To the rest of the world, the Falklands War may have seemed like a bizarre blip on the geopolitical radar screen. But in the Falklands (known to Argentina as "Las Islas Malvinas"), the 74-day conflict is remembered rather differently. It started on April 2, 1982, when more than 1,000 Argentine special forces landed near the capital city of Stanley, and it ended 10 weeks later when Argentina surrendered after a massive British naval task force left 649 Argentine soldiers dead. Families in both Stanley and outlying farm settlements remember that they were herded like sheep by invading Argentine forces and imprisoned in their own homes for weeks. If a settlement wasn't invaded, the Argentines simply cut off all communication and supplies.
Such memories are why Falkland Islanders still aren't very fond of the "Bloody Argies" and are less than thrilled to be back in the news, this time over an oil controversy with their former invaders.
In the past month, British exploration companies have resumed oil-drilling operations in the North Falklands Basin, where Shell estimates there may be up to 60 billion barrels of hydrocarbon deposits. (The statistic comes with a caveat: "The Falklands is a frontier area with no supporting oil industry nearby, so planning and executing drilling programs takes time," says Phyl Rendell, director of mineral resources for the Falkland Islands. "It took Newfoundland 30 years before they found commercial hydrocarbons.")
Yet even these first steps toward oil extraction by British companies have brought back into the headlines a long-standing dispute about sovereignty over the island. The issue dates back to the early 19th century, when Argentina claimed sovereignty over the archipelago. In 1833, the British, who had first established a colony in the Falklands in 1765, reasserted their own claim and the islands have been de facto under British control ever since.
On the particular issue of offshore drilling rights, in the past 15 years there have been talks between the U.K. and Argentina regarding the oil deposits; they just haven't gone anywhere. Recently, when Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, who has described the islands as "a colonial enclave and embarrassment for the 21st century," met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she implored the United States to step in and mediate the oil issue "so that we can sit down at the table and discuss sovereignty."