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Montevideo, November 30th 2021 - 12:30 UTC



Uruguay disagreement opens door for Argentina's case in The Hague

Tuesday, January 31st 2006 - 20:00 UTC
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“This issue is confronting two brother countries and is exacerbating nationalism,” said Uruguayan Deputy Víctor Semproni, a former bank clerks' union boss of the ruling Broad Front.

"This should not be up to an arbitration court, because there will be no satisfaction. I think the Holy See is the best option for a mediator," he added.

Montevideo has authorized Finnish firm Botnia and Spain's Ence to build two paper pulp plants outside Fray Bentos, a town on the coast of the Uruguay river which the two countries share. The plants are already under construction. The two companies will be investing roughly 1.8 billion dollars and promise to create over 4,000 jobs.

But Entre Ríos residents, especially the people of Gualeguaychú, have been up in arms for months against the plants. Critics say Entre Ríos Governor Jorge Busti fuelled the demonstrations in the run-up to last October's midterm elections.

The national government is now trying to defuse the roadblocks in an effort to thaw the row with Montevideo. President Néstor Kirchner said two weeks ago that the conflict with Uruguay should be limited to an "environmental" discussion and urged all parties involved not to fuel "nationalistic xenophobia."

Busti and Lieutenant-Governor Pedro Guastavino received Gualeguaychú residents in Paraná yesterday and asked them to "revise" the methodology of protest. "The methods of our action should be revised according to each stage of this diplomatic fight," Guastavino told reporters after the meeting with the Gualeguaychú environmental assembly.

The governor said that he "shares" the goal of the activists to "avoid pollution" and announced the province will organize a marathon next month under the slogan, "For Life, against the construction of the plants."

The protesters said after the meeting they would "analyze" the provincial government's request but announced they would go ahead with the roadblock protests in the meantime.

In Montevideo, meanwhile, President Tabaré Vázquez set up a meeting with the leaders of all of the country's political parties, who closed ranks in a "unanimous support" behind his government's position regarding the paper plants issue.

The meeting at the Suárez presidential residence was attended by the leaders of the National (Blanco) Party, Jorge Larragaña; the Colorado Party, former president Julio María Sanguinetti; the Independent Party, Pablo Mieres; the Civic Union, Aldo Lamorte; and the ruling Broad Front, Jorge Brovetto.

"Buenos Aires' decision to take the case to The Hague has to be reviewed," said Brovetto, Vázquez's education minister.

"Defending the plants does not mean defending pollution," said Larragaña.

Uruguay's Foreign Ministry had said in a statement earlier in the day that the binational commission that had been discussing the paper plants issue for six months "had not reached consensus to present a single report."

One of Uruguay's representatives in the commission, Deputy Industry Minister Martín Ponce de León, declared that his country is acting "with absolute calm and transparency" and confirmed that the construction of the plants will continue despite the conflict.

But one member of Argentina's negotiating team, Raúl Estrada Oyuela, warned that Argentina could file lawsuits against "anyone who is liable" for the possible damages caused by the plants. (BAH)

Categories: Mercosur.

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