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South Atlantic: Britain May Provoke New Conflict With Argentina

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Headlined to None 2/28/10

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On February 22 two major developments occurred in the Americas south of the Rio Grande. The two-day Rio Group summit opened in Mexico and Great Britain started drilling for oil 60 miles north of the Falklands Islands, known as Las Malvinas to Argentina.

The meeting in Mexico was identified as a Unity Summit because for the first time the 24 members of the Rio Group (minus Honduras, not invited because of the illegitimacy of its post-coup regime) - Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela - were joined by the fifteen members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM): Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago. (Haiti, Jamaica and Suriname are members of both organizations.)

Ahead of the summit the Financial Times wrote, "The Mexican-led initiative, a clear sign of Latin America's growing confidence as a region, will exclude both the US and Canada. Some observers believe it could even eventually rival the 35-member Organisation of American States (OAS), which includes the US and Canada and has been the principal forum for hemispheric issues during the past half century." [1]

In fact on the first day of the summit Bolivian President Evo Morales called for a "a new US-free OAS," [2] stressing Washington's centuries-long history of perpetrating military coups, blackmail, looting of natural resources and, over the past generation, the scourge of neo-liberalism in the Americas.

In 1986 the Rio Group grew out of the four-member Contradora Group consisting of Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela which was formed in response to Washington's Contra and death squad campaigns in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s. Part of the legacy Bolivia's Morales was referring to.

Coinciding to the day if not the hour of the beginning of the summit, the British Desire Petroleum company began exploring for oil and gas off the Falklands/Las Malvinas, seized from Argentina by Britain in 1833 and fought over by the nations in a 74-day war in 1982. "Neighbouring Argentina, which lays claim to the islands, is fiercely opposed to the drilling. Earlier this month, the Argentinian government filed a formal protest with the British government." [3]

Britain lost 255 soldiers in the conflict, the highest wartime fatalities it had suffered since the Korean War and the Malayan conflict. The British death toll in Afghanistan recently surpassed that number.

London's energy grab in the South Atlantic did not go unnoticed in Mexico, where 26 presidents and prime ministers were among the participants at the Unity Summit. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez denounced the British actions as "unilateral and illegal" [4] and a breach of her nation's sovereignty.

She further stated "There continues to be systematic violation of international law that should be respected by all countries....In the name of our government and in the name of my people I am grateful...for the support this meeting has given to our demands." [5]

Fernandez characterized the unanimous backing provided her at the summit as an "exercise in self-defence for all" [6] and blasted nations with permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council - she undoubtedly meant Britain, the United States and France - for "continu[ing] to use that place of privilege to disregard international law." [7]

Her Venezuelan colleague President Hugo Chavez, indicating the dangerous dimension a new British-provoked altercation with Argentina can escalate into, said, "The English are still threatening Argentina. Things have changed. We are no longer in 1982. If conflict breaks out, be sure Argentina will not be alone like it was back then." [8]

Before the summit began he said, "We support unconditionally the Argentine government and the Argentine people in their complaints. That sea and that land belongs to Argentina and to Latin America." [9]

He reiterated that position during his speech on February 22. While highlighting the military threat posed by Britain off the coast of Argentina, he alluded to a British submarine site in the Falklands/Las Malvinas and said "we demand not only [that] the submarine platform...be removed, but also [that] the British government...follow the resolutions of the United Nations and give back that territory to the Argentine People." [10]

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, also in attendance at the summit, stated "We will back a resolution demanding that England return Las Malvinas to its rightful owner, that it return the islands to Argentina." [11]

The Times of London quoted Marco Aurelio Garcia, foreign policy adviser to Brazil's President Lula da Silva, as adding: "Las Malvinas must be reintegrated into Argentine sovereignty. Unlike in the past, today there is a consensus in Latin America behind Argentina's claims." [12]

The comments by Venezuela's president, addressing as they did the threat of a new military confrontation between Britain and Argentina, bear particular scrutiny in light of recent actions by London and statements by its head of state.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/
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It's time to get these British Banksters out of ou... by Hoss Hoss on Sunday, Feb 28, 2010 at 1:12:36 PM
Argentina is the sixth biggest country in the worl... by Perry Cleese on Monday, Mar 1, 2010 at 6:59:19 AM