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The New Falklands War

Why is the Obama administration siding with Argentina against Britain?

9:10 AM, Jan 30, 2012 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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London is clearly alarmed by the recent escalation of Argentine rhetoric, and also by Timerman’s successful diplomatic offensive across the Western Hemisphere. (The Argentine foreign minister recently traveled to Central America, and subsequently reported that “the support of the Central American countries [on the Falklands] was outstanding.”) The British government has bolstered its military presence in the Falklands, and Prime Minister David Cameron has rebuked Buenos Aires for its provocations while rebuffing charges that British policy amounts to colonialism. “What the Argentinians have been saying recently, I would argue, is far more like colonialism because these people”—the Falklanders—“want to remain British and the Argentinians want them to do something else.”

Make no mistake: Just as the Galtieri regime did in 1982, the Kirchner government is deliberately stoking a conflict with Britain in order to divert public attention from domestic concerns. Argentina’s inflation rate is not nearly as high today as it was 30 years ago, but it’s still among the highest in the world. Buenos Aires has been doctoring inflation statistics and other economic figures, hoping to conceal the extent of the problem, but foreign investors haven’t been fooled.

Back in September, the government went a step beyond fudging the numbers: Judge Alejandro Catania subpoenaed several Argentine newspapers, demanding that they hand over the contact information of journalists who had written or edited articles about the economy. Judge Catania also went after private consultants who had given legitimate economic data to institutions such as the IMF. His actions prompted Council on Foreign Relations scholar Walter Russell Mead to write that “stockholders should be able to sue the management of any company which puts money into Argentina. It is hard to think of measures which send a more unmistakable warning of dishonesty and impending crisis. Nothing and no one can be safe in a country where such things are done.”

Kirchner’s persecution of unfriendly economic journalists has been part of a larger campaign to intimidate all Argentine journalists from criticizing her administration. A newly enacted media law will expand her control over the press, and a newly enacted “terrorism” law could potentially “allow the state to imprison people for up to 15 years for activities as diverse as marching in protests or pulling money out of banks,” according to Reuters. Justice Eugenio Zaffaroni of the Argentine Supreme Court has warned that it may eventually be used “against social protest and against the unions,” adding that “the country does not need this anti-terrorism law.”

Rather than address well-grounded fears about the media and terrorism laws, the Kirchner government has chosen to whip up a nationalist frenzy over the Falklands. We should note one other key motivation for its behavior: The British have increased their oil-exploration activities around the archipelago, and “Falklands oil industry sources” recently told MercoPress that the initial exploration “was hugely successful.” Needless to say, major oil discoveries would raise the stakes in the Falklands dispute.
As that dispute continues, Britain should recognize Argentina’s saber-rattling for what it is: A transparent political ploy by an increasingly autocratic government whose domestic policies have reduced freedom, unleashed high inflation, sparked enormous capital flight, and created the conditions for an economic crisis.

Jaime Daremblum is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.

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