Residents from Gualeguaychú, Argentina confirmed that on Sunday they will attempt crossing an international bridge to Uruguay to protest the production expansion of the pulp mill Botnia/UPM, authorized by the government of President Jose Mujica. This despite the fact Uruguayan officials anticipated that at the most “eight or nine” Argentine officials and representatives from the protestors will be allowed to meet with their Uruguayan counterparts to discuss the situation.
“We are going to let through the mayor of Gualeguaychú (Juan Jose) Bahillo, and eight or nine people more. The rest of the caravan is going to turn back to Argentina” said Omar Lafluf, mayor of Fray Bentos, the Uruguayan head of the bi-national bridge that connects with Gualeguaychú
Lafluf revealed that Bahillo had told the Gualeguaychú protestors that only “one or two” would be accompanying him since the rest would be made up of elected Councillors from the city and other officials.
However Lafluf insisted there “is no closing of the border” but rather ‘fenced out’ by the Coast Guard, and to avoid inconveniences he had requested Bahillo the list of people that would be crossing over the Uruguay and “the plate numbers of the cars”.
Likewise the mayor of Fray Bentos criticized Argentina foreign minister Hector Timerman for his environmental report on the shared River Uruguay pollution arguing that what he should have done is give “the list of caps on the different substances”.
Lafluf underlined that in the last six years “not once have any of the contaminating substances overtaken the caps”. He added that Timerman’s handling of the issue was intended to ‘terrorize’ people, as was expressed by President Jose Mujica.
Furthermore if “Cristina Fernandez has a true, faithful friend in the world and who has given repeated evidence of it, that person is Mujica and that is why all this incident really hurts us and it is unacceptable the way in Argentina they are referring to the Uruguayan president”
He added that the decision to allow the Botnia/UPM pulp mill production expansion had been on the table for over 18 months. He did not decide it overnight, because the request dates back from 2011”.
“We are satisfied and certain about what has been decided and done; all the necessary controls announced are already being implemented”.
Meanwhile the Botnia/UPM which had closed down for annual maintenance and was waiting for a reply to its request of expansion, said it was back in full production after the decision announced by President Mujica.
“This is very good since otherwise production would have been interrupted, which is bad for the plant for the market and for clients”, said Ronald Beare, General Manager, who added that the environment protection measures demanded to allow the production increase will cost several million dollars.
“The cooling system for dumping water back into the river and some mineral controls such as phosphorus will demand over six million dollars”, said Beare.