(Photo : Creative Commons/Erik Derr)
Tensions between the United Kingdom and Argentina are rising after a recent public vote showing an estimated 99 percent of those living on the Falkland Islands want to stay under British rule.
Despite near-freezing temperatures amid snow and rain, Monday's turnout for the referendum was about 92 percent out of a total 1,650 voters.
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When the final votes were tallied, all but three voted "yes" to the posed question: "Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an overseas territory of the United Kingdom?"
according to Darren Christie, public relations manager for the Falklands Islands government. Just three people voted no. Turnout was 92%.
"Speaks for itself, I think," Darren Christie, public relations manager for the Falklands Islands government, was quoted saying by CNN.
The Falkland Islands are a cluster of islands located 310 miles east of the Patagonian coast, the southernmost region of South America.
A semi-autonomous British territory, the islands at various times have been settled by the French, British, Spanish, and Argentinians, with the British re-affirming their control in 1833, though Argentina that claim has never been acknowledged by Argentina's government.
Argentina tried asserting its own claim over the Falklands --- which it calls Las Malvinas --- in 1982 by invading and trying to overthrow the government there. The so-called Falklands War lasted for two months and ended with in the surrender of all Argentinian forces and the return of the islands to British administration.
If the latest vote had gone the other way and islanders rejected continuing as British subjects, they would have held another vote to decide between their options --- which presumably would have included aligning themselves with Argentina.
The Argentinian Embassy in London said last week that the referendum had no legitimacy, describing the vote as "a further attempt by the British to manipulate the question of the Malvinas Islands."
In January, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner wrote an open letter published in the British press, calling on Britain to hand back the islands and accusing it of blatant colonialism.
"The Argentines on the Islands were expelled by the Royal Navy and the United Kingdom subsequently began a population implantation process similar to that applied to other territories under colonial rule," Fernandez de Kirchner wrote. "Since then, Britain, the colonial power, has refused to return the territories to the Argentine Republic, thus preventing it from restoring its territorial integrity."
The British government accuses Buenos Aires of coercing residents to become part of Argentina by intimidating the islands' fishing and oil exploration industries and limiting island access by sea.
British Prime Minister David Cameron implored Argentina to respect the wishes of the people of the Falklands, adding the Argentinian government should take "careful note" of the referendum's outcome --- and know Britain will always rise to defend the islanders.