Opinion, By Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Thirty years ago, the reigning Junta in Brazil’s largest neighbor to the south, feeling in need of a little popular succor, decided upon a course to divert public opinion away from the evil it had been perpetrating over the past couple of decades.
In the time-honored fashion of governments everywhere, democratic or not, when faced with domestic problems that seem insuperable, the Argentine Junta did what they all do — it shouldered arms and looked abroad.
Not far abroad, off the Patagonian coast, lies a cluster of islands: rocky, windblown, almost treeless, suitable only for penguins and sheep, and the masters of the latter. Mad dogs and Englishmen may go out in the noonday sun, but Englishmen will go out in the midday dark as well, if there’s a bleat to be heard.
During the turmoil of the early 1800s in South America, whilst helping several former Spanish colonies to become independent, the British helped themselves to these islands. A few hardy British souls went there and stayed and stayed and stayed, during generations, pretty much undisturbed, harvesting kelp.
Argentina, although officially maintaining its claim to sovereignty over Las Malvinas, treated them as if they were part of the outside world for well over a century. General Galtieri changed all that. A military invasion was planned and executed. Thousands of soldiers and sailors were mobilized and shipped off to occupy their long unrequited territory.
This caused consternation among the generals then running Brazil. Why would Brazil be concerned? Because it knew Argentina’s claim to the Malvinas is, historically, no better than its claim to all of Uruguay, and at least half the State of Rio Grande do Sul, the part known as ‘Missiones.’ In fact, back then, the bulk of the Brazilian army was stationed along the border with Brazil’s only potential enemy—Argentina.
Furthermore, the invasion presented a dilemma to Brazil: how to support its neighbor without offending the UK and the U.S., both of which had long supported the generals after the coup d’état of early 1964.
The ignominious end of the war, and of General Galtieri, was a sign of the future for the Brazilian generals. Democracy would have to be restored in Argentina — and in Brazil.
So, why does La Presidenta Cristina now want to revivify these ashes, gone cold these thirty years? Is it because of the recently discovered oil, as the cynics say? What does she propose to do with the “kelpers” who, to a man, do not want any part of being Argentinean?
Offer them Argentine passports and deport them if they don’t accept? Make all schooling be only in Spanish? Nationalize all the farms and fisheries and distribute them to suitors from her home province? She denies any such intentions.
The Curmudgeon suggests that we take her at her word. La Presidenta, way down deep inside her innermost self, may just fit the definition of Argentinians best known around the world: “Italians, speaking poor Spanish, who think they’re British.”
If that’s what they truly are, then peace and tranquility will reign over Las Malvinas, after sovereignty passes to Argentina.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)