Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo will be attending the Mercosur summit this week following on Argentina’s guarantee that the blockade on Paraguayan goods and merchandise imposed by an Argentine maritime union will be lifted, effective Monday.
The agreement to lift the several weeks long blockade was reached Monday morning in Buenos Aires following a meeting between the Argentine Maritime Workers Union, (SOMU) and representatives from the administration of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
The blockade is estimated to have affected over 7.000 containers immobilized in the port of Buenos Aires since SOMU decided not to handle any cargo to or from Paraguay in demand of better working conditions and a new contract for a recently created SOMU affiliate in Paraguay.
The blockade was strangling land locked Paraguay which depends on the Parana and Paraguay water course for most of its foreign trade.
Following several attempts of low profile diplomacy with no consequence, the Paraguayan government officially warned it would not be attending the Mercosur summit if the blockade was not lifted and demanded the Argentine government honour international law and Mercosur charter agreements guaranteeing the free circulation of goods and people.
The Argentine position all along has been that the conflict is a ‘labour dispute’, and on Monday the administration of President Cristina Kirchner pointed out that it had interceded to help find a solution following on a “specific request” from the Paraguayan government.
“It was decided to give intervention to the existing bilateral (Argentina/Paraguay) organizations and Mercosur so as to analyze the possible asymmetries in the Parana-Paraguay basin”, said the Argentine release.
Paraguayan Foreign Affairs minister Hector Lacognata said that Argentine authorities had also guaranteed there would be no repeat of such an incident.
“Currently there is a responsibility from the Argentine government and guarantees have been given and they are that this (blockade) will not happen again. Argentine authorities have acted as requested and given such a limit situation, they are not prepared to finance the political cost of these actions before neighbouring countries”, said Lacoganta.
The coming 16/17 December Mercosur summit in Foz de Iguazu is not another meeting: it is Brazilian president Lula da Silva farewell (he steps down next January first after eight years in office) and is also the welcome for his successor president-elect Dilma Rousseff.
Besides (Big Brother) Brazil will be handing the Mercosur rotating chair for the next six months to Paraguay and President Lugo who is undergoing a lymphatic cancer chemotherapy treatment in South American best clinic in Sao Paulo, generosity of the Brazilian government, could not be absent.
Nevertheless the incident with Argentina is not necessarily over since SOMU head Omar Suarez revealed that they have the “support and encouragement” from the Argentine government with the purpose of gaining full control of trade traffic along the Parana-Paraguay water course.
The administration of President Cristina Kirchner would like most of the 38 maritime and fluvial agencies operating under Paraguayan flag to change to Argentine colours, while SOMU share in the deal is that crews and staff would then become members of the Argentine union.
Suarez is closely linked to Hugo Moyano, Argentina’s teamsters’ chief and head of the ruling Justicialista party in the decisive province of Buenos Aires. He is also President Cristina Kirchner closest and most powerful ally since he controls the influential General Confederation of Argentine Workers’ unions.