Mujica: relations with Argentina excellent; Vazquez retiring is ‘no tragedy’
Uruguayan president Jose Mujica currently visiting Germany said that relations with Argentine are very good and forecasted that President Cristina Fernandez will win he re-election bid next Sunday as he had anticipated two years ago.
“Uruguay needs, must have good relations with all its neighbours because countries don’t move. And many times in life you need more from your neighbours than from your family”, said Mujica.
“I have no doubts because it is two years since I anticipated Cristina is going to win, and I said so because you could feel in the streets each time I visited Argentina. I think we are going to have a Lady President neighbour for a long time”, added the Uruguayan president whose European visit has been shadowed by statements from former President Tabare Vazquez in Montevideo.
Vazquez during a chat with students (but with attendance of a local newspaper and television channel) revealed that in 2006 and 2007 he feared a scenario of a possible “armed conflict” with Argentina, over the construction of pulp mills, given the very ‘aggressive’ attitude of Argentina.
At the time the Argentine government was disappointed with Uruguay for allowing the construction of a pulp mill allegedly without previous consultation as the River Uruguay shared waters accord clearly establishes.
Argentine environmentalists joined the conflict adding the pulp mill was highly contaminating and with pickets closed an international bridge linking the neighbouring countries. Pickets threatened to cross the river and protest on the Uruguayan side and did not discard sabotage actions, while the Argentine Army began exercises on just a few miles away from where Finland’s Botnia was building the plant.
Feeling isolated and with Brazil non supportive, rather the contrary, Vazquez said he talked to then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and requested she inform President George Bush of the situation.
The Bush administration responded that Uruguay was a friend and a reliable associate and included the country in a presidential tour of the region, plus beginning negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement.
Vazquez revelation of a hypothetical “armed conflict” scenario at the peak of confrontation with Argentina sent shockwaves in the two countries, with Argentine officials from the time rejecting such hypothesis and more sober Uruguayan politicians arguing that even if that had been the situation it was not the time or place to vent such serious events.
But is was the Uruguayan ruling coalition which considers itself left wing but enforces strict orthodox economics that was flabbergasted on hearing from one of its most revered leaders that he had requested assistance non else than from former president George Bush.
“For us in the left it’s too hard to swallow”, said First Lady and most voted Senator Lucia Topolansky.
Following the uproar Vazquez said he would abandon active public politics and concentrate on his profession as an oncologist. However this immediately turned critics into concerned militants who begged him to return to politics, most probably as the main candidate for the 2014 presidential election.
The First Lady said that “few people have the courage to admit mistakes; Tabare is acting with over responsibility”.
While in Norway Mujica said he would not comment on Vazquez words until he returned to Montevideo and had a chat with him. However in Germany he changed his mind.
“Tabare is a friend and a militant companion. The fact he announced he’s retiring from politics is no tragedy, but yes painful, and don’t misunderstand or misinterpret my words”, said Mujica adding that “the world keeps running and in the (ruling coalition) Broad Front we have plenty of young, new people capable of the relay”.
“Our Broad Front is an old collective cause, an arduous effort and if the cause is valid it will create and have the men on the field it needs. I know the new generation is there ready for the field, they pop up every day, all the time, new and young”, underlined Mujica.
“Nevertheless I’m in Germany and far away from the scene. I don’t want to commit mistakes and I’d rather talk to Tabare before going further”, he concluded.