After almost three decades of putting money into keeping the Falkland Islands securely British, the prospect of payback – and then some – has appeared over the horizon. Within the suitably large exclusion zone declared some time ago is the prospect of oil reserves, and potentially significant ones. But the Argentines are not happy – so will it come to another scrap?
Ah well. Due to my proximity to sad rail enthusiast types, and regular visits to Portugal, I can bring an inside track on the economic situation in Argentina. Put directly, it’s not good. The prospect of the kind of conflict that had the Murdoch Sun screaming “Stick It Up Your Junta” (and the all too realistic Private Eye send-up “Kill An Argie And Win A Metro”) is not credible. I will explain.
In the years since the fall of the Galtieri Junta, Argentina has been through the mangle with its economy. One casualty was its rail network, so through sheer necessity, when services were restored, the call went out to other countries for suitable secondhand stock. As the track gauge is the same as that in Spain and Portugal, this was an obvious place to start.
So it was that coaching stock and locomotives were overhauled in Portugal and shipped out to a grateful Argentina. But the shipments have since stopped, even though there is more equipment ready to go. And the problem is simply one of money: the Argentines are having difficulty raising the cash to pay for what has already been shipped.
And if scraping together payment for secondhand railway equipment is proving difficult, then the likelihood of the country sustaining any kind of military adventure is not unadjacent to zero.
Not, that is, unless someone else is paying.