Margaret Thatcher has died at 87.
Obviously, British & diplomatic historians have more of her career to consider, but it’s not without it’s Latin American element. As others will also note, in 1982, the Argentine military dictatorship tried to finally assert its claim to the Malvinas/Falklands island in an attempt to drum up nationalist fervor in a country growing critical of the use of repression and economic policy of the dictatorship. Of course, Thatcher herself was facing criticisms at home over harsh anti-labor policies and economic plans, and thus used the islands to drum up her own nationalist support. Ultimately, the British handily defeated the Argentine military in the Malvinas/Falklands War, further discrediting the ruling military junta, which was responsible for the torture and murder of its own soldiers in the brief war itself. Overall, over 600 Argentines and 200 British forces died during the war; within a year, the disgraced dictatorship had fallen, Argentina had returned to democracy, and soon thereafter, those responsible for the torture, murder, and disappearance of 30,000 were on trial for crimes against humanity. Thus, in many ways, while not the sole deciding factor, the war between the military government and Thatcher’s navy was a key moment in the history of the Argentine dictatorship.
To be clear, one cannot give all, or even most, of the credit to Thatcher – she certainly didn’t have such a long view of her response at the time, and the Argentine people (and even the military itself) played a far greater role in the end of the dictatorship. Nonetheless, her nationalist policies, while problematic in their own ways, had important if unexpected consequences, and so Thatcher’s England is a part of the history of Argentina’s military dictatorship and it’s downfall, and her legacy in Argentina is indeed a complicated one.