- - Wednesday, February 1, 2012

MALVINAS ARGENTINAS, ARGENTINA Tensions between the United Kingdom and Argentina increased Wednesday as Britain’s Prince William deployed to the Falkland Islands a day after London announced it was sending a powerful warship to the contested archipelago.

Pictures of Britain’s HMS Dauntless were splashed across the front pages of national newspapers here, and a Foreign Ministry communique dubbed William, a helicopter pilot in the Royal Air Force, a “conquistador.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, a 74-day conflict in which British forces expelled invading Argentine troops from the islands. More than 900 troops died, less than a third of them British.

Anger had been building in recent weeks in Buenos Aires over comments made Jan. 18 by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who accused Argentina of “colonialism” in its claim to sovereignty over the Falklands.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez described Mr. Cameron’s views as “mediocrity bordering on stupidity,” saying the prime minister was upping the ante on the islands to divert attention from Britain’s economic woes.

In 1833, Britain took control of the islands, which Argentines call the Malvinas.

The 1982 war was widely viewed as a strategically flawed, last-ditch effort by the Argentine military junta to cling to power.

Still, Argentina is dotted with memorials to the “heroes of the South Atlantic,” and everything from streets and stadiums to an entire county are named after the islands.

“Who wouldn’t care about them?” asked Juan Castillo, 68, a resident of Malvinas Argentinas.

What makes the Falklands important beyond the issue of national pride, he said, is their natural resources.

Last year, in a similar war of words, Argentina chastised the United Kingdom for drilling for oil near the islands, which sit about 250 miles from the Argentine shore.

“As an Argentine, it hurts,” Mr. Castillo said. “I would like for [the Falklands] to be ours.”

Not everyone here agrees.

The government’s heated rhetoric “is the same as what happened in ‘82,” said Marta, a 48-year-old shopkeeper who didn’t want to give her last name for fear of sounding “unpatriotic.”

She said leaders in Buenos Aires are using the issue to “cover up” issues including unemployment and poverty.

Verbal jabs between Britain and Argentina are common and often have served to distract the public from domestic issues, something James Neilson, former editor-in-chief of the English-language Buenos Aires Herald, once dubbed the “Falklandization” of Argentine politics.

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