BUENOS AIRES — President Cristina Fernandez is framing Argentina's dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands as part of a larger campaign by Latin American leaders to oppose what they see as foreign meddling in the region's affairs.
As the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War approaches on April 2, Ms. Fernandez is increasingly describing London's claim to a territory some 8,000 miles away as a relic of British colonialism.
"The Falklands have ceased to be a cause just for Argentines to become a cause for [Latin] Americans," she said in a recent television appearance.
Britain, which has claimed the Falklands since the 18th century, defeated an Argentine invasion in 1982.
However, Ms. Fernandez is now complaining about British "militarization" of the islands 300 miles offshore and calling on London to negotiate the future of archipelago and its 3,000 inhabitants who consider themselves British.
The dispute grew more tense recently after Britain announced it would dispatch the destroyer HMS Dauntless to the Falklands and Prince William, a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter pilot, arrived on a tour of duty.
The Dauntless, due to arrive in March, is one of Britain's largest and most powerful warships.
"There is no other way to interpret the decision to send a destroyer, a huge and modern destroyer, to accompany the royal heir, whom we would have loved to see in civilian clothing instead of a military uniform," Ms. Fernandez said.
"I want to ask the British prime minister to give peace a chance. Give peace a chance, not war," she added.
Many Latin American countries have privately long supported Argentina's claim to the Falklands, known here as the Malvinas Islands, said University of Buenos Aires law professor Lilian del Castillo, who chairs the Malvinas committee of the Argentine Council for International Relations, a local think tank.
Now the issue "has left the diplomatic setting," Ms. del Castillo said.
"It's more public," she said.
Leftist leaders, notably Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, have been particularly outspoken.
Mr. Chavez, who once accused the United States of plotting to invade Venezuela's oil-rich west, has accused an "imperialist" Britain of holding the Falklands with their vast natural resources because of a depleting reserve of oil in the North Sea.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, a staunch Chavez ally, said at a summit this month that "it is time Latin America adopt sanctions against [Britain], which wants to be imperial and colonialist in the 21st century."
Even Chile, which has long had tense relations with Argentina and favored Britain in the Falklands War, is changing. Chile's conservative government said it now considers support for Argentina's claim to the Falkland a matter of "national policy."
The accusation of British colonialism is largely based on the United Nations classifying the archipelago as one of 16 "non-self-governing territories," Ms. del Castillo said.
London insists that Falkland islanders have a "right of self-determination" and want to remain part of the British Commonwealth. Most of the islands' 3,000 residents have British ancestors and hold British passports.
"The islanders don't want to have anything to do with Argentina," Ms. del Castillo said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has accused Argentina of colonialism because it wants control over a British territory.
"What the Argentinians have been saying recently, I would argue, is actually far more like colonialism because these people want to remain British and the Argentinians want them to do something else," he said in Parliament.
Domestically, meanwhile, Ms. Fernandez has tried to use the issue to change her image from a hyperpartisan politician to, in her words, "the president of [all] 40 million Argentines."
In a once-unthinkable move, she invited congressional opponents to join her for her televised address and went out of her way to praise the military, with which she has had a lukewarm relation.
Francisco de Narvaez, an opponent of the president's, insisted that her autocratic style has not changed. However, he shares her view of the Falklands as "a national cause."