Spain wants to tear up the Treaty of Utrecht and take back Gibraltar from Britain

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 11th, 2013

Week in Review

8/14/2013 CORRECTION:  There were factual errors/omissions in this piece.  We apologize for them.  And we apologize to the good people of Spain if we have offended them.  But it should be noted that some of the corrections are from quotes pulled from the sourced Mirror article.  A British newspaper.

The point of the piece is a recurring theme in history.  There are rarely any innocents when it comes to international disputes.  That was the point of the French and the Spanish helping the Americans during the Revolutionary War.  They did this not for American interests but for their own interests.

We also will note that the world’s power center shifted from the Mediterranean to the great sea powers of Europe.  Because these great European powers advanced seafaring to the point that they were first to conquer the oceans.  Also, the man that discovered America (Christopher Columbus) was sailing for Spain.  During the time of the Age of Discovery.  Where Spain dominated that discovery.  And Spain was home to the School of Salamanca.  Where the seeds of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were sown.  And they would bear their greatest fruit in the late 18th century.  Thanks to America’s Founding Fathers being students of the Enlightenment.  So Spain has a formidable place in world history.  One that we admire and greatly respect.

A reader from Madrid sent in a well-written and very respectful criticism.  We include it here in its entirety.

Dear Pithocrates, I have read your paper on Gibraltar which is rather accurate but there are some missing points which are very relevant to understand the roots of the issue. These points are as follows:

a) It is true that the Spanish captured Gibraltar from the moors in 1462, but you shouldn´t omit that the moors captured it previously from the visigotic kingdom of Spain in 711.

b) You state that “Gibraltar was captured in turn by the Royal Navy in 1704”, but you omit that it was in the context of a Spanish dynastic sucesion war and this capture was in the name of one of aspirants to the Spanish crown, supported by British and Dutchs.

c) The Treaty of Utrecht didn´t handed over the surrounding waters and the istmus where the airstrip lies. The istmus was a neutral zone wich was taken by the British in XIX century by asking quarantine land due an epidemy in Gibraltar. It doesn´t seem fair play. This is the key point for Spain since Gibraltar has no waters to drop blocks in and the airport is out of Gibraltar territory.

I fully agree that we can´t go back to the first wrong but your statement that Spain wants to tear up the treaty is far from reality.  In essence Spain wants the British to meet the treaty in full since is not an acceptable behave to throw concrete blocks in non British waters nor contaminate them with chopy bunkering practice,. If you study the history of Spain, you will learn that some part of it was outstanding, glorious and brilliant and some not, but ALWAYS we have been people of honour and we honoured the treaties we signed off.

Finally I believe that in XXI the gunboat policy is out of place, but in any case it is clear that Spain was not the first to put the navy in this conflict.

I would be very grateful if you share these lines with your readers in order to clarify the situation. Spaniards and British have had a long common history. We have been rivals for centuries and in the past we fought very often each other and sometimes were allies. We have in Gibraltar a common “heritage” and we should be intelligent enough not to make it a wedge but a hinge between us.

Best, regards,
[name withheld by Pithocrates to protect writer’s privacy]
Madrid (Spain)

PD: In addition there is a little geographical mistake in your text: none of the sides of Gibraltar is on the Atlantic ocean, both are in the Med (Mediterranean sea is considered eastward Tarifa).

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Do you know what you will find at the southern tip of Spain?  Britain.  That’s right.  Gibraltar belongs to Britain.  Something Spain isn’t all that happy about.  Kind of how Argentina isn’t all that happy about Britain being in the Falkland Islands.  And both Argentina and Spain try to make life difficult for the British living in these British possessions (see Gibraltar: Britain to send Navy warships to Mediterranean in show of force to Spain by James Lyons posted 8/9/2013 on the Mirror).

Britain is sending warships to Gibraltar after David Cameron failed in his attempt to end the diplomatic row with Spain…

The 10-vessel Med visit follows weeks of rising diplomatic tension as the Madrid government holds up traffic at the border in retaliation for Gibraltar’s efforts to stop Spanish trawlers plundering fish stocks…

The PM, in a phone call to his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy, issued a coded warning of legal action over the border checks and the threat to impose a £43 crossing fee.

But the checks still happened today and the Spanish hit back by criticising the Gibraltar government for making an artificial reef to protect fish stocks.

Under the seas surrounding the Falkland Islands are oil and gas deposits.  In the waters around Gibraltar it’s fish stocks.  So there are economic reasons.  But what really irks Spain is that unlike the cold and windy Falkland Islands Gibraltar is a sunny vacation paradise.  And you don’t need a boat or a plane to get there from Spain.  All you have to do is drive there.  And cross an active runway.  Yes, the road through Gibraltar actually crosses an active runway.  Why, you may ask, doesn’t the road go around the runway?  Well, the thing is, Gibraltar is so narrow that one end of the runway ends at the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  While the other ends at the water of the Mediterranean Sea.

Gibraltar is an outpost of Britishness at the mouth of the Mediterranean, and has been for 300 years.

The 2.3 square miles land mass, dominated by the 1,300-foot limestone Rock of Gibraltar, is one of the last remaining parts of the empire…

The 30,000 inhabitants of the British Overseas Territory cling to their UK roots.

Sterling currency, red post boxes, familiar British shops and banks and the use of the English language are all legacies of the Rock’s long association with Britain…

The results of several referendums in Gibraltar over the years, the most recent in 2002, have been overwhelmingly in favour of remaining linked to Britain.

So it’s only a small sliver of land.  And the people who live there are British.  And want to remain British.  As it is in the Falklands.  Referendum after referendum is always the same.  These British people want to remain British.  It makes one wonder what would happen to them if Spain and Argentina got their way.  Would they deport them?  Segregate them?  Or simply make them stop being British?

So how did it come to this?  How did a tip of Spain become British?

Captured from the Moors by the Spanish in 1462, Gibraltar was captured in turn by the Royal Navy in 1704.

Nine years later it was officially handed over to Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht, and it has remained in British hands ever since.

It is this treaty which is at the heart of Spain’s claim to the land.

The Rock was ceded to Britain “to be held and enjoyed absolutely, with all manner of right for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever”.

But successive Spanish governments have argued that this is an anachronism and that Spain’s territorial integrity justifies the return of Gibraltar to Spanish control.

Critics of Spain’s attitude towards Gibraltar have pointed out that it has its own city enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, on the north African coast, bordering Morocco.

Despite repeated demands by Morocco that the cities should be returned to its territory, Spain refuses to do so.

Interestingly, the Spanish took the land from someone else.  The Moors.  So the British didn’t do anything the Spanish didn’t do.  They got the land by military conquest.  Then made it permanent by treaty.  A treaty they say now is silly to maintain.  Because Gibraltar is attached to the Spanish mainland and logically belongs to them.  While they themselves are holding on to lands that by their logic belong to Morocco.

The Spanish Empire once stretched throughout the world.  But it was overtaken by the British Empire.  Whose representative government and capitalism vaulted the British into the number one world power.  While the Spanish Empire declined the British Empire only grew stronger.  France, too, lost bits of her empire to the British.  Which is why the French aided the Americans in the American Revolutionary War.  And why the Spanish joined that conflict by allying themselves with the French against the British.  Neither of them cared about helping the Americans.  They went to war against the British when they were preoccupied with the Americans to reclaim their lost pieces of empire.  And hoped to limit the Americans’ expansion into North America by the treaty that would end the war.  A treaty that would undo the Treaty of Utrecht.  And allow further expansion of France and Spain into North America.

How far back do you go to right past wrongs?  Should Spain return their land to the Moors?  Should they take back Mexico and return it to the Aztecs?  Do you go back to the first wrong?  Which would be difficult without a historical record going back to the first wrong.  So do you go back just far enough?  And if so who determines how far that is?

No.  You can’t do this.  All you can do is honor the treaties you have now.  Treaties that were signed willingly by all parties concerned.  Yes, some parties were negotiating from a position of weakness.  But that’s war.  In hindsight Napoleon would much rather have signed a treaty before losing at Waterloo.  Just as Hitler would have, in hindsight, preferred to sign peace treaties with all combatants before his invasion of the Soviet Union.  But when you wage war and lose you have little choice but to negotiate from a position of weakness.  And because the British bested the Spanish in battle Gibraltar belongs to Britain.  Just as the Spanish would be holding on to Cornwall in England if the roles were reversed.

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With their Economy in the Toilet Argentina looks once again to the Falkland Islands

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 5th, 2013

Week in Review

The Argentine economy is a basket case.  Annual inflation is estimated to be at 20-25%.  Their currency is worthless outside of Argentina.  They have strict currency controls to keep foreign currency out of the hands of their people.  The economy is depressed.  And they’re defaulting on their foreign sovereign debt obligations.  So with your nation in such a mess what is a president to do?  Why, address a burning national interest.  The Falkland Islands (see David Cameron must return Falklands to Argentina, Cristina Kirchner demands in open letter by Christopher Hope posted 1/2/2013 on The Telegraph).

In an emotional open letter to the British prime minister, Cristina Kirchner, Argentina’s president, has called on him to honour a United Nations resolution dating from 1965 and start negotiations about handing over the islands.

The letter, which was due to be published in the British national newspaper The Guardian on Thursday, is timed to mark the anniversary of when on January 3 1833, Britain took control of the islands from the Argentinians.,,

The 3000-strong population of the Falklands are overwhelmingly pro-British. The islanders are due to be asked if they want to continue to be an overseas territory of the United Kingdom at a referendum in March this year. Mr Cameron has said the UK would “respect and defend” the result of the plebiscite…

A spokesman said: “The people of the Falklands are British and have chosen to be so. They remain free to choose their own futures, both politically and economically, and have a right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter.

“This is a fundamental human right for all peoples. There are three parties to this debate, not just two as Argentina likes to pretend. The Islanders can’t just be written out of history.

The same thing happened in 1982.  When bad governing oppressed the Argentine people.  An economic crisis and an unhappy population caused the ruling junta to look to the Falklands to rally the people behind the government.  And to help the people forget how miserable their lives were so they wouldn’t rise up and over throw the ruling dictatorship.  About the only difference between now and 1982 is that the Argentines invaded the Falklands and went to war with the British.  The only difference so far, that is.  Well, that.  And the possibility of oil in the waters around the Falklands.  Which would come in real handy for a country whose economy is a basket case.

If the Argentine government got their way what would happen to the British in the Falklands?  Would they deport them?  Seize their property?  Would they install an Argentine governor to rule over the British people?  Like the Islanders say, they are a third party in this debate.   So the question is what is Argentina’s plan for them?  Perhaps the UN would be interested in hearing that.

The Argentine people will probably rally around their president for they are a proud people.  And no doubt resent past British colonialism.  But they would probably be happier with economic prosperity.  A little laissez-faire capitalism.  So they can unleash the great potential of the middle class.  To work hard and enjoy the fruit of their labors.  Instead of just working hard only to see the fruit of all their labors disappear by runaway inflation.

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Argentine Truckers go on Strike, Demand a 30% Pay Raise to offset 25% Inflation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 23rd, 2012

Week in Review

If you want to understand what’s happening in Argentina listen to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita.  It’ll give you a little bit of the flavor of the current political picture there.  A populist president.  High inflation.  High taxes.  Strong unions.  Class warfare.  And there are some who even compare Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner, Argentine president, to Eva Perón herself.  A comparison she’s not overly pleased with.  But she doesn’t mind when people compare her to the strong defiant side of Eva Perón. 

But there are reasons for these comparisons.  For her political party, the Justicialist Party, was founded by Juan and Eva Perón.  And her policies are not that far away from their policies.  Which is basically a welfare state that taxes the rich to pay for it.  And prints a lot of money.  Hence the high inflation.  Which causes a bit of a problem.  To survive during high inflation means wages have to rise just as fast.  So they can pay those high taxes.  And afford the high prices that result from inflation.  Which isn’t apparently happening for the truckers (see Argentina deploys military police in fuel strike by Hilary Burke and Jorge Otaola posted 6/20/2012 on Reuters).

Argentina’s government sent military police to take control of fuel plants and get trucks back on the road on Wednesday, the first day of a truckers’ pay strike that could cause widespread shortages in Latin America’s third-biggest economy…

Labor disputes are common in Argentina due to double-digit inflation, but the Labor Ministry normally intervenes to avoid major disruption to the economy. In this case, the truckers flouted the ministry’s order for compulsory conciliation…

Pablo Moyano’s [head of the truckers’ union] father, Hugo, used to be a close ally of the president’s but their strategic alliance has all but collapsed, increasing the threat of labor unrest as inflation seen at roughly 25 percent fuels wage demands while economic growth slows sharply…

The truckers, who have threatened to stage a series of protests, want a 30-percent pay rise as well as lower taxes.

This is the same problem all welfare states have.  High public spending requires high taxes.  High taxes reduce economic activity.  With less economic activity to tax there is less tax revenue.  So states turn to borrowing (often giving themselves excessive debt that leads to debt crises like currently in Europe).  And printing money which unleashes inflation.  Increasing prices.  Making it harder and harder for the people to make ends meet.  Which is why these truckers are on strike.

They’re asking for a 30% pay raise.  Which sounds outrageous.  But when inflation is at 25% they are only asking for a net 5% raise.  Which isn’t all that unreasonable.  But their pay raise won’t fix the economy.  Higher wages will only increase prices further.  Requiring further demands for higher wages.  Which is the viscous cycle of high inflation.  Wages chase prices.  And higher wages increase prices.

Unless they enact a little austerity things aren’t likely to improve.  Perhaps this is the reason President Kirchner is bringing up the issue of sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.  To distract from her poor economy.  Much like the ruling junta did when they invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982 to distract their people away from an even worse economy.  But there’s another thing in play today.  The possibility of oil in the waters around the Falklands.  Which is something else they could nationalize.  And pour that oil revenue into their government coffers.  Give more stuff to the people.  And be even more popular.  As long as the oil lasts.  If there is oil.  And if there isn’t, nothing changes.  Except things will probably be worse on the Falklands once they start living under that Argentine inflation.

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John Waters ashamed of Britain’s Colonial Past, wants to force the British on the Falkland Islands to become Argentine

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 3rd, 2012

Week in Review

Once again the Falkland Islands are back in the news.  And the Argentines are calling the UK pig-dog colonialists.  Again.  Why, one could say that this ongoing dispute is just Another Brick in the Wall (see Roger Waters says Falkland Islands are Argentinian in reported comments by Uki Goni posted 2/28/2012 on The Guardian).

“I am as ashamed as I possibly could be of our colonial past,” Waters is reported to have said to TVN journalist Amaro Gómez-Pablos. When asked if the islands are British or Argentinian, Waters reportedly replied: “I think they should be Argentinian.”

Actually, as an American, I’m rather ecstatic about Britain’s colonial past.  As I’m sure the Canadians are (except, perhaps, the Francophile Quebeckers).  And the Australians.  The New Zealanders.  The South Africans.  The Indians.  Sure, we didn’t always see eye to eye but look at us now.  Some of the best places to live in the world were once part of the mighty British Empire.  So even though I’ll never bow to British Royalty, I gotta tip my hat to the British.  Their agricultural advances, representative government and capitalism sure made the world a better place.

And as far as Waters’ opinion on conflict resolution, suffice it to say I’ll listen to him when David Gilmour joins him on tour.

“My view is that certainly it saved Margaret Thatcher’s political career at the time at the cost of a great many Argentine and British lives, which disgusted me then and still does now. I was never a huge fan of Margaret Thatcher,” Waters told the press conference in Chile.

Waters arrived on the heels of the American actor Sean Penn, who sparked controversy two weeks ago when he lambasted Britain for what he termed “ludicrous and archaic colonialism” in the Falklands after meeting with President Kirchner in his role as special ambassador for Haiti.

Saved Margaret Thatcher’s political career?  So the Falklands War was a political diversion?  Funny.  Because it was the Argentines who were suffering under human rights violations under a military junta and economic despair at that time.  Who invaded the Falkland Islands to divert Argentines from their despair.  Thinking the British wouldn’t fight for these islands.  The problem was, though, that those living on the islands were for all intents and purposes British.  And they wanted to remain British.  Which they still do to this day. 

The Falkland Islands were uninhabited when the British first landed there.  They claimed the islands and left.  Then the French came in and did the same.  And built a settlement.  Then the British came back.  Then the French ceded their settlement to the Spanish.  And the Spanish kicked the British out.  Then the Argentines kicked the Spanish out of Argentina.  And claimed all Spanish territory around them.  Including the islands.  Which they took.  For about a decade.  Then the British came back in 1833 and have been there ever since. 

Argentina is as much a colonial power in the Falklands as the British, the French and the Spanish.  Something that Waters and Penn simply overlook.  And the only reason Argentina is interested once again in these islands is because the British have discovered oil deposits off their shores.  Something else Waters and Penn conveniently overlook.

Which just goes to show you when it comes to geopolitics perhaps we shouldn’t listen to actors and musicians.  As good as they are in their respective fields they seem to be a bit too eager to join in on the side of the underdog just to stick it to the big dog.

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The British and Argentineans are disputing the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands Again

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 24th, 2011

Week in Review

The British are making cuts in military spending.  Could there be another Falklands War afoot?  Now that some perceive that they don’t have the strength or the reach they once had?  Perhaps (see Britain slams Argentina, vows to protect Falklands by Mohammed Abbas posted 12/23/2011 on Reuters).

Britain has controlled the South Atlantic islands, located about 300 miles off the eastern coast Argentina, since 1833. Its two-month war with Argentina in 1982 resulted in the deaths of 255 British and about 650 Argentine soldiers.

The British government says it will only agree to sovereignty talks if the territory’s 3,000 residents ask it to, and that the islanders want to remain British.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has rejected the argument as a display of “mediocrity bordering on stupidity” and earlier this year called Britain a “crass colonial power in decline” for refusing to hold talks over the islands, known as Las Malvinas in Spanish.

The residents of the Falkland Islands are British in pretty much every sense of the word.  They speak English.  Visiting British doctors provide their health care.  The Islands were uninhabited when the British first landed on them.  There have been other Europeans there but it’s been mostly British.  The 1982 Falklands War was more a diversion from floundering Argentine economic policies.  The people who live there are for all intents and purposes British.  And want to remain British.  So why are the Argentines so intent on making this British population Argentinean?

Diplomatic tensions over the islands have increased in recent years over offshore oil exploration.

Oh.  That’s why.  The money.  Some things never change.

This isn’t a colonial colony where a foreign power moved in and oppressed the local population.  Something all European nations have been guilty of.  Including Britain.  But these islands had no local population when the British moved in.  Any other people that did live there at one time or another were other colonial powers.  Yes the islands are close to Argentina geographically.  But they are closer to Britain in every other way.  And probably should stay British.  At least, if that’s what the local population wants.

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