July 14, 1982. Malvinas lost; good riddance

July 14, 1982

Never did I imagine that I’d ever be thanking Margaret Thatcher. But her haste to send warships down to our seas, the flexing of British naval muscle over the last months, as problematic an echo of Victorian imperialism a century removed as it may be, may just have done something that will be positive for Argentina’s long term health. Galtieri tried to channel national anger at our deep-seated economic and social problems into patriotic fervor, and mobilize the country in support of reclaiming las Islas Malvinas. Of course, this move backfired disastrously, waking the sleeping monster of the Royal Navy. The pointlessness of the endeavor and the magnitude of the failure would have been comic were it not for the 500+ plus Argentine military personnel who lie dead as a result some three months later, an embarrassingly public spate of unnecessary deaths, inflicted not in secret by the military but upon them under the bright lights of the world stage.

A month ago today, our government surrendered and returned the islands to British control. This is the greatest public failure yet of the Proceso—four days after the surrender, a humiliated Galtieri was removed from power (como dirían nuestros adversarios británicos, good riddance). That his replacement, Alfredo Oscar Saint Jean, only lasted another two weeks, deepened the shame of the regime further still. Bignone, the current figurehead of the sinking ship, seems like he might last a little longer—he has slightly more credibility thanks to getting out of the military in 1981 and thus escaping blame for this failed operation. But the writing is on the wall for the junta: approval is at a low point and public discord at a high water mark since 1976.

This hardly seems like a time to be happy, but it feels like momentum is building for a real change. Pablo and I have a new spark to our conversation, and his Marxist study group no longers meets with the fear they had a year or two ago (although they’re still a secret! I haven’t breathed a word about his participation to anyone). Mamá y Papá are also doing much better. I can’t sympathize much for him, but I can acknowledge that he was suspended between some terribly strong forces—the overwhelming temptation of how easy it would have been for him to claim the authoritarian masculine role set forth by the junta on one hand; on the other, the compassion and human kindness of the love of his life, my mother. I’m afraid that during the first years of the junta he leaned away from her towards the right, buying in to Videla and Massera’s narrative of savior. But this Malvinas humiliation is too much, and the pendulum of his belief is swinging to the light from the dark side. After Mamá insisted on cancelling the subscription to the inane Para Tí, he switched to Gente for her. Even his formerly prized issues, though, couldn’t fabricate any positive light out of our loss: from the blind and empty “Seguimos Ganando” in April, they can manufacture only drama to mask defeat on the cover of this month’s issue:

gente malvinas

Blustery rhetoric overstating questionable victories…

Gente malvinas 2

… gives way to an attempt at melodrama that hides but can’t ignore defeat.


The final battle for the islands is lost; I hope that the final days of this regime draw near.

1 thought on “July 14, 1982. Malvinas lost; good riddance

  1. ssvolk says:

    Las Malvinas – what a fitting end to this miserable government. They can’t hold a few rocks in the South Atlantic where even the sheep speak English. We are on the brink of something new, but I worry that our history, swinging back and forth between military and peronismo, will make it hard to try something new. We should look back to the start of the century, when Argentine politics were the pride of South America. Maybe there’s something to inspire us from that period.

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