The UK GREAT pavilion at Uruguay's main agri-business exhibition in Montevideo received the top prize for its category while a stall from the Falkland Islands, tended to by Islanders, is estimated to have been visited by 10% of the more than half million visitors that attended the week-long Expo-Prado.
We are very satisfied, it has been a great surprise and greater success, and a very good initiative to participate in Uruguay's main rural show. Hopefully we will be back next year, said Falklands lawmaker Gavin Short who underlined the interest shown by the Uruguayan people and media in the Islands.
People were wonderful, very supportive, they wanted to know about our economy, agriculture, way of life, how to get to the Falklands, and some of the members of the delegation also established promising business contacts, added MLA Gavin Short. They managed to visit some excellent sheep farms and wool processing plants, top of the line technology, very competitive, very efficient, it was really an experience.
The Falklands stall was set up in one of the corners of the UK pavilion, which was awarded the top prize in the category of Chambers of Commerce and Embassies, and received a constant flow of people interested in finding out about the Islands, trade tourism, and talking since quite a few, to my surprise, knew quite a lot about the Falklands, added MLA Short.
Somehow success of the Falklands presence in the Expo-Prado was confirmed by the Argentine embassy in Montevideo which complained about a poster at the stall which read Falkland Islands Government next to a map of the Islands, demanding its removal, since Uruguay backs Argentine sovereignty claim over the Islands.
According to Uruguayan, Falklands and UK sources the whole incident was blown out of all proportion by the Argentine media, since the poster was changed for an even more iconic representation of the Falklands, penguins, and the stall remained, and probably attracted even more visitors.
We received the visit of Argentine representatives, clearly identified, very polite and civilized who took as many brochures as they could, and that was all, pointed out MLA Short.
Alejandro Carvalho, manager of the Expo-Prado show which is organized by Uruguay's Rural Association downplayed the incident and said that contrary to some reports, the stall will continue open and operating, promoting trade and tourism with the South Atlantic archipelago
British ambassador in Uruguay Ben Lyster-Binns also brushed aside the situation and underlined that the Expo-Prado is a rural show, for promoting trade, tourism, culture between Uruguay, the Falklands and UK, it's no place to talk about politics.
The rural show is a commercial event and we set up the Falklands stall to promote relations with Uruguay, because there is an interesting trade relation, and because we are interested in explaining the reality of the Falklands, said Lyster-Binns, and Uruguayans are more than intelligent to understand this because culture and education links with the Islands are longstanding.
Speaking with the local media MLA Short had no problem in addressing the sovereignty claim issue. We will never willingly become Argentines. We are hopeful that in the long run the Argentine government will understand this
However despite the fact that the current Argentine government travels the world with their false history facts, we want good relations with Argentina, like in the time of president Carlos Menem: we had agreements of mutual interest in fisheries conservation, scientific research an even hydrocarbons. But the governments that followed destroyed all this, which is bad for both of us.
Anyhow, looking ahead (to the Argentine presidential elections), it can't get worse than what it is.
Dr. Barry Elsby another Falklands member of the Legislative Assembly and fluent in Spanish was also surprised at the interest shown by visitors to the stall and the positive and supportive attitude of Uruguayans.
It's a beautiful country, wonderful people, I would like to have more time when I come again to visit the countryside and farms. Our purpose in coming to the show was to get our message across, our truth and reality as wide as possible, said MLA Elsby, who will be travelling to Panama and Mexico to formalize a cultural exchange.
Panama wants all their people to be bilingual, we also are on the same track, we want young generations to be fluent in Spanish, so there is the possibility of reaching some exchange understanding. It's not political, it's common sense.
Other members of the Falklands delegation included Eugene Hurley, from the South America Atalntic Service Ltd; Paul Robertson, from the Falkland Islands Rural Business Association, Ian Campbell, Senior Agriculture Advisor and John Ferguson, manager of the Falkland Islands Meat Company.