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Argentine Lawfare over Falkland Islands

As we approach the 30th anniversary of the Falkland War next month, Britain and Argentina’s war of words continues to heat up. Thus far, Argentina has opted for lawfare over warfare, vowing to bring domestic and international court cases against any company looking for oil in the vicinity of the islands. The FT quotes Argentina’s foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, on his country’s plan of attack:

This government . . . will not let a single day go by without filing some action in a court, administrative seat or international tribunal enabling us to protect the reserves which belong to the people and to the Argentine Republic.

Britain, for its part, is not taking this lying down, and defended the Falkland Islanders’ right to develop a hydrocarbon industry as an “integral part” of their self-determination, pledging to “continue to protect and defend” the islands from Argentinian intimidation.

As the conflict enters the courts, energy companies active in the area will bear the brunt of the Argentinian legal assault.

While this conflict is still unlikely to erupt into open war as it did thirty years ago, it isn’t going away anytime soon. Both countries, particularly Argentina, have significant economic troubles at home, and British and Argentine leaders may be happy to use the nationalism this conflict evokes to distract from domestic problems. Expect this war of words—and lawyers—to continue.

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  • Eric

    The Economist recently had to discard Argentina’s official statistics agency output for data from an independent agency outside of the country. This is because Argentina is officially lying about inflation, according to The Economist.

    Ms Kirchner raided the pension funds a while ago to fill a hole in the budget.

    Add this to the sabre-rattling and I agree you get a picture of a place with increasing problems looking for a diversion. Fortunately if for whatever reason a crash occurs it would not have much impact except in Argentina, as they are still mostly shut out of global debt markets.

  • Kris

    At times, one is seized by a lamentable nostalgia for gunboat diplomacy.

  • Gordon Pasha

    The energy companies should not worry. This type of legal action could only succeed in Argentine courts and the companies have no presence in Argentina nor assets that could be seized.

    On the other hand, the financial backers of the projects could be on the hook, most notably HSBC, but possibly some US banks too, and they do have assets in Argentina. Mrs. K, a lawyer by training, must know this well. Such litigation would be enormously popular in Argentina after the tarnished image the banks developed in the wake of the 2001 meltdown.

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