Tuesday 19 March 2013

Argentina’s President Kirchner asks Pope Francis to mediate Falkland Islands dispute

Honour guard at the war memorial in Buenos Aires
President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina has asked Pope Francis, an Argentinian, to help solve the Falkland Islands dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom (UK).

Kirchner specifically asked for “his brokerage” of the dispute. The islands in the South Atlantic, which the Argentine government refers to as Las Malvinas, were subject to a brief war in April 1982, which Argentina lost. Most residents of the islands speak English and wish for the Falklands to remain a British Overseas Territory.

During a lunch with the Pope in Rome President Kirchner suggested to the Pope that there be an opening of dialogue with the UK, and that the Pope might help given his “simplicity” and the fact that he is “not our Pope, not Argentina’s Pope, but the Pope of all Catholics”.

This is perhaps an unusual observation given that the Queen of England is the head of the Church of England, and Catholics are a minority in both the UK and in the Falkland Islands.
Graffiti in Buenos Aires: "English out of Malvinas"

Kirchner and Pope Francis have had a strained relationship. The Pope was no fan of Ms. Kirchner’s left-leaning late husband, the former president Néstor Kirchner.

Many supporters of Ms. Kirchner are not impressed with the Pope’s alleged complicity with the former military government during its “dirty war”, which was notorious for human rights abuses.

Also, when the Pope was merely Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio he vocally opposed Argentina’s 2010 law legalizing same-sex marriage.
A lottery ticket marking the war's anniversary. Good luck!?
But for now both are willing to ride each other’s popularity to aid their respective causes.

That said, in La politica’s opinion the honeymoon won’t last long. 

The Pope will almost certainly be facing sex abuse scandals in his own backyard – Latin America is one region of the world in which many abuses have yet to break into the mainstream press.

And President Kirchner is facing a tough road, with inflation on the rise and a currency near the breaking point. This may fire-up the demagoguery, particularly on the Falklands issue. There's nothing like an externalized, patriotic sideshow to distract from problems at home and to consolidate political power. Kirchner's critics on the right will feel obligated to support her should there be any saber-rattling – not a bad plan when your currency is trading on the black market at 50% weaker than "official" rates, and inflation is well out of the barn.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

For a related story see:

March 18: Pope Francis buys Argentina’s Kirchner some time

British prisoners of war during the conflict

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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