Uruguayan opposition called the government of President Jose Mujica “submissive” and “obsequious” with Argentina for having announced it was barring Falkland Islands flagged vessels from the port of Montevideo.
The situation which is escalating to a major diplomatic confrontation for Uruguay with Great Britain and Spain, (since Spanish vessels with Falklands’ government fishing licences are also being harassed by the Argentine Coast Guard), will most probably be analyzed during Monday and Tuesday’s Mercosur summit ahead of the Wednesday meeting between Uruguayan Foreign Affairs minister Luis Almagro and the British ambassador in Montevideo Patrick Mullee.
“We can’t have pressures exerted over our government which hampers the interests of Uruguay” said Senator and former president Luis Alberto Lacalle, one of the leaders of the main opposition party.
“All Uruguayan elected governments and even the military dictatorship have been next to Argentina in her claims over the Malvinas Islands sovereignty; however we can discuss about UK war vessels heading for Malvinas, but certainly we can not damage our legitimate interests as the hub port for fishing vessels in the South Atlantic” underlined Lacalle.
He added that the current policy of the government of President Jose Mujica “scares the fishing vessels from Montevideo” in an attitude towards Argentina that can only be described as “excessively obsequious”.
“This attitude of waiting for a signal from the Argentine government is not what we are accustomed to in Uruguay and seriously damages our national interests”, emphasized the former president who recalled that the fishing vessels hub in Montevideo is a business with an annual turnover of 250 to 300 million dollars.
Pedro Bordaberry leader of the opposition minority party said that what is going on is intolerable.
“It’s enough for Palacio San Martin (seat of Argentina’ Foreign Affairs ministry) to make a call and the Uruguayan government rushes to comply. But the other way round does not work: when the Palacio Santos (Uruguay’s Foreign Affairs seat) asks for something it takes months to have a reply”, said Bordaberry.
“This way of reacting from President Mujica who in 24 hours complies with the wishes of Hector Timerman and President Cristina Fernandez does not work the other way: it does not happen with the reference prices imposed by Argentina for Uruguayan exports; it does happen with the dredging of the Martin Garcia Canal nor with the authorization for expanding the port of Nueva Palmira (Uruguay’s main grains and oilseeds export port)”, complained Bordaberry.
The opposition leader further on said Uruguay is on “the wrong track by privileging exclusively the Argentine links” and recalled that back in 1817, when Uruguay’s fight for independence Buenos Aires approved a Portuguese invasion and the country’s leader at the time fought back by signing a free trade and free circulation treaty with the British crown
“If Argentina puts a clamp on us, if Brazil looks another way, we will have to open up to other options”, underlined Bordaberry.
Pablo Mieres from the small Independent party said barring Falklands’ flagged vessels from Montevideo was a “major and incredible political error”, adding he wasn’t aware when such a measure was decided but “only goes to show the lack of professionalism from our Foreign Affairs ministry”.
“This is complete submission because Uruguay receives absolutely nothing in exchange because we continue to be exposed to the same barrage of regrettable attitudes from Argentina” said Mieres.
However over the weekend President Mujica met with all the mayors of Uruguay’s counties (government and opposition) to discuss about local tax issues and distributing revenue, and received a strong unanimous backing for his stand on the Falklands’ flagged vessels issue.
On the initiative from Walter Zimmer, opposition mayor of Colonia just across from Buenos Aires and which much benefits from Argentine investors and tourism, underlined the “courage and bravery” of President Mujica for barring Malvinas flagged vessels from Uruguayan ports.