make sure that they have some say in what we get up to, as far as flights go as you will sometimes see the flights referred to as direct flights from Argentina to the Falklands (which they are not) and also I suspect if they allowed us to have flights directly to wherever we wanted, it would not go down well with their fellow countrymen.

"It also allows their veterans and other tourists from their country access to the Falklands, which, when we had only the one link, was a bit of a conundrum for them as to stop that flight meant and immediate halt to any visits to the Falklands by their veterans etc."

On the wider question of how Mr Fernandez's election might alter Argentina's policy towards the Falklands, Mr Short added: "We are waiting to see just what Fernandez might do.

"He is a Peronist, his deputy is old Mrs K and she and her husband went after the Falklands big style, trying to economically throttle us, to get other nations to blockade us, she would never have agreed the second flight, that’s for sure.

"To be honest, even if we do go back to the Kirchner type scenario, we will survive and will not be giving an inch."

www.prensa.cancilleria.gob.ar es un sitio web oficial del Gobierno Argentino