December 7, 2013
Gualeguaychú to stage protest today
The key day has finally arrived. After a tense week with counteraccusations between both sides including the Argentine government’s plan to take the dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the demonstrators of the Citizens Assembly of the city of Gualeguaychú, Entre Ríos province are ready to cross the Puerto Unzué-Fray Bentos international bridge to head for the Uruguayan Río Negro district. Once there they will meet local mayor Omar Lafluf to hand him a document expressing their complaint for the increased production at the UPM mill. The start of the motorcade to the Uruguayan town of Fray Bentos is scheduled to start at 3pm at Arroyo Verde, on kilometer 28 of international Route 138.
There is still uncertainty about how Uruguayan authorities will finally deal with today’s protest. Several sources, including the Montevideo daily El País, and Lafluf have said that President José Mujica will only allow a small delegation to cross the border. Moreover Lafluf expressed that various security measures will be taken in order to prevent the massive entry of protesters to Fray Bentos. Uruguay plans to deploy patrol boats on its side of the river.
On Friday a secretary of Mujica contradicted the initial reports and called for calm and restraint for both sides. “We have to calm down, to play down drama and the answers will come naturally to us. Thus, borders will remain open for anyone who wants to come to Fray Bentos.”
On this side of the river, activist Juan Veronesi said yesterday: “I invite everybody to come to the motorcade on our way to Fray Bentos. If we can not enter Uruguay, we would be repeating our usual protest at the closest point that they will allow us to go. Our aim is to cross the bridge and go to Fray Bentos to share with the authorities our deep disagreement with UPM’s activity in a peaceful and polite way. They have violated the River Uruguay Treaty and they have to accept our demands. But if Uruguay decides to close the borders, that would be their own responsibility.”
Veronesi added that “Uruguay has been lying to us for more than ten years. They are aware that the pulp mill is harming our environment. And they do know too that the company did not create as many jobs as expected. So we are right in our demands.”
Heading to The Hague
President of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Daniel Filmus has announced the treatment of a “statement of support” to the Foreign Ministry’s decision to take the international dispute to the World Court. Filmus initiative will be discussed in a committee on Tuesday with the aim of approving it on Wednesday, the day when the 2014 Budget will be discussed. “Uruguay did not fulfill its obligation. It violated the International Court’s ruling when it increased production at the pulp mill without previous consultation with Argentina. We are taking this case to The Hague because we are protecting our national sovereignty. Uruguay’s decision was unilateral.”
UPM keeps investing in Uruguay
While no one seems to know for sure how many activists will be allowed to cross the international bridge this afternoon and diplomatic relations between both countries become strained, UPM does not waste any time: it has plans to build a new pulp mill in Uruguay.
According to El País, the Finnish company will build a new factory on the west side of Uruguay, Cerro Largo district, which is crossed by the Río Negro, where the pulp mill waste will be dumped. Cerro Largo’s district mayor Sergio Botana has fully confirmed UPM’s interest and he said that “the company pledged to make a three billion dollars investment that will create thousand of jobs for Uruguayans” and he stated that the production capacity would be even bigger than that of the plant located in Fray Bentos, which is controversially producing 1.2 million tons since last week.
Herald with Télam, DyN