Falklands power grab: Incoming UK ambassador told to step up Argentina’s Malvinas push

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Javier Figueroa gave a clear indication of his priorities in an article published in Panama Magazine in which he set out his strategy in relation to the remote archipelago Argentinians call the Malvinas – and claimed the issue meant more to Argentina than the UK. Now he is scheduled to arrive in the next few days after a decree published in the Official Gazette of the Argentinian government on behalf of President Alberto Fernandez ordered him to relocate to London from Havana, where he has been based as the country’s Ambassador to Cuba.

Foreign ministry insiders told Buenos Aires-based news website Infobae Mr Figeroa’s brief was to “keep firm the claim for the sovereignty of the Falklands, press for the issue of illegal fishing in the South Atlantic and generate a positive agenda with London on economic, cultural and scientific issues.”

Specifically, he has been ordered to adhere to a policy outlined by Mr Fernandez himself during his first address to Argentina’s Congress, during which he talked of the need “to remove the UK from the comfort zone” and “create a friction scenario with undeniable political impact both domestically and internationally”.

Argentina underlined its more assertive approach towards the sovereignty issue last week, when the Senate, the upper house of Congress, unanimously approved twin Bills sent by Mr Fernandez relating to the Falklands.

The first piece of legislation creates a body entitled the National Council of Affairs Relating to the Malvinas, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime spaces.

The second aims to establish definitive outer limits of the continental shelf, beyond 200 miles, and is a likely precursor to oil exploration projects in the region.

Mr Figueroa offered a clear indication of his priorities in the magazine article, published in November.

He wrote: “The perception that the United Kingdom has more resources of all kinds is the ultimate rationale which underlies the cooperation/seduction policies that we periodically develop.

“Those who advocate these policies frequently point out the uselessness of over-confronting, squandering scarce political resources in a dispute that, from the start, we know is lost.

“Better, they reason, is to seduce or bind the strongest with some legal scheme that limits their autonomy.

“The Joint Declaration on Hydrocarbons of 1995 (cancelled without effect in 2007) obeyed this logic.

“The continuity of the meetings of the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission – despite the poor results it provided – was justified by the need to have some space for dialogue to avoid further British unilateralities.”

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Mr Figueroa added: “Now, this reasoning does not account for our strengths that are not few, but untapped.

“Our first and great resource is Geography. Falklands is located less than 600 km from our continental coasts and more than 14,000 from the United Kingdom. Awareness of something so obvious must be present every time policy is formulated.

“In this context, it is worth asking the logic of recent decisions to increase the islands’ air connectivity without appreciating any quid pro quo in terms of greater economic integration with the archipelago, a goal that is shared.

“Here the role of the Province of Tierra del Fuego and the port of Ushuaia is key. The delayed construction of an Antarctic logistics hub, the concentration of national Antarctic scientific institutions in the province and the opening to the national private sector to the provision of Antarctic logistics and tourist services not only have a geopolitical logic, but also generate resources and jobs for quality.”

He also suggested the islands meant more to his country than the UK, explaining: “Another considerable political asset that we have is the value that we assign to the issue.

“It does not mean the same in terms of Malvinas foreign policy priorities for the UK as it does for us.

“In short, it is not so much the absolute amount of power resources that a party has as much as how much they are willing to invest. We must convert that affective intensity that Malvinas generates into political consensus and from there into political and material resources.

“It is not a matter of appealing to Malignant irredentism, but of defending vital interests for the development of the country, as previously indicated.”

It does not mean the same in terms of Malvinas foreign policy priorities for the UK as it does for us

Javier Figueroa

Mr Figeruoa added: “Many times, in the collective imagination, Malvinas is associated with the past. A heroic legacy, while difficult and traumatic.

“However, the South Atlantic must summon us for what it is: a space for the future, with potential economic and scientific development, with incalculable resources.

“It must be a space of national unity, that summons our creativity and daring.

“In this sense, the sovereignty dispute, more than an obstacle to the advancement of our interests in these vast southern spaces, must be read as a catalyst for our potentialities, as a call to develop imaginative policies and awaken an oceanic vocation in our country.”

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