The Falklands held a referendum asking if the residents wanted to stay as a British Overseas Territory, and the results showed an almost unanimous response in the affirmative. Out of more than 1,600 votes, there were only 3 “no” votes. Even if the results were predictable, the referendum was held to gather up international political support for the islanders’ plight. Thirty years after the Falklands Conflict, they are still wary of Argentina’s claim to the land.
Located near the southern most tip of South America, The Falklands have been under the British flag since the islands were settled in the 19th century. The islands are less than 300 miles from their closest neighbor, Argentina, which has been claiming the small archipelago since 1833.
The Falklands Conflict
Under a military junta, Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982. They were under the impression that the United Kingdom would not try to take the islands back. The ensuing Falklands War ended 74 days later with more than 600 Argentine and 255 British casualties. Three Falklands islanders also died during the conflict. Neither side had declared war at any time during the fighting. In 1989, Argentina and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement in Madrid which restored diplomatic relations, but did not mention any change in their stand or claim.
The Falklands Oil
The renewed interest in the Falklands stems from the increased number of companies drilling for oil along along its coastline. In addition, the UK is also assessing how to lay claim to the seas around the Falklands and other territories they have in the South Atlantic.
Argentina has been pressuring the UK to submit to international bodies regarding the sovereignty of the Falklands. Britain has repulsed these overtures saying that it is up to the citizens to decide whether or not they want to be citizens of Argentina on the United Kingdom. The British position is to negotiate with Argentina only if the Falklanders no longer want to be a territory of the United Kingdom.
The Falklands Referendum
The Falklands referendum was the locals’ way of emphasizing their decision to remain as British citizens, like their ancestors before them. In turn, Argentina discounted the election as having no bearing on the matter of sovereignty. Argentina’s London ambassador, Alicia Castro calls it “a ploy that has no legal value.” She also added that she respects the islanders’ wishes regarding their identity. “[The Falklanders] are British, we respect their way of life and that they will want to continue to be British. But the territory they occupy is not British,” she said in am interview with an Argentine station.
Most Argentines believe that the Falklands belong to them. Most South American countries support Argentina’s stand. The results of the referendum show that the locals believe otherwise. They also think that the referendum will not change Argentina’s opinion.
Photo Credit: Falkland Economic Zone