Yesterday, the Falkland Islanders went to the polls and voted in a historic referendum to remain a part of the United Kingdom as a British Overseas Territory.
The vote was not even close. With a 92 percent voter turnout, 99.8 percent voted to stay British—only three residents voted otherwise.
This referendum was a result of Argentina’s recent campaign of bullying and intimidation against the islands’ inhabitants. In order to send a clear message to the world, the Falkland Islands government decided to put the question of its relationship with the U.K. to a popular vote.
Unsurprisingly, Argentina has said that it will not recognize the outcome of the vote. Instead, it has embarked on a campaign to dehumanize the islands’ inhabitants. Argentine officials describe the Falkland Islanders as a population, not a people. The foreign minister recently declared: “The Falklands Islanders do not exist. What exist are British citizens who live in the Islas Malvinas [the Falklands].” This is the dangerous language of colonizers.
Sadly, instead of backing America’s number one ally, the U.K., the Obama Administration has sided with Argentina by supporting its calls for a negotiated “settlement” over the islands. To make matters worse, the Administration has also repeatedly refused to say that it will back the outcome of the recent referendum.
Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated this embarrassing U.S. policy in London a couple of weeks ago when he said, “I’m not going to comment, nor is the President, on a referendum that has yet to take place and hasn’t taken place.”
Of course, neither the Falkland Islanders nor the U.K. need America’s support for the referendum. But wouldn’t it be nice if America stuck up for its allies? All the Falkland Islanders are asking for is recognition of their right to self-determination—a right guaranteed by the United Nations Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is embarrassing to think that President Obama, the leader of the free world, will not back such a fundamental right.
Now that the Falkland Islanders have voted overwhelmingly to stay British in a vote that was both free and fair (and also included election observers from South American countries), President Obama should do the right thing and support the wishes of the Falkland Islanders.
With 99.8 percent of the Falkland Islanders in support of remaining British, their wishes could not be clearer. Failing to acknowledge the outcome of the referendum is not only embarrassing for America; it also places Obama on the wrong side of history.