The more negative reactions to the death of Margaret Thatcher has led to street parties in London and Glasgow, gloating graffitti in Belfast and a Wizard of Oz song coming close to topping the charts. One of Thatcher’s most important achievements was the defeat of Argentina in the Falklands War. So, 31 years after the conflict, how have Argentinians reacted to the death of Margaret Thatcher?
“I didn’t react with euphoria to her death, just with the thought that a person that for us is synonymous with death is now gone”, says Ruben Alberto Velozo, an Argentinian veteran who served during the Falklands War.
“This nefarious character, a murderer, would commit the same crimes today if she was still alive”.
Without a doubt the Falklands War defines Argentinian understanding of the former leader. A war which is still at the forefront of many people’s minds. Streets and shops in Buenos Aires are called ‘Los Malvinas’ ( the Argentinian name for the islands), many street corners have graffitti about the conflict, while all country-wide maps include the islands under the blue-and-white flag of Argentina, not as British territory.
“I don’t know much about Thatcher as a Prime Minister, but I know she had little interest in the Falklands in 1980, then suddenly took a big interest in 1982 when the British press were questioning her”, says Cristian Iriart, who runs one of the ‘Las Malvinas Son Argentinas’ (The Falklands are Argentina’s) facebook pages.
The page has 287,000 ‘Likes’ on the social networking site and says he set it up because “I felt the need to pay homage to the heros of the war who fought to defend our country. It’s the least I could do for them”.
“I’m not happy about her death. She’s a human being just like all of us. But divinity will bring her the punishment she deserves”.
An opinion shared by the Falklands veteran. “There will surely be another place where the murders, cunning and treachery against defenceless people during the war will be judged”.
Velozo was an Argentinian conscript soldier during the war. He was a part of the original invading forces who arrived on the Falklands on April 2nd, 1982 under what the Argentinians termed “Operation Rosario”.
“I was one of the rare few who had the privilege to lower the pirate flag of England and raise the blue and white of Argentina in our beloved Malvinas”, he says.
He lost two friends from the original invasion. “Captain Pedro Giachino and soldier Almonacid, the first heros of the war”.
Iriart, meanwhile, points to the most controversial moment of the war – the sinking on the Belgano light cruiser on May 2nd, 1982 – which claimed the lives of 323 Argentinian servicemen, half its total casualties of the war.
“She took an active role in the Falklands war and ordered the attack with torpedoes on the cruiser ARA General Belgrano, which was outside the maritime exclusion zone”.
31 years after the ending of the conflict, the dispute over the Falklands continues. On January 2nd, the Argentinian President, Christina Fernández de Kirchner, published an open letter to David Cameron saying “Britain, the colonial power, has refused to return the territories to the Argentine Republic, thus preventing it from restoring its territorial integrity.” The British PM rejected the claims.
On the streets of Buenos Aires, few felt sadness at the Iron Lady’s passing. “I was happy to hear the news”, says Pedro Malbonado (54). “She was very tough. She was very militant and made decisions like the sinking of the Belgrano which were very aggressive”.
“I have a very bad opinion of her because of the Falklands”, says Adriel Gusmai (28), an architect from Buenos Aires. “I wouldn’t say that I’m happy over the death of someone, but definitely when I heard the news there was some joy”.
Two British tourists currently visiting Buenos Aires also said no tears were shed when they heard the news. “I wasn’t really bothered when I heard the news to be honest. It makes you think of the past”, says Neil Hinde (41).
“I’m sort of glad that she’s dead to be honest. I know that sounds horrible”, says Imogen Smith (19).
Hinde looks back on the Falklands War with a degree of bewilderment. “I don’t just understand why we have them [the Falkland Islands]. It’s like them coming over to us and saying ‘we want the Isle of White’”.
Despite the timing of their visit and the general hostilities on a political level, the British tourists haven’t had any major issues with Argentinians. “I had one bad reaction when I told someone I was British, but either than that, it’s been absolutely fine”, says Hinde.
The diplomatic spat between the two countries has continued. The family of Margaret Thatcher specifically requested the Argentinian President not be invited to the funeral. An Argentinian government minister responded to the snub by saying “What do we care? We weren’t going to go anyway.”