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Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 22.06.2013 (Article Archived on 06.07.2013)

Mr President, we have requested the House of Representatives to give us a chance to present our impressions on our visit to the Falkland or Malvinas Islands last March. We believe it is important to draw the Uruguayan Parliament’s attention to an issue of indisputable interest for the region, but to do so from the perspective of our country’s interests.





Mr President, we have
requested the House of Representatives to give us a chance to present our impressions
on our visit to the Falkland or Malvinas Islands last March. We believe it is
important to draw the Uruguayan Parliament’s attention to an issue of
indisputable interest for the region, but to do so from the perspective of our country’s


It is to be noted that when
the topic is brought to the discussion, people feel tempted to approach it as
the "Malvinas/Falkland Islands issue", loaded with all the historical
burden of the disagreement or the dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom
concerning sovereignty. In that framework, the discussion is naturally steered toward
the legitimacy of claims, the historical events and the various hallmarks of a
long process, not devoid of harsh confrontations and even dangerous warfare, as
well as other periods where there were movements of approach, negotiations and
efforts for a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the dispute.


Some colleagues may feel
certainly tempted to join the debate to support Argentina’s claim, and they may
be willing to adopt a position that has been legitimately posed, challenging
our analysis, and blocking it with a sort of iron dilemma, in the understanding
that it is not possible to study our relations with the Island’s territory
until the disagreement between Great Britain and Argentina has been fixed.


Our proposal does not
intend to ignore the claim that the islands’ territory pertains to the American
region and what that entails. This is a long-standing discussion that will be
definitively solved sooner or later; it will probably demand the parties’
willingness to establish a dialogue and to negotiate. The parties in conflict should
express that will and act consequently; to that aim, they should be supported
by the commitment of the international community and our own regional
community, which should request that this path be taken. We cannot admit
radicalisms, negative attitudes and some people’s desire to hamper dialog; this
conflict is close to 200 years old; it needs to be solved.


And it needs to be solved
for various reasons, security being one of them – first because the tension
caused by an episode potentially resulting in spasmodic clashes jeopardizes the
security of a region that should aim at a permanent peace. Economy is another
reason, because our region must aim at the sound management of the resources available,
in a way that is profitable for the region. Because we cannot deny that the concept
of integration that is omnipresent in our statements also includes the islands’
territories and people. Being neighbours conditions us and it has a binding
effect on us.


Our region must express an
utmost interest in a process of dialog and negotiation, and even when not
ignoring the historical position of recognition of Argentina’s sovereignty on
the island’s territory, Uruguay must specifically request the parties with whom
we have had a long and deep friendship, to do their best in the pursuance of
that aim. Also committed with the history of the islands’ social and economic
development, Uruguay is not a bump on a log; the country’s view and attitude are
relevant because it also has issues at stake.


Our relationship with the
islands and their current status can be analysed from various perspectives.
There is no doubt that the regional security is one of them, as we said
earlier; let us not forget that in 1982 there was a dreadful episode of war,
the consequences of which could have been even more painful. As to economy, it
is clear that the fishery and mining resources of the South Atlantic are a
potential cause of imbalance; however, properly channelled, these resources may
enhance the region’s prosperity. In that regard there is a rich history
reflecting the significance of Montevideo and Uruguay in the economy of the
islands; today that relationship would play an important role. From the social
point of view, the families of many of today’s dwellers came to the region in
mid nineteenth century, and in several periods they had a strong relationship
with our country, making use of our services, including education, medical care
and the supply of goods, and recently even investing in our own territory.


Those people are
right-bearing subjects as anybody else; it is amazing that such an obvious
statement needs to be even mentioned. As such, they wish to live and thrive in
the land that has been their home – and that of their families - in some cases
for over 170 years, and that desire must be respected. They should be allowed
to live according to their aspirations, respecting the highest level of
autonomy they claim.


At the risk of being
accused of being utilitarian, Uruguay should envisage its relations with the
islands from the good neighbour’s standpoint, seeing them as a neighbour state
or territory; we must be friendly and move away from any radical and intransigent
attitudes to support other countries. Because on doing so we would not be supporting
those nations’ claims or rights, but rather, we might end up backing their unacceptable
strategies and positions, especially when those practices may resemble the
condemned blockades implemented in other areas of our Americas - an attitude we


In line with our
nationalist vision, first and foremost we owe ourselves to the interests of our
country, and we must see to it that solidarity with our neighbours is not tinged
with their practices or their views, heavily dependent on the mood of the successive
administrations or rulers. By proclaiming our independence to conduct our foreign
policy and to choose the tenor of our relations with other neighbours we are
not wavering our support for any potential claims. We are in the best terms
possible both with Bolivia and Chile despite their territorial conflicts. Uruguay
sustains a longstanding dispute with Brazil over our borders; that conflict
affects our country far more than our large neighbour, but that does not lead
us to close our borders. There are several similar examples in the region, and
in none of those cases has the conflict hampered our relations with any of the
parties involved. That is why we have decided to raise this issue at the House
of Representatives, because that means that Uruguay’s position should be solved
seriously and smartly, focusing on the international view, considering the
security of the region and our openness to the best relations with our neighbours.


These initial reflections
resulted from the experience we gathered in our week-long visit to the Islands,
from the *(XXth to the XXth of March 2012). We attended an event that was very
important for the local people, an event that was pejoratively disqualified by
many countries, especially in our region, being the Uruguayan government
authorities no exception. The referendum that the Falkland citizens had decided
to conduct was termed as inappropriate and devoid of any legitimacy.


Countries even failed to
acknowledge the worth of the event as a democratic expression, conducted with
full guarantees for free and secret ballot, i.e., an opportunity to listen to
people. The local people’s mere decision to consult about an issue relevant to
their life caused such a negative reaction in Uruguay that people that usually
run errands to favour other countries’ interests described our attendance with despicable
vulgarity, under no grounds. Our critics claim that an impassable cordon sanitaire
should be established around the Falkland Islands, arguing that islanders do not
even deserve to democratically express their interests; in their view, they are
second or third class citizens that deserve to live in a ghetto.


We did not go to the
islands to validate anything; we were merely a part of an international mission
that confirmed the quality of electoral procedures. It is up to the islanders
to make the decisions that will be binding for them, and to express their views.


The truth is that for the
purpose of our visit, a three- or four-day stay would have sufficed, but it had
to be extended to seven, because the only way you can reach that southern
12,173 km2-territory under a harsh weather of cold winds and a relentless
drizzle, is a weekly flight that connects the islands with Chilean airports. However
paradoxical it may sound, a trip that would have taken a mere 2 hours and a half
from Uruguay, actually took 22 hours; we had to stop for connections from Montevideo
to Santiago, then to Punta Arenas, and another stop in Rio Gallegos, Santa
Cruz, before we finally arrived in Stanley.


We spent a week there,
sharing the experience with people of other nationalities from the region, and
especially with Argentine academics and journalists that attended the event and
took the opportunity to learn about the local society, its economy, culture and
territories. During the course of that week, we witnessed an extremely interesting
state of affairs that particularly stressed the long-standing relationship between
Montevideo and Uruguay and the islands and their community. All along the
twentieth century, decades of regular connections between the two capitals,
Stanley and Montevideo, led to a strong social and cultural bond, and naturally
these connections also promoted the trade of consumer products from Uruguay to
the islands, a positive association of interests. Already in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries, the Port of Montevideo was the main link of the islands
to the mainland, as well as its connection with Europe. The story is long and


We became familiar with the
local idiosyncrasies, the people’s fears and the alertness resulting from the
resilience developed after their war experiences; we have witnessed how that
determines the mood of the islanders’ relationship with their neighbours. We
were surprised by the level of the autonomy they enjoy for the management of
their resources and services, the quality of their welfare benefits, their health
care, education and employment conditions, their support for traditional production,
their concern for the environment, and the seriousness with which they monitor
the use of marine and underground resources. We had an opportunity to exchange views
with the local Legislative Assembly, discussing the situation faced by their
government and their aspirations for the future. We were especially struck to
confirm that the islands’ public activities and services are funded with their
own resources, without any subsidies or grants from the United Kingdom.


We want to transmit the
impression we got there, since we felt that special fondness for our country
and our people, and the appreciation of the possibilities Uruguay can offer the
islanders in every way. We can offer them a place to educate their children, as
we did until not so long ago. We provide qualified medical care services and we
can supply the broadest range of consumer goods to a society with high
purchasing power. We can integrate their farming production chain and provide technology
for the production of sheep, vaccines, and wool, pasture improvement, and we
can even manufacture some of their commodities. We are potential recipients of
investment in various areas, namely in tourism and the purchase of real estate
for development. Our ports are perfectly fit to offer the best services to
vessels engaged in the fishing of squid, Patagonian tooth-fish and other
species of high commercial value. Today, many of the vessels operating in that area
call on Brazilian ports without any problems; until recently they used our


They are not doing it today
as a result of a misinterpretation of the international provisions on ship
registration, and our country’s zealous support to the national interests of
other states. Each call of one of those fishing vessels leaves our country around
one million dollars, resulting from unloading operations, purveyance, exchange of
crew shifts and other services. Up to a hundred such operations may occur two
or three times a year. However, the islanders also expressed the concern that
Uruguay should offer security, certainties, and that we should abate any
uncertainties about the kind of treatment to be given to those who require our
services or products.


The Representatives know
that a flight between Montevideo and Stanley, as mentioned earlier, may take
two hours and a half. Direct connections would bring that distant territory of
the islands remarkably closer to the mainland and to our own market. Are
Representatives aware that, without any subterfuges, if we had regular services
provided by a commercial airline connecting the islands and Montevideo our country
would be able to develop a very interesting business flow with a community that
enjoys a per capita annual income that is close to U$S 40 000?


In our view, Uruguay should
conduct an in-depth analysis of this important issue, i.e., the relationship
with the islands, their people, their economy and their social and cultural
aspects. We do not admit our country’s endorsement to the blockade that isolates
the islands, refusing to acknowledge that the American territory of the
Falkland Islands is part of our neighbourhood, and that it is home to a small
and vulnerable community that once suffered a military attack – these are
people that must be treated as neighbours; we should identify our common
interests, developing our strategies for co-existence. Just as Chile does it,
with more than 300 Chileans living there; they provide shuttle services and
there is a regular line that connects Chilean ports and Port Stanley, or what
Brazil does, admitting the Falkland fishing vessels without hesitation.  Hence, notwithstanding our solidarity with
Argentina’s claim for sovereignty, we must adopt a smart, pragmatic and
supportive path, understanding the islands’ community, strengthening our ties,
facilitating cooperation, fuelling mutual interest and especially implementing
a good-neighbour policy in the framework of the principles that have always
characterized our foreign policy.


We cannot and should not
admit blockade. We cannot admit a pejorative attitude against the people that
live in those islands. We should try to reconstruct the spirit of neighbourhood,
since that will favor our own interests, and with time, it will also help solve
this protracted conflict.


Allow me, gentlemen, to
finish my address conveying the emotion I felt when I entered the Islands’
Chamber of Commerce and saw a huge bronze replica of “La Carreta”, by our
sculptor José Belloni, standing out on a table in the middle of the meetings
hall. That sculpture is a matter of national pride, and the fact it was
exhibited in such a place attests for the admiration and friendship the islands
‘community feels for our nation.


I think he means the 2013 dates.


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