By Jaime Trobo (*) - For some time now we have been arguing that Uruguay must strengthen its bonds and contacts with a neighboring territory, in the southern cone, part of our American continent, where families who arrived in our region during the first half of the XIX century live, and with whom those contacts, once very intense, have waned, particularly in the last decades.
It's a place which is close but also distant, and even if it's not much more than a two-hour flight from Montevideo, the consistency of those contacts nowadays from Montevideo is nonexistent compared to what was the case during the XX century. Between Montevideo and Stanley, capital of the Falklands or Malvinas as you consider pertinent, nowadays is impossible to travel directly, despite the fact that until the seventies, that route was regularly covered from the port of our capital by the vessels, 'Lafonia', 'Fitz Roy' and 'Darwin', which combined both passengers and cargo.
The standing contact with Montevideo helped outline social, economic and trade links which are clearly evident in many details that can be seen in the Islands today, despite the time gone by. This is because intense and deep links can't be disarticulated in a short time or by whim, and they endure because they have provided mutual benefits for those who sustain them.
The coat of arms which indicated the Uruguayan Consulate in the Islands and which is kept at Stanley's Museum, the rural expressions incorporated to the Islands' camp life and which have their origin in our own countryside, the pictures and films of marriages with honey moons in Uruguay, many of them at the seaside resort of Solis, the lively comments of the children who went to the British Schools in Montevideo for their high school because in the Islands at the time there was only primary, are part of that rich legacy. The countless families that cared for patients from the Islands at the British Hospital in Montevideo and the family relations which followed and knotted those links. These are only a few examples of those links that have prevailed in time, which made history and unfortunately in the last decades have diminished.
In recent years, contrary to logic and the interests of our country and its entrepreneurs, our national government has adopted non friendly measures towards the population of the Islands. It supported blockade actions outlined by the government of Argentina against that neighborly friendly population, adhering to a procedure that at full voice and worldwide, was condemned and rejected in other cases such as the United States with Cuba.
All links with the Islands have been discouraged to such a point that, and this is verifiable, Uruguay lost hundreds of millions of dollars in logistic services, supplies and fresh produce, even investments from Islanders in our country, in other words all that promotes good neighborly relations and the facilitation of exchange and trade. To this respect, notwithstanding Uruguay's historic position regarding the Islands' sovereignty dispute, our country must act with autonomy, looking first to its interests and those of our partners which most probably see in Uruguay a more trustworthy and less aggressive environment to develop links with the region.
We insist in the need to rekindle those links. We can't lose time, it's possible that soon, quite soon, several others will try to offer and provide that neighborly community greater contacts to mutual benefit. Chile has had a privileged position, because it has acted with pragmatism, and it is from their territory that the world can reach the Islands, why can't Uruguay do the same? For it to happen it's sufficient that authorities don't appeal to mistrust or put up obstacles to the mechanism and communication means which enable the strengthening of the relation.
With the speed of air communications, the movement of people globally has become a fabulous integration instrument in our modern world. Montevideo is the Americas' capital geographically closest to Stanley and an airline that links them, just once a week, would be a powerful boost for the integration of people from the Islands to our continent. And this would also be most beneficial for Uruguay and for them.
(*) Jaime Trobo, Elected Representative of Uruguay's Lower House
Member of the International Affairs Committee