Argentine generals renew claim to Falklands on invasion anniversary
Argentine military officers want the world to know that they have no intention of slackening their demands for the Falkland Islands. As the anniversary of last year's ill-fated April 2 seizure of the British islands by Argentine military forces passed, military commanders renewed their commitment to ultimate ''restitution of the islands to our national sovereignty.''
Those words were backed up by the dispatch April 2 of two squadrons of Argentine Air Force jets toward the 150-mile restrictive zone established by the British around the South Atlantic islands.
British Phantom jets and Harrier jump jets scrambled to the defense as the Argentine planes were tracked on radar.
But just as the Argentine jets were about to enter the zone, their pilots veered off and returned home.
It was one more in a series of Argentine acts of harassment, apparently designed to nettle the British forces on the islands and to keep up the pressure on the British government in London to cede the islands to Argentina.
Although the Argentine military has launched a $5 billion weapons acquisition program, there is little likelihood it will launch a new conflict with Britain this year or next. The military, and the nation itself, simply is not prepared for new combat.
Still, Argentina fiercely proclaims the islands belong to it but have been held illegally by Britain since 1833.
''It is time to end the nonsense of British rule,'' said a speaker at a Buenos Aires rally on ''Malvinas Day,'' April 2. ''We will launch a new invasion and take over the islands once and for all.''
April 2 was declared a national holiday by Argentina's military rulers.
Fiery rhetoric about Argentine claims to the islands is nothing new. At the height of last year's fervor, the blue and white Argentine flag and bunting were put up all over the nation - and rallies and demonstrations were called to support ''our valiant troops in the Malvinas (the Argentine name for the islands).''
A national campaign to collect money, jewels, and other valuables to support ''our boys on the Malvinas'' was begun - and it netted close to $20 million. That, however, was only a small fraction of what the war cost - some $5 billion.
Postage stamps commemorating April 2 were issued. Newspapers carried blue and white messages on their front pages feting the day. Radio and television issued a barrage of patriotic messages.
But appearances and even the military pronouncements may be deceptive.
There is no doubt most Argentines would like the islands incorporated into their territory. But only a small minority appear really to want a war to get them.
In fact, opinion surveys suggest that the majority of Argentines now think it was folly to have seized the islands last year, and wish that the military rulers would try to resolve the nation's economic chaos.