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Chapter Twelve ALLIES, FRIENDS AND MEDIATORS Regional Support (i) Latin America In seeking diplomatic support it was natural for Argentina to turn to its Latin American neighbours. However, relations there were not warm. The recent tendency in Argentina had been to isolate itself from its regional context, looking instead to Europe. The isolation was further exacerbated by the Military Government. During 1980 a number of countries had become democratic, notably Peru and Bolivia, and in late 1981 the democratic countries of South America had launched a political offensive through the Quito Declaration against the authoritarian governments of the south - Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil. Of these Chile was the most logical ally of Argentina, except that relations had been undermined by the Beagle Channel dispute. Further north, in Central America, Argentina had alienated most potential sympathizers when, in 1981, it had pledged military support for the United States in its policies towards El Salvador and Nicaragua . In addition, the more left-wing countries in Latin America regarded Argentina with enmity because of the severity of the repression of the insurgency it had faced during the 'dirty war'. Finally, Mexico - along with Spain, Italy, Canada and France - had attacked the Argentine Government for its human-rights abuses and provided a political haven for many of the persecuted Argentinesfleeingfrom the Junta. 150 Allies, Friends and Mediators Obviously Argentina had to work quickly to improve its position in the region. Costa Mendez found tliis task easier than some of the other diplomatic challenges he faced. He stayed on in the United States to address a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington DC on 5 April. There he stated pointedly that Argentina would comply fully with the resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations - that is, those resolutions which favoured the Argentine position on sovereignty - and that it would protect the interests of the islanders. Costa Mendez did not doubt that the principle of Argentine sovereignty would be endorsed. His task was to gauge the level of support for its current stance should Argentina decide to raise the issue under the Rio Treaty. Costa Mendez had received instructions from the Junta to inform the regional community that while Argentina would not initiate hostilities it would respond if the country were attacked. Should the British fleet come as near as 200 miles from its coast, now including the Falklands, Argentina would maintain freedom of action to defend its national interests. Over the next few weeks Latin American declaratory support for Argentina grew, perhaps less because of Argentine diplomacy than because of the opportunities the conflict provided for Peru, Venezuela and Brazil to make their mark in regional politics and extend their influence with Washington. By the time Costa Mendez returned to Buenos Aires on 7 April his staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had concluded that it might be possible to live with Resolution 502, and even use it to the Argentine advantage. This view depended on an ingenious interpretation which noted that the resolution did not accuse Argentina of actual aggression ; that the first demand, for a cessation of hostilities, had been met and that any renewal of hostilities would be Britain's responsibility; that the second demand, for the withdrawal of Argentine forces, did not mention the date of execution (although, rather awkwardly for this interpretation, it did say 'immediate'); and that the third clause calling on both parties to negotiate precisely reflected Argentine objectives. Thus, they argued, if this resolution were to form the basis of future negotiations it must be taken as a whole and not clause by clause. 151 Confrontation Return of the British task force to home base was required for the cessation of hostilities (clause one) which would then be coupled with Argentine troop withdrawal (clause two) and the beginning of negotiations (clause three). Whether or not this could be sold to the international community was another matter. On 8 April Costa Mendez reported to the full Cabinet on his trip to Washington, aware now of the problems he faced. The major powers, he noted, wished to preserve the international status quo and were unhappy with the precedent created by Argentina in the South Atlantic. Meanwhile the very small countries identified themselves as probable victims of similar interventions in the future. Regional Support (ii) Europe While Argentina looked naturally to Latin America for support, Britain looked to Europe. It was able to achieve a quick condemnation of the Argentine action, on...


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