David Usborne: Latin America is driving this game of brinkmanship

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The Independent Online

The choreography of Argentina's latest theatrics over the Falkland Islands has been faultless. First you attend a Latin American summit where leaders will fall over themselves for the chance to bash a big, bad foreign power like Britain and the very next day you show up at the UN.

That Argentina was showered with solidarity from its neighbours was hardly a surprise, especially with Hugo Chavez there (reminding Queen Elizabeth II that the British Empire is no more). Assailing Britain fitted with the wider agenda of forging a new regional grouping that will exclude the US and Canada.

And if Brazil was especially loud in its support, it was because the dispute jibes precisely with its demand for reform of the UN Security Council and the disproportionate power it gives to its permanent five countries, including Britain.

But how far does Argentina really want this to go? Precisely because of Britain's privileged place in New York, it can't expect concrete action from the UN, even if it turns out there is some legal validity to its complaints.

The islanders say Argentina is seeking to divert domestic attention from the political problems of President Cristina Kirchner. Inflation is soaring again – beef prices are up 25 per cent this year. She and her husband, former president Nestor Kirchner, have been fending off corruption charges and, this week, Buenos Aires was gripped by rumours of the resignation of her economics minster.

If this is the game that is going on, Ms Kirchner must know she is playing with fire. No amount of sabre-rattling on the foreign stage is going to conceal from ordinary Argentines the rising prices of butter, bread and meat. As for war with Britain, the memories of 1982 in her country are still extremely tender.