THE WEEK IN LATIN AMERICA

Argentinean Falkland veterans seek war benefits

British PM asks Chilean president to explain his position on islands dispute

A Falklands War veteran protests in front of a police line.
A Falklands War veteran protests in front of a police line.DANIEL GARCÍA (AP)

About two dozen Argentinean veterans of the 1982 Falklands War were arrested on Tuesday after a violent confrontation with police who tried to keep them from blocking a major thoroughfare in Buenos Aires.

A large group of former conscripts marched from Congress on Monday night to the city's famous July 9th Avenue to demand formal government recognition as war veterans with entitlements to benefits. The protest came on the same day that Argentina announced that it would accept an offer by the United Nations to mediate the once-again escalating conflict with Britain over ownership of the South Atlantic islands.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked both countries to avoid "escalating" tensions as the 30th anniversary of the Falklands conflict approaches in April. Britain and Argentina fought a nearly two-month war in 1982, which left 900 dead, after the military government in Buenos Aires had invaded the archipelago.

A group of British lawmakers from the Defence Select Committee in the House of Commons traveled to the Falklands this week to inspect British military readiness, UK daily The Times reported on Wednesday.

At the same time, Prime Minister David Cameron phoned Chile's president, Sebastián Piñera, to discuss the regional conflict, the Chilean daily La Tercera reported. Chile is one of the Latin American nations that have come out in support of negotiations between Argentina and Great Britain.

In Buenos Aires, Falklands War veterans blocked the busy July 9th Avenue from 8.30pm Monday to 9am Tuesday and tried to close it again several hours later before police came in with water cannons. Scuffles broke out between officers and demonstrators who resisted arrest. At least three policemen were injured.

"For years we have been peacefully asking for legislation. We have worked, but we have never demonstrated, and we have made our permanent petition clear," said Jorge Cañete, one of the veterans. "The Malvinas [as the Falklands are known in Spanish] is still an open cause."

For his part, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman announced that the president of the UN General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, has accepted his petition to "coordinate a peaceful solution between your country and the United Kingdom over the [Falklands] question."

Last week, Argentinean President Cristina Fernández Kirchner announced that she would seek UN intervention to help resolve the current conflict, while Britain reiterated that it will never negotiate the islands' sovereignty.

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