Falkland (Malvinas) Islands

The Sovereignty Dispute over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands

 The Sovereignty Dispute over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands
Lowell Gustafson

Department of
Political Science

Villanova University

Villanova, PA 19085

Who has the Legal Title, the Rightful Claim to the Islands?

Political Geography
  51o42’S, 57o51’W;  
  12,173 km2, 4,700 sq miles;  
  300 miles (480)km east of Argentina in South
Political Nomenclature
  Falkland Islands or Falklands, Las Islas Malvinas or
Malvinas, Falklands / Malvinas, Falklands (Malvinas)

Discovery: Sightings and Landings

Indigenous Discovery and Settlement?
  The Yaghan people?
European Sightings
of the Islands
  Amerigo Vespucci, Estaban Gomez of Ferdinand
Magellan Simon de Alcazaba,
  Francisco de Camargo  
  John Davis, Richard Hawkins  
  Sebald van Weerdt  
  John Strong  
Discovery and
Papal Grant

  Pope Alexander VI, 1493  
  Treaty of Tordesillas, 1494  
England and the
Spanish Empire
  Search for naval base from which to penetrate
Spanish Empire in South America, support the independence of Spanish
American colonies
French attempt to
restore its empire
  Antoine Louis de Bougainville founds Port St. Louis
in Les Malouines in January 31, 1764France pays Bougainville for the settlement, Port St. Louis ceeded
to Spain in 1767
British Settlement
  – John Byron, January 4, 1765 founds Port
Egmont, after the French settlement was founded.
  – Spanish forcibly evict the British settlement in
  – Some British, such as Lord Chatham, favor forcible
response to restore British control of Port Egmont if necessary
  – Did Lord North think that Falklands were in fact not
valuable enough to warrant conflict with Spanish, but was unable to
publicly back down to Spanish for domestic political reasons?
Was there a Secret Agreement between North and the Spanish
that if the Spanish returned Port Egmont to the British now, Britain
would leave these unimportant islands within a brief time after the
dust settled?
  – Britain does vacate Falklands in 1774,
but leaves a plaque asserting British claim to the islands.
  – Nootka Sound Convention of 1790  
Independence of Argentina

  1810 establishment by Cabildo of the
Primera Junta in support of Ferdinand VII
  Britain still interested in penetrating
Spanish empire
    Lord Beresford’s old style military approach to
    Encouragement of Latin American
political independence, economic neo-colonialism
  Spain preoccupied by independence
movements on mainland, in 1811 the Spanish abandon Las Islas
  Principle of Uti Possidetus vs.
post-independence political fragmentation: which territories of old
vice-royalties will become parts of newly independent nations?
  Sealers, fisherman of various
nationalities informally use the Falklands
  – Argentina attempts to establish de facto
and de jure control over Las Malvinas.Louis Vernet.
1825 Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation between Great Britain
and Argentina.

June 10, 1829: Argentina gives Vernet exclusive grant of fisheries.

November 19, 1829, British protests the grant, renew claim to

Vernet seizes two U.S. ships that were violating his exclusive

U.S. sends U.S.S. Lexington, which declared islands res nullius.

Argentina appoints new governor.

Britain sends two warships, the Clio and the Tyne,
take Port Louis on January 2, 1833.
British occupation from then until now.

Discovery, Settlement, Abandonments, Plaques, Fishing, and Conquest

  Superiority of Argentine Historical
Claims before 1833

Self-Determination, Decolonization, and a New Just War?

  The Principle of
Self Determination: Who is the Self?  What may it determine?
    – The Falkland Islanders (kelpers) who
live on a well defined piece of territory should be permitted to
decide their political affiliation.- Is the self an individual who makes personal choices?– Is the self an entire nation, a people who together or as
represented by a democratic government may decide what territory is
to be included under its sovereignty.  In this case, all of
Britain is the self, with Falklanders a small percentage.
  Decolonization and
the Use of Force
    – To prevent future first uses of force
in the drawing of boundaries, should borders previously drawn
through the use of force be accepted?- Anti-colonialists argue that what the imperialists after WWII
called the first use of force in opposition to established colonies
will not lead to WWIII; instead anti-colonial use of force is in
self-defense against aggression of previous centuries.– Colonized peoples seek to gain independence: Unification of
self-determination and decolonization: justifies the (defensive) use
of force of anti-colonialists.

– A new just war doctrine accepts anti-colonial aggression.1960 U.N.
General Assembly Resolution of 1960, “Declaration on the granting of
independence to colonial countries and peoples.”

– 1961 Indian invasion of Portuguese Goa, which had been there for
450 years: supported by – General Assembly.  Historical
colonial aggression justifies contemporary, anti-colonial aggression
(now called self-defense).

– U.N. General Assembly Resolution 2065: apply 1514 to Malvinas.
Argentines are the self that should decide to decolonize the

–  African and Asian independence movements largely complete by
mid 1970s, their attention moves from decolonization to stability.

– By 1982, many former anti-colonists who had supported Indian
attack in Goa look askance at Argentine invasion of the Falklands.

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