3# Malvinas: The War That Shouldn’t Have Happened

After 35 years the argentinian society can’t process the reality of the war and drags prejudices and vices that work against the progress of the country

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Argentine commando with captured british soldiers after the deployment. There was no british casualties that day.

Today, April 2 of 2017, we have another aniversary of the deployment of argentine forces on the Malvinas Islands (named Falklands by the british). 35 years of a conflict thought fair and at the same time happening for the worst of reasons that brought all kinds of consecuences that, to this day, affect the Argentine Republic and it’s society.

The war was started by the facto goverment of Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri. Some analysts suggest that there was a tacit consent from the United States goverment, that it was said that the United Kingdom would protest but wouldn’t respond. The original idea was forcing a negotiation with the british after ending the occupation that, for the argentine goverment, is illegal.

Due to the massive support that the argentine goverment got after the deployment, an operation without casualties for the british (by express order of the armed forces) and four argentine soldiers, the goverment gave up on the idea of negotiating and esentially declared war on London, war that in political terms was very useful for the british military and the goverment of Margaret Thatchet.

The war was brief and would end with the surrender of the argentine forces leaded by Mario Benjamin Menendez at Puerto Argentino (Port Stanley for the british). In spite of the bravery of the argentine forces with their material and logistic limits the war was poorly articulated and ended in a defeat. Argentina suffered aprox. 650 casualties and the United Kingdom 250, without counting the wounded. Post-war suicides would nearly double the number in both cases and some suspect that the british casualties were more than the ones declared, going as far as 3 o 4 times more. The british documents of the war are classified for 70 years.

From then on the Malvinas Islands would become a fortress with no less than 2000 soldiers living in a permanent military base with their own airport and Eurofighters Thyphoons for the aerial defense of the islands, without counting of the sea forces. For the british goverment at the time it was a political victory and allowed the rise of military spending. The inhabitants of the islands, that were in a sort of legal vacum enjoy now full british citizenship.

The Argentine Republic fell into international ostracism; argentine assets abroad were confiscated and the emotional effect of the defeat further weakened the Military Junta. What was once an issue with great chances of being resolved thru diplomatic means ended in a war that closed any will of negotiation from the United Kingdom.

The Malvinas War avoided a negotiated end of the military goverment, like the one that happened in Chile with Augusto Pinochet, and brought about a strong anti-military campaign from successive republican goverments. Local politicians, the victims of the military dictatorship in the Dirty War and the goverment of the United Kingdom made a slow and sustained campaign for the dismantling of the Argentine Armed Forces with two clear objectives:

  • Take away their relevance in domestic afairs and strength as political players in argentine public life with the idea of keeping them from bringing about new coups.
  • Avoid future military adventures, leaving the country on the verge of defenselessness.

The campaign was successful and there was no further military coups. With the exception of military rebellions in the goverments of Raul Alfonsin and Carlos Menem the military left public life. Because their crimes in the “Dirty War” are considered crimes against humanity and therefore imprescriptible the military in general tends to avoid the public arena to prevent judicial persecution.

At a cultural level repression, legal or not, became politically incorrect to the point of becoming in two different cases the immediate reason of the end and the early end of two legal goverments. De la Rúa is forced to resign after declaring state of emergency and sending riot police to end protests with dozens dying in the process. His replacement Eduardo Duhalde, in different circumstances, ends with two deads by the riot police, ordered to act by the goverment of the Buenos Aires Province. This shortens his interim goverment and forces him to end his campaign for a new presidency. To this day legal repression remains rare due to the fear of the political effects that these could have.

In the last decades and to this day Malvinas became a rethorical instrument to distract society on ocations from the pressing issues of the country. This resource is used both in Argentina and Great Britain. After 30 years of anti-military campaign the Argentine Armed Forces, at some point one of the most modern and powerful of the region, are hardly the equivalent of their neighbors. The current goverment ended the anti-british rethoric that was common in the last decade, but there are no hints of rearmament of the Armed Forces to take them, at least, to the capacity needed to achieve it’s aims.

With the exception of the last year’s parades, where attendance was unrestricted, the local war veterans are marginalized of the political arena. And because the last year’s experience placed controverted characters like the former military rebel Aldo Rico in the spotlight they are again doing limited acts around veterans.

Sources: Several news outlets and individual testimonies. Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.

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