Though the Union flag still flies, Argentina nurses Falkland hopes

Directly opposite a square once known as the Plaza de los Ingleses (the English) and a clock tower modelled after Big Ben, Argentines commemorated the start of the Falklands war 15 years ago this week. Many expressed hope that, with a potential Labour government in Britain, Argentina's war goal might eventually be met, this time through diplomacy.

On Wednesday, the anniversary of the Argentine invasion of the islands, soldiers in Napoleonic uniforms marched in front of an eternal flame and a stone monument listing the names of more than 600 Argentine war dead. Relatives and war veterans laid wreaths and sang old folk songs.

The overall sentiment was clear: that most Argentines regret the 2 April 1982 invasion - led by the then leader of the military junta, General Leopoldo Galtieri - but do not forget the victims and still firmly believe Las Malvinas (The Falklands) are theirs.

The commemorative ceremony went on long into the night despite a major rival event - a televised World Cup football qualifying match in which Argentina lost to Bolivia.

On the disputed islands themselves, at an Argentine cemetery near the site of major battles at Goose Green, there was no one to remember the 234 Argentine war dead buried there. The graves, mostly marked only with the words "Soldado" or "an Argentine soldier known only unto God," are well tended by the Falkland Islanders but no kelper (islander) was ever going to show up on the anniversary of the invasion.

In an open letter to the nation, Argentina's current army commander, General Martin Balza, a veteran of the war, recalled "the cold, permanent drizzle, the bombings and grey skies". He wrote of a comrade who died beside him in the trenches and his feelings when Argentina surrendered on 14 June 1982. "A lot of our comrades-in-arms embraced each other. We cried with pain, shame, anger and sadness. Then came the silence of our return to the mainland, of which I would rather not speak."

Altogether, 652 Argentines perished in the conflict, with 255 dead on the British side. General Galtieri was ousted in disgrace three days after the surrender. Argentine veterans feel they were treated much like American GIs who returned from the Vietnam War. Many are still jobless, some do not receive full pensions. Others walk the platforms of Buenos Aires railway stations in tattered fatigues, selling stickers or calendars saying: "Las Malvinas son Argentinas" (The Falklands are Argentine).

In a radio speech, Richard Ralph, the Governor of the Falkland Islands, called it "that day of infamy 15 years ago. Fences are slowly being mended but can only be fully mended when the (Argentine) claim to sovereignty is dropped."

Argentine newspapers were full of remarks by a Labour spokesman saying that his party's policy on the Falklands was identical to that of the Conservatives: that Britain has sovereignty and only the islanders themselves can change that.

But some commentators said the government of Carlos Menem hoped for more flexibility from Labour, such as in direct transport between Argentina and the islands and visiting permits for Argentine passport holders. At present, only Argentines with passports from third countries can visit the islands and all flights leave from Chile.

After a meeting with British officials at Chevening in January, the Argentine Foreign Minister, Guido di Tella, told an interviewer: "I have said to [the shadow foreign secretary] Robin Cook, with whom I have had various meetings in the past, that I was not going to trouble them during the election campaign because we are going to be careful.

"But I said he could rest assured that within 60 to 90 days of a Labour government taking office, I would be knocking on the door, asking for a meeting."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones