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Road blockers threaten Easter holidays

Tuesday, March 6th 2007 - 21:00 UTC
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Environmentalists in Entre Ríos who are opposing the construction of the Finnish Botnia pulp plant in Fray Bentos yesterday said they could go for a total closure of the three road crossings to Uruguay during Easter week.

The major threat to the autumn holiday, if carried out, would be doubly disruptive this year. The Easter holiday this year starts with the Malvinas Day holiday, on Monday, April 2, and runs through to Good Friday, on April 6. The holiday is usually a week in Uruguay, formerly known as Tourism Week. However, in Argentina the four-day long weekend this year is extended to a whole week, if people take off for the two days at midweek. While the threat could be part of a game of bluff which could fall foul of Entre Ríos business which might see its own income threatened, the early warning by environmentalists could cause damage to tourism simply by disrupting family plans to travel to Uruguay. Environmentalists at Gualeguaychú, Colón and Concordia are not in agreement on how to go about their protest, so the broad threat to block the crossings for a week could fail. In Colón, the most strident of the environmentalist leaders, Silvia "Poli" Echeverría, said that her group was hoping for a move towards the closure of the crossings for a week. The Gualeguaychú Citizens Assembly leader, Jorge Fritzier, said "talks are progressing towards a total closure," for eight days as from April 1. The "Semana de Turismo" is an important point in the Uruguayan travel calendar, which provides a substantial volume of revenue for Montevideo. In the meantime, the next agreed bridge block is scheduled for next Saturday, when protesters plan to cut roads for 12 hours as from 10am. Although Uruguay's President Tabaré Vázquez last Friday said that talks had to be pursued without roadblocks, there is increasing controversy surrounding his policies among his own citizens. The Brecha weekly magazine recently pointed out that Vázquez's anti road blocks speech has turned Uruguayans into a society of Argentine hating patriots. Vázquez is criticised for failing to carry through some of his main campaign platform promises which won him the presidential election two and a half years ago. There is also serious concern among Uruguayan environmentalists that the government forestry programme, started nearly forty years ago in some areas, and spread to much of the country, seriously threatens to cause desert conditions in certain provincial districts. The Australian eucalyptus, or Blue Gum, which is the most popular tree for forestry investors because of its fast growth, is now feared to suck the ground dry, because of the large volumes of water it needs. The Santa Lucía river basin, which is the main water supply for Montevideo, is now seen to be threatened by the forestry industry. Buenos Aires Herald

Categories: Politics, Argentina.

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