December 11, 2013
Uruguay offers to boost pollution controls
President Mujica sends Argentina counter-proposal over UPM conflict
Diplomatic tension with Uruguay over its authorization to allow the UPM pulp mill on the River Uruguay continued to escalate yesterday, as the Mujica administration not only rejected Argentina’s demands, but also upped the ante with a proposal to reform the River Uruguay Statute.
The counter-proposal was the official answer to Argentina’s call for Uruguay to reverse its decision to allow the UPM pulp mill to boost production from 1.1 to 1.3 million tons per year. Argentina has threatened to take the dispute to International Court of Justice in The Hague should the neighbouring country refrain from doing so.
Uruguay’s letter, signed by Foreign Minister Luis Almagro, was received yesterday by the Argentine Embassy in Montevideo. The document defends the authorization granted to the Finnish company and also the right of the Uruguayan government to make its own decisions.
The letter affirmed emphatically that “results of research on the environmental impact (of the mill) shows without ambiguity that UPM is not polluting the river”.
It also states that “Uruguay has acted with respect toward its international commitments at all times” according to the River Uruguay Statute and the ruling by The Hague in 2010.
An ambitious proposal
“Argentina has distorted a mechanism that was designed to facilitate the exchange of information. That is not acceptable,” noted the letter, in reference the alleged obstacles placed by the Argentine delegation of the Administrative Commission for the River Uruguay (CARU) to that institution’s operations.
The Uruguayan government reiterated its will to continue negotiations with the aim of establishing a new set of norms within CARU to satisfy mutual interests in preventing the pollution of the River Uruguay .
The proposal would imply increased controls not only pertaining to industrial plants but also to the tributaries that flow into the River Uruguay .
Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro said he “made an ambitious and constructive proposal to my counterpart Timerman in order to improve the River Uruguay Statute with better and stricter environmental controls. I think that our concrete and serious proposal reflects the good faith and absolute willingness of Uruguay to continue negotiations and that it constitutes a solid basis to reach the highest possible international standards for the river protection.”
Kirchnerite lawmaker Carlos Kunkel said yesterday that the Uruguayan government “is trying to spark controversy over UPM with the clear intention of influencing the electoral campaign.”
“Mujica has discredited this nation, the Argentine people and even Néstor and Cristina (Fernández de) Kirchner several times. He insulted them and then he alleged he was caught off guard in a private conversations. But if he says something, it means he thinks that way. And that is serious.”
The date the production increase was authorized reveals political intentions. The Uruguayan president could have done this after the elections, and not in the middle of the campaign,” the former presidential secretary stated.
Kunkel, who is a candidate to renew his seat at the midterms also had words for former Uruguayan president Tabaré Vázquez regarding the pulp mill dispute: “Vázquez came to Buenos Aires a year and a half before the Uruguayan elections and said that if Argentina helped him win the elections, he would authorize the construction of Botnia (UPM) far from the common border. We made an effort to help him provide transportation to Uruguayans on the election day. Around 60,000 people travelled by bus and by ship carrying flags of Frente Amplio (Vázquez’s party). And they won by more than 32,000 votes. But soon after the victory, the pulp mill installation was authorized” on the border.
Controversy over US$100 visa
The outrage in Uruguay due to the restoration of a US$100 visa for artists who cross the River Plate to perform in Argentina has made the Fernández de Kirchner administration reflect on whether to uphold the measure or not.
Argentine Embassador in Montevideo Dante Dovena declared to Uruguayan daily La República yesterday: “I am proposing the Argentine Foreign Ministry and other offices involved in this issue to initiate talks with Uruguayan counterparts in order to reach a waiver agreement with Uruguay to facilitate a permanent cultural, sports, science and professional exchange between both countries. This visa is an old regulation that is applied equally to seasonal workers of all countries. I am personally managing this issue.”
— Herald with DyN, Télam