(Article) CSM - June 2013: Falkland Islands Dispute

Falkland Islands Dispute

Sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas in Spanish) is disputed between Argentina and the United Kingdom. The British claim to sovereignty dates from 1690, and the United Kingdom has exercised de facto sovereignty over the archipelago almost continuously since 1833. Argentina has long disputed this claim, having been in control of the islands for a brief period prior to 1833. The dispute escalated in 1982, when Argentina invaded the islands, precipitating the Falklands War. Contemporary Falkland Islanders prefer to remain British. They gained full British citizenship with the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983, after the Falklands War.

French Settlement

France was the first country to establish de facto control in the Falkland Islands, with the foundation of Port Saint Louis in East Falkland by French nobleman, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, in 1764. The French colony consisted of a small fort and some settlements with a population of around 250. The Islands were named after the Breton port of St. Malo as the ÎlesMalouines, which remains theFrench name for the islands. In 1766, France agreed to leave the islands to Spain, with Spain reimbursing de Bougainville and the St. Malo Company for the cost of the settlement.[1][2] France insisted that Spain maintain the colony in Port Louis and thus prevent Britain from claiming the title to the Islands and Spain agreed.

Spanish Settlement

In 1493 the Pope Alexander VI issued a Papal bull, Inter caetera, dividing the New World between Spain and Portugal. The following year, the Treaty of Tordesillas between those countries agreed that the dividing line between the two should be 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands.[4] The Falklands lie on the western (Spanish) side of this line. Spain made claims that the Falkland Islands were held under provisions in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht which settled the limits of the Spanish Empire in the Americas. However, the treaty only promised to restorethe territories in the Americas held prior to the War of the Spanish Succession. The Falkland Islands was not held at the time, and were not mentioned in the treaty. From 1774 to 1811, the islands were ruled as part of the Viceroyalty of the River Plate. In that  period, 18 governors were appointed to rule the islands. In 1777, Governor Ramon de Carassa was ordered to destroy the remains at Port Egmont. The British plaque was removed and sent to Buenos Aires.[3]:51

British Settlements

The British first landed on the Falklands in 1690, when Captain John Strong sailed through Falkland Sound, naming this passage of water after Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount of Falkland, the First Lord of the Admiralty at that time. In 1770 a Spanish military expedition was sent to the islands after authorities in Buenos Aires became aware of the British colony. Facing a greater force, the British were expelled from
Port Egmont. The colony was restored a year later following British threats of war over the islands. However, in 1774, economic pressures leading up to the American Revolutionary War forcedGreat Britainto withdraw from the Falklands along with many of its other overseas settlements. By 1776 the British had left Port Egmont, leaving behind a plaque asserting British sovereignty over the islands.Although there was no Britishadministration in the islands, British and American sealers routinely used them to hunt for seals, also taking on fresh water as well as feral cattle, pigs and even penguins for provisions. Whalers also used the islands to shelter from the South Atlantic weather and to take on fresh provisions.

On 2 January 1833, Captain James Onslow, of the brig-sloop HMS Clio, arrived at the Spanish settlement at Port Louis to request that the Argentine flag be replaced with the British one, and for the Argentine administration to leave the islands. While Argentine Lt. Col. José María Pinedo, commander of the Argentine schooner Sarandí, wanted to resist, his numerical disadvantage was obvious, particularly as a large number of his crew were British mercenaries who were unwilling to fight their own countrymen. The colony was set up and the islands continued under a British presence until the Falklands War. After their return in 1833, the British began moves to begin a fullyfledged colony on the islands, initially based upon the settlers remaining in Port Louis. Vernet’s deputy, Matthew Brisbane, returned later that year to take charge of the settlement and was encouraged to further Vernet’s business interests provided he did not seek to assert Argentine Government authority.

A British colonial administration was formed in 1842. This was expanded in 1908, when in addition to South Georgiaclaimed in 1775, and the South Shetland Islands claimed in 1820 the UK unilaterally declared sovereignty over more Antarctic territory south of the Falklands, including the South  Sandwich Islands, the South Orkney Islands, and Graham Land, grouping them into the Falkland Islands Dependencies. In 1850, the Arana- Southern Treaty otherwise known as the Convention of Settlement was signed between Britain and Argentina. The Convention was referred to as a “peace treaty”. The Convention of Settlement ended Argentina’s protests over the Falklands. After the Message to Congress in December 1849, the Falklands were not mentioned again in the Messages to Congress for 91 years until 1941.

Following the introduction of the Antarctic Treaty System in 1959 the Falkland Island Dependencies were reduced to include South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. In 1976 the British Government commissioned a study on the future of the Falklands, looking at the ability of the Islands to sustain themselves, and the potential for economic development.

Argentine Settlements

Argentina declared its independence from Spain in 1816, although this was not then recognised by any of the major powers. Britain informally recognized Argentine independence on 15 December 1823, as the “province of Buenos Aires”, and formally recognised it on 2 February 1825, but like the US did not recognise the full extent of the territory claimed by the new state. The new state, the United Provinces of the River Plate, was formed by provinces of the former Viceroyalty of the River Plate and as such claimed sovereignty over the Falklands.

In October 1820, the frigate Heroína, under the command of American privateer Colonel David Jewett, arrived in Puerto Soledad following an eight-month voyage and with most of her crew incapacitated by scurvy and disease. A storm had severely damaged the Heroína and had sunk a Portuguese ship pirated by Jewett called the Carlota, forcing the Heroina to put into Puerto Soledad for repairs. The captain chose to rest and recover in the islands, seeking assistance from the British explorer James Weddell. Weddell reported that only thirty seamen and forty soldiers out of a complement of two hundred were fit for duty, and that Jewett slept with pistols over his head following an attempted mutiny. On 6 November 1820, Jewett raised the flag of the United Provinces of the River Plate and claimed possession of the islands for the new state.

Luis Vernet, controversially appointed Military and Civil Commander of Falkland Islands and the Islands adjacent to Cape Horn in 1829. In 1823, the Buenos Aires government granted land on East Falkland to Jorge Pacheco, a businessman from Buenos Aires who owed money to the merchant Luis Vernet. A first expedition travelled to the islands the following year, arriving on the East Falkland Island February 2nd, 1824, but failed almost as soon as it landed[citation needed]. Its leader was Pablo Areguatí, who brought with him 25 gauchos. Ten days later Areguatí wrote that the colony was perishing because the horses they had brought were too weak to be used, thus they could not capture wild cattle and their only other means of subsistence were wild rabbits. June 7th, Areguatí left the islands, taking with him 17 gauchos. July 24th, the remaining 8 gauchos were rescued by the Susannah Anne, a British sealer. After the failure, Pacheco agreed to sell his share to Vernet.

A second attempt, in 1826, sanctioned by the British[citation needed] (but delayed until winter by a Brazilian blockade), also failed after arrival in the islands.[citation needed] In 1828, the Buenos Aires government granted Vernet all of East Falkland, including all its resources, with exemption from taxation for 20 years, if a colony could be established within three years. He took settlers, including British Captain Matthew Brisbane, and before leaving once again sought permission from the British Consulate in Buenos Aires. The British asked for a report on the islands for the British government, and Vernet asked for British protection should they return.

On Vernet’s return to the Falklands, Puerto Soledad was renamed Puerto Luis. The Buenos Aires Government, headed by General Juan Galo de Lavalle (who took the governorship by force on December 1st, 1828, and executed the elected governor Manuel Dorrego) appointed Vernet “Political and Military Commander” in a decree of June 13th, 1829. The British objected as an Argentine attempt to foster political and economic ties to the islands. One of Vernet’s first acts was to curb seal hunting on the Islands to conserve the dwindling seal population. In response, the British consul at Buenos Aires protested the move and restated the claim of his government. Islanders were born during this period (including Malvina María Vernet y Saez, Vernet’s daughter).

S. K. Singh