Uruguay’s Deputy Foreign minister Roberto Conde is scheduled to travel to Buenos Aires this week as part of President Jose Mujica’s administration efforts to rebuild bilateral relations with Argentina following his ‘coarse, jail-slang’ descriptions of president Cristina Fernandez and her late husband Nestor Kirchner, which were refuted as ‘unacceptable and denigrating”.
“The old lady is worse than the one-eyed man” were some of Mujica’s comments on Cristina and Nestor Kirchner caught by an open microphone which made world headlines and offended President Cristina Fernandez administration.
Last week Mujica apologized for the use of ‘coarse and jail-slang’ to refer to the Argentine president and her husband, arguing that in private conversation he uses the nick-code-names system he learnt during the many years he spent in jail for attempted armed uprising while acting as a guerrilla.
Mujica also apparently sent Cristina Fernandez a personal letter apologizing but so far there has been or reply or signal, besides Foreign minister Hector Timerman’s suggestion that ‘a letter would help’. The Uruguayan president also tried to reach Cristina on the line but was left waiting.
According to Uruguayan sources Conde will not be received by Timerman but by his Deputy for Latinamerican affairs, Diego Tetamanti and other desk officers. Conde also travels with Alberto Diaz, head of Uruguay’s ports’ system hopefully for negotiations on the dredging of River Plate access channels, particularly Martin Garcia which has become increasingly important for Uruguay.
Although the Argentine reaction to the comments has been ‘strong and unyielding’, Uruguay will insist in retaking negotiations for the dredging and bilateral trade, which has been one of President Mujica’s hardest nuts to crack in his otherwise political coincidence with Cristina Fernandez and support for her economic policies.
According to Uruguayan government sources, President Mujica is well aware that only a personal meeting with Cristina Fernandez will finally overcome the incident, but in the meantime is trying that all other bilateral issues be addressed “business as usual”.
Mujica should have a chance for a personal meeting with Cristina Fernandez, if not before, at the Mercosur summit next June, to be hosted by Uruguay in Montevideo and when the Argentine, Brazilian and Venezuelan presidents are expected to attend.
The same sources said Uruguayan diplomacy is trying to arrange for a telephone exchange between the two leaders, but the situation is still ‘too fresh’, nevertheless they will persist.
Meanwhile Vice-president Danilo Astori said that ‘a good relation with Argentina is essential’ given the many areas of common interest: trade, investment, tourism. However he declined to comment on the Mujica incident saying that is something “the president is dealing with”.
“What I can tell you is that the president is convinced, and we support him that we must have good relations with the neighbours and particularly with Argentina, think of all the areas that link us so closely and the jobs in our economy, so we have to look after those relations” said Astori.
“President Mujica is convinced of this and has put all his patience and efforts in improving links, and for that we have named our best people, I mean best experts and politicians to discuss point by point, issue by issue of our bilateral agenda and we will continue to do so”, affirmed Astori.