02 December 2006

Overreactions: Argentina vs. Uruguay

Everybody seems to be on edge these days, haven't you noticed? And moderation seems to have gone out the window together with restraint and sense of proportion. Some examples:

  • Months ago, a double-decker interurban bus had an accident. Many passengers, mostly children, died. They said it may be due to bad balance and wind (driving a tall narrow bus with strong side winds may be dangerous, understandably). Almost instantly there were people demanding that double-decker buses be forbidden. What?
  • The hail caused property damage and losses. Some said it was the government's fault for not releasing a proper alert. The government agency in charge of weather prediction should have had something like alarm sirens set up in all the cities and towns and should have been able to broadcast an alert within minutes of discovering that hail was likely, the kind of alert that no-one can ignore (the TV, the radio and the Internet are not enough). It didn't, so it should pay for the repairs to my car. What?
Enter the Gualeguaychú-Fray Bentos cellulose/pulp mill issue, which is really a paragon of ridiculous lack of restraint. The latest development is that, after some of the guys in Gualeguaychú made mild terrorist threats (e.g. "we could cut that cable over there and shut off Uruguay's Internet in a minute"), and considered (but rejected for the moment) the possibility of going over to protest directly in Fray Bentos, the president of Uruguay signed an order to provide military custody to Botnia's cellulose plant. What!? Mr. K said it was an offence that hurt his heart. How moving.

But wait, it gets worse. The possibility of withdrawing Uruguay's ambassador was mentioned. It was rejected, but unfortunately the explanation given by Uruguay was "if we were to solve everything by withdrawing the ambassador, we wouldn't have had [the ambassador in Argentina] since one year and a half". This was the Uruguayan Chancellor, i.e. the head of the foreign relations office. Diplomacy, anyone?

As one of the readers of this rather low-level thread in Yahoo! Answers says, seeing Argentina and Uruguay against each other is like watching a fight of two chihuahuas. The issue is not only international but intranational; the mayor of Colón, north of Gualeguaychú, called their actions "exacerbated extremism", and the Gualeguaychú folks got mad at that. As of now, the international roads passing near both cities are being blocked again. These guys are actually mounting permanent tents by the road, setting up chemical baths, and a "kitchen bus". "If they come to repress us with the police", they said, "we might be forced to move, but in two hours they'll have 30,000 of us protesting in another spot".

The time has come to drop this ridiculous pretense that we're defending ecology as a national cause, and to accept the obvious facts:
  1. The Botnia plant will be built, on time, and in the designated spot, and it will work.
  2. Uruguay cannot make its way out of this. It has a special treaty with Finland that forbids messing up with certain agreed-on investments.
  3. The president of Uruguay cannot and will not lose the rest of its already diminishing popular support. His balls are in the hands of a corporation that's bringing the largest investment in the history of Uruguay. He simply has no room to move.
  4. The Assembly of Gualeguaychú is formed, like most of these movements, by 95% of people who don't have clear justifications for the protest, and 5% of misguided leaders. The withdrawal of official support has only radicalized them.
  5. When-and-if the Assembly commits an actual crime, the Argentine government will have to react but it will be too late.
  6. When-and-if the Argentine government reacts, there will be (as predicted by the Assembly) a horrible mess. This is entirely the government's fault. The clock is ticking.
The solution will not be nice. The authorities (the Gendarmerie or the police) will have to disband them and prevent them from blocking the international pass again. The damage (the sense of betrayal and resentment) will be done, but maybe a normal state of affairs might return in a couple of months. And all throughout the country, we the people will be telling our government "I told you so", as we always have.

1 comment:

  1. Right! South American machismo would seem to be more important than diplomacy regarding Vazquez and Kirchner on te Botnia plant affair. Sitting down to talk and thus resolve the problem is a sissy way to do things and, besides, it's a lot less fun than whipping out facones and trying to kill each other.


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