Argentina still wants 'Malvinas'
TWENTY-five years after Britain and Argentina went to war in the Falklands, the islands are far from forgotten by people in the South American country, who name everything from ice cream stalls to football stadiums after them.
In Buenos Aires, newspapers carry weather forecasts for the "Islas Malvinas," the Spanish name for the South Atlantic archipelago, and souvenir stalls sell patches showing the islands' outline against the blue-and-white Argentine flag.
Argentina's decision to land in the British territory on 2 April, 1982, is widely seen as having been a mistake by the discredited military dictatorship ruling at the time, but the conviction that the islands are rightfully part of Argentina, not Britain, is shared by young and old, rich and poor.
"It's part of our national identity, it's a national cause," said Alfredo Rubio, a war veteran who was doing his military service when he was sent to the islands at the age of 18.
"The thing is, it was bastardised, badly used by the dictatorship,"
About 650 Argentine and 255 British armed forces died in the ten-week war. In Argentina, many veterans returned to face long-term unemployment and depression, stigmatised for the ill-fated conflict launched by the military rulers who, rights groups say, killed 30,000 leftist dissidents from 1976 to 1983.
Some 350 veterans have committed suicide, according to veterans' groups, although they say things have improved since the centre-left president Nestor Kirchner took office in 2003.
"The war hurt and it keeps on hurting," Felipe Pigna, a best-selling history writer who criticises Britain's refusal to discuss sovereignty, said. "It's very difficult to think of a quick solution acceptable to both parties."
Mr Kirchner comes from the Patagonian region, where Malvinas nationalism is strongest, and he has been more vocal in pressing Argentine claims over the islands, which have been disputed since 1833, describing the issue as a national objective.
Britain invited Argentine officials to take part in a joint commemoration of the war, but Mr Kirchner declined. Instead, he is expected to spend Monday's anniversary of the landings on the tip of Patagonia, closest to the windy islands, some 300 miles away.
In the Falklands, many islanders remain suspicious of Argentina, and diplomatic tension has increased over issues such as fishing licences in island waters and flights to the South American mainland. "Sadly, the general feeling toward Argentina is one of frustration and mistrust," Jenny Cockwell, the editor of Falklands weekly, the Penguin News, said. "The present administration is waging an active campaign to eventually gain sovereignty."
Some islanders go on shopping trips and holidays to Argentina, and more Argentine veterans are returning to visit the chilly positions where they holed up during the conflict.
At a social club in the Argentine city of La Plata, veterans who met to swap stories from their recent visits criticised Britain for refusing to discuss sovereignty. Britain says it will enter talks only if the 2,900 islanders want it to.
Ernesto Alonso, who was sent to the Falklands as a young conscript, said the war dealt a blow to his country's hopes of winning sovereignty through peaceful means.
"It's a very, very deeply held belief among our people that this is the way to get [the islands] back," he said.
Standing behind the counter of his "Malvinas Argentinas" bakery shop in Buenos Aires, Ibraham Goldsmit said his country might one day win control of the islands.
"It could happen, but peacefully," said Mr Goldsmit, who opened his shop during the conflict. "The war shouldn't have happened. The boys that got killed were a very big sacrifice."
Death and victory: the key dates
THE conflict unfolded over two-and-a-half months, costing the lives of 650 Argentine and 255 UK troops.
• April 2, 1982: Argentine president General Leopoldo Galtieri, below, announces that his forces have landed on the British-ruled islands and reclaimed them for Argentina.
• April 5: Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher vows to recover the islands and sends a taskforce to the South Atlantic.
• April 30: US President Ronald Reagan declares American support for Britain and imposes economic sanctions on Argentina.
• May 2: British nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror, captained by Commander Christopher Wreford-Brown, torpedoes and sinks the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano, killing more than 300 men.
• May 4: Argentine missile sinks HMS Sheffield, killing 20, despite warnings over the approach of Argentine aircraft.
• May 21: HMS Ardent is lost.
• May 25: MV Atlantic Conveyor, with a cargo of helicopters, runway-building tools and tents, is lost.
• June 8: an Argentine air attack on landing craft Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram kills 50 British troops, mostly Welsh Guards. Many others suffered serious burns, including Simon Weston.
• June 14: Argentine forces surrender, an event which is widely celebrated by Falklanders as Liberation Day.
• February 1990: Diplomatic relations between Britain and Argentina are restored.
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