The Falkland Islands voters are going to the polls on Sunday and Monday in a referendum on whether to remain a British Overseas Territory.
Argentina has constantly reiterated its claims to sovereignty over the islands.
This is the case more than 30 years after Argentina invaded the Falklands and its troops were ousted by a British Task Force in a 74-day conflict.
Relations between Buenos Aires and the Falkland Islands are at one of their lowest ebbs since the war.
The islanders decided to hold the referendum in response to Argentine statements about the islands and economic measures taken against the Falklands.
Argentina has continued to insist on its sovereignty over the South Atlantic islands, and the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has said the inhabitants’ wishes do not count.
Falkland Islanders will have their voices heard in the referendum, with 1,672 people eligible to vote out of the islands’ total population of about 2,900.
While the result is in little doubt, there are worries that the bad weather could hamper the return of ballot boxes from some remoter places.
The hope was that Argentina and other nations would listen to the islanders’ wishes for the future – but few on the islands believed that this Argentine government was in any mood to listen.
The Falkland Islands voters are going to the polls on Sunday and Monday in a referendum on whether to remain a British Overseas Territory
International observers will oversee the vote.
There are mobile polling stations, some of which will have to be flown out to and from the outer islands, hence the voting being held over two days.
Those who cannot vote include those aged under 18 and people who are not Falkland islanders.
Some Argentines living on the islands have “Falklands status” which makes them eligible to vote.
A “yes” vote would back the status of the islands remaining as it is.
Argentina has long laid claim to the islands, which it calls Las Malvinas.
Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands on April 2, 1982, entering the capital Port Stanley early in the morning.
The garrison of Royal Marines was overwhelmed and other British South Atlantic territories including South Georgia were also seized.
In two months of fighting 255 British and about 650 Argentine servicemen were killed, along with three Falklands civilians, before Argentina surrendered.
Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has called on the UK government to hand over the Falkland Islands, in an open letter printed in British newspapers.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner urges British Prime Minister David Cameron to abide by a 1965 UN resolution to “negotiate a solution” over the islands.
The letter says they were forcibly stripped from Argentina in “a blatant exercise of 19th Century colonialism”.
The government said the Falklands’ population had chosen to be British.
The Foreign Office said there could be no negotiations on the sovereignty of the Falklands “unless and until such time as the islanders so wish”.
A referendum on the islands’ political status is to be held in March.
The letter, published as an advert in the Guardian newspaper and the Independent, follows repeated calls by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner for the islands – which are known as the Malvinas in Argentina – to come under the sovereignty of her nation.
Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has called on the UK government to hand over the Falkland Islands, in an open letter printed in British newspapers
Last year marked 30 years since the Falklands War, when the islands were occupied by Argentine forces for 74 days.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner says her letter is published on the same date – January 3 – when, 180 years ago: “Argentina was forcibly stripped of the Malvinas Islands, which are situated 14,000 km [8,700 miles] away from London.”
She goes on: “The Argentines on the Islands were expelled by the Royal Navy and the United Kingdom subsequently began a population implantation process similar to that applied to other territories under colonial rule.
“Since then, Britain, the colonial power, has refused to return the territories to the Argentine Republic, thus preventing it from restoring its territorial integrity.”
In her final paragraph, she ends: “In the name of the Argentine people, I reiterate our invitation for us to abide by the resolutions of the United Nations.”
Argentina says it inherited ownership of the islands from Spain, arguing that British colonists occupied the islands by force in 1833 and expelled settlers, violating Argentina’s territorial integrity.
It also bases its claim on the islands’ proximity to the South American mainland. The islands’ capital, Port Stanley, lies about 1,180 miles (1,898km) from the Argentine capital Buenos Aires.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said that the Falkland Islanders “are British and have chosen to be so”.
“They remain free to choose their own futures, both politically and economically, and have a right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter,” she added.
“This is a fundamental human right for all peoples.
“There are three parties to this debate, not just two as Argentina likes to pretend.
“The islanders can’t just be written out of history.”
In June, UK Prime Minister David Cameron confronted President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner about the issue when they came face-to-face at the G20 summit.
During the exchange, the prime minister rejected her demand for negotiations over the sovereignty of the islands and told her that she should respect the result of a referendum.
The Argentine president had earlier raised her demands at the United Nations, appearing at the annual meeting of the UN decolonization committee on the 30th anniversary of the end of Argentine occupation.
She used the occasion to reiterate Argentina’s opposition to any more wars and to criticize the prime minister’s decision to mark the day by flying the Falklands flag over 10 Downing Street.
In December, Argentina protested at Britain’s decision to name part of Antarctica, Queen Elizabeth Land. A formal protest note was given to the British ambassador, John Freeman, in Buenos Aires.
The area, which makes up around a third of the British Antarctic Territory, is also claimed by the South American country.
Around 100 left-wing activists have protested by burning Union flags outside the British embassy in Buenos Aires on Friday to demand Argentina break off diplomatic relations with the UK over the Falkland Islands dispute.
Tension has been increasing ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War in April.
Argentina is demanding talks on its claim to sovereignty over the territory, which it calls Las Malvinas.
But the UK has reaffirmed that the Falklands will remain British for as long as its inhabitants want.
Around 100 left-wing activists have protested by burning Union flags outside the British embassy in Buenos Aires on Friday to demand Argentina break off diplomatic relations with the UK over the Falkland Islands dispute
The protest in Buenos Aires was organized by the Socialist Workers’ Movement (MST).
Activists carried banners reading “Government break off relations now,” and “English out of the Malvinas”.
“It is unacceptable that they send reinforcements and that the little prince (William) should come on manoeuvres,” said protest leader Wilma Ripoll of the MST.
Willma Ripoll added that her group was planning further protests before Prince William – who is the second in line to the British throne – arrives in the Falklands next month for a tour of duty as a helicopter rescue pilot.
The protest comes amid an escalating war of words between London and Buenos Aires over the Falklands.
Argentine leaders were particularly angered by comments made by the British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday, when he said Argentina’s demand for sovereignty was “like colonialism” because it ignored the islanders’ right to self-determination.
He also said he had reviewed the Falklands’ military defenses and was prepared to send reinforcements if necessary.
Tension over the remote South Atlantic archipelago has been growing since 2010, when British companies began drilling for oil in waters off the Falklands.
Argentina has been rallying support for its claim from other Latin American nations, and President Cristina Fernandez has accused Britain of “arrogance” and “taking Argentine resources”.
Britain has held the islands since the 1830s, but Argentina insists it has a prior claim and in 1982 launched an invasion.
A British task force recaptured the islands in a short but bloody war in which 649 Argentine and 255 British servicemen were killed.
The US has called for dialogue between London and Buenos Aires to resolve the dispute.
“We recognize de facto UK administration of the islands, but take no position regarding sovereignty,” the State Department said.