BUENOS AIRES – Leftist organizations protested Thursday outside Britain’s embassy in Buenos Aires against military exercises that that nation is carrying out in the disputed Falkland Islands.
They also slammed the Argentine government’s pursuit of closer ties with the United Kingdom.
The protesters said the war games amounted to “a NATO exercise on occupied territory, which is not only an affront to Argentine sovereignty but an act of aggression against all” of Latin America, Facundo Escobar, leader of Quebracho – an umbrella group of organizations that run the gamut from center-left to Marxist – told EFE.
Last Friday, Argentina’s government complained to the UN secretary general’s office about the exercises, which began Wednesday and are to last until Oct. 28, and also sent a protest note to Britain’s ambassador to the South American nation, Mark Kent.
Britain told EFE last Friday that the exercises, which include a test launch of short-range missiles designed to protect the islands’ air force station, were “routine” operations carried out approximately twice a year.
But the war games have rankled many in Argentina, which has long claimed sovereignty over that South Atlantic archipelago.
During Thursday’s protest in Buenos Aires’ Recoleta neighborhood, a group of around 100 people burned two British flags and harshly criticized Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s efforts to strengthen ties with Prime Minister Theresa May’s administration.
Since Macri took office in December 2015, the two countries have shown a desire to improve relations that had deteriorated under the center-left administrations of Nestor Kirchner, who governed from 2003 to 2007, and Cristina Fernandez, in office from 2007 to 2015.
Kirchner, Fernandez’s husband, died in 2010.
During a visit to Buenos Aires in September by British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Alan Duncan, the two countries pledged to strengthen bilateral ties and engage in dialogue to improve cooperation on matters of mutual interest in the Falklands.
The statement roiled sectors of the opposition and Macri’s ruling center-right Republican Proposal party because it did not press the sovereignty claims to the archipelago that Argentina has made since the first half of the 19th century.
Buenos Aires has long demanded that Britain comply with a 1965 United Nations resolution describing London’s control of the Falklands – which dates from 1833 – as colonialism and calling on the parties to resolve the dispute through dialogue.
London has refused to discuss the question of sovereignty and says the Falklanders should decide their own future.
The Falklands dispute erupted into armed conflict in 1982 when Argentine troops invaded the Falklands at the order of the military junta then in power in Buenos Aires.
Fighting officially began on May 1, 1982, with the arrival of a British task force, and ended 45 days later with the surrender of the Argentines.
The conflict claimed more than 900 lives – 649 Argentines and 255 British soldiers and sailors.
The dispute over the islands, which Argentines know as the Malvinas, has taken on new importance with the discovery of oil and gas deposits in the North Falkland Basin in recent years.