Fog around the Falklands

For the populist president of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, the ban on Falklands-flagged ships agreed by the Mercosur summit in Montevideo is a diplomatic triumph. It comes after a string of similar moves throughout the region aimed at tightening the noose around the Falklands. For example, HMS Gloucester was denied access to Montevideo in 2010 and, in an effort to strengthen Brazilian-Argentinian ties, Brazil did the same when HMS Clyde sought to dock in Rio de Janeiro. In reality, ships from the Falklands can switch flags before they enter any regional ports, but Argentina’s intent is to isolate the islands — and bring fellow South American nations along with them in

An American context for UK defence cuts

Yesterday’s defence select committee report provoked stern critiques of the government’s defence policy from Alex Massie and Matt Cavanagh. It is hard to dissent from Matt’s view that Cameron, Fox and Osborne will be defined to some extent by how they handle the defence brief, which, as Alex points out, also proved to be Gordon Brown’s undoing.  It is also clear, as both Matt and Alex say, that the SDSR suggests that Britain is entering a period of ‘strategic shrinkage’, in terms of the size of the defence establishment at any rate. A political squall has erupted over this, but it’s worth pointing out that western countries are narrowing their military

Big Red

‘Dear mother, I’m feeling quite ill, From all of these bits off the grill; Nostrils and tits and unspeakable bits, Balls haven’t come yet, but they will!’ So wrote my late father-in-law, Cyril Ray, as he ran up the white flag after one asado too many during a trip to Argentina many years ago. And nothing has changed: I’m the least vegetarian person I know, but by the end of a ten-day trip to Buenos Aires and Mendoza, the merest whiff of woodsmoke had me reaching for the lettuce sandwich. The traditional Argentine asado — a loose term that can mean ‘short rib’, ‘grill’ or ‘barbecue’ — is a long,

9 March 2002: What though the spicy breezes blow soft o’er Buenos Aires, incompetence messes it up

As the world braces itself for the inevitable Greek default, and investors look nervously at potentially exposed banks, perhaps it’s worth recalling Argentina’s implosion a decade ago. Here is what the Spectator made of it at the time: The missionary Bishop Heber wrote a hymn about Ceylon: ‘Where every prospect pleases And only man is vile.’ On being told that this was unfair to his converts, he corrected ‘Ceylon’ in the second edition to ‘Java’, but his point stands: there is no prospect, however pleasing, that is beyond the power of human and governmental incompetence to mess it up. We have seen the Heber factor at work in our own green and pleasant

Cameron vs Kirchner

After stating the obvious at PMQs this week — that the Falklands would remain sovereign British territory as long as they want to be — David Cameron has come under heavy fire from the Argentine President, Cristina Kirchner. As today’s papers report, she yesterday described our PM as “arrogant,” and said his comments were an “expression of mediocrity and almost of stupidity”. But there is nothing new in the British position, which has always been that there can be no negotiations over sovereignty unless and until such a time as the Falkland Islanders so wish. The issue has recently heated up after the United States sided with Argentina in demanding

Britain’s threadbare defence establishment

A mutiny is brewing. Several former admirals, led by Lord West, have written a seething letter to the Times (£), condemning the decision to decommission the Harrier and Ark Royal. Their argument is that the Harrier is versatile and cheap and that the Falklands are more vulnerable without it: ‘In respect of Afghanistan: Harrier could still use Kandahar runway if half of it were blocked by Taleban action; can use any make-shift landing site; has a response time of less than 10 minutes, as against 30; performs better in hot weather; requires fewer ground crew; and has better availability. Harrier can deliver close air support of ground forces anywhere from

Great Moments in Analysis: Argentine Edition

I don’t really have anything to say about the death of Nestor Kirchner and nor, it seems, do the analysts consulted by the New York Times: His death could either bolster or hurt Mrs. Kirchner’s political prospects, analysts said. Well that clears that up. On the one hand this is typical of the he-said, she-said approach that bedeveils American newspapers; on the other it’s a welcome and sadly all-too-unusual admission that, actually, most of the time most people don’t know anything and the most honest answer to most political questions is Who the Hell Can Tell? [Hat-tip: Sacha Issenberg]

Hillary Clinton & the Falklands

Bagehot of the Economist is beginning to have some doubts about the Obama administration: I have hesitated to read drastic slights into the sometimes awkward diplomacy between Barack Obama and Gordon Brown. But this stance on the Falklands cannot be seen any other way. It really is no way for the Americans to treat their most important military ally—as some in America doubtless appreciate. What stance? Well Hillary Clinton has been visiting Argentina and was asked about the status of the Falklands. Here’s what she had to say: And we agree [with Argentina]. We would like to see Argentina and the United Kingdom sit down and resolve the issues between them across the

Obama, Reagan and the Falklands

A follow-up to this post: sure, excitable Conservatives in Britain and the United States see the Obama administration’s disinclination to take a position on the latest Falklands dispute as proof that the poor man really does dislike the United Kingdom and is quite happy to see the so-called Special Relationship consigned to the library of history, a splendid relic of a bygone age. Well, maybe. But since this is a bilateral dispute that doesn’t involve any country hostile to the US it is, as Daniel Larison says, hard to see why we demand a public declaration of American support when there’s no real need for this. Meanwhile, it cannot be

Charlie’s Angels

Does it matter if this story is actually true or not? It’s clearly going to be a movie soon. All that needs to be decided is the casting: A lingerie model is believed to be the mastermind behind an all-women drug gang that smuggles cocaine into Britain. An international arrest warrant has been issued for Angie Sanselmente Valencia, 30, who is said to only hire glamour models to transport the drugs from South America to Europe. It’s believed that Colombian-born Valencia had been seeing a Mexican drug lord known as ‘The Monster’ but split with him at the end of last year to form her own cocaine-smuggling gang. […] Her

Byrne’s cuts deception

Liam Byrne has caught the Brown bug – not for raging in his underpants you understand, but for fiscal conceits. Tony Wright, the Public Administration Select Committee Chairman, called Liam Byrne (and the opposition as well) to task for misleading the public on the dire effects of cuts. Wright may be proved right: frontline services could well be decimated by the cessation of funding. But he missed Byrne’s deception. The indispensible Andrew Sparrow reports: ‘Byrne said that between 1985-86 and 1988-89 public spending as a share of GDP dropped by 8.6%. Between 2011-12 and 2014-15 it is forecast to drop by 5.9%.’ Because Treasury figures have been constantly out, the

Alex Massie

Is Obama Betraying Britain?

This is irritating but should not come as a surprise: Washington refused to endorse British claims to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands yesterday as the diplomatic row over oil drilling in the South Atlantic intensified in London, Buenos Aires and at the UN. Despite Britain’s close alliance with the US, the Obama Administration is determined not to be drawn into the issue. It has also declined to back Britain’s claim that oil exploration near the islands is sanctioned by international law, saying that the dispute is strictly a bilateral issue. […]Senior US officials insisted that Washington’s position on the Falklands was one of longstanding neutrality. This is in stark contrast

Bare Argentine aggression

The Falklands are sovereign British territory and must be defended. The Times reports that Argentina’s President Kirchner has issued a decree (how quaintly autocratic) that all ships sailing in waters claimed by Argentina will require a permit. Presumably, that includes Desire Petroleum’s rig, which is en route to drill for an oil field comparable to the North Sea field. Over at Conservative Home, Daniel Hamilton points out that the decree contravenes international law and that Britain has a right to explore for oil unimpeded. So what are the Argentines up to? Nile Gardner explains: ‘If the floundering, corrupt and increasingly unpopular government in Argentina is foolish enough to choose a

Diego Maradona Lives to Fight Another Day

Argentina’s coach Diego Maradona celebrates his team’s goal against Uruguay during their World Cup qualifier in Montevideo. Argentina won 1-0 and qualified in fourth position for the World Cup. Photo: Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images. Well, they did it. In the end Argentina didn’t need to win in Montevideo yesterday since Chile’s victory against Ecuador ensured that, whatever happened by the River Plate, Argentina would still have a chance of qualifying for the World Cup next summer. Happily the Selección will be in South Africa. Maradon’a reign as Argentina’s manager has, of course, done more than just flirt with Calamity; it proposed to her and for some time Calamity seemed inclined to

A Nation of Numismatists

Well, sort of. There’s a serious shortage of coins in Argentina at the moment, possibly because they’re worth more, as commodities prices rise, when they’re melted down and resold. Or it may have a different explanation. It’s a mystery! Anyway… The coin scarcity has created a strange predicament: Merchants regularly refuse to sell their goods or services if it means they’ll have to give coins back as change. For small transactions, they’d rather lose the revenue than spare the change. Black markets have reportedly cropped up for the resale of coins at more than 7 percent above their face value. And starting in June in Buenos Aires, more than half

Argentina Shock: Good News!

Argentina is one of my favourite countries, so it’s especially pleasing to note that, for once, there’s some happy news from that melancholy land. Cato’s Juan Carlos Hidalgo reports that a federal court has decriminalised the consumption of drugs. According to this account (in Spanish) the court ruled that arresting young people for possessing marijuana and ecstasy was pointless, serving only to create “an avalanche of cases targeting consumers without climbing up in the ladder of [drug] trafficking”. The case now moves to the Supreme Court, but the ruling is in line with President Cristina Kirchner’s own preference for decriminalisation, while the Minister of Jstice, Anibal Fernandez, has also stated