Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will be meeting next week with Uruguay’s president-elect Jose Mujica, announced Argentine ambassador in Montevideo, Hernán Patiño Mayer.
Although details of the coming meeting were not disclosed it is expected to take place in the sidelines of the coming Mercosur summit to be held in Montevideo, when Uruguay will be handing the rotating chair to Argentina for the next six months.
Patiño Mayer said he was optimistic about bilateral relations since “undoubtedly” Mujica is “a man of dialogue who gives great significance to relations with Argentina”. The two counties have a long standing feud over the construction of pulp mills along shared waterways that has soured relations between the neighbouring countries and has even reached the International Court of The Hague with a ruling expected next year.
“We must take advantage of Mujica’s commitment to dialogue and his determination to strengthen regional integration: he’s frank, open and very sincere about it and it has been a constant along his political career”, added the Argentine ambassador.
“We have a great opportunity to leave behind differences and advance steadily towards the inevitable cooperation and integration”.
Patiño Mayer described Mujica as the result of forty years of hard work of a political group that reaches government and wants to build: “Mujica is a political project plus a party with cadres; he’s not political marketing or a glamorous star out of the blue”.
While relations between Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez and the Kirchner couple have been tense, precisely regarding differences over the pulp mills, Mujica has visited Argentina’s Government House on several occasions in spite of attacks from the Uruguayan opposition and even his coalition that interpreted his actions as a “sort of national treason”.
Furthermore the Kirchner couple never hid their support for Mujica’s presidential aspirations and last September remained silent when a book with interviews of the now president-elect referred to Argentines in not too polite terms and even used the word “mobsters” to describe his Kirchner friends and their political machine.
Mujica has repeated that his first job will be to “unlock the Botnia (pulp mill) conflict as soon as possible” through “dialogue, dialogue and more dialogue”. However he will request Argentina removes the pickets blocking international bridges leading to Uruguay.
The chances are that given Mujica’s pragmatism and the fact he didn’t create the original conflict, rather he inherits it, a reasonable face-saving exit for both sides can be found.
In another clear message of that dialogue willingness, president-elect Mujica confirmed his first overseas trip will be to Argentina.
“My first priority with or without trip is to normalize and fraternize relations with Argentina. Brazil will follow, because I would be stupid if I chose some other place, then Paraguay because (Mercosur) partners are partners, and if I can choose, a fourth trip would be Chile”.