Author Topic: Latin America backs Argentina as Britain begins Falklands oil quest  (Read 1333 times)


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Latin America backs Argentina as Britain begins Falklands oil quest
Argentina cemented a Latin American front over the Falklands today as a British oilrig began drilling in the disputed seas around the islands.

Regional leaders at the Rio Group summit in Mexico were expected to sign up for a resolution backing Argentina in its escalating row with Britain after Brazil and Chile pledged their support.

Venezuela’s vociferous President, Hugo Chávez, set the tone of the summit, offering military support. Characterising Britain as an imperialist relic, Mr Chávez demanded the return of "Las Malvinas", as they are known to Argentinians.

“The English are still threatening Argentina. Things have changed. We are no longer in 1982,” he warned. “If conflict breaks out, be sure Argentina will not be alone like it was back then.”

British control of the archipelago was “anti-historic and irrational”, the former paratrooper continued, asking “why the English speak of democracy but still have a Queen?”

Unlike 1982, when some Latin American nations, notably President Pinochet’s Chile, backed Britain’s campaign to repel Argentina’s brief invasion of the islands, the continent now enjoys strong ties between ideologically aligned governments and could mount a powerful resistance to British oil operations.

Mr Chávez was joined by President Ortega of Nicaragua, who predicted that the Rio Group would throw its weight behind Argentina’s claim. “We will back a resolution demanding that England return Las Malvinas to its rightful owner, that it return the islands to Argentina,” he said.

Brazil, the biggest regional power and traditionally Argentina’s main rival, was similarly supportive. “Las Malvinas must be reintegrated into Argentine sovereignty,” Marco Aurelio García, foreign policy adviser to President Lula da Silva, said, adding: “Unlike in the past, today there is a consensus in Latin America behind Argentina’s claims.”

Almost three decades on from the confict, the defeat of Argentina still stings the national consciousness as an historic injury which must be redressed. President Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina has made the issue a central plank of her presidency, whipping up long-simmering resentments that have only been compounded by the prospect of a black gold bonanza in the isolated, windswept archipelago.

The British Geological Survey estimates that up to 60 billion barrels of oil could be beneath Falklands waters, although Desire Petroleum, the company carrying out the drilling, says that the commericially viable reserves are much smaller.

Desire said that test drilling at the Liz 14/19-A exploration site off the Falklands began at 1415 GMT yesterday. “Drilling operations are expected to take approximately 30 days and a further announcement will be made once drilling is completed.

Tensions between the former adversaries rose last week to their highest level since the war, as Argentina attempted to block ships supplying what it says are “illegal” British activities and Britain hit back with a warning that the islands were much better defended than on the eve of the Argentine invasion in 1982.