Thirty years ago today, amphibious forces from Argentina landed on the Falkland Islands, forced the British local government to surrender and took control.
As a task force across the Atlantic went to action stations and prepared to steam over, in Buenos Aires crowds of Argentines showered General Leopoldo Galtieri, leading the military dictatorship, with praise.
“If they want to come,” he said, “Let them come. We’ll fight them.”
In Argentina, bloody political repression and an inability to master economic challenges had discredited the junta. Galtieri felt that reconquering the Falklands – or Malvinas – would put him back on track.
It would be a rude awakening. Britain had occupied the archipelago a hundred years before, and although only 2,000 people now inhabited it, the 1982 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher stood firm. It would cost 255 British lives and 650 Argentinean lives in the 74-day war to see the flag of Great Britain raised again over Port Stanley on 14 June.
Thatcher’s victory was Galtieri’s rout.
The junta in Buenos Aires had lost face. A democratic system returned with Raul Alfonsín elected president in 1983.
In 1990 the Falklands adversaries re-established diplomatic relations, agreeing to cooperate over fisheries and oil and gas exploration.
But sovereignty over resources reignited the dispute when Britain began issuing fishing permits, and licenced fuel prospecting last year.
Argentina riposted by convincing friendly South American countries to ban any vessel flying the British flag from their ports.
Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands, London has said it has dispatched Her Majesty’s Ship the Dauntless to the South Atlantic.