December 5, 2013
“In Río Grande we have lived the war and today we live the call for peace”
The distance from Puerto Argentino in the Malvinas Islands to the city of Río Grande in the Argentine Southern province of Tierra del Fuego is of 705 km. There is indeed a cross sight in the city´s war memorial located in the “Malvinas Heroes” coastal avenue pointing to the South Atlantic territories. The geographical distance from Port Stanley –the British name for the Islands´ capital which have remained a UK overseas territory for 180 years- is of 12,766 kilometers.
Geographical reasons aside, there is yet a raison d'être that has driven more than 3,000 of “Fueguinos” –Tierra del Fuego’s locals- to join last weekend’s “Malvinas, heart of my country” marathon launched by the Peoples for Malvinas organization in the Río Grande city and which is part of a broader campaign to collect one million signatures and have London sit at the United Nations table of sovereignty negotiations with Buenos Aires.
“Tierra del Fuego has a truly significant mission ahead for the future of all Argentineans; a great and generous destiny and that is to become the mother of new realities, the mother of new provinces,” the head of Peoples for Malvinas Juan Recce tells the Herald.com as the first runners begin to cross the finish line in Río Grande. “Malvinas is the last planetary natural resources frontier. It is a strategic legacy and a promise of prosperity for future generations,” the 34-year old National Defense Magister going across the country for more than a year now with the flag of dialogue adds.
The mission of Río Grande: Dialogue, Peace and Natural Resources
The question of natural resources –Argentineans have in Malvinas minerals, hydrocarbons, fishing prospects, the strategic entry to the Antarctica Icecap accounting for the largest supply of fresh water-, and a pro-dialogue stance have taken deep roots among the Río Grande society which has witnessed the 1982 South Atlantic armed conflict and wants war no more.
“The Malvinas question has lived here probably with more intensity than in other parts of the country. The military forces here, especially Río Grande´s Nay Infantry Battalion played a key role during the war. Besides, many veterans decided to stay to live here. And Río Grande is home of the Malvinas Vigil that takes place every April 2 when thousands gather waiting for the landing time,” City Mayor Gustavo Melella explains during an interview with the Herald.com. In a few words, he puts it this way: “Here we have lived the war and its consequences and today we live Malvinas from a peace and dialogue perspective.”
Excited about a social and sporting event that brought together 3,000 runners and an overall turnout of 10,000 people last Sunday all of them writing down their signatures for bilateral talks, Mr. Melella knows there is still a long way ahead for the coalition government of British Prime Minister David Cameron to finally agree on sovereignty talks and desists from the danger of militarizing the South Atlantic. After all, Río Grande is 705 km away from Puerto Argentino which is to say 705 km away from a NATO´s military base.
“It is a provocation. What the President (Cristina Fernández de Kirchner) said is actually accurate. Probably the strongest thing Argentineans have is dialogue and dialogue is Britain’s greatest weakness. They don´t have the strength to sit and talk because rationality lies on the side of Argentina’s rights, so militarization is the only way they have. And it is also a provocation exploiting our natural resources without any government authorization. We have the strength of history, geography, the sense of belonging to Malvinas, the right over natural resources and dialogue,” this Radical mayor affirms, proving also how the Malvinas Islands question has crosscut all the political arch, from the opposition to the ruling Victory Front. Go figure.
Para-diplomacy at the cross line
Young people, adults, grandparents, children, Veterans and politicians, some running the 10.5 kilometers loop, others going for the 3 and 1 kilometers tracks but all of them giving the question of Malvinas the meaning of what Andrés Dachary defines as para-diplomacy.
Coordinator of the International Relations area of the Río Grande government and in charge of the marathon arrangements, Andrés tells the Herald.com this concept in world affairs referring to decentralizing moves offers local governments the possibility of international projection with civil society becoming directly involved in a cause that connects Argentina from North to South, from West to East.
Río Grande was chosen as the host city to kick off the “Malvinas, heart of my country” marathon. Almost 600,000 signatures have been collected since the campaign started last year and “Fueguinos” have added their own 7,000 this weekend. The city of Cafayate in the Province of Salta, the city of Cutralcó in the Neuquén province, the Buenos Aires province capital city La Plata and the San Juan province capital San Juan are the upcoming destinations where other Argentineans will be reaching the cross line for Malvinas.