Peru Displays “Latin American Solidarity,” Britain Shrugs

Peru sends away a British frigate to show support for Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands.

In what was explained as a display of “Latin American support for Argentina’s legitimate rights,” Peru on Monday disallowed a British frigate to dock in one of its ports.

According to Peru’s foreign minister, “This decision has been made to honor our commitment with the UNASUR” — an interregional body that includes all South American nations except French Guyana — and in recognition of “Argentina’s legitimate rights regarding the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich islands and their surrounding maritime territories.”

The “Malvinas” are the Falkland Islands, situated nearly three hundred miles off the southeastern coast of Argentina.

HMS Montrose, on routine deployment in the South Atlantic, was set to dock in Lima’s port of Callao on Thursday for a friendly visit.

At a UNASUR summit in Asunción in November however, Peru endorsed Argentina’s claim to the Falklands and condemned the British military presence in the area.

Argentinean president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had earlier declared the island dispute “not an Argentine cause” but “a global cause, because in the Malvinas they are taking our oil and fishing resources.” She has also labeled Britain a “crude colonial power in decline” and vowed to “reclaim” the Falklands.

Britain has enjoyed sovereignty over the Falklands since the eighteenth century and asserted its control over the archipelago in 1833 and 1982. On both occasions, it was unsuccessfully challenged by the Argentinians.

The dispute has escalated in recent years after British companies began exploring for oil in waters surrounding the islands.

There appears to be little chance of Argentina staging another invasion attempt. Its naval capacity, for one thing, has barely improved since the 1980s when the South American country most recently tried to conquer the islands.

The United Kingdom, for its part, shrugged off the Peruvian decision as little more than regrettable. For good measure, the British embassy in Lima added in a statement that the government in London “remains fully committed to the Falkland islanders’ right to self-determination. This position will not change.”