The legacy of Margaret Thatcher in Latin America has a name: The Malvinas. And a big consequence: Due to the loss of the war, an already unpopular ruling military junta faced increasing criticism and pressure from the Argentine population and eventually returned the country to democratic rule in 1983.
The immediate effect in the Argentinian pride was enormous. The loss of the war is remembered today and the cry “Malvinas Argentina’s” is kept deep in the Argentinian minds.
The Argentinian Military Junta made the mistake to take by force the small Falkland’s to increase their popularity. The Iron Lady didn’t hesitate a minute to make the decision to go to war. And she won the respect of the Britons and gave the Argentinian the opportunity to finish with the military dictatorship.
Margaret Thatcher dead at 87
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died today at the age of 87 as one of the great political European leaders of XX century. The renowned “Iron Lady” was Prime Minister from May 1979 to November 1990, an impressive eleven and a half years in power.
It is a weird aspect of international affairs and world history that wars tend to be remembered more than other events. For example, throughout her tenure, some British territories in the Western Hemisphere achieved independence from London. Namely,Belizegained independence in 1981 whileSaint Kitts and Nevisdid the same in 1983.
But when it comes to Margaret Thatcher’s legacy towards the Western Hemisphere, she will not be remembered for these aforementioned developments, but rather for deploying British troops to fight the Argentine military in 1982 in the Falklands War.
The declassification of official documents has brought to light traits of Thatcher’s “iron” personality regarding the protection of the Falklands from Argentina. For example, she was at odds regarding with then-U.S.President Ronald Reagan, as she told the U.S. head of state “Britain had not lost precious lives in battle and sent an enormous task force to hand over the queen’s islands to a contact group.”
She was referring to the possibility of striking some kind of negotiated deal with Buenos Aires over the islands when it was clear that the British military were going to win the war. Unsurprisingly,the Argentine mediahas painted Margaret Thatcher in a somewhat different light, highlighting that she considered putting the disputed Falkland Islands under some kind of control by the United Nations.
Margaret Thatcher opened the door for democracy in Argentina
While Thatcher’s immediate goal in 1982 was to assure that Britain would retain control of the Falklands, the repercussions of her decision to deploy her country’s military had other effects. In London, such bold leadership helped her government improve its popularity among the population. But it is regarding Argentina that Thatcher had perhaps the most influence to open the door of democracy and the end of the cruel dictators.
The dispute over the Falklands islands has become a particularly sensitive issue in Argentina and part of that country’s national identity. The recentMarch 2013 referendumin which the inhabitants of the islands overwhelmingly voted to remain as a British overseas territory reopened an old wound in Argentina society (something that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was quick to capitalize on to increase her population). Hence, it is doubtful if the “Iron Lady” will be fondly remembered in that country. At the time of this writing, the websites of theArgentine presidencyand theArgentine embassyin London have not yet uploaded any statements regarding Thatcher’s passing.
Thatcher went to war with the South American country to protect her citizens in the South Atlantic and ended up, indirectly, may have helped democracy return to Argentina. Maybe history down the road will remember her like that (though probably not by Argentine history textbooks).