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Another Kirchner official calls for end to Botnia pickets

Monday, January 12th 2009 - 20:00 UTC
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Another strong voice joined the choir of Argentine officials calling for a “responsible attitude” to guarantee free circulation along the three international bridges linking Argentina with Uruguay, which for over two years have been under control of pickets protesting the construction of a pulp mill on the Uruguayan side.

Daniel Scioli, governor of the province of Buenos Aires said he wanted to specifically support "the responsible attitude of Entre Rios governor Sergio Urribarri to facilitate the recovery of the historic excellent relations and integration plans with our Uruguayan brothers, by normalizing transit and communications" between both countries. "It's time to consolidate the bridges that unite us", underlined Scioli. Pickets from the province of Entre Rios particularly Gualeguaychu, across from Fray Bentos where Finland's Botnia has built and is producing pulp to the tune of a million tons annually, have been blocking the international bridge for over two years alleging that the mill contaminates and endangers the ecosystem of the region. The open support of Argentine officials to an end to bridge blockings, has led Gualeguaychu pickets to request solidarity from the other two crossings further north in Colón and Concordia. "It's impossible to have 10 or 15 people who do not represent the residents of Colon or Concorida threatening the free circulation across international bridges", said Scioli. "Governor Urribarri is correct when he says that 80% of the citizens of his province want an end to pickets blocking bridges and impeding normal links with our Uruguayan brothers". Governor Urribarri was quoted saying that "if necessary we will escort those wishing to cross any of the bridges". The attitude of Argentine officials from the Kirchner presidential couple administrations represents a radical change from the original position when they openly promoted and supported the pickets in an attempt to impede Finland's Botnia from investing in Uruguay. Apparently the Finnish company (and a second company from Spain) had considered Argentina but given the political and financial poor reliability record, Uruguay was chosen. This infuriated the Kirchner couple that by all means tried to impede the construction of the Finnish mill from going ahead: diplomatically taking Uruguay to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and on the ground with pickets. However Uruguay stood firm (the Spaniards wavered) and the mill was built and is in full production. But under Brazilian guidance South American countries have formed what has been called the Union of South American Nations, Unasur, and the post of standing chairman was agreed for former president Nestor Kirchner. Since Unasur works on a consensus basis, Uruguay has repeatedly vetoed the Kirchner nomination, conditioned to a solution to the pickets and bridge blockades. The Uruguayan position has always been open to dialogue about pulp mills and the joint management of the river Uruguay, a natural border between the neighbouring countries, as long as the pickets are lifted. The acrimonious dispute partially cooled when Mrs. Kirchner became president, (and the Botnia mill was finished and in full production), and since then there have been suggestive messages of Buenos Aires intention of ending the pickets situation. Nevertheless since the Kirchners have made human rights and non repression symbols of their administrations, they have repeatedly refused to enforce an end to pickets (the undeniable "right to free expression") suggesting it was a problem for the Argentine courts. So now with the Unasur chair goal in mind, the Kirchners political machine has been creating the necessary political environment for a judge to take the case and finally order the free circulation of peoples and merchandise between the neighbouring countries.

Categories: Politics, Argentina.

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