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Chapter One ARGENTINE FRUSTRATION On 5 January 1982 Argentina's new military Junta met at the Navy's Libertad building to review the state of the bilateral talks with the United Kingdom concerning the claim to the Falkland Islands, in the context of the Junta's broad approach to foreign policy.1 This was the Junta's second meeting on the subject. The first had taken place on 18 December, ten days after the newJunta had come to power. General Leopoldo Galtieri, the Army Commander, was now President , having been Commander-in-Chief of the Army since the previous March. He was to run the country with the head of the Navy, Jorge Anaya, and of the Air Force, Lami Dozo. Though the lineup in the new Junta made it likely that the Malvinas issue would be high on the agenda, this had not been the reason for the Navy and Air Force's support of Galtieri when he pushed General Viola aside from the Presidency. Rather, it was a disagreement on Viola's economic policies during 1980 and 1981. The new members of the Junta knew each other well, particularly Anaya and Galtieri, who had been schoolmates in the past. One of the first appointments was Dr Nicanor Costa Mendez, who became Foreign Minister. He had long experience with the Falklands issue, having been closely involved in the early Anglo-Argentine talks of 1966-8. During this time he believed great progress to have been made towards a transfer of sovereignty, only for the effort to be thwarted by the emergence of an organized Falklands lobby in London. He now returned to his desk at the Foreign Ministry to find matters more or less as he had left them. This keen sense of the history of the negotiations, and in particular of Britain's lack offlexibility,was 3 Context to play a critical role in shaping Argentine strategy for the first months of 1982. He had briefed the Junta when it met on 18 December as to the dismal state of negotiations with Britain and the need to develop a policy prior to the resumption of talks in the coming February. With or without Anaya running the Navy or Costa Mendez at the Foreign Office the issue would have come to the fore in 1982; 3 January 1983 would be the 150th anniversary of the visit of the Clio and the British occupation of the Islands. The symbolic importance of this anniversary meant that there would be pressure within Argentina demanding strong action by the government of the day in Buenos Aires. The demands often came from civilian politicians and academics who dared the Military Government to use force in support of valid national 'aspirations' related to 'territorial integrity' rather than in the name of internal politics and security.2 Lasdy, there were powerful domestic and international reasons for action. The Junta's inheritance was uncomfortable. Its predecessors had made themselves unpopular through severe political repression combined with the steady deterioration of the economy, largely as a result of the policies of the first military Junta under General Videla, who had overthrown the Peronist Government in 1976. Internationally , widespread condemnation of human-rights abuses combined with unfavourable papal mediation over a long-standing dispute with Chile over islands south of the Beagle Channel. The Falklands issue was coming to be seen as central to Argentina's future position in the South Adantic, as well as being the only major foreign policy issue upon which it could act in 1982. The Geopolitical Perspective The pre-eminent role of the military in Argentine political life reinforced the nationalistic tendencies that might have anyway bubbled to the surface at a time of economic and political turmoil. Nationalism, in turn, encouraged a focus on territorial disputes, with the particular twist provided by a geopolitical perspective popular in Soutfi America. This helped to give the Falklands issue an importance beyond the 4 Argentine Frustration symbolic and linked it in with the development and modernization of the economy.3 Geopolitics relates control over critical parts of the earth's surface to security and prosperity. According to the Argentine geopolitical school, and indeed that of Brazil and Chile, control of the South Atlantic and a firm presence in the Antarctic region was bound up with the 'strategic triangle' of the Southern Cone: the Malvinas, Tierra del Fuego (The Drake Passage) and the periphery of the Antarctic Peninsula .4 Central to this geopolitical appreciation is Antarctica. In...


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