Latin America & Caribbean

Argentina threatens to prosecute oil companies in the Falklands

Veterans of the 1982 Falklands War march as they pay tribute to Argentine servicemen who died in the South Atlantic conflict between Britain and Argentina on the 33rd anniversary of the war over the island chain in Buenos Aires Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The anniversary of the Falklands war is an emotional event for former Argentine veterans who march on the day each year

Argentine foreign ministry officials say they will prosecute oil companies operating near the Falkand Islands known as Las Malvinas in South America.

The officials said companies active there were operating illegally in Argentine territory.

The announcement came as Argentina marked the 33rd anniversary of the war with the UK over the islands.

Earlier this week, three British oil exploration companies announced new oil and gas finds north of the islands.

In a speech in the city of Ushuaia the Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said Argentina had always been a victim of colonialism, "Our land has always been invaded, first by the Spanish, then by the English. "

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Families visit a memorial in Buenos Aires with the names of Argentine servicemen who died during the 1982 Falklands War on the eve of the anniversary

A long-running dispute over the islands has created fresh tensions recently.

In March, the Argentine Foreign Ministry protested when the British Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon announced Britain would spend £280m over the next 10 years on renewing and improving defences on the islands.

The money, he said, would be spent on improving communications systems and replacing the Rapier air defence missiles when they go out of service at the end of the decade.

He also said the British government would invest in harbour facilities and fuel infrastructure.

Mr Fallon said the government was committed to protecting the Falkland islanders "right to remain British"

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Argentine Veterans of the war commemorate the deaths of the 655 Argentine soldiers who died in the war with Britain

President Fernandez de Kirchner said in her speech that the British government was "confusing the people with government business in order to satisfy the armament manufacturers lobby and to win elections."

Her speech comes days after the Argentine Secretary for Malvinas Island Affairs, Daniel Filmus announced that new legislation passed in 2013 would be used to prosecute foreign oil companies breaking Argentine law by prospecting or extracting oil in the country's territory.

The law establishes that foreign oil companies executives face up to 15 years in prison and heavy fines, if they do not have Argentine government permission to carry out their work.

The British government rejected the law, arguing it could not be applied to the zone around the Falkland islands over which Britain had legal ownership.

At the end of February, Argentine officials in Ushuaia reported the arrival of a new oil exploration platform owned by British exploration companies, Rockhopper, Falkland Oil and Gas, Premier Oil and Noble Energy.

Earlier this week, three of the companies announced an oil discovery to the north of the Falkland islands - the first in a nine-month drilling campaign.

Guide to the islands:

  • The Falkland Islands are an isolated and sparsely populated British overseas territory in the south-west Atlantic Ocean
  • They remain the subject of a sovereignty dispute between Britain and Argentina, who waged a brief but bitter war over the territory in 1982
  • Argentine forces landed on the Falklands on 2 April 1982 to stake a territorial claim, but by 14 June they had been ejected by a British military task force
  • The fighting cost the lives of 655 Argentine and 255 British servicemen
  • Argentina says it has a right to the islands, which it calls the Malvinas, because it inherited them from the Spanish crown in the early 1800s
  • It has also based its claim on the islands' proximity to the South American mainland
  • Britain rests its case on its long-term administration of the Falklands and on the principle of self-determination for the islanders, who are almost all of British descent.

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