BUENOS AIRES – Argentine environmentalists raised the blockade Saturday that has been in place since November 2006 on a bridge across the border into Uruguay, allowing the first cars to slowly drive over to the neighboring country.
The Environmental Assembly in the Argentine city of Gualeguaychu raised for 60 days the barrier blocking the way in hopes of progress in negotiations between the two governments to carry out an environmental study of the Finnish paper mill located in the neighboring country on the banks of the Uruguay River, which marks the common border between the two countries and whose administration they share.
“I’m very happy that the bridge is being opened and I hope this doesn’t happen again. May they keep up the fight but not this way,” said one of the first drivers to make the crossing to Fray Bentos on the Uruguayan side, where the UPM (formerly Botnia) paper mill is located.
The first cars began driving across very slowly while assembly members ran to the sides of the highway, where they will remain for the next 60 days to keep up their protest.
The activists opened the way after reading a proclamation questioning the installation of the plant, which they consider a source of pollution, and again asked that it be relocated.
The dispute began in 2005 with the start of construction of the paper mill.
Fearing that waste from the mill would pollute the river, residents of the Argentine province of Entre Rios launched disruptive protests that virtually shut down cross-border freight traffic.
The mobilization included not only environmentalists, but farmers and representatives of the Entre Rios fishing and tourism industries.
But on Wednesday the activists decided by a majority vote in a packed assembly to suspend their blockade of the bridge to Fray Bentos for 60 days.
The decision to raise the blockade will be reviewed on Aug. 19, when the two months are up that were decided on under pressure of a criminal complaint filed by the Fernandez government against assembly members for such serious crimes as sedition, inciting violence, public intimidation and interruption of transport by the blockade.
In a ruling handed down April 20, the International Court of Justice rejected Argentina’s allegations about environmental damage from the paper mill and Uruguay’s demand to be compensated for the border closures.
The court in The Hague also said that under the Uruguay River Convention, Montevideo should have consulted with Buenos Aires before approving construction of the paper mill, which began operating in 2007.