The Falkland Islands government (referred to as the Malvinas Islands in much of Latin America) announced Tuesday that it is planning a referendum next year to decide its political future. In early 2013, some 1,500 registered islanders will decide whether to remain a British Overseas Territory or become Argentine land. The announcement comes during a period of high tension between Argentina and the United Kingdom, due in part to the thirtieth anniversary of the end of the Falklands War on Thursday.
Government officials from the Falkland Island and UK seemed confident that voters—all of whom are British citizens—will choose to maintain being part of the United Kingdom. “I have no doubt that the people of the Falklands wish for the islands to remain a self-governing Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom,” said Gavin Short, chairman of the Falklands Legislative Assembly. British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the UK would support the result of the referendum and accused Argentina of obstructing “islanders’ ability to speak for themselves.”
Given the pro-UK sentiment that pervades the Falklands, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is pursuing alternative mechanisms to challenge Britain sovereignty. Last week, the Argentine government launched criminal proceedings against five UK oil firms that are operating off the Falkland’s coastline on the basis that they were operating illegally. Kirchner is also scheduled to attend a meeting of the UN Special Committee on Decolonization in New York on Thursday to bolster support for Argentina’s claim to the islands.