Officials from the Buenos Aires-Uruguay ferry shuttle company renewed their call for confidence among passengers following an informal intelligence gathering operation by picketers who are protesting the construction of a pulp mill in Uruguay and have promised disruptions this coming Friday.
According to press reports four of the twelve picketers' team were identified by Coast Guard members on duty at the Buenos Aires ferry terminal and had a "friendly exchange" of ideas with the group whose mission was to assess the "conflict" area and the logistics needed for any planned action. Apparently the rest of the group were involved in making contact with Buenos Aires environmentalist, other picketers' and radical groups who support the demand of Gualeguaychu residents that have been blocking for over a year access to bridges leading to Uruguay in protest over the building of the Botnia-Orion which they claim is an environmental risk for the region's habitat. Next Friday, Botnia-Orion will begin water and hydraulic trials in the plant and picketers have scheduled a coordinated blockade of the three bridges leading to Uruguay, (Gualeguaychú, Colón and Concordia) and hopefully are planning a similar action in the Buenos Aires ferry terminal which has a daily traffic of five thousand travelers who flock to Uruguayan beaches for their summer holidays. Contrary to pickets at bridge heads which have been passively tolerated by Argentine authorities, in Buenos Aires special reinforced riot teams from the Coast Guard are on duty in the terminal and have clear instructions from federal prosecutors to adopt a no nonsense, zero tolerance policy with picketers. Claudio Menelas spokesperson for the ferry company said Wednesday that the company is committed to ensure passengers can travel normally, that their privacy will not be violated and also "to ensure the jobs of 1.500 employees and 2.000 suppliers". Sources from the picketers have leaked to the press that their intention is to distribute among travelers literature with details of the environmental damage to the water and air of the region from the pulp mill plant and pellet rotten eggs "to give Buenos Aires residents an idea of what it means living next to a plant which stinks of sulphites and chlorine used to bleach wood". Furthermore over the weekend exceptional traffic is anticipated since the first "shift" of tourists who arrived in Uruguay for Christmas and New Year will be returning to Buenos Aires to be replaced by those enjoying the next fortnight until the end of January. Alfredo De Angelis a member of the picketers advance group said that during the meeting with Coast Guard officers "we coordinated some of the possible actions we might be engaged with, all very peaceful, but nothing has been decided and our trip to Buenos Aires was mainly logistics and intelligence gathering". In the coming days also the International Court of The Hague is scheduled to make public a ruling regarding the Uruguayan claim that the Argentine government is acting passively towards pickets hampering traffic of people and goods to Uruguay causing millions of dollars in losses. The ruling apparently will favor Uruguay which has infuriated environmentalists and is expected to be another cause for disruption and protest.