Falklands Storm in a Tea Cup

18 Dec

Newspapers in South America have been active this week with a story from Uruguay which started with that country’s President José Mujica making a statement to the effect that ships flying the Falkland Islands flag would not be able to dock at Uruguay.

Mujica’s reasoning was that Uruguay had long supported Argentina’s claim to the British archipelago and that such a ban was a natural extension of that support. The first story to appear also mentioned difficult negotiations taking place between Uruguay and Argentina over proposed dredging of the Martin Garcia channel, important to Uruguay, but more of a lever for Argentina.

Since the initial report clarification has been heaped upon clarification and the spanish press have had a field day with the possible effects on the already blockaded Islands economy. A meeting is now due between the British Ambassador and Uruguay’s Foreign Minister to seek even further clarification. The Minister, Luis Almagro, was reported to have said this week; “If we are consistent with our position that the Malvinas constitute the only remaining European colonial enclave in Latin America, we definitively must have a position regarding those vessels coming to Uruguay flying those colours.”

The real question amongst all this, is, of course, what vessels are actually likely to be affected?

The Falkland Islands are a member of the Red Ensign Group Register as an Overseas Territory of the UK. The Islands have held a registry since 1861 and currently operate a ‘Category 2’ membership.

” The Register is ordinarily restricted to merchant vessels not exceeding a gross tonnage of 150, fishing vessels and small ships whose owners or charterers have a connection with the Falkland Islands and except in the case of the latter, all applications to register require the approval of the Governor.”

So the question of the real, rather than media, effect of this little spat remains unanswered and with the 30th Anniversary of the Falklands War fast approaching, the media circus in the south cone is likely to grow. Any little storm in a tea-cup will do.

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