Thursday, 23 June 2011

James Peck becomes Argentine, receives death threats

Son of British vet of Falkland Islands war becomes a citizen of Argentina
Source: LA Times, June 21, 2011

The son of a British veteran of the 1982 Falkland Islands war has become a citizen of Argentina, stoking tensions in the two nations' still-smoldering political dispute over the islands in the South Atlantic.

Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, personally handed newly minted citizen James Peck his Argentine identification card in a public ceremony on June 14, the 29th anniversary of the end of the Falkland war.

Peck, born on the islands, is the first Falklander to receive Argentine citizenship, reports BBC News. He said his decision to become a naturalized argentino was not politically motivated but rather a move meant to make it easier for him to see his Argentine-born children, which he discovered was difficult for him because of his British passport, reports said.

The 42-year-old artist lives in Buenos Aires and had recently separated from the mother of his children.

Peck's father fought for the British in the 10-week war that left hundreds dead on both sides after Argentina invaded the territory on April 2, 1982, under order of the then-ruling military dictatorship. Argentina still claims sovereignty over the islands, which are known as the Malvinas in Spanish.

Peck's story has played somewhat sourly in the British media, particularly since Kirchner bluntly criticized British Prime Minister David Cameron late last week.

Kirchner said Britian is "a crude colonial power in decline" and that Cameron's recent comments that the Falkland Islands should remain a British territory are an expression "of mediocrity, and almost of stupidity."

In an interview published Monday, Peck said he was unprepared for insults and the charges of treason he's received from some islanders. "I've had messages saying that if I go back I'll be shot," he said.

(L-R) the parents of Roberto Mario Fiorito (a soldier who died in combat in the Falklands War), Argentinean President, Cristina Fernandez and James Peck, 43, painter and son of a British soldier who fought in the Falklands War, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 14 June 2011.

Falklander who took Argentinian citizenship speaks out
Source: AFP– 20 June 2011.

The first Falkand Islander to accept Argentine citizenship has told a British newspaper he is shocked at the storm he has created. James Peck has been hailed a national hero by Argentina, received death threats from enraged islanders and found himself at the centre of a bitter dispute between Britain and Argentina over the islands in the South Atlantic.

"I imagined something, but it's been like I killed somebody," Peck said from his home in Buenos Aires, in an interview with The Times published on Monday.

"The whole thing has been mad."

Argentina claims sovereignty over the British-held islands and invaded them in 1982, but a British task force retook control of the archipelago after a brief war.

President Cristina Kirchner handed Peck an Argentinian national identity card on June 14 at a ceremony to mark the 29th anniversary of the conflict. Some Falkland Islanders have interpreted Peck's move as treason.

"I've had messages saying that if I go back I'll be shot," Peck said, but insisted he was not trying to make a political statement.

The 42-year-old artist said his decision was purely a practical one. He separated from his Argentine wife 18 months ago and wanted to live near his children but found that was complicated because he held a British passport. However, contrary to reports he said he had not renounced his British passport -- "unless it has been annulled in my absence", he told The Times. Peck said he had not meant to cause offence to the British soldiers who died in the conflict -- it's "not meant to insult anybody, it's not meant to insult British soldiers", he said.

"I just think that we should not be fighting and arguing any more. We're too close, we're only several hundred miles off the coast here, and I just don't think there should still be so much animosity."

Prime Minister David Cameron last week insisted there would be no negotiations with Argentina on the sovereignty of the Falklands "full stop". Cameron's comments drew an angry response from Kirchner, who described them as a "gesture of mediocrity" and "almost of stupidity".