After Two Years Brazil Gets Involved in Argentina-Uruguay Mill Dispute

Argentineans protest against Uruguayan pulp plant Brazil expressed complacence on Monday at the resumption of dialogue between Argentina and Uruguay regarding the dispute over the construction of a pulp mill by the Finnish company Botnia along a shared river between the two neighboring countries.

"The Brazilian government is aware, with satisfaction of the results of the meeting between Argentina and Uruguay that took place in Madrid," under the auspices of King Juan Carlos from Spain, reads the official communiqué from the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This is the first time Brazil has made public an official statement on the dispute which has been ongoing for almost two years and with the bilateral dialogue interrupted for twelve months.

Brazil is pleased with the reestablishment of direct dialogue between both countries in an "atmosphere of mutual respect, sincerity and cordiality in the understanding that this step significantly contributes to the strengthening of Mercosur and South American integration".

Uruguay and Argentina agreed last Friday to continue with the direct dialogue initiated in Madrid, under the auspice of the Spanish Crown with the purpose of finding a solution to the conflict triggered by the construction of pulp mills along border areas or jointly managed waterways.

Uruguay and Argentina are committed to "abstain from adopting any measures or attitudes which could contribute to deepen existent differences or increase tensions", and to resume dialogue in a month's time, in a location yet to be determined by the "dialogue facilitator", Ambassador Juan Antonio Yaí±ez Barnuevo.

The dialogue process will evolve at two levels, on the one hand with the participation of technical delegations that will advance in the different areas identified and when needed "with the presence and conduction" of staff with political responsibilities.

The statement although expected, was as surprising as Brazil's passive attitude during the months' long dispute and its implicit siding with Argentina by preventing Uruguay on several occasions from taking the case to Mercosur.

Uruguay wanted Mercosur to intervene and put an end to the pickets of environmentalists and Argentine residents from Gualeguaychu (across from where the Botnia-Orion is under construction in Uruguay), who have consistently blocked bridges linking both countries, and thus preventing the free flow of people and goods as stated in Mercosur founding chart.

Time after time, Brazil supported the Argentine stance that the dispute was a bilateral issue between Argentina and Uruguay and therefore out of Mercosur agenda.

Argentina (and pickets) claims the pulp mill will contaminate water and air and are demanding a relocation of the plant. Argentina is also protesting Uruguay's alleged attitude of ignoring a 1975 joint management of waterways agreement by unilaterally authorizing the Orion-Botnia plant construction.

In related news protestors from Gualeguaychu took to the streets of Buenos Aires and released hundreds of broilers in front of Finland's embassy in Buenos Aires.

"One of the main industries in our province Entre Rios is the poultry industry, with thousands of jobs, but once the pulp mills are in production nobody will want to eat chickens from our area", said one of the protestors.

"Eat them now, before Botnia poisons them", said the protestors while giving away live chickens to pedestrians curious about the protest before the Finnish embassy.

A delegation of picketers from the province of Entre Rios are scheduled to meet Tuesday in Buenos Aires with cabinet chief Alberto Fernández who was one of the negotiators in the bilateral talks in Madrid sponsored by the Spanish King.

In spite of the optimism from both delegations regarding the resumption of dialogue following the talks in Madrid, pickets should continue blocking access to the three bridges linking Argentina with Uruguay.

Mercopress

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