Argentina has filed criminal and civil charges against activists who have been blocking a bridge leading to Uruguay for over four years, announced on Wednesday cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez. The charges mark a sharp departure from the hands-off line taken up to now with the activists.
On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered Argentina's Interior Ministry to clear access to the bridge that protesters have permanently blocked in response to the building of a 1.1 billion US dollars paper pulp mill, owned by Finland's UPM-Kymmene Oyj on the Uruguayan bank of the river separating the two countries.
However Fernandez said the government would not use repression against the protesters and won't send national guard troops to clear the road block.
In order to avoid a repressive movement against protesters and those carrying out the roadblocks on the bridge, we have decided to file civil suits against those responsible, said Fernández.
The Cabinet Chief also said that the ruling outlined by the Hague International Court of Justice must be respected. It was made clear that measures will be taken against the protesters and those carrying out the roadblocks, but it was added that the government wants to avoid acting by force.
Cabinet chief Fernández read a document at Government House. Earlier, he met with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and national prosecutor Joaquín Da Rocha.
He also mentioned the reasons for the suits, naming the closing of several businesses, loss of employment and transportation, a drop in tourism and imports and the impossibility of free movement as the main causes. He further enumerated all the Criminal Code articles which allegedly had been breached.
Meanwhile, in Gualeguaychú, large groups of neighbours gathered to listen to Aníbal Fernández' speech and, once finalized, erupted in fits of anger at the resolution presented by the government.
Activists and protesters maintained their stances on the issue, with one source saying that ”the Kirchner couple used to stand here with us and wave flags; now, with the new links to (President) Mujica and Uruguay, they are presenting us with a view that is quite different from what was previously said.
The announcement at Government House comes after the bilateral relations between Uruguay's José Pepe Mujica and Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner were strengthened through recent meetings and discussions.
Earlier in the day Justice Minister Julio Alak informed he would enact judge Pimentel's ruling, which calls for lifting the roadblock on the Gualeguaychú-Fray Bentos border crossing. His statement has been clear, he said, although he remarked that there would be no repression.
The roadblock must be lifted because we must comply with court rulings, he said earlier, as he added that he believed the Gualeguachú assembly would obey Judge Pimentel's decision.
Mr. Alak remarked that all Gualeguaychú citizens must comply with the court order, which will be enforced by the Coast Guard in the same way we've always done. We will respect the citizens' integrity and always work within the law, he explained.
We must comply with this ruling and enact it, otherwise we would be in disobedience. We are talking about solving this matter in the next few hours, he highlighted.
This has also been demanded by many Gualeguaychú residents who claim the situation is damaging to them, he stated.