The bust of Margaret Thatcher, among the world’s most controversial and divisive figures, is scheduled to be unveiled tomorrow in Puerto Argentino, the Malvinas Islands’ capital, in a move seen by many as designed to reaffirm British sovereignty over the islands.
On December 18th, David Cameron, the Conservative British PM, announced the erection of forty-thousand pound sterling, larger-than-life bronze bust of the “Iron Lady”, whom he has described as “the greatest British peacetime prime minister.” The statue, to stand next to the Liberation Monument on – yep – “Thatcher Drive” in the islands’ capital, weighs approximately 27 kilos and will be placed on a 8-foot stone pedestal.
The icing on the cake: the statue will be topped off with a bronze plaque eternalizing the words of the late premier’s April 3rd speech, one day after the declaration of the bloody 1982 war: “They are few in number, but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and determine their own allegiance.” The area will be monitored by CCTV cameras with 24-hour surveillance so that all those non-Thatcherites out there don’t deface the statue.
Because apparently Jeremy Clarkson didn’t do enough to piss off the local Government, Cameron has also decided to give the islands a “South Atlantic Medal” commemorating the war: “Three decades ago, UK forces stood with the islands as they faced a direct and grave threat to their [British] sovereignty and it is absolutely right that we will be recognizing this.”
The sculpture’s artist, Stephen Massam, hopes his handiwork will become a tourist attraction and defended the initiative: “The bust is not meant as a provocation, it is meant to honor the role Mrs. Thatcher played in liberating the islands, which are British to their core. We’re delighted to welcome her home.”
Hmm, not provocative at all.
He continued, “She [Mrs Thatcher] is an integral part of the islands’ history and it is entirely appropriate that her image will gaze down on visitors and that she will remain on the (Malvinas) forever.”
Oh, good then. Not one hint of provocation.
Despite denials of ill-intent, this latest dig has unsurprisingly caused a little bit of a stir. Alicia Castro, the Argentine Ambassador in London (currently not the most sought-after of jobs) has condemned the UK’s refusal to enter into a dialogue over the sovereignty dispute and and accused the country of “celebrating war.”
The Veterans Leader in Buenos Aires, Mario Volpe, also found the bust in bad taste. He argues “the statue is not a symbol of democracy. It’s her fault so many died” and that the PM “could have avoided the war and the deaths.” The statue’s next-door neighbor, the Liberation Monument, honors the 255 dead British servicemen and 3 island civilians. 649 Argentinians also died.
“Baroness Thatcher,” the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century, landed a divided legacy at home. Her costly and controversial ceremonial funeral in 2013, with full military honors, had a colorful turnout featuring police and protesters, who turned their backs on the coffin as it went past on London’s Fleet Street. There is still widespread bitterness at the ongoing effects of Thatcher’s ultraconservative policies which continue to be felt in the country today. Protesters stated “she was hated by at least half the population.”
Nevertheless, apparently Britain still needs to build statues of Thatcher 13,000 kilometers away. The bust is to be inaugurated at 5:15 PM tomorrow afternoon in a commemorative ceremony by Thatcher’s very own son, Sir Mark.
We’ll see how this pans out.