Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Argentinian President Skips Falklands Dispute in U.N. Speech

Leaders from Latin American and the Caribbean discussed familiar topics on their respective countries during this week’s U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) session. Raul Castro blasted the U.S. embargo against Cuba, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff pledged stronger steps to protect the environment, and Juan Manuel Santos lauded latest efforts in the Colombian peace process. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina on Monday referred to problems like “vulture funds” and the AMIA bombing case but omitted a major topic for her government: the diplomatic tug-of-war with Britain over the disputed Falkland Islands.

Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman claimed in a radio interview this morning that Kirchner was hampered by time limits and, hence, unable to mention the Falklands issue. But that explanation doesn’t seem to pass the smell test, thus, here are five other possible reasons why CFK left out “Las Malvinas” from her UNGA address:
  • Numerous Latin American leaders spoke out at the UNGA   
While Kirchner did not breach the Falklands topic, several other Latin American leaders expressed their support for dialogue over the sovereignty of the disputed archipelago. “The ‘Malvinas’ belong to Argentina and Latin America,” declared Bolivia’s Evo Morales prior to Kirchner’s intervention while Castro expressed his “solidarity” with the Kirchner regime. Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro also gave their backing to Kirchner who may have decided to allow other regional heads of state to speak on her behalf regarding the Falklands.
  • U.N. ambivalence over Argentina’s case
Kirchner has repeatedly appealed to the U.N. regarding her country’s claim to the Falklands and call for a dialogue with Britain. In 2012 she criticized Britain's “colonialist” legacy while her 2014 UNGA speech pushed for reform of the Security Council body. The Decolonization Committee last year passed a resolution via consensus pushing for bilateral talks but thus far little else has been accomplished at the U.N. Perhaps Kirchner felt there was no need to bring up the Falklands once again to a largely ambivalent body.

  • Turnover at 10 Downing Street?
Current British Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly rejected calls for talks and last March assured that the U.K. “will always defend” their interests in the Falklands. This rhetoric could change if the Labour Party assumes power, preferably prior to the next scheduled general election in 2020. Recently elected opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn admitted that he has a “negotiable approach” regarding British control of the Falklands. No surprise then that Kirchner congratulated Corbyn’s election as Labour chief and referred to him as a “great friend of Latin America and shares, in solidarity, our demands for equality and political sovereignty”.
  • Electoral indifference over Falklands
Polls show that Daniel Scioli of the ruling Victory Front party could either outright win next month’s presidential election or head to a runoff. The Falklands affair seems to be an issue of low importance to the electorate compared to the sputtering economy and political corruption. Scioli himself appears to prefer a more low-key approach on the Falklands even when seeking the support of ex-French leader Nicolas Sarkozy. Why bother mentioning the Falklands topic at the UNGA when it will have such little impact in the upcoming general election?
  • Divine intervention
Pope Francis has not shied from involving himself in regional political affairs such as closing the diplomatic gap between the U.S. and Cuba as well as the Colombian peace process. Activists for talks between Argentina and the U.K. believe they have an ally in the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires. But according to a MercoPress article, the pontiff may have influenced Kirchner (emphasis ours):
“(…) not a line, not a word about the Argentine claim over the Falkland Islands, or call for dialogue, as is traditional in the annual UN round of speeches. Most probably the Holy See has convinced president Cristina Fernandez that on the track she was trying to push the case there would be no results. Most probably a more tolerant and respectful attitude towards the population of the Falkland Islands can be expected from now onwards.”
What do you think about Kirchner not mentioning the Falklands dispute in her comments to the U.N.?

YouTube Source – Audiovisual Telam

Online Sources (English) - UPI, The New York Times, The Miami Herald, ABC Online, MercoPress, The Independent, The Guardian, ITV

Online Sources (Spanish) - Telam, Perfil.com, Diario Jornada, El Universo, teleSUR

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