Monthly Archives: March 2012

Canada.com – Defence ministers turn guns on drug cartels

by Jeff Davis

Canada, the United States and Mexico resolved Tuesday to boost efforts to curb the bloody drug war that has claimed the lives of 150,000 Mexicans in the first-ever trilateral meeting of North American defence ministers.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay held two days of security cooperation talks in Ottawa with U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, Mexican Secretary of Defence Gen. Guillermo Galvan and Mexican Secretary of the Navy Adm. Mariano Saynez Mendoza.

MacKay said the war with Mexico’s drugs cartels has become a major concern for Canada.

“If it’s a problem for Mexico, it’s a problem for Canada,” he said. “We have over a million Canadian citizens that go to Mexico annually, and a number of citizens who make their second home in Mexico.”

Galvan gave a detailed briefing on the drug war ravaging his country which Panetta said is now generating “tremendous violence.”

“The number the Mexican officials mentioned is 150,000 who have died because of the violence, largely among these cartels in Mexico,” Panetta said.

Mexico is facing a “colossally huge” threat from the drugs cartels, Galvan told media. The cartels are fighting primarily for control of the smuggling routes used to move their product north to lucrative markets in the U.S. and Canada, he said.

The vast flow of money and guns from north of the border is fuelling the fire, he said.

The corrupting influence of the cartels is such that civil law enforcement agencies can no longer be trusted, Galvan said.

“The armed forces participate in that struggle precisely because no other agency in the government could face the drug traffickers at this time,” he said. “They will have to continue participating in this struggle until we have a professional and trustworthy law enforcement in the country.”

The three NAFTA partners will increase intelligence exchanges and security cooperation on land and sea to confront the cartels, MacKay said.

“Quite frankly, these cartels don’t recognize borders, they don’t recognize nationalities,” he said.

Panetta said the U.S. is prepared to use whatever means necessary to bust up the cartels.

“We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure that ultimately we cannot only weaken, but end this threat to our people,” he said.

Canada and the United States have regularly held bilateral defence meetings for decades, but this marks the first time Mexico has been included in a regular forum.

This being the first trilateral meeting, few tangible policy resolutions were agreed upon by the three parties.

Click here for original article: http://www.canada.com/Defence+ministers+turn+guns+drug+cartels/6368833/story.html

Military & Aerospace – Peru upgrades air defense with $140M plan

March 21, 2012

Peru has embarked on a much-delayed modernization of its air defense system and awarded a $140 million contract to an international consortium of military suppliers.

The Latin America country isn’t in any conflict with neighbors but faces an increasingly violent threat from what the security agencies call “narcoterroists.”

The category covers a range of criminal and militant groups engaged in drug smuggling to finance their continuing operations, following orders from more powerful gangs or simply using militancy as a source of livelihood in the impoverished Amazon region.

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala announced extensive military reforms last year and signed approvals for major upgrades to military inventories, including naval units that play an increasing role combating activity along the cocaine trail to North America.

Naval missile systems, trainer aircraft and helicopters are all on the president’s shopping list.

A consortium of Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the Polish Bumar Group and Northrop Grumman of the United States won the $140 million contract to supply an air defense system.

Northrop will deliver three AN/TPS-78 radars with a range of 270 miles and Rafael will supply Spyder short-range and medium-range surface-to-air systems fitted with Python 5 and Derby beyond-visual-range missiles.

Bumar will deliver six Poprad self-propelled air defense systems and 150 Grom surface-to-air missile launchers with a range of about 3 miles, the Bumar group said in a statement issued in Warsaw.

The latter two missile systems are also used by the Polish army.

“The complete air defense system is scheduled for delivery to the Peruvian armed forces in 24 months after the contract is signed,” the Bumar statement said.

Other bidders for the Peruvian contract included Russia’s leading arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, and a consortium of Chinese defense manufacturers.

The Peruvian military initially invited bids from some 20 defense companies, Bumar said.

Upgrades to Peruvian naval assets were reported earlier.

Italian-built Lupo class frigates form the high-end of Peru’s naval defenses, with eight of the 3,000-ton Carvajal class ships said to be in service with varying stages of operational efficiency.

Four of the vessels were built under license from 1984-87, while the second batch of four frigates was decommissioned by the Italian navy and sold to Peru in 2004-06.

Most of the upgrades are likely to affect the second batch of the ships, which includes the fourth ship bearing the name BAP Bolognesi, named in honor of Peruvian military hero Francisco Bolognesi. The first ship, Almirante Grau class cruiser BAP Coronel Bolognesi, was commissioned in 1907.

Like the air defense modernization, the naval upgrade is part of an overall strategy to build defenses against increasingly sophisticated and heavily armed drug gangs. Peru is the world’s largest producer of coca, which is used to produce cocaine.

The upgrades to the BAP Bolognesi (FM-57), commissioned in 2006, will add new electronics, radar and decoy countermeasures to ship’s arsenal. Some reports said Peru might also replace the Italian Otomat anti-ship missiles on the frigates with French Exocet MM40 Block III missiles.

Last year the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said Peru asked to buy four NATO Sea Sparrow MK57 MOD 10 systems that will replace its existing MOD 2 systems mounted above the helicopter hangar on the four ex-Italian ships from the second batch. The vessels include FM 55-58: BAP Aguirre, BAP Palacios, BAP Quinones besides BAP Bolognesi.

The agency, in its notification to U.S. Congress, said the $50 million sale will “improve Peru’s capability to meet current and future threats of enemy anti-ship weapons,” the agency said. “Peru will use the enhanced capability of the MK57 MOD 10 NSSMS on its four Lupo class frigates purchased from Italy in 2004.”

The frigates have MK57 MOD 2 NATO Seasparrow Systems modified to fire the Aspide air defense missile. The systems retain the ability to fire the RIM-7 Seasparrow missile and Peru intends to move from the Aspide missile to the RIM-7 Seasparrow in a future purchase.

Peru already has MK 57 Missile Systems and will have no difficulty absorbing the additional systems into its inventory, the agency said.

Raytheon Technical Service Co. and Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems are among contractors for the system.

Humala is trying to calm coca growers as he implements new defenses against cocaine traders. Coca growing is an ancient tradition in Peru. Humala is the latest Peruvian head of state to confront the challenge of severing the link between traditional coca agriculture and cocaine production.

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Economist – Opposing worlds: A climate of nationalist agitation

AS THE 30th anniversary of Argentina’s short-lived invasion of the Falkland Islands approaches, President Cristina Fernández continues to ratchet up the pressure in pursuit of her demand for talks with Britain about what her country calls the Malvinas. The industry minister, Débora Georgi, has called on Argentine companies to stop sourcing imports from Britain. Authorities in Ushuaia turned away two cruise ships, with several thousand tourists on board, because they had called at the Falklands. And under the guise of an offer to launch scheduled flights from Buenos Aires, Ms Fernández threatened to withdraw permission for a weekly commercial flight by LAN Chile from Punta Arenas which crosses Argentine airspace.

The government defends all this as a response to what it says is Britain’s “militarisation” of the south Atlantic, with the dispatch of the Royal Navy’s newest destroyer and of Prince William, as a helicopter pilot. Britain says these are routine missions, and refuses to comment on an Argentine claim that a nuclear submarine is in the vicinity.

Even if some Argentines believe that Ms Fernández is using the issue to distract attention from approaching economic problems, most back the demand for sovereignty over the islands, which have been a British territory since 1833. The only sign of dissent came in a thoughtful open letter published last month by 17 writers and academics, who criticised “a climate of nationalist agitation”, pointed out that the issue bears little relation to the country’s main problems, and called on Argentina to accept the rights of the islanders to self-determination. They were greeted by a barrage of insults and death threats.

The islanders, who want to stay British, are stoical about the Argentine measures. A shortage of eggs did not last long. Most islanders keep chickens and grow their own vegetables in their gardens and greenhouses. Staples that they cannot produce, such as milk and rice, arrive by ship from Chile. The economy is more buoyant than it was in 1982, thanks to the sale of fishing licences and tourism.

Ms Fernández has forsworn the use of force to retake the islands. Even if she had not, Argentina’s depleted armed forces would struggle to overcome the British garrison of 1,300 troops backed by four Typhoon jets. (But Britain would now find it hard to oust a better-equipped invader.)

If the deepwater drilling now proceeding around the islands reveals significant quantities of oil, that might prompt Ms Fernández to attempt a full-scale economic blockade. And in a continent that is imbued with resource nationalism, and which backs Argentina’s claim, this might be rather more effective than Britain is prepared to admit.

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PJ Media – The Mullahs in the Americas

by JAIME DAREMBLUM. 

Has the danger of Iranian activity in Latin America been exaggerated? It seems odd that serious analysts are asking such a question, given Tehran’s 32-year record of sponsoring terrorism, killing Americans, aiding rogue dictators, and undermining democracy across the globe. But since many commentators are now arguing that Iran’s hemispheric threat has been overblown, it’s worth reviewing a few basic facts.

In October, we learned that Iranian agents had been plotting with Mexican gangsters to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington at a D.C. restaurant. The foiled scheme spoke volumes about Tehran’s capacity for lethal aggression, not to mention its disregard for the most basic norms of international behavior. As Iran expert Reuel Marc Gerecht said at the time, the assassination plan indicated that the regime “is becoming more dangerous, not less, as it ages.”

But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Saudi plot was an aberration, and that Iran generally has no intention of using its Latin American connections to launch terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Even under that excessively optimistic scenario, Tehran’s hemispheric activity would still be a major concern, for three reasons.

Second: Whether or not Iranian proxies eventually target the U.S. homeland, the growth of Tehran’s hemispheric footprint has unquestionably provided a boon to terrorist groups. Four years ago, Treasury announced that the Venezuelan government had been “employing and providing safe harbor to Hezbollah facilitators and fundraisers.” The Chávez regime also has extensive links to Colombian narco-terrorists (the FARC), links that were documented in a 2011report by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. As Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens has written, “Hezbollah’s ties to Latin American drug traffickers serve as a major source of funding for its operations world-wide.” Last summer, Peru’s former military chief of staff told the Jerusalem Post that Iranian organizations were collaborating with other terror groups in South America. A few months ago, the Washington Post confirmed that Tehran has stocked its (growing number of) embassies and diplomatic missions in Latin America with members of the paramilitaryQuds Force, which was allegedly responsible for the Saudi assassination plot.

We don’t have to speculate about Iran’s willingness to carry out a terror attack in a Latin American country. Two decades ago, in March 1992, Tehran orchestrated a Hezbollah bombing at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29. Then, in July 1994, Iranian agents conspired with Hezbollah to bomb a Jewish community center in the Argentine capital, killing 85. So you can understand why Latin American governments are deeply concerned about Iran’s burgeoning regional presence in general and its alliance with Chávez in particular. Memories of the Buenos Aires atrocities are still relatively fresh.

Third: The Iranian push into Latin America has already damaged regional stability and exacerbated geopolitical tensions. For example, it has augmented the enormous Venezuelan military buildup, which is being financed mainly by Russia and is threatening to unleash a regional arms race. Last spring, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that the Iranians were constructing rocket bases in Venezuela. Earlier this month, according to the U.S. News & World Report blogDOTMIL, the head of U.S. Southern Command, Gen. Douglas Fraser, told reporters that Tehran is also hoping to build military drones for Caracas — specifically, “fairly limited-capacity” unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). “I would put it in the Scan Eagle class of UAV,” said General Fraser. It was just a few years ago that Chávez was sending thousands of troops to the Colombian border and talking of a possible war. Imagine how much more aggressive his regime might be with sophisticated Iranian weaponry.

Speaking of aggression, many commentators still assume that Iran would be wary of conducting terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. But is that really a safe assumption? As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee in late January, the Saudi assassination plot suggests that “some Iranian officials — probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.” We might also observe that Iran and Venezuela were recentlyaccused of considering cyber-attacks against the United States.

On March 7, Vice President Joe Biden told CNN en Español that “Iran will not be able to pose a hemispheric threat to the United States.” Indeed, Biden offered a “guarantee” that this would not happen. We can only hope the Obama administration reinforces that guarantee, not with more words but with a robust strategy for countering Iranian activity in Latin America.

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PJ – Argentina’s Slow-Motion Disaster

by
JAIME DAREMBLUM

Whenever Argentina starts rattling sabers over the British Falkland Islands, it’s a surefire sign that the South American country is experiencing some type of domestic turmoil. So it comes as no surprise that President Cristina Kirchner has responded to high inflation and massive capital flight by picking a diplomatic fight with London over a sparsely inhabited archipelago that has been a U.K. possession since 1833. While Kirchner, thankfully, has not launched a military conflict — as the Galtieri dictatorship did in 1982, shortly before it collapsed — she has been escalating her rhetoric in hopes of stoking nationalist sentiment and distracting attention from concerns at home. Next month marks the 30th anniversary of the 1982 war, so the time is especially ripe for a fresh round of bellicosity.

American observers should not be fooled: The ongoing diplomatic row between London and Buenos Aires is nothing more than a political smokescreen designed to benefit Buenos Aires. Kirchner would rather have Argentines railing against British “colonialism” than railing against their own government, which has become an international embarrassment.

Just look at the (almost comical) dispute over Argentina’s real inflation rate. Kirchner insists that inflation remains in the single digits. But it’s now painfully clear that her government has been systemically doctoring official inflation data for years. (This practice actually began under Kirchner’s late husband, Néstor, who preceded her as president.) Last month,The Economist announced that it would no longer be publishing those data, saying in an editorial, “We are tired of being an unwilling party to what appears to be a deliberate attempt to deceive voters and swindle investors.” Instead of relying on bogus numbers produced by Buenos Aires, the venerable newsweekly will be using inflation estimates from PriceStats, an independent firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. PriceStats calculates that annual inflation in Argentina is now over 24 percent, and that the country’s cumulative inflation since 2007 has been a staggering 137 percent.

Kirchner refuses to acknowledge just how high inflation has soared, and her allies have been tormenting any writers, editors, economists, or statisticians who dare to report the truth. Last September, for example, Judge Alejandro Catania subpoenaedvarious Argentine newspapers, demanding they hand over the contact information of journalists who cover economic issues. He also began harassing the International Monetary Fund office in Argentina, ordering it to disclose the names of private consultants who had been supplying the institution with legitimate inflation figures. Such harassment prompted the American Statistical Association to call for the United Nations “to safeguard those targeted from further harm.” On February 1, the IMF executive board gave Argentina 180 days to improve the quality of its official inflation and GDP figures, “with a view to bringing the quality of the data into compliance with the obligation under the Articles of Agreement.”

The steep rise in inflation — and Kirchner’s disturbingly autocratic response to it — has exacerbated capital flight, whichjumped from $11.4 billion in 2010 to $21.5 billion last year. While it slowed a bit in the fourth quarter of 2011, thanks to new government controls, Argentina’s third-quarter outflow “was the most since the central bank began issuing the quarterly reports in 2002,” according to MercoPress.

Meanwhile, many Argentines are still fuming over the tragic February 22 train accident that killed 51 people in Buenos Aires. Reports indicate that the accident was caused by official neglect. Argentina’s auditor general has said it was entirely preventable. So why didn’t the government take action sooner against the railway company that caused the crash? Blame corruption in general and the Kirchners (both Cristina and Néstor) in particular. “Over the past eight years,” notedone Argentina-based journalist, “the Kirchner government has repeatedly turned a blind eye to the deteriorating rail network, pumping millions of dollars into the system while demanding little in the way of upgrades or safety improvements in return.”

To be sure, Cristina Kirchner easily won reelection last October, garnering more than 54 percent of the vote. But she was competing against a weak and divided opposition, and in many ways she bought her victory through lavish, fiscally irresponsible government subsidies. “Irresponsible” is the best description of her economic policies, which include foolishimport restrictions aimed at protecting Argentina’s foreign-exchange reserves. (Automakers such as BMW and Porsche have been forced to start exporting other products, including meat, leather, rice, and wine, in return for import permits from the Argentine government.) Don’t be misled by commodity-driven GDP growth: Kirchner is accelerating her country’s relative economic decline — which, admittedly, began long ago.

That decline is nothing short of remarkable. On the eve of World War I, Argentina was richer than France and Germany. But after World War II, it entered a period of populism and dictatorship, punctuated by political violence and hyperinflation. The Galtieri regime fell shortly after Argentina’s defeat in the 1982 Falklands war, but the return of democracy was not enough to help the country escape another episode of hyperinflation in 1989. Nor was it enough to prevent a historic debt default in late 2001.

According to the narrative promoted by Kirchner and her left-wing supporters, Argentina’s default was a result of free-market economic policies. But that’s nonsense. As journalist Michael Reid has explained, “What killed Argentina’s economy in 2001 was not ‘neoliberalism’ or the free-market reforms, but a fiscal policy incompatible with the exchange-rate regime, and a lack of policy flexibility.” Indeed, the policy mix that triggered the crisis “was in direct contravention of the Washington Consensus.”

Today, after several years of appallingly bad economic mismanagement, Argentina is facing yet another looming crisis. For now, high commodity prices are camouflaging a slow-motion disaster. But those prices won’t stay high forever. And in thewords of Daily Telegraph commentator Jeremy Warner, the country “is once more an economic basket case.” Sooner or later, its next crisis will erupt.

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Click here to read it in Spanish.

FP – Brazil’s New Swagger

South America’s emerging superpower is coming into its own. But with great power comes great responsibility.

BY DAVID ROTHKOPF | FEBRUARY 28, 2012

While America’s halting path toward accepting the world’s new multipolar reality involves a step backward for every step forward, an exceptionalist violation of sovereignty for every bit of teamwork in places like Libya, other countries are actively working to establish new rules for all nations to follow in the new era.

Among those at the forefront of this effort are Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her highly regarded foreign minister, Antonio Patriota. He was in New York last week to advance this effort at the United Nations, and we sat down for lunch together.

The challenge facing Rousseff and Patriota as public servants is a daunting one. Each follows in the footsteps of a formidable predecessor. Admittedly, Rousseff’s challenge is much greater and indeed, to many, seems almost insurmountable. She succeeds two presidents who were arguably the most important in her country’s modern history, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who is credited with stabilizing the country’s economy after years of volatility, and her immediate predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, not only her mentor but one of a tiny handful of the world’s most important leaders of the past decade. But Patriota’s predecessor, Celso Amorim, was also formidable, extremely influential, and a fixture on the Brazilian and international scenes. The bar was set high for her entire administration.

Nonetheless, after over a year in office, despite facing great domestic and international challenges, Rousseff has already earned a higher popularity rating than did Lula at a similar point in his tenure. And Patriota is quietly and, in the eyes of close observers, with great deftness, building on Amorim’s groundbreaking work to establish Brazil as a leader among the world’s major powers.

“We have a great advantage,” notes Patriota. “We have no real enemies, no battles on our borders, no great historical or contemporary rivals among the ranks of the other important powers … and long-standing ties with many of the world’s emerging and developed nations.” This is a status enjoyed by none of the other BRICs — China, India, and Russia — nor, for that matter, by any of the world’s traditional major powers.

This unusual position is strengthened further by the fact that Brazil is not investing as heavily as other rising powers in military capabilities. Indeed, as Tom Shannon, the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, has noted, the country is one of the few to effectively stake its future on the wise application of soft power — diplomacy, economic leverage, common interests. It’s surely no coincidence that, in areas from climate change to trade, from nonproliferation to development, Brazil under Lula and Amorim and under Rousseff and Patriota has been gaining strength by translating steady growth at home and active diplomacy abroad into effective international networks.

But Rousseff’s administration is also breaking with the past. Whereas Cardoso and Lula achieved greatness by addressing and solving some of the most bedeviling problems of Brazil’s past, fromstabilizing the economy to addressing social inequality, Rousseff, while still cognizant of the work that remains to be done, has also turned her attention to creating opportunities and a clear path forward for Brazil’s future. From her focus on education to her commitment to science and technology through innovative programs like “Science Without Borders,” she is doing something that no Latin American leader has done before but that has been a proven formula in Asia. She is committed to moving Brazil from being a resource-based and thus dependent (which is to say vulnerable) economy to one that counts more for future growth on value-added industries, research and development, and educating more scientists and engineers.

Building upon this, Patriota is also looking ahead. He is moving beyond the era in Brazil’s foreign policy when it was groundbreaking to have the country look outside its region and play an active role in global affairs to a period, not too many years from now, when Brazil, as a country with one of the world’s five largest economies and populations, as a world leader in agribusiness and energy, is unhesitatingly assumed to deserve its place at the table.

Patriota was in New York because he thought that one of the first experiments of this era, the U.N.-sanctioned intervention in Libya, went off the tracks when the United Nations’ mandate mission of protecting the Libyan people was set aside by the international forces that intervened and became instead a mission of regime change. He was no fan of Muammar al-Qaddafi, rest assured. But he does have an unwavering sense that if the international community is to work effectively together it must do so under rules that it not only collectively establishes but that are also collectively honored.

Inevitably, this approach ruffles feathers, especially among countries like the United States that are used to operating by their own set of rules. It’s one reason that the 2010 Brazilian-Turkish initiative to cut a deal to defuse the Iranian nuclear crisis was so galling to Washington. The move, however naive many found it, anticipated the beginning of an era in which regional and emerging powers, like Turkey with Syria or China with Iran, are central to achieving the goals of the international community.

Patriota acknowledges that the United States, under Barack Obama, and other established powers have gone a long way toward adapting to this new reality. That said, he’d like to see Obama go further. For example, the Brazilians have been among those emerging powers pressing for real reform in the way international institutions are led. They think that the post-World War II order reflected in the power structure of the U.N. Security Council and in the automatic awarding of the leadership of the World Bank to an American is outdated and it is time for something that reflects 21st-century realities and is more consistent with the democratic principles on which these institutions were established.

It’s hard to argue with the Brazilians or others on these points. And the inconsistency shown by the Obama administration on this front — offering to support Indian but not Brazilian permanent membership on the Security Council, once seeming amenable to opening the World Bank top job to a non-American, more recently seeming to back away from this idea — has been galling and, I would argue, ill-considered.

What Rousseff and Patriota are trying to do on the international front is, in fact, every bit as revolutionary as what their predecessors have done. They understand that successful multilateralism now requires not just large numbers of countries but openness to a multitude of ideas. During the Cold War, the debate was binary: Soviets or Americans? In its wake there was the brief delusion that we had entered an end-of-history moment in which a Washington Consensus-led philosophy of markets and democracy had earned a kind of monopoly status in the marketplace of ideas. But then came the hubris-born twin tragedies of Iraq and the 2008 financial crisis, the simultaneous rise of new powers like Brazil, China, India, and others — and we have entered a new era. In my new book,Power, Inc., I refer to the economic side of this era as a period of competing capitalisms. But it is also a period of competing political philosophies, about the role of both state and international institutions. In that world, not only is the United States but one voice, but it is a diminished voice and one that should in any event be heard as merely the views of something under 5 percent of the planet’s population.

At the same time, others must fill the void created by the resizing of U.S. influence. Brazil is attempting to do so and, it must be noted, in a way that is considerably more constructive than that evidenced by China and Russia in their pusillanimous performance regarding Syria in the Security Council. That said, emerging powers, Brazil included, must come to recognize that in this new world, if they are to play bigger roles, they are also going to have to make hard choices and not simply shrug off the complex issues as someone else’s problem or as being beyond the reach of the evolving international system. They’re increasingly going to have to accept that if wrongs go unchecked, the resulting costs will be laid at their doorstep.

The Telegraph – Britain accuses Argentina of a ‘policy of confrontation’ after it threatens blockade on UK goods

Britain accused Argentina of a “policy of confrontation” and summoned one of the country’s diplomats after Buenos Aires threatened to blockade British imports.

Argentina’s industry minister called for British imports to be banned, in the latest attempt to compel Britain to negotiate over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands as tension rises ahead of the 30th anniversary of the 1982 war.

Britain responded by summoning Osvaldo Marsico, charge d’affaires at the Argentine embassy in London, to receive a formal protest at the Foreign Office. “We made clear that such actions against legitimate commercial activity were a matter of concern not just for the UK, but for the European Union as a whole, and that we expect the EU to lodge similar concerns with Argentine authorities,” said a Foreign Office spokesman.

Debora Giorgi, Argentina’s industry minister, had urged business leaders on Tuesday to replace British goods with those from countries that respect Argentina’s “sovereignty claims and resources”.

A government source in Argentina said the aim was to send a “message to those who still use colonialism as a way to gain access to others’ natural resources”.

But Downing Street said that any such action against British exports to Argentina would be “counterproductive” and “a complete misreading of Britain’s resolve on this issue”.

”It is clearly very sad that Argentina continues with their policy of confrontation instead of co-operation,” Steve Field, David Cameron’s spokesman said yesterday.

”We are also a major investor in Argentina and we import goods from Argentina. It is not in Argentina’s economic interest to put up barriers.”

Figures from Argentina show that imports from Britain jumped by 40 per cent to £386 million from January to November 2011, compared with the same period of 2010. Britain bought goods worth £590 million from Argentina last year. As such, Argentina has a trade surplus with Britain and thus a greater interest in preserving free trade between the two countries.

The latest development comes a day after Argentina prevented two cruise ships from docking at Ushuaia port on Tierra del Fuego following a visit to the Falkland Islands.

Argentina has seized on comments by international figures to return the islands they refer to as “Las Malvinas”.

Roger Waters, the founding member of British rock band Pink Floyd, reportedly stated that Britain should return the Falkland Islands, saying “Las Malvinas belong to Argentina”.

Pink Floyd’s twelfth album, The Final Cut, was influenced by the Falklands conflict, with several critical references to Baroness Thatcher.

The Duke of Cambridge is halfway through a six-week stint on the islands as part of a “routine deployment” in his role as Flight Lieutenant Wales, an RAF search-and-rescue helicopter pilot.

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