13 February 2012

Argentina: Oil behind British militarist threats over Malvinas

“We support the right of self-determination of the habitants of the Falkland Islands [Malvinas]; what the Argentines having been saying recently is, in my opinion, much more similar to colonialism, because these people want to continue being British and the Argentines what them to do something different”

America XXI in Green Left Weekly | February 12, 2012

Such was the cynicism with which British Prime Minister David Cameron responded to a question in parliament on January 18 over the islands off Argentina's coast that are occupied by Britain.

The statement came shortly after Britain's defence minister said “contingency plans” were in place to rapidly deploy troops to the territory in the Atlantic Ocean.

Days earlier, Cameron called a summit of the National Security Council to discuss the defence of these islands. All this was justified by Britain as a response to a supposed plan by Argentine fisherpeople to invade the islands.

Britain has occupied the Malvinas Islands since 1833, when it dispossessed the original Argentine inhabitants. Since 1965, Britain has refused to abide by United Nations resolutions, maintaining its control over a territory more than 10,000 kilometres from its own.

Of the 16 surviving colonies in the world, 11 are British.

Last year, the British government announced budget cuts of more than US$45 billion for 2014-15. Reaffirming Britain's colonial position on the Malvinas is one way Cameron is seeking to distract attention from the consequences of such savage austerity and bolster his image.

Appealing to nationalism is an attractive tactic for politicians on the nose. It was useful for Margaret Thatcher (and the Argentine dictatorship) 30 years ago, which led to the two-month Falklands War.

But there are two important differences in the situation today: there is no possibility of war and the economic crisis is much deeper
All of Argentina’s political elites support the claim for sovereignty over the Malvinas.

In recent years, the Argentine government has tried to win support and recognition from the rest of the region for this demand. Its diplomatic campaign has borne fruit in various multilateral meetings and diverse organisations.

Latin America is far more committed to integration than when Argentina went to war in 1982. But Britain is not letting its arm be twisted.

The economic opportunities that the Malvinas presents in terms of the possibilities of exploiting fishing and oil resources is sufficient motive for Britain to keep its colonialist position.
It is precisely this economic aspect that sectors of the left have taken as their point of difference with the Argentine government regarding political strategy.

Opposition leaders have noted that, if the goal is recuperating sovereignty, the Argentine government should affect British investment in the country: land, hydrocarbons, food and drink, insurance companies, banks, mining and pharmaceuticals.

Different left groups marched on the British embassy in Buenos Aires on January 20, raising these slogans and demanding a break in relations with Britain. They denounced the lack of compliance with a law, passed in July last year, that bans companies operating in Argentina from taking part in the exploration, or planned exploration, of oil off the coast of the Malvinas.

Transnational mining companies are operating there in association with British oil companies. The same international financial groups that prop up Argentina's principal corporations own 33% of Rockhopper Exploration and Borders & Southern Petroleum, 25% of Desire Petroleum and 37.8% of Falkland Oil and Gas.

Natural resources are now at the centre of debate surrounding the Malvinas. Britain has offered concessions to explore for hydrocarbons in the maritime platform of the archipelago comprised by the Malvinas Islands, Sandwich Island and South Georgia Island, which encompasses 2,500,000 square kilometres of the Argentine Sea.

British media has reported that specialists believe that below this platform reserves exist equivalent to about 60 billion barrels of oil.

Rockhopper Exploration, one of the four companies operating in the zone, has already discovered exploitable reserves totalling about 700 million barrels.

In late January, a second British oil platform was installed off the island’s coast in the Argentine Sea, with plans to begin perforating two oil wells south and south-east of the archipelago.

The platform was contracted to Borders & Southern and Falkland Oil and Gas. Since 2010, Desire Petroleum and Rockhopper Exploration have perforated more than 20 oil and gas wells.
So far, the diplomatic campaign by Argentina has not stopped British plans to exploit these non-renewable resources off the coast of these usurped islands.

The article below has been translated by Federico Fuentes. It first appeared in the Latin America-wide magazine America XXI

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