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Falklands War: Why the battle continues 30 years later (+video)

Some 30 years after the Falklands War, Prince William's deployment and the recent discovery of oil have increased attention on the battle between Argentina and the UK for control of the islands.

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“The act of sending us [to fight in the Falklands] was in itself a crime against humanity,” Mr. Savage says at his home in Venado Tuerto, a dusty town of 80,000 people in Santa Fe province. “I was a conscript sent to swell the numbers. I’d had just one day of rifle training.”

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Argentina’s unprepared forces, which lost 649 men, surrendered on June 14, 1982. Two weeks ago, Ms. Kirchner’s government declassified the long-awaited Rattenbach Report, which analyzes the Argentine defeat. It confirms Mr. Savage’s testimony, explaining that many conscripts received no basic combat training and faced “serious malnutrition.”

The atrocities of Dirty War – during which up to 30,000 people were "disappeared" by the military dictatorship in Argentina between 1976 and 1983 – were extended to the Falklands, where conscripts were abused. “We went to the Falklands with the same guys that were torturing civilians in the 70s,” says Savage, whose commanding officer at the Battle of Mount Longdon, Carlos Carrizo Salvadores, was arrested last year for crimes against humanity.

“We were starving in the trenches,” says Savage, who lost 45 pounds during the conflict. More than 100 veterans of the Falklands War have testified against their officers since 2005 when Néstor Kirchner, the former Argentine president, repealed amnesty laws protecting military officials accused of human rights violations.

Today, Mr. Savage is supportive of President Kirchner’s position on the Falklands and much of Argentina seems to back the cause. Yesterday, referees at two Argentine soccer games wore shirts imprinted with the slogan “The Malvinas are Argentine” – a phrase also graffitied on walls across Buenos Aires. Veterans were paraded on the field before the games carrying banners with the same message and anti-British chants rained down from the stands.

While another invasion is out the question, Ms. Kirchner will continue to push Argentina’s claim to the Falklands. Mr. Cameron says sovereignty is non-negotiable, while Kirchner – who has accrued the support of Hugo Chávez, Sebastián Piñera, and Ollanta Humala, the Venezuelan, Chilean, and Peruvian presidents respectively – launched a formal complaint at the UN over the issue and says her government will take legal action against British companies involved in drilling for oil around the Islands.

“If there were no resources, the UK would not be defending the Islands,” says Mr. Savage. “[Ms. Kirchner] is just going with the law under her arm and persistently asking for dialogue."

Thirty years on from war, the conflict over sovereignty needs to be resolved, says Savage. He says before the British arrived, there was an Argentine gaucho population on the island, and the islanders’ present-day descendants do not have the right to self-determination. “There should be a civilized handover of the Falklands to Argentina,” Savage says.

IN PICTURES – Much ado about the Falklands

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