May 25, 2013
Even two’s not company
Apparently the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration’s “20/20 vision” goes beyond that percentage for this year’s income tax floor and wage increases — Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman informed his British hosts that the Malvinas islands would be Argentine within the next 20 years. For somebody who insists so much on the strictly bilateral nature of this issue (the respect he pledged for the language and lifestyle of the islanders in the future does not stretch to their right to participate in any negotiations), Timerman has not been very successful at sitting down with the only other side he recognizes, namely the British government — sessions with parliamentary Anglo-Argentine friendship committees or European progressive intellectuals on the same page as Timerman’s anti-colonial rhetoric are not an adequate substitute. While Timerman attributes his failure to meet with his British counterpart William Hague to his patriotic rejection of islander presence in the talks, there is no sign that Hague was ever anxious to expose himself to the Argentine’s predictable patter in a busy world.
Competing with London in intransigent rhetoric is a mug’s game when possession is nine-tenths of the law. Some of Timerman’s arguments are more telling than others — thus it would foolish to deny his charges of British isolationism if Prime Minister David Cameron has just floated a referendum to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union or his talk of a grave economic crisis creating a temptation for overseas distractions if British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne uses adjectives like “substantial” and “deep-rooted” to describe the problems — but none of them do anything to shift the status quo. Timerman is on less solid ground when he talks about “not one country” supporting the British position. In reality beyond Latin America there is very little support beyond the verbal for Argentine sovereignty in the Malvinas and last month’s agreement with a rogue state like Iran is hardly likely to start any groundswell in favour of the CFK administration’s crusade. The only way out of deadlock is to shift the ground from the frontal sovereignty dispute (for example, to the commercial and cultural ties valued by the parliamentary friendship committees), persuading Britain that Argentina as a G20 member and Latin America’s third economy is a far more valuable partner than two remote islands.
As it is, Timerman’s insistence on painting himself into a Hyde Park Corner with his defiant insults of his tolerant hosts not only hands them the status quo but also the moral high ground.