Mercosur Blockade Falklands

22 Dec

The Mercosur blockade of the Falkland Islands is now official following the signing of the final agreement by this four country strong group, in Montevideo, yesterday. Uruguay’s President, Jose Mujica, hosted the conference of the Southern Common Market which was attended by the Presidents of the other members, Cristina Fernandez from Argentina; Dilma Rousseff from Brazil; Fernando Lugo from Paraguay. Others present were Venezuela’s colourful leader, Hugo Chavez, and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, both of whom hope to join.

The decision to refuse docking facilities to any Falkland Islands flagged vessel is merely the latest in a string of attacks by the southern block since Argentina raised the rhetoric over sovereignty of the Islands it covets.

Uruguay, and Brazil, have previously denied a safe haven to Royal Navy vessels operating in the turbulent waters of the south Atlantic, and Argentina has attempted to impose licensing conditions on any ships passing through seas that it disputes.

Quite what the effect of this latest measure is likely to be is, as yet, uncertain. Some obvious casualties include a number of fishing vessels from the Galician fleet, which have already been the subject of protest by Spain following incidents of harassment by Argentina’s coast guard.

President Kirchner is due, early in the new year, to visit Chile. She has already made threats at the UN about closing the air link from Chile to Stanley airport which passes through Argentine air-space.

The british response so far has been muted. “It is unacceptable to engage in an economic blockade of the Falklands, there can be no justification, legal, moral or political, for efforts to intimidate the people of the Falkland Islands”, said Foreign Officer Minister Jeremy Browne yesterday. “It is for the people of the Falkland Islands to determine their future”.

There is little doubt about Britain’s sovereignty, but Argentines believe that the 8000 miles distance is too far for the archipelago to belong to the UK. It also claims South Georgia and the South Sandwich group of islands, although the basis for this claim is far from clear. Britain has successfully held the Falklands since 1833, although its claim goes back to 1765. The other Islands have been British since 1775.

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