New Falklands Fireworks: Argentina Ups The Ante With Talk Of UK ‘Boycott’

Authorities in Buenos Aires are recommending that Argentine firms stop buying British goods. That may be easier said than done. Though Argentina doesn’t buy much from the UK, the British products it does import are difficult to find elsewhere.

This time, the Falkands peril is economic (Douglas Fernandes)
This time, the Falkands peril is economic (Douglas Fernandes)
Olivier Ubertalli

BUENOS AIRES A month before the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War on April 2, tensions between Buenos Aires and London are on the rise. What until now has been a purely diplomatic row is now beginning to take on an economic dimension.

This past Tuesday, the heads of some 20 leading firms in Argentina received a curious phone call – from Argentine Industry Minister Debora Giorgi. Her message was that the country's business leaders consider substituting purchases they currently make from Great Britain with products made in other countries.

Among the companies contacted was Syngenta, the world's leading agrochemical company, which buys pesticides in London; the Ford automobile company; and the pharmaceutical group Roemmers.

The move is mainly symbolic – a new way for Argentina to challenge Great Britain's continued claims on the Falkland Islands, which Argentines call the Malvinas. British-made products, after all, account for less than 1% of Argentina's total imports. In total, the South American country bought just under 500 million euros worth of British goods in 2011. But there is an economic motive as well: Buenos Aires is keen to maintain its trade surplus with the United Kingdom. The surplus, which now stands at just 77 million euros, shrunk between January and November 2011 by 60%.

"Countries that use colonialism..."

The ministry of industry stands fully behind this first step towards a boycott of British goods. "It's fundamental that Argentina decide for itself who its strategic trade partners are," the ministry explained in a press statement. "In this sense, the Argentine government is also sending a message to those countries that still use colonialism as a way to access far-away natural resources."

In recent years, British petroleum companies have taken initial steps toward exploiting the Falklands for its large oil deposits. The disputed islands lie some 500 kilometers off the Argentina coast.

London was quick to react. Downing Street called the measure "counter-productive" since "the United Kingdom is also a major investor in Argentina and we import goods from Argentina. It is not in Argentina's economic interest to put up barriers of this sort."

It remains to be seen how well Argentina's CEOs will follow the government's recommendation. "The pound sterling is one of the world's strongest currencies," notes Marcelo Elixondo, ex-president of the Argentine Export Foundation. That means that when an Argentine company buys British products, they do so not because it's cheap, "but because those products can't be found elsewhere," he says.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Douglas Fernandes

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Paying tribute to the victims of the attack in Kongsberg

Terje Bendiksby/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA
Carl-Johan Karlsson

The bow-and-arrow murder of five people in the small Norwegian city of Kongsberg this week was particularly chilling for the primitive choice of weapon. And police are now saying the attack Wednesday night is likely to be labeled an act of terrorism.

Still, even though the suspect is a Danish-born convert to Islam, police are still determining the motive. Espen Andersen Bråthen, a 37-year-old Danish national, is previously known to the police, both for reports of radicalization, as well as erratic behavior unrelated to religion.

Indeed, it remains unclear whether religious beliefs were behind the killings. In an interview with Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassens said Bråthen has already confessed to the crimes, giving a detailed account of the events during a three-hour interrogation on Thursday, but motives are yet to be determined.

Investigated as terrorism 

Regardless, the murders are likely to be labeled an act of terror – mainly as the victims appear to have been randomly chosen, and were killed both in public places and inside their homes.

Mathiassens also said Bråthen will undergo a comprehensive forensic psychiatric examination, which is also a central aspect of the ongoing investigation, according to a police press conference on Friday afternoon. Bråthen will be held in custody for at least four weeks, two of which will be in isolation, and will according to a police spokesperson be moved to a psychiatric unit as soon as possible.

Witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

Police received reports last year concerning potential radicalization. In 2017, Bråthen published two videos on Youtube, one in English and one in Norwegian, announcing that he's now a Muslim and describing himself as a "messenger." The year prior, he made several visits to the city's only mosque, where he said he'd received a message from above that he wished to share with the world.

Previous criminal history 

In 2012, he was convicted of aggravated theft and drug offenses, and in May last year, a restraining order was issued after Bråthen entered his parents house with a revolver, threatening to kill his father.

The mosque's chairman Oussama Tlili remembers Bråthen's first visit well, as it's rare to meet Scandinavian converts. Still, he didn't believe there was any danger and saw no reason to notify the police. Tlili's impression was rather that the man was unwell mentally, and needed help.

According to a former neighbor, Bråthen often acted erratically. During the two years she lived in the house next to him — only 50 meters from the grocery store where the attacks began — the man several times barked at her like a dog, threw trash in the streets to then pick it up, and spouted racist comments to her friend. Several other witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

The man used a bow and arrow to carry the attack

Haykon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA

Police criticized

Norway, with one of the world's lowest crime rates, is still shaken from the attack — and also questioning what allowed the killer to hunt down and kill even after police were on the scene.

The first reports came around 6 p.m. on Wednesday that a man armed with bow and arrow was shooting inside a grocery store. Only minutes after, the police spotted the suspect; he fired several times against the patrol and then disappeared while reinforcements arrived.

The attack has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms

In the more than 30 minutes that followed before the arrest, four women and one man were killed by arrows and two other weapons — though police have yet to disclose the other arms, daily Aftenposten reports. The sleepy city's 27,000 inhabitants are left wondering how the man managed to evade a full 22 police patrols, and why reports of his radicalization weren't taken more seriously.

With five people killed and three more injured, Wednesday's killing spree is the worst attack in Norway since far-right extremist Anders Breivik massacred 77 people on the island of Utøya a decade ago.

Unarmed cops

As questions mount over the police response to the attack, with reports suggesting all five people died after law enforcement made first contact with the suspect, local police have said it's willing to submit the information needed to the Bureau of Investigation to start a probe into their conduct. Police confirmed they had fired warning shots in connection to the arrest which, under Norwegian law, often already provides a basis for an assessment.

Wednesday's bloodbath has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms — the small country being one of only 19 globally where law enforcement officers are typically unarmed, though may have access to guns and rifles in certain circumstances.

Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert and professor at the Swedish Defence University, noted that police in similar neighboring countries like Sweden and Denmark carry firearms. "I struggle to understand why Norwegian police are not armed all the time," Ranstorp told Norwegian daily VG. "The lesson from Utøya is that the police must react quickly and directly respond to a perpetrator during a life-threatening incident."

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