Monday, April 8, 2013

Argentine Falklands Vets Reflect on Thatcher’s Death

Argentine military veterans of the Falklands War have reportedly reacted negatively to the death on Monday of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“(She) died in impunity and without having gone on trial.  She should not be remembered as someone who contributed to a lasting peace,” said Mario Volpe, head of the La Plata Center for Ex-Falklands Troops. 

As Volpe told Diario Los Andes, the “Iron Lady” had a chance to peacefully end the war over the disputed islands but she blundered during the infamous attack on the Argentine warship General Belgrano.

“By deciding to continue the war with the sinking of the Belgrano, Thatcher was no different (Argentine dictator Leopoldo) Galtieri".

The 323 Argentines killed during the sinking of the Belgrano was nearly half of all Argentine military deaths during the 74-day conflict. 

The action against the Belgrano was highly controversial in Argentina since the vessel was sunk outside of a Maritime Exclusion Zone around the islands and the ship may have been heading towards port.  The sinking was also questioned at the time in Britain, which included this memorable exchange on TV involving Thatcher.  Nevertheless, months after the war ended she was reelected as Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, one of the survivors of the Belgrano sinking chose to remember Thatcher as someone who was doing her job.

“She was presiding over her country and she tried to defend Britain’s interests,” said José Luis Ferreira who nearly died after enduring sub-freezing waters for twenty-four hours.

“There was never a rivalry between people but it was a conflict between countries,” said Ferreira who also criticized those countrymen who have “inhumanely” celebrated Thatcher’s death.

For other Argentine military vets, the wounds of war and resentment towards Thatcher have given way to another battle for their overdue pensions.

“I felt sad and sorry at the same tome because sage was a proud and pedantic women.  One doesn’t feel bitterness but instead sadness over what happened thirty-one years ago,” said former troop Eber Roberto Nieto.

In contrast to their Argentine counterparts, British veterans of the Falklands War chose to remember Thatcher in a far more positive light:

Admiral Lord West, the former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, said her actions sent out a message to the world from which the country never looked back… 
“She was a good Prime Minister to have at a time of crisis….” 
Commander John Muxworthy, founder and chief executive of the UK National Defence Association (UKNDA), was a Lt Commander and Royal Navy supply officer on the SS Canberra during the conflict.  
He said: “We would never have been sent and the country would be a very, very different place had it not been for Margaret Thatcher’s guts and courage.
Officials on the Falklands are reportedly planning a memorial service to be held on a date to be determined.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who has called on Britain to negotiate the sovereignty of the islands, has yet to provide a public response to Thatcher’s death.  Nevertheless, Argentine-born Pope Francis expressed his “sadness” over her passing away and praised the “Christian values” that guided her “in her public life.”

Video Sources – CNN and YouTube via user Kittybrew

Online Sources – Reuters; Diario Los Andes;; La Nacion (Argentina); The Telegraph

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