Fernandez v. Hague in Chile

7 Feb

As the war of words continues between Argentina’s Pink House and Britain’s No.10, rumours abound that the battle is about to move to Chile, with visits there being proposed both by Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernandez, and Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague.

At the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in September, 2011, President Fernandez threatened to obstruct the only flight operating between the Falkland Islands and South America, by forbidding access to Argentine air-space for the LAN Chile flight which operates weekly. Financially profitable for the Chilean airline, the flight only stops in Argentina every other week and Argentina has failed in its previous attempts to set up a commercial connection under its own control. Argentina has proposed more than once that it be allowed to operate its own flights, but the Falklanders’ fear that it would be heavily subsidised so as to render Chile’s connection unprofitable.

Cristina Fernandez had been due to visit Argentina’s neighbour in January, but the trip was postponed due to fears over her health. A new visit has been proposed, but no dates confirmed. There is now a suggestion that William Hague also wishes a diplomatic mission to Chile and there is little doubt about the subject likely to be on top of his list.

Argentina has consistently denied that any blockade of the Falkland Islands exists, but the obvious reality indicates that the opposite is true. A local banning of vessels flying the Falklands Flag has been introduced by all the Mercosur countries, and Argentine coasts guards frequently harass shipping near the archipelago. There is no trade between the Islands and Argentina, although Brazil and Chile still maintain contact, as does Uruguay which has publicly refused to get involved with a trade embargo.

Sebastián Piñera, Chile’s President, is trying to maintain friendly relations with both Britain and Argentina, although his country, as a matter of policy, supports Argentina’s doubtful claim to the Falklands. He is likely to find himself under pressure from both sides in the coming weeks.

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