December 9, 2013
Claims reports show pollution did not exceed limitsFriday, October 11, 2013
Former INTI head embroiled in conflict
In times of heated controversy with Uruguay over the UPM pulp mill, Enrique Martínez, the former head of the National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI) yesterday took centre stage when he gave an interview to the Uruguayan daily El País in which he said the Fernández de Kirchner administration has hidden information on the UPM pulp mill (formerly known as Botnia).
The article got widespread attention after the daily Clarín published its own version of the story,
“Argentina ordered that twelve reports be hidden that benefit UPM,” Clarín wrote, the national government’s main foe, quoting Martínez’s interview with El País.
The article, which was published on the paper’s website, tied with the newspaper’s yesterday’s printed front page that emphasized that the government had only shown “partial evidence” of the pollution on the River Uruguay the government blames on the UPM plan, irritated the Foreign Ministry, which responded with a release that did not concern itself with diplomatic language.
“Once again, Clarín lies. Now it’s about UPM (formerly Botnia),” noted the document, released a day after Buenos Aires warned it would take Montevideo to The Hague International Court of Justice.
“It is sad for me to be involved in a case that is related to media manipulation,” Martínez told the Herald yesterday. The engineer who served as INTI’s head from 2002 to 2011 said he had refused to give further interviews.
“Following Clarín’s headline, there was a wave of phone calls from those who want to attack the government,” Martínez said. “They haven’t contacted me for years, and now I received phone calls from producers working for Jorge Lanata, Pepe Eliaschev, Samuel “Chiche” Gelblung and Nelson Castro, but they are not interested in clarifying the issue,” the former head of INTI complained.
On Monday, he talked to an El País journalist, with some of his statements igniting heated discussions at a time of controversy between Argentina and Uruguay. He reported that the INTI and its Uruguayan counterpart LATU had agreed to monitor the River Uruguay to determine if UPM’s production was polluting the river, but the agreement was soon quashed by a ban from the Uruguayan Foreign Ministry
“LATU informed us that they had not been allowed to carry out the research, so we started to work on our own. Our Foreign Ministry did not stop us,” Martínez explained to the Herald. Between 2008 and 2009, the INTI institute published reports online.
“When the conflict reached a breaking point, the Foreign Ministry asked us to withdraw our reports showing that pollution did not exceed limits. At the time, Uruguay did not provide any support, and it seemed naive to reveal our information unilaterally,” Martínez told the Herald. Asked by this daily, the engineer said that the request was made months before Argentina and Uruguay faced each other at The Hague in April 2010. Then, Jorge Taiana, who currently heads the ruling Victory Front (FpV) ticket for the Buenos Aires City Legislature, was the foreign minister, and months later, he was replaced with the current minister, Héctor Timerman.
“It was not the Foreign Minister who asked me not to publish the information,” Martínez said and added: “The petition came from the environment secretary and from lawyer (Susana) Ruiz Cerruti, who held a diplomatic status and took a leading role in the negotiations with Uruguay.” At the time, the secretariat was headed by Homero Bibiloni, whose name was not mentioned by Martínez.
On Wednesday, Timerman revealed a report that detailed the environmental effects of the factory, specifying that that UPM’s outflow to the river was of 32 degrees celsius, while the river’s temperature should not surpass 20, and that 400 times the allowed level of phenol and chromium had been detected in the river.
“Pulp mills are necessary for Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Regarding the idea that they pollute, we should discuss if this can be controlled,” Martínez said.
Uruguayans believe that the concentration of substances in the water should be measured, whereas Argentines insist that the outflow is what really matters.
“Personally, I believe that concentration in the river is the most important thing, because that is where people go for a swim or obtain drinking water, but I acknowledge that certain substances in the outflow can be extremely dangerous because they can end up polluting the whole river,” Martínez said.
Aware that he was in the middle of the storm between Argentina and Uruguay as well as the long dispute between the Kirchnerite administration and the Clarín Group, Martínez ended up saying: “I do not want to be part of that quarrel.”