Introduction b

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In 2008, Graham Pascoe and Peter Pepper, two British authors who are not academics, published both in English and in Spanish a pamphlet entitled “Getting it Right: the Real History of the Falklands/Malvinas”. Since then, a variety of versions of this pamphlet have been published, some abridged, and some not; the most recent version, officially distributed by the British government in the United Nations Decolonization Committee in June 2015, was pompously entitled: “False Falklands History at the United Nations. How Argentina misled the UN in 1964 – and still does”. These pamphlets are widely disseminated on British websites devoted to the Falklands/Malvinas issue. The arguments raised in these texts have been taken up by official British notes in the United Nations, as well as by British petitioners before the UN Decolonisation Committee. In general, it is the first time in the history of this longstanding conflict that these arguments and alleged “facts” have been advanced, and they flagrantly contradict the positions adopted by the colonial power throughout the long decades this dispute has lasted. This simply constitutes an attempt to rewrite history. That is why we believe it is important to rectify the mistakes, misrepresentations and fallacies contained in what has already become an officious British document.

The British pamphlet has a double intention: to attack the solid historical-legal arguments which prove Argentine sovereignty, and to convince the reader that the islands are inhabited by a multinational population entitled to the right of self-determination. Paradoxically, in the attempt to undermine the Argentine thesis, “Getting it right...” recognises a series of facts that official British propaganda has attempted to conceal for decades. Traditionally, for the United Kingdom, the key dates in this dispute were: 1592, the year in which John Davis, a British sailor, allegedly discovered the islands; 1690, when Captain Strong, another sailor, supposedly set foot on the islands for the first time; 1766, year of the British settlement at Port Egmont; and 1833, year of the British occupation (and the consequent eviction of Argentina). In trying to refute Argentina’s arguments, the authors of the British pamphlet point out that there were “Portuguese” sailors who discovered the islands and that in the 1540 a Spanish ship moored at the islands for several months – many years before the purported British “discovery”. They also admit that the islands were effectively occupied by Spain until 1811, that David Jewett, a representative of the government of Buenos Aires, took control of the islands in 1820, and that the current settlement in the islands was founded by Luis Vernet. Obviously, these admissions are accompanied by a series of inaccuracies and distortions, which the present work shall examine.

In the attempt to justify the new image portrayed by the British government of a “multinational” population in the Falklands/Malvinas , the authors of “Getting it right...” acknowledge that in 1833, at the moment the British occupied Port Luis or Soledad, the population of the Falklands/Malvinas was Argentine, and ruled by Argentine authorities. In reality, never in history had there been the slightest trace of a British presence in Soledad/East Falkland island. The pamphlet’s authors focus their efforts on explaining that only the military garrison was expelled, and not the Argentine inhabitants. This spurious argument will be also examined in detail.

Pascoe and Pepper’s pamphlet also brings to light another point. In attempting to refute the Argentine thesis, they highlight its consistency: Argentina’s position has remained exactly the same since the time of independence. On the contrary, the pamphlet shows up all the contradictions of the British thesis and follows a simplistic reasoning that as the islands “are not Argentine”, then they should be British. It is more than sufficient to compare the arguments Argentina invoked at the time David Jewett took possession of the islands in 1820 and in the 1829 Decree for the creation of the Political and Military Command of the Malvinas Islands and Adjacencies with the arguments it raises at present to prove that they have been consistent throughout: the arguments are simple and always the same. It is instead undeniable that, comparing the arguments submitted by the British government when it first notified Argentina of its claim to sovereignty with the positions it currently maintains, these have changed significantly over time – a telling sign of their legal weakness. Let us briefly recall both positions.

Argentina’s position is clear. The islands are Argentine by virtue of its succession to Spain’s rights, the concrete display of sovereignty by the new South American nation from the beginning of the process of independence in 1810 until 1833, year of the eviction by Britain, and the lack of Argentine consent to the British occupation since 1833. The succession to Spain’s rights is justified by the recognition of Spanish sovereignty by the main European maritime powers, by Spain’s continuation of France’s right of first occupant (1764), and by its continuous exercise of sovereignty over the islands until 1811 – an exclusive exercise between 1774 and 1811.

On the contrary, the British position has been defective and made in bad faith from the outset. In its protest of November 19th, 1829 against the creation of the Political and Military Command of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands by the government of Buenos Aires, the British government based its claim of sovereignty on discovery, the subsequent occupation of the islands, the restoration of the British settlement at Port Egmont by Spain in 1771 and on the fact that the withdrawal of that settlement in 1774 did not amount to a waiver of its purported rights. In order to justify such a position, the British note dated November 19th, 1829 points out that British insignia were left behind on the islands together with the intention of resuming the occupation in the future. Pascoe and Pepper’s pamphlet itself confutes the thesis of British discovery, which, what is more, could not alone constitute a title to sovereignty. The subsequent occupation was not one, as when the British settled at Port Egmont, France had already been occupying the islands for two years. The British government’s note of 19 November 1829 hid not only the fact that the return by Spain of Port Egmont in 1771 was effected preserving Spanish sovereignty, but also the lack of any objection to Spain’s uninterrupted and exclusive presence on the islands ever since Britain abandoned Port Egmont. It also does not take into account Spain’s destruction of buildings and its removal of British insignia from Port Egmont, to which there was no reaction from London.

It is no wonder that in the face of the extreme weakness of the British claim, Pascoe and Pepper’s pamphlet seeks out new arguments. The most original of these is Argentina’s supposed waiver of its claim by entering into the Southern-Arana Treaty in 1849, thanks to which the British blockade of the Río de la Plata, which affected both Argentina and Uruguay, came to an end. The present work will provide a detailed refutation of this argument. Suffice it to note that from 1850 to 2013, the United Kingdom never invoked such a waiver – despite an abundance of opportunities to do so. Not a word was spoken by the British government in any bilateral diplomatic exchange or in any international setting in which the parties have set out their opposing positions on the question of sovereignty. Not a single internal comment exists by colonial officials or by the Foreign Office bringing attention to this alleged waiver of a claim to sovereignty. For example, the British Embassy’s note to the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs issued on January 3rd, 1947 explains the British point of view in the following manner:

The Falkland islands have been sustainably under the effective British administration for more than a century. It is true that during that period, from time to time, the Argentine government claimed its sovereignty of the islands and made reservations in that respect. Likewise, during such period, Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom in each occasion stated that there had no doubt about Her Majesty’s sovereignty rights of these islands.1

This was Britain’s position until 2013: it had never before invoked the existence of a treaty through which Argentina gave up its right to sovereignty, something any State would invoke in the face of a claim going against something stipulated in an agreement.

It is also naive to claim that Vernet’s settlement of the 1820s was authorised by Britain. This vain attempt to distort history contributes to highlighting an undisputable truth: the first successful effort to bring civilisation to the islands and to inhabit them was made by Argentina. Previous European presence on the islands had an essentially military objective.2 This work will readily show how unfounded this new British argument is – an argument never previously raised throughout the over 180 years this dispute has lasted.

This site is composed of six sections which follow, as far as possible, the order of the arguments developed in the British pamphlet “Getting it right...” The responsibility for the contents of this site falls entirely and exclusively to the authors, who received no direction, grant or remuneration whatsoever.

1 In Dagnino Pastore, Lorenzo, Territorio actual y división política de la Nación Argentina, Buenos Aires, UBA, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas, 1948, p. 228 [this is a translation from Spanish].

2 The exception to this was Bougainville’s initial plan, which was, however, unsuccessful: as we shall see, his settlement was transferred to Spain as a consequence of France’s recognition of Spanish sovereignty.

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