''Although all of us have no doubt that the Malvinas are Argentine, no islands are worth the cost in human tragedy. We want a return to democracy.''
So says Maria Carpani, an exiled Argentine economist in Madrid who works as a keyboard operator in a Madrid newspaper. She is speaking of the Falkland Islands , which her former country seized April 2.
Although Ms. Carpani, an assumed name, has gradually lost contact with left-wing Argentine political groups since she arrived in Spain in 1976 and no longer considers herself an activist, her feelings and anguish are typical of most Argentines in Spain. Most estimates put the number of Argentines in Spain at 60,000 to 100,000, but Peronist groups say there are as many as 300,000.
After Brazil, Spain plays host to the largest number of expatriate Argentines. Most of them consider themselves exiles.
Some have left Argentina to look for better economic opportunities.
There are numerous Argentine organizations in Spain, ranging in political orientation from social democratic parties and Peronist groups to left-wing parties. The largest and most politically comprehensive group is the Argentine Commission for Human Rights (CADHU), which is based in Madrid and has delegates in Europe and South America. Members include intellectuals, ex-parliament representatives, and public personalities.
CADHU was the first to denounce the invasion of the Falklands, terming it a desperate and suicidal distraction technique of the military dictatorship.
Eduardo Duhalde, general secretary of CADHU, explained, ''We don't argue about sovereignty of the islands, but they are not vital to Argentines. Since 1976 when the junta seized power, Argentina hasn't been a sovereign nation.''
''We want to recover sovereignty of Argentina itself as a democratic country. This is not a war of the Argentine people, but of the junta: In addition to the 10,000 dead and 30,000 missing, the junta is responsible for the casualties caused by the war,'' he asserted.
CADHU demands an immediate cease-fire and an internationally negotiated settlement. It condemns any use of force by either Argentina or Britain as well as economic boycotts by the European Community or Venezuela's proposed blockade.
Most other political Argentine groups here hold similar views. But the Peronists (Agrupacion Eva Peron) insist that Argentine sovereignty over the islands is not negotiable. They support the recovery of the islands but not the dictatorship, and demand the withdrawal of the British.
''Both sides are using the war to solve their own internal problems,'' explained Carlos Aznares, a member of the Peronist group and editor of Resumen, a magazine for political exiles. ''But, on the positive side, a door has been opened in the dictatorship. Political terrain has been gained.''
In contrast to the Montoneros, who have asked for political amnesty to go back to Argentina to help fight (amnesty was denied), some extreme left-wing groups suggest that democracy may come to Argentina via the British. The philosophy is basically ''anything that gets rid of (Gen. Leopoldo) Galtieri is good,'' explained a former left-winger.
But most Argentines here are categorically against the war. Just last week a broadly based movement against the South Atlantic war had a manifesto with 500 signatures published in the Madrid daily El Pais. It denounced the war and the dictatorship.
At the other extreme, Argentine fascist Jorge Cesarsky, who has been jailed for two years for shooting and killing a youth during a political rally, claims to be organizing a group to attack British targets anywhere in Europe, should the British attack Argentine civilians.