Catholic Herald: "Usurped" Malvinas-Falkland Islands

Breaking the Deadlock in the Anglo/Argentine Sovereignty Dispute
By Roberto C. Laver (2001)

Chapter Three: Legal Claims to Sovereignty  
(Pages 66-67) 


Argentina bases its claim to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) on historical events of a political and diplomatic nature which occurred before the British took possession of the islands in 1833.  Argentina’s claim to title is primarily based on its succession to Spain’s rights and its effective occupation of the islands.  Britain had no legal right, according to the Argentine position, to occupy the islands in 1833 and expel the Argentine settlement at Port Soledad.  This illegal occupation was immediately protested by the local authorities and thereafter Argentina has never accepted British jurisdiction over the islands. 

1.  Argentina’s claim to title by succession
a)             Spain’s title to the islands 

According to Argentine position, Spain held title to the Falkland/Malvinas at the time of Argentine independence (1816).  Spain’s title is based on (1) the papal bulls of 1493 and the Treaty of Tordesillas (2) the geographic and geological dependency of the islands, (3) treaties signed between Britain and Spain in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, (4) Spain’s occupation and effective possession of the islands, and (5) acquisitive prescription. 

(1)  Papal Bulls and the Tordesillas Treaty.  The first ground for title is the papal bull Inter Caetera of May 4, 1493.  It is argued that Spain’s rights go back to the aforementioned bull, by which Pope Alexander VI awarded to Spain and exclusive right of occupancy and control over all areas, including the seas, to the west of an imaginary line drawn 100 leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde Islands and running pole to pole.  The region granted to Spain included all the mainland and then islands of the “Ocean Sea,” discovered or to be discovered in the future, beyond the line of division established in the bull.  The remaining area was awarded to Portugal.  The Inter Caetera grant was extended by another bull, dated September 26, 1493 and later modified by the Tordesillas Treaty of June 7, 1494.  The Treaty of Tordesillas  was later ratified by Pope Julius through the bull Ea Quae of 1506.
     The Argentine position holds that the papacy had authority to grant titles over lands and that this authority had been accepted by Christian monarchs since the Middle Ages.  According to accepted doctrine of the time, the world was the property of God, and that the reigning pope, as God’s representative on Earth, enjoyed the right to award lands unoccupied by Europeans to monarchs for purposes of converting the inhabitants to the Catholic faith.


usurp |yo͞oˈsərp|
verb [ with obj. ]
take (a position of power or importance) illegally or by force: Richard usurped the throne. 
• take the place of (someone in a position of power) illegally: supplant: the Hanoverian dynasty had usurped the Stuarts. 
• [ no obj. ] (usurp on/upon) archaic encroach or infringe upon (someone's rights): the Church had usurped upon the domain of the state. 
usurpation |ˌyo͞osərˈpāSHən|noun,
usurper noun
ORIGIN Middle English (in the sense ‘appropriate (a right) wrongfully’): from Old French usurper, from Latin usurpare ‘seize for use.

Originally posted from Indigenous Peoples Forum on the Impact of the Doctrine of Discovery which can be read here.