BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – The host of the popular BBC television programme Top Gear and other members of the crew have fled Argentina after being pelted with rocks by people who believed one of their cars had a license plate alluding to the Falklands War.
Officials said a crowd of about 50 people began hurling rocks at the BBC group Thursday as they drove in a caravan under police escort to the Chilean border with Argentina’s southernmost province of Tierra del Fuego.
Host Jeremy Clarkson and the others were forced to abandon the cars in an area between Tolhuin and Rio Grande. One minor injury was reported and images by local newspapers showed broken windows and other damage to the cars, which were taken into police custody.
Tierra del Fuego Cabinet chief Sergio Araque said the BBC group arrived safely in the Chilean city of Punta Arenas yesterday. He said Argentina’s foreign ministry and customs agency were working on recovering the cars.
The Top Gear crew was using three cars, one of them a Porsche bearing the license plate “H982 FKL,” which some Argentines believed was a reference to the brief but bloody 1982 war in which their country tried and failed to take the islands from Britain.
“The feeling over Malvinas is still very strong here,” said Oscar Heredia, a spokesman for the town of Tolhuin, using the Argentine name for the islands known in English as the Falklands. “The license plate was taken as a provocation.”
The provincial city of Ushuaia, on the tip of Tierra del Fuego, is the closest spot in Argentine territory to the South Atlantic archipelago and many military contingents were deployed from the town.
This week, a group of former Argentine war combatants held a protest in front of the hotel where Clarkson and the BBC crew were staying.
The British newspaper The Telegraph said the BBC denied the license plate was chosen intentionally.
“Top Gear production purchased three cars for a forthcoming programme; to suggest that this car was either chosen for its number plate, or that an alternative number plate was substituted for the original is completely untrue,” BBC executive producer Andy Wilman was quoted as saying.
In 2011, the BBC apologised to Mexico over remarks made on Top Gear that characterised Mexicans as lazy and oafish.