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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'