22 November 2006

Mindless road rage

The folks in Gualeguaychú are blocking the international route to Uruguay again, after the World Bank announced it would grant a $170 million loan to the Finnish company Metsä-Botnia to continue building its cellulose and woodpulp mill on the Uruguay River. If this is already looking like useless repetition leading to a dead end to you, it must be because it is. The mill will be built, and it will pollute the Uruguay River as little or as much as it was supposed to, and we'll have to live with it. We'll survive and Gualeguaychú probably will too, but I'm not sure the traditional friendship between Argentina and Uruguay, as of late rather strained, will survive as well.

I couldn't possibly be more sympathetic to the inhabitants of this beautiful city that lives in part thanks to tourism and in turn thanks to its wide, brown-colored river. But after months of intermitent blockades, diplomatic negotiations, a good amount of political dance, media attention, and a model in a bikini parading a "NO TO THE PULP MILLS" sign in front of a dozen of presidents, the blockade tactic is not only stale and useless, but pathetic and counter-productive.

On TV I saw an Argentine motorist stopped by the blockade, arguing with the protestors to let him pass through, telling one of them that he was not fooling around as a tourist but he was a working Argentinian; and the protestor told him "I don't think you're an Argentinian". When it's come to this irrational us-vs.-them feeling, can we doubt that these people are horribly wrong, even as we know that their cause is just?

The pulp mills will pollute, as they do everywhere. They will emit a foul stench of rotten eggs and they'll taint the waters. They'll do just the same as each and every paper and pulp mill in Argentina, only producing much less pollution, because they have modern First World technology. The battle is already lost; the protestors in Gualeguaychú just haven't heard the retreat order -- and it is the Argentine government's fault that they haven't, because near election time nobody wants to give up on a national cause which was embraced in a hurry only months ago, and least of all sending the police or the Gendarmerie to clear the international pass.

The protestors clearly know this. One of them, in the latest assembly, demanded action from the authorities: "[They should] either come and beat us up, or come and lead our fight!". They're ready to ask the people of Colón and Concordia to block the international bridges located north of Gualeguaychú, thus completely cutting off Uruguay's land access from Argentina. This will reach a critical point soon..., and then what?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous14:18

    they will not pollute. Information first.


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