The blockade of landlocked Paraguay’s maritime and fluvial trade which threatens Mercosur unity has been “granted” a five-day truce by the Argentine maritime workers union responsible for the industrial action.
The union decided to comply with a ‘peace and dialogue’ suggestion from Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Hugo Moyano, the teamsters’ leader who is the boss of the country’s powerful trade unions confederation.
Paraguay announced earlier this week that if the blockade situation, implemented by Argentine unions, is not lifted by next Friday, President Fernando Lugo would be absent from the coming Mercosur summit December 17 and would not assume the rotating chair of Mercosur for the next six months as is programmed.
The Argentine union argues the blockade on Paraguayan cargo, which could extend to other Mercosur country members respond to a labour conflict with the Paraguayan branch of the maritime workers.
However the Paraguayan fluvial and maritime agencies, and unions deny such allegations, and claim the alleged ‘maritime workers’ branch’ is a recent creation of the Argentines.
Paraguayan agencies and unions believe the real reason for the conflict is the collusion of Argentine agencies and unions that want to take full control of all fluvial trade (Parana and Paraguay Rivers) leading to Paraguay and the heart of Brazil and Bolivia.
They also claim, although have no evidence the whole conflict has the blessing from the Argentine government.
The conflicting situation has 7.000 Paraguay bound containers stranded for weeks in the port of Buenos Aires port, involves 38 Paraguayan fluvial and maritime agencies and 3.000 dock workers in the fluvial ports from Buenos Aires to the capital Asuncion.
According to Argentine officials quoted in the Buenos Aires press the “truce” has the purpose of facilitating dialogue with the Paraguayan Business Chambers so “the current situation can be overcome”
A document from Argentina’s Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security released Wednesday says that President Cristina Fernandez “issued precise orders, together with the secretary general of the Unions Confederation, CGT, Hugo Moyano so that the conflict is solved”.
Next Monday December 13 at 12:30 “the sides in dispute will be received at the Labour and Employment ministry in Buenos Aires so that positions can be brought closer”
Argentine maritime workers decided to paralyze all cargo linked to Paraguay in solidarity with maritime workers from Paraguay to that they can achieve “a collective work contract and benefits similar to that enjoyed by their Argentine brothers”.
But the Paraguayan Centre of fluvial and maritime vessels owners claims it’s all a setup so that trade along the watercourse comes under Argentine legal and labour rule pushing the Paraguayans out of the business.
Earlier this week given the long standing conflict, Paraguay’s Foreign Affairs minister Hector Lacognata summoned the ambassadors from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to inform them of the situation.
He also informed of the Friday deadline and President Fernando Lugo’s decision not to attend the Mercosur summit or accept the chair of the organization if things do not change favourably for Paraguay.
“Mercosur in these conditions, makes no sense”, said Lacognata
“We believe conditions are not appropriate to continue signing Mercosur agreements and documents until the article 1 of the treaty if fully complied, that is the free circulation of goods and products”, added the Paraguayan minister.
When asked about Argentine ambassador Rafael Romá statement to the press that it was a “labour conflict” and not a “bilateral conflict”, Lacognata said that the Argentine government “has the obligation under International Law of guaranteeing free circulation of goods and produce. Things can’t be left to the whim of a union; we’re talking of foreign trade”.
Lacognata added the conflict attempts directly against integration and the Mercosur consolidation process.
Furthermore, “we demand this conflict be addressed as a Mercosur problem which affects all of its members”.