By Sergio Rodriguez Gelfenstein *
In 1982, I was in Nicaragua. The country was living the first years of the Sandinista revolution and I was working in the Army. One day in April, someone whose name unfortunately I have not been able to memorize asked me if I was willing to go to the Malvinas to fight alongside the Argentine people in the fight to recover the islands from British colonial rule.
I was just over 25 years old and had never before been forced to face such an ethical dilemma. It was about making a contribution to the just Argentine aspiration to rescue the sovereignty of a territory that, by history and by justice, belongs to it. But it also meant putting oneself under the orders of a satrap dictatorship, a violator of human rights for which the vast majority of the decent humanity on the planet repudiated it.
Although the incorporation into the combat of the contingent that had given the go-ahead for their participation in the contest did not materialize, it was impossible to avoid the internal debate that emerged from the need to resolve the controversy that in moral terms harassed us for several weeks.
Tactics and strategy
The resolution of this intern struggle provided valuable instruments of political management for the future. One of them was to understand that the tactical dimension must always be subordinated to the evaluation and sense of the strategic dimension. In this case, the strategic dimension was the Argentine and Latin American responsibility to recover the Malvinas as an imperative of our own condition as men and women of this time.
The ethical contradiction that faced the decision on the most correct behavior to assume in this situation, pointed out and points out unequivocally that there is no impediment or known limit to the need to combat colonialism and imperialism in all its manifestations and with any method at our disposal.
Latin Americans of this time cannot live doubting the behavior that should be contracted in the face of some facts and some situations. In this sense, critical awareness forces us to refute the colonial imposition that in Latin America still exercises -in the 21st century- control over the Malvinas, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean countries and territories.
Waking up every day, knowing that the colonial crust continues to spread like a cancer in some areas of a continent that decided to be free more than 200 years ago, circumscribes the idea that the task has not yet been completed
During that early morning of April 2, 1982, Ronald Reagan and General Leopoldo Galtieri had a tense telephone conversation that lasted approximately fifty minutes. The Argentine dictator did not feel comfortable or satisfied once the meeting with the US president was over. Galtieri secretly hoped to obtain clear support from Reagan, or at least effective and complicit neutrality that would help prevent a British reaction, stopping London from using the full power of his weapons. On the contrary, the US president had repeatedly tried to convince the general to refrain from a military operation in the Malvinas, and warned him that an “aggression”, as he described it, would provoke a certain and energetic response from Margaret Thatcher. Finally, he have offered to mediate before the imminent international conflict.
Cancellation of TIAR
On June 16, 1982, a month and a half after the United States announced its unrestricted support for Great Britain, Galtieri publicly acknowledged in a message to the country the defeat of the Argentine troops at the hands of British forces. A few days later, Galtieri himself, in an interview with the journalist Oriana Fallaci, among other things, admitted with bitterness and disappointment the role of the United States in the defeat, even qualifying the US action as a ” betrayal .”
On the same day and month of June, Nicanor Costa Méndez, a career diplomat, a sworn anti-communist, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Argentine government very close ties to the United States, had to acknowledge the capitulation that he attributed to the military and technological superiority of Great Britain and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He bitterly accepted the decisive participation of the United States, which acted more as a member of that military alliance, than as a member of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR). Next, the Argentine foreign minister surprisingly announced his country’s exit from the hemispheric defense and pact system due to the disregard of its resolutions by the US government.
The bitter and painful consternation suffered by the Argentine generals at the American abandonment, which even led Galtieri to describe them as traitors, was proof that their training prevented them from understanding the imperialist essence of United States’ foreign policy. In that policy, there is a long history of ties with the countries south of the Rio Grande, invariably based on Washington’s interests pf expansion and domination and economy, before obeying ethical and political principles and commitments.
Test of Pan-Americanism against British occupation
For the first time in the history of inter-American relations, the essence of “Pan-Americanism” and its supposed conception of regional defense was put to the test against an extra-continental power, in this case Great Britain, which acted against one of the nations of the Americas. In the Malvinas conflict, the complexities of international relations created after the Second World War and the intentions of the military to solve the serious internal situation based on the just national claim for the Malvinas, had deconstructed an international setting long ago built by United States against communism and the countries of the socialist camp. To the American regret, in the Malvinas War it was not precisely the Soviet fleet that acted cunningly on the American continent.
The Malvinas conflict, in addition to becoming the death certificate of the TIAR, questioned the foundations on which the integration model for our continent was built. The contradiction between the Monroeist and Pan-American ideas collided again and ostensibly with the Bolivarian idea that proposes the integration of the peoples of the territories that José Martí grouped under the name of “Our America.”
Geographical belonging to a region of the planet is not a sufficient element to generate true integrationist motives and solidarity in the face of an external enemy. Other components such as cultural, identity and economic complementarity contribute to the construction of an integration process that has the foundation of a regional security mechanism among equals, one of the fundamental pillars to maintain peace and guarantee and a harmonious coexistence between people.
From Mexico to Patagonia: “The Malvinas are Argentine”
The TIAR must disappear, just like the OAS, because they do not represent the interests of the region, since a power can impose a hegemony that is not formally accepted in the constitutive documents of these organizations. The need for new integration mechanisms between the peoples of the region south of the Rio Grande emerged in the Malvinas conflict. Governments and peoples of Latin America, overcoming the obvious differences with a satrap government that violated human rights, came to defend the interests of Argentina, which were an expression of Latin American principles of law, which were pillars for the construction of the nation states of the region, using all the political, diplomatic and even military instruments at its disposal. With the sole exception of the cunning behavior of the dictatorial government of Augusto Pinochet, the rest of the countries in the region exposed their spirit of solidarity and their Latin American perspective. The cry of: “The Malvinas are Argentine” was a slogan that traveled through valleys and mountains, rivers and seas, enveloping a feeling that surpassed and surpasses Argentines as a clamor of solidarity of all of us who were born and live between Mexico and Patagonia.
Only a rapprochement between our countries and the realization of integration in instruments – instruments that safeguard the sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples and that have the capacity for political, diplomatic and military response without the need to resort to extra-regional powers – will open a new era that will never repeat the ignominy that the imperial invasion of the Malvinas meant for our region
When that will have been achieved, we will be closer to true independence. And rightfully we will have to look back to remember those young Argentines who, in those fateful days of 1982, gave their lives for the dignity and honor of all Latin American and Caribbean people. And who have raised a flag very high that will wave upright forever throughout the territory of this Our Great Homeland.
* Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein is a Venezuelan international relations expert, who was previously Director of the International Relations of the Presidency of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, his country’s ambassador to Nicaragua and an advisor for international politics for TELESUR. Gelfenstein has written numerous books, among them “China in the XXI Century – the awakening of a giant” which has been published in several Latin American countries.You can follow him on Twitter: @sergioro0701