Argentina's Central Bank said yesterday that bills that have been stamped the legend Oust Botnia amid a dispute between Argentina and Uruguay over a Uruguayan pulp mill ÃÂ¢€ and that in hundreds of cases have been retained by cashiers as false ÃÂ¢€ are fully valid and cannot be rejected by anyone or retained by banks.
"The genuine bills that have appeared stamped with a legend about the environmental conflict in the area of the River Uruguay do not become false as a consequence of that legendÃÂ¢€Ã‚Â¦ hence they continue to be fully valid as a means of payment," the Central Bank said in a statement. However, it added that it could sue those who illegally stamp the bills and as a consequence make their identification more difficult. Hundreds of bank clients in the Argentine city of Gualeguaychú suffered the effects of the ongoing battle of this city against the construction of the Botnia-Orion pulp mill plant in neighbouring Uruguay when bills with the inscription "Oust Botnia" were retained by cashiers. Press reports said that people who in good faith accepted the bills and went to the banks for different operations were faced with the uncomfortable surprise that following Argentine Central Bank rulings on money circulation, local branches retained the bills for subsequent destruction by the Central Bank. A spokesperson for a local bank had said that the bills were "not false, but catalogued as deteriorated" and must follow a 60-day destruction process. But a Central Bank source told MercoPress that the Central Bank did not order that retention, adding that banks may have retained the bills amid the initial confusion about the stamped legends. In this case the stamping of the bills entailed a damage but that it was not aimed at faking the bills, something that could have been attempted, for instance, by duplicating them or by altering their figures and hence their value, the Central bank source said. Banks that have retained bills should give them back, the source added. In any case, cashiers should have handed clients a certificate saying that their bills had been retained. According to the Gualeguaychú press local bank branches ignore who stamped the bills and had them circulate. The residents of Gualeguaychú, just across the River Uruguay that is shared by both countries, oppose the plant that is being built in Fray Bentos by Finnish company Botnia, on grounds that it will contaminate Argentine environment. The Argentine government also claims that the plant will harm the Argentine environment, but Uruguay denies it. The case is in the hands of the World Court and has also been considered by Mercosur trade bloc disputes' tribunal. Uruguay has the support of the World Bank which is partially financing the Botnia-Orion mill and the European Union backed the project with accumulated environmental impact assessments which downplay the claims of Gualeguaychú residents. Gualeguaychú residents supported by environmentalists have been blocking access to bridges leading to Uruguay in protest over the construction of the plant. Pickets have announced plans to block today ÃÂ¢€" when a trial test of the plant was schedule to begin ÃÂ¢€" the three land crossings between the two nations, and possibly the main ferry terminal in Buenos Aires from where five to seven thousand travellers cross daily to Uruguay. Spanish company ENCE had started to build another plant near Fray Bentos but in the face of the controversy it late last year announced that it would relocate it to the River Plate, a decision celebrated by Argentina. Guillermo Háskel - MercoPress - Bs. Aires