Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo confirmed Sunday he would not be participating of the Mercosur summit next December 17, unless there is a quick solution to the blockade of Paraguayan trade by Argentine maritime unions, announced Sunday afternoon Foreign Affaire minister Hector Lacognata.
Following a meeting at the presidential residence of Mburuvicha Roga with Lugo, minister Lacognatta told the press that Argentine government authorities would be meeting with the Argentine unions to try and convince them to lift the blockade on Paraguayan merchandise retained at the port of Buenos Aires.
An estimated 7.000 containers have been waiting for almost a month to be reshipped to landlocked Paraguay along the Parana-Paraguay watercourse.
“We are hopeful that the process begun by Argentine authorities will be successful; we are expecting positive news for this week”, said minister Lacognatta.
The minister also confirmed that Paraguay officially informed the Argentine government that President Lugo would not be going to the Mercosur summit next December 17 in Brazil if there is no positive action regarding the blockade of Paraguayan cargo and merchandize.
Lacognata added that President Lugo is expected, in coming hours to have a telephone communication with Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Nevertheless in spite of the impasse with Argentina President Lugo is expected to meet privately with his Brazilian peer Lula da Silva and president-elect Dilma Rousseff.
“A meeting between Lugo, Lula da Silva and Ms Rousseff will be taking place anyhow. Even if the impasse with Argentina has no solution by then, President Lugo will attend the meeting with Brazilian authorities”.
The Mercosur summit will take place at Foz de Iguazú, Brazil and is outgoing president Lula da Silva’s last meeting since he steps down after eight years in office January first. The rotating chair of Mercosur is also scheduled to be passed on to Paraguay for the next six months.
“Brazil also wants a quick solution to the problem between Argentina and Paraguay because the Mercosur summit is Lula da Silva’s farewell and a welcome for Dilma Rousseff”, said Lacognata.
The Argentine maritime workers union SOMU alleges it is demanding similar working conditions and contract for its Paraguayan branch.
However Paraguayan unions and fluvial agencies argue it’s all a “make-up” by the union with the support from the Argentine government that wants to have full control of shipping along the Parana and Paraguay rivers which cross Argentine territory.
The water-way links the River Plate with Paraguay and the heartlands of Bolivia and Brazil and is an important trade artery for the four countries.
In related news the Paraguayan press reports that SOMU president Omar Suárez in a radio interview in Argentina effectively confirmed that they have the full support of the Cristina Kirchner administration in the industrial action blockade operation.
“It’s a Kirchner government strategy to have Argentine pre-eminence in the Parana-Paraguay water-course”, said Omar Suarez.
“It’s a double prong operation, on the one hand on the maritime and fluvial agencies to return to the Argentine flag abandoning the Paraguayan flag (to where they migrated because of fiscal reasons) and on the other to increase the number of affiliates of our branch in Paraguay”, revealed Suárez.
Argentina all along has argued that the so called ‘blockade’ is a ‘labour dispute’ while Paraguayan authorities demand respect for International law and abidance of the Mercosur treaty that ensures the free circulation of merchandise and people among the four country full members.