A response to UNASUR – Death before Life?

COHA recently received a very exhaustive response to the organization’s release on 12/16/08 of staff members Andrea Moretti’s and Alex Sanchez’s article “UNASUR – Death before Life? Disagreements over Leadership as National Agendas Divide South America, Dashing Argentina’s UNASUR Prospects.” from one of our Swedish readers, Mr. Johan Cederwall. In it, Mr. Cederwall points out the problems he had with COHA’s piece in a letter that painstakingly addresses each issue separately. We feel that the following letter makes a distinct contribution to the issue. COHA encourages our readership to feel free to use this space for thoughtful contributions on subjects relating to regional affairs responses such as this. Below is Mr. Cederwall’s letter in its entirety.

-COHA Staff

A response from Johan Cederwall:
Permit me to respond to COHA Paper 16-12-2008 by COHA staff researchers Alex Sánchez and Andrea Moretti, titled ”UNASUR – Death before Life? Disagreements over Leadership as National Agendas Divide South America, Dashing Argentina’s UNASUR Prospects”.

I saw a reference to this paper at a Uruguayan source but I ignore if there was any comment attached to the text. But I went to COHA on December 17th and retrieved the paper. When reading it I was amazed, it is an incredibly bad paper, very poorly researched and extremely biased.
It seems the real intention of the paper is revealed by the following statement in it:

”Bitter personal agendas, particularly the battle between Montevideo and Buenos Aires over Uruguay’s pulp mill, are nothing new for the region, where small disputes have often been magnified, at a disservice to the region. With the US president-elect soon to take office, and with major expectations concerning his rehabilitation of Latin American policy already circulating, it is unfortunate that South America will not be able to present a common front vis-à-vis the new American administration. UNASUR has been delivered a fatal blow by Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, who hardly has conducted himself as a hemispheric hero, but rather has fomented discord through rancorous speeches and precipitous actions.” (My stressing of the last sentence above)

This statement should be read against a previous statement in the paper:

”The fact that South American countries cannot quickly agree on a leader of the new regional organization is hardly surprising, in light of the region’s past mixed performance. Though, it may still be too early for the recently-created UNASUR to find a leader that can exercise decisive influence over its member states – particularly someone like Kirchner with his low tolerance for the misdeeds of others and judgmental work style.” (my stressing of part of the statement)

To start with the elemental errors in the Sánchez/Moretti paper, UNASUR as all other regional Latin American organizations (as far as I know) cannot decide over its member countries. There are no political organs in this part of the world where the member countries have surrendered any of their sovereignty to a collective organization above them. When some people, really not so few, affirm that UNASUR is an equivalent to the EU, this is completely wrong and based upon a failure by many South American politicians to understand the correct character of the EU.

And as a rule the Latin American countries have blockages in their constitutions against giving away any power to collective organs including their neighboring countries. There is another tendency which should be noted: that their political leaders tend to make up decisions among themselves in closed chambers, without the participation of the political organs in their respective countries. A consequence of this is that such decisions very often are not confirmed by the national parliaments, it is even common that those same leaders who have agreed things with their regional peers do not even bother to send the matter to their national parliaments. An example: this UNASUR-organization, so well-seen by many journalists and launched with the usual grand rhetorical exercises in May, 2008, has not been approved until now by more than two of the twelve countries launching it: Ecuador and Venezuela… Not even by the country that apparently was the most interested one: Brazil.

It is also interesting that in the past few years three countries have conducted a race in attempting to exercise influence and decisional power over the region and thus over the smaller countries: Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina. I think it would be unthinkable that any of these three countries or their present leaders would agree to surrendering power to a UNASUR general secretary. And for the other countries I think it would be unadvisable to surrender any power to a ”strong-man” of the type implied by Sánchez and Moretti. Latin America has enough of authoritarianism and few leaders today are more authoritarian than COHA’s researchers’ candidate Néstor Kirchner.

UNASUR has in fact had a general secretary, one had been appointed already before CSN was transformed into UNASUR in May 2008. It was the former president of Ecuador, Rodrigo Borja, who resigned before UNASUR was formally instituted, complaining about the lack of prerogatives the secretary general would have. I presume Borja had been appointed through a personal decision between a small number of leaders in the region, probably Correa, Chávez and Lula da Silva with some consultation with others.

Sánchez and Moretti bypass completely that a new candidate was launched by mid-2008 by Mrs. Bachelet in agreement with Mr. Morales in La Paz: the Bolivian diplomat Pablo Solón. A remarkable act, since Bolivia does not uphold diplomatic relationships with Chile… But, the Bolivian diplomat was vetoed by Mr Correa of Ecuador (when Bolivia and Ecuador are close partners in the Chávez-led band…!), who was joined by the presidents of both Colombia and Peru. Why do not Sánchez and Moretti lambast the presidents Correa, Uribe and García as they grossly insult Dr Vázquez of Uruguay? I think COHA should ask Sánchez and Moretti for an explanation for this. Why are Sánchez and Moretti so mean against Dr. Vázquez and thus against the majority of the voters in Uruguay?

The reason why Mr. Solón was vetoed is interesting, too. Ecuador was badly disturbed by Bolivia’s attitude in the on-going dialogue between the EU and the four remaining members of the Andean Community (the present status of Venezuela is not very clear in any of the regional trade organizations). This reveals a very common trait in South American collective dialogues with countries or organizations outside the region: either the countries have failed to agree on a common stance – if they have discussed among themselves at all – or one or other country simply lets its national purposes have priority over the collective ones, even if such may have been agreed.

The mentioning of Uruguay in relation to Mr Solón as candidate to the general secretariat should just be that Uruguay had nothing against the first proposed candidate.

The next step follows when after the Ecuadorian veto of Mr. Solón, Mr. Correa launches the name of Néstor Kirchner. There are now signs that the government of Argentina had been attempting to sell the name of Mr. Kirchner since earlier. But when UNASUR was formally launched in May, 2008, the newspaper reports stated explicitly that Brazil did not then see with any sympathy his eventual candidacy. After Mr. Correa launched him, the Argentine press repeated times wondered if his name would be accepted by Colombia, Peru and Uruguay.

I would rather wonder how Mr. Correa could think that Colombia, Peru or Uruguay would accept Mr. Kirchner’s name. After the Chávez-Kirchner attempts to intervene in the FARC hostage situation in Colombia late in 2007 it should have been evident that neither Mr. nor Mrs. Kirchner were well-seen by the Colombian government and still less after the Ecuadorian-Colombian conflict over FARC’s base in Ecuador. Mr. Alan García’s personal stance in relation to the Argentine couple has also been evident since long – President García has systematically avoided participating in joint events such as the biannual Mercosur summits and very particularly if the host was Argentina and the Kirchners.

It is known that the decision of Uruguay to announce that the country did not support Mr. Kirchner as secretary general of UNASUR already was known to some other governments in the region since before the announcement. I can only guess, but those governments could include those of Santiago, Bogotá and Asunción. The wording of several statements from the government of Paraguay on the matter may mean that Paraguay could also want the Kirchner candidacy to be vetoed.

Back to the first statement above, those who know anything about President Vázquez of Uruguay, know that he is everything but a man that ”has fomented discord through rancorous speeches and precipitous actions”. I am not a sympathizer of the man, but I am perfectly aware that contrary to some of his present colleagues (Mr. and Mrs. Kirchner, Mr. Chávez, Mr. Correa, Mr. Morales, etc) he is a man of no rancorous speeches and a man who may look like he takes precipitous actions – but that is because those expressing that he does that, choose not to notice that his actions are preceded by explicit attempts to communicate his views or attempts to have the other part to take action so he does not need to take those ”precipitous actions” of his. But he has another characteristic which may not be understood: Mr. Vázquez may seem to profess simultaneous contrary stands on one and the same issue…

When Sánchez and Moretti say that Dr Vázquez has not behaved – according to them – as a hemispheric hero – they reveal another problem in much of what is written about”integration” in the ”hemisphere”, ”Latin America”, ”South America”, ”region”, etc. That is the problem of which the geographical, cultural, political or economical units are and which the preferred ones are. This varies from one country to the other and even within some countries. It varies between the ”leftist” regimes, too. And the choice of unit of preference also has much to do with national pretenses of power in relation to other countries in the ”hemisphere”.

CSN (”Comunidad Sudamericana de Naciones) in its original guise back towards the end of 2004 had four main proponents: Brazil, Venezuela, President Toledo of Peru and Mr. Duhalde, then ”president of the permanent representatives at Mercosur”, a post created outside any statutes governing Mercosur and whose main function was to ease the communication between the member states, but principally between Brazil and Argentina. But Mr. Duhalde in his energetic work for the creation of CSN had a very weak backing by his successor as president of Argentina, Néstor Kirchner, or even by Argentina. The reason was and is very simple: Argentina has had as its leading principle to have Mercosur work before other multinational regional organs are created.

Among the countries the most reticent to the creation of CSN were Colombia and Uruguay, in the latter case neither the government in power then nor the elected new leftist president, Dr Vázquez, were any fervent adherents of the proposed new organization. And Dr Vázquez did not attend the energy summit in 2007 on the Margarita Island where Mr. Chávez started attempting revamping CSN to what now is UNASUR nor at the formal launching of UNASUR in May, 2008.

One of the intentions by Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela with UNASUR is to shut out Mexico, the world’s leading Spanish-speaking country in several respects, from the regional integration in their national versions of ”regional integration”. On the other hand Chile has both a free trade agreement with Mexico as well as an agreement of strategic partnership, which Chile only has with one other country: Uruguay. And Uruguay’s Dr Vázquez has twice been on official visits to Mexico, which he has not been with any other regional country. Uruguay, independent of which government in power, has been an avid supporter of Mexico’s application for membership in Mercosur – which Brazil and Argentina do not support. Uruguay used a temporary exemption in Mercosur early in the century to sign a treaty of free trade with Mexico, which has been harshly criticized by Mr Celso Amorim, when he later became foreign minister of Brazil, for doing.

UNASUR’s artificial division of Latin America between South America and the rest of the ”hemisphere” is thus less in the interest of some of the smaller countries than of Brazil or Argentina or of chavismo. The same applies to whether the Latin American countries should have free trade with the United States and Canada. In the case of the present leftist regime in Uruguay, there is no consensus on the issue, the majority of the regime’s constituent political groupings refusing in 2006 to endorse hemispherical free trade as well as refusing to position themselves against it – meaning no free trade treaty with the United States could be agreed.

If Bolivia caused a row about Mr. Solóns candidacy over how to dialogue with the EU, the situation between Mercosur and the EU or between Mercosur and the GATT Doha talks is even worse. Mercosur has a summit with the EU every two years within the EU – Latin America and Caribbean summit and both in 2006 and 2008 the summit has coincided with the Argentine presidency over Mercosur. In 2006 it was found that Argentina had simply failed to prepare the negotiations with its three fellow members in Mercosur, so the trade negotiations between Mercosur and the EU at the summit had to be cancelled. Apparently the same happened in 2008, with harsh words having been reported to have been expressed by both Ms Angela Merkel and by Mr. Barroso over Mrs. Kirchner’s attitude to multilateral dialogue.

Sánchez and Moretti in their article fail completely to relate the ”veto” of Mr Kirchner to the general secretariat of UNASUR with the complete fiasco of Mercosur in its core purposes. Mercosur now again in Costa de Sauípe failed on the issues of the removal of the internal double customs or agreeing on the joint customs code. Mercosur has failed since the 1990’s also in making any progress in the negotiations with the EU and more recently the four member states have fallen into three distinctly different stances in the Doha talks. The behavior of Argentina within Mercosur is probably an important part of the ”vetoing” of Mr. Kirchner in UNASUR by Uruguay.

The Uruguayan government did not mention any pulp mills as the reason for not supporting Mr. Kirchner’s candidacy. Sánchez and Moretti fail to tell the two reasons given. The first one is of course related to the pulp mill issue, but the reason given was the illegal Kirchner ”national Argentine cause” of blockading the joint bridges over the Uruguay River. The other reason given was Argentina’s failure to comply with intentions in the agreements from the 1970’s of the joint management of the waterways in the River Plate. Argentina has seen to it that only the channels leading to the Paraná River (”canal Mitre”) are dredged and not the channels leading to the Uruguayan river ports or to the Uruguay River (”canal Martín García”).

The Uruguayan government could also have mentioned Argentina’s intentional failure to dredge the navigation channels in the Uruguay River, when those pass in Argentine waters and it is in those parts the navigation problems are…

I guess Paraguay watches the Kirchners’ attitude on the river navigation issues with great interest, since Paraguay is also affected by the similar intentional Argentine failure to dredge and manage the middle Paraná River, north of Santa Fé, through which an important part of Paraguay’s foreign trade passes, with transshipment at Uruguayan ports…

Paraguay probably also follows the Argentine, supposedly on environmental grounds, conflict with Uruguay. Paraguay has repeatedly complained about two of the three Argentine pulp mills in Misiones discharging completely untreated ”black liquor” directly into the Paraná River opposite the Paraguayan river margins.

Sánchez and Moretti mention how the South American or Latin American countries have had repeated difficulties in agreeing multilaterally or on which leaders to appoint in the various joint organizations. My feeling is that they underestimate the sharp competition between the countries, both about getting the positions for their respective countries or hindering the neighbors or hindering particular individual candidates.

It should be of some interest to review some of the latest appointments in positions representing the region.

As they correctly state, the Chilean socialist politician and former foreign minister and prime socialist candidate to replace Mrs. Bachelet as Chile’s president is Mr. Insulza. I am somewhat surprised at Sánchez and Moretti’s dislikening of Mr Insulza, who was the South American left’s candidate as secretary general of OAS, defeating the Mexican/Paraguayan alternative.

But, the left failed in the next position to be filled, replacing Uruguay’s Mr. Enrique Iglesias who left IADB after 17 years for the Ibero-American general secretariat in Madrid. In this case the position went to Colombia, with the support of the left-wing government of Uruguay.

Then we had the rotating Latin American seats in the UN Security Council. Chávez tried by every means to put Venezuela on the council and when it became evident he would in no way sum enough votes, this is around October, 2006, Venezuela conditioned its withdrawal as candidate to first having an agreement on which Latin American country would be allowed to candidate instead. Venezuela thus consulted Mr. Kirchner and the result was that Argentina and Venezuela vetoed Uruguay as an eventual candidate to the security council for Latin America (Panama got the seat).

Immediately after this, in November, 2006, the Ibero-American Summit was being held in Montevideo. The Vázquez government took the opportunity of using the summit to hold a kind of regional farewell ceremony for the UN secretary general, Mr. Koffi Annan. Among the guests of honor were also the EU foreign policy commissioner, Mrs. Benita Ferrero Waldner from Austria. The Vázquez government was deeply annoyed that the summit was boycotted by Mr Chávez and by Mr. Lula da Silva as well as a number of other regional leaders, among them the new candidates for the seat as the Dominican Republic and Panama. Mr. da Silva was seen on a bathing vacation in northeastern Brazil… Mr Kirchner, with his characteristic gross lack of education, did not turn up until the celebrations had been going on for several hours.

Another post of interest was that of secretary general of GATT. Mr. Pascal Lamy was finally appointed but this time it should have been the turn for a candidate from Latin America. And there was a candidate that enjoyed the explicit support of almost all the Latin American countries, Mr. Pérez del Castillo from Uruguay. Mr. Pérez del Castillo also enjoyed the support of most of the Asian and Pacific members of the Cairns group within GATT, a group Mr Pérez del Castillo had been a founding member of. Not only Uruguay, its candidate enjoying the official backing of both the previous government but also of Dr. Vázquez’ government, but other Latin American countries were disturbed at the attitudes of Brazil and particularly of its foreign minister, Mr. Celso Amorim.

Brazil launched a campaign against the region’s candidate, which apparently also had the intention of proposing a particular alternative Brazilian candidate to block the possibilities of another capable Brazilian candidate disliked by Mr. Amorim’s entourage, of becoming a possible candidate.

I find Sánchez’ and Moretti’s attacks on Uruguay in the December 16th article very unfair in this context. Dr Vázquez has absolutely no reason not to announce that Uruguay does not support an utterly unsuitable candidate as Mr. Kirchner. Or does the right to ”vetoing” of unsuitable candidates only apply to certain countries, with more prerogatives than their neighbor countries or with a political stance in symphony with that of some people but not other?

It is very common to see complaints from Latin American leaders over lack of multilateralism from e.g. the Bush government’s side. The sad fact is that some of those doing most of the complaining do not abstain from bilateralism in their own behavior within the region. The Mercosur is a typical example and thus a reason why both Paraguay and Uruguay have been complaining year after year about how Brazil and Argentina behave within their joint organization, whose principle is that of consensus in all decisions. With Mrs. Kirchner as president of Argentina we now have frequent bilateral meetings between two of the four members of Mercosur.

We thus have bilateral meetings dealing with the Mercosur issues, despite Mercosur having four full members and the principle of consensus. The two smaller states are not even informed about what the two ”big brothers” discuss and decide…

In the case of the Argentine blockade of the Uruguay River bridges, the matter was dealt with by the legal mediation organ within the Mercosur. It found that Argentina was breaching the Treaty of Asunción, which is the basic document for Mercosur. But the government of Mr. Kirchner did not take any action and the government of Mr. Lula da Silva apparently prefers the integrative body, supposed one day to become a customs union without internal obstacles to transports and trade, to ignore that its basic rules are not abided by.

The Mercosur summit immediately previous to the one at Costa de Sauípe, in Tucumán in June, 2008, saw Argentina making the eventual adoption of a Mercosur customs code dependent upon the other members accepting that Argentina could use export taxes to distort trade with its fellow Mercosur members. Mr. Lula da Silva’s government did not object. Dr. Vázquez and his travel committee thus stood up while Mr. Morales talked and talked and left directly for the airport and their awaiting aircraft after uttering very sharp words about the sudden Argentine move.

A few years ago, the Lula da Silva government finally could improve the relations with Kirchner-Argentina after accepting Argentina’s demand for CAC (Cláusula de Adaptación Competitiva), then renamed MAC, by which the government of Argentina could limit the volume of imports of specific goods from its fellow members in Mercosur. Of course this was a bilateral decision, violating the interests of Paraguay and Uruguay…

But not even such agreements are needed for Argentina (or Brazil or Venezuela) to breach regional trade agreements. I would suggest Sánchez and Moretti, so interested in the Latin American ”integration” to study the case of the Motociclo bicycles. The Uruguayan bicycle and motorcycle manufacturer Motociclo happens to be the most modern and efficient producer in its industry in the River Plate area and thus Argentina could not accept that it had a strong market presence in Argentina. Since the year 2000 no Motociclo bicycles may be shipped to the neighbour country, every trick is used to hinder competition from a non-Argentine cycle producer…

”Integration” has become a magic word in Latin America and it is reflected in the Sánchez/Moretti paper. But what is meant by this concept in this region? What is the meaning when it is used by Sánchez and Moretti? That one, two or three countries decide over their neighbours, usually to attack countries and governments outside the region or inside (the United States) on national or personal ideological grounds?

Early in March, 2007, President George W Bush made one of his trips to Latin America and this time visited Uruguay at the invitation of the Leftist government of this country (Dr. Vázquez had previously been on a very friendly state visit to the White House). The guests arrived on the Friday evening of March 8th from São Paulo. That same evening Mr. Chávez,who had arrived expressly for the purpose to Buenos Aires, ”acted” at the Ferrocarril Oeste soccer field in a venue organized by the Argentine presidency to attack President Bush. What is this if not “fomenting discord through rancorous speeches” by the pair of the Mr. Chávez and Mr. Kirchner? Since when it is an acceptable practice for two Latin American governments to harass a neighbor government and its president, which happen to be very Leftist but not prone to anti-American hatred theater, for following normal dialogue mores with the countries that the country chooses to dialogue with? But Sánchez and Moretti apparently do not see Mr. Chávez and Mr. Kirchner as rancorous…

”UNASUR has been delivered a fatal blow by Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, who hardly has conducted himself as a hemispheric hero, but rather has fomented discord through rancorous speeches and precipitous actions.”

But it was not the first time. At the Summit at the Americas, held in Mar del Plata in November, 2005, the Kirchner government chose to put President Bush up to ”precipitous” verbal attacks and up to attempts of declarations that had not been agreed beforehand with other participating governments and particularly not the Bush government. Apparently the Mercosur members and the applicant Venezuela had not prepared beforehand on what to propose to the other thirty participating governments.

Uruguayan media had a telling note: there was an explicit note about how Dr. Vázquez in contrast to the rudeness displayed by Mr. Chávez and by Mr. Kirchner had taken much care in greeting President Bush in Dr. Vázquez’ characteristic polite style…

”Rancorous speeches” or aggressive nationalist behavior are not a characteristic part of Uruguayan political culture or of the Uruguayan way of being. Despite Mr. Bush not being popular in Uruguay for the same reasons as in most of the world, public opinion measurements showed that a vast majority of the Uruguayans approved that the Left Front government hosted President Bush.

The international media, with their tendency towards forwarding messages of contents constructed à priori, generally did not report that although the evening arrival of the guests just was organized as a transport to the chosen hotel, spontaneous applauding crowds were observed where the limousine caravan passed through populated neighborhoods. And after the official state visit had ended after the reception at the US Ambassador’s residence, it was observed with total surprise that the core committee of about eight, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Bush, Ms. Condoleezza Rice and members of the national security council of the Bush government had a ”precipitous” Saturday dinner out in town in Montevideo in a restaurant which was open to business as usual…

When Sánchez and Moretti describe the political spectrum in Uruguay with:

”particularly the two largest opposition parties, the Nacionales and the Colorados”, (my stressing)

they reveal that the COHA researchers have not even bothered to find what the political parties in Uruguay are called. And this should not be difficult: contrary to many other Latin American countries, the traditional parties in Uruguay are very old. The Partido Nacional, whose sympathisers are called nationalists (nacionalistas) or “the white” (blancos) because of the colour of their party flag used during the 19th century internal wars, has been in business since 1836. The Partido Colorado (colorado means colored party flag, which was colored red) can trace its ancestry as long back, too. The traditional parties have been with us since the independent state of the republic east of the Uruguay (River) was established in 1830… How come Sánchez and Moretti cannot give correct names for them???

It is not my intention to take up everything that is wrong or dubious in Sánchez’ and Moretti’s text. But the “pulp or paper mill dispute” requires some explanations, as it is described as a small dispute and with a quite incorrect description.

Again maybe the Sánchez/Moretti term “precipitous” could be used. The pulp mills or the development of them is anything but a “precipitous” matter with ”precipitous actions” by Uruguay. The mills that suddenly became the object of Argentine objections have a story beginning in the late 1980’s. As a result of a forest industry promotion law package from 1987, a number of international companies around 1989/1990 started planting forests in Uruguay with the ultimate intention to industrialize the wood, among other through the establishment of pulp mills. This package of laws was not the first; rather the development of similar laws existing since the late 1960’s and behind the new move were international development organizations such as the World Bank and Japanese government organs.

The choice of the area around the city of Fray Bentos as the ideal location for new pulp mills was suggested by the Japanese and this is thus some twenty years before the first of the new mills went into production. The choice of this location had to do with logistic, environmental and infrastructure issues.

The Spanish forest company ENCE had established their nursery outside Fray Bentos around 1990 and I think it was around 1999 that ENCE acquired a large riverside property some 10 to 20 km north of Fray Bentos. The property really contained the remains of an old port and meat processing facility from the 1870’s. At the northern end of the property, called M’Bopicuá, which is guaraní, ENCE had found the ideal place to build a large private port. ENCE applied for all the necessary permits and by November 2003 (?) the first part of the port was inaugurated by the Apostolic nunce in Uruguay in the presence of three Uruguayan presidents and the president of the autonomous region of Galicia in Spain, Dr Manuel Fraga Iribarne. Soon the first Japanese Panamax-class bulk carrier made the first trip to M’Bopicuá up the Uruguay River, under the Fray Bentos – Puerto Unzué bridge to load about half its capacity with wood chips from the ENCE eucalyptus plantations in Uruguay. The rest was loaded at Montevideo or off Montevideo.

I think it was around March, 2003 that ENCE applied for the establishment of its pulp mill at M’Bopicuá, rated at about 400 to 500.000 annual tons. All the necessary Uruguayan permits were given in due course and the project was sent to the World Bank, which approved it, a condition to be able to insure the project internationally and to receive World Bank funding. The government of Mr. Kirchner was notified by the government of Uruguay, as evident from the annual memories of the Argentine federal congress. Nothing happened in Argentina, the ENCE mill project was not objected to by Argentina.

But with the exception of major site preparation work, the work of building the ENCE mill did not start and the reasons had nothing to do with Uruguay, Argentina or this project, but with the ENCE project to build a paper mill adjacent to its pulp mill in Galicia. This was ENCE’s next major project and to be carried out before the M’Bopicuá mill. But the PPG (Partido Popular de Galicia) after ruling sixteen years in Santiago de Compostela, lost power in Galicia, the socialists and the Galician nationalist block (BNG) gaining one more seat together in Santiago de Compostela than PPG. The Galician left had the paper mill project stopped and threatened ENCE with the closure of this pulp mill. The result was that the Caixa Galicia, the key share owner in ENCE and responsible for the management of ENCE, sold out all its shares in ENCE, as did the two partners of them.

In March, 2004, Metsä-Botnia from Finland, applies for the necessary permits to build a one million tons per annum pulp mill half-way between Fray Bentos and the future M’Bopicuá mill. Metsä-Botnia was asked not only to show the environmental and logistical consequences of the proposed pulp mill but also the combined consequences with the M’Bopicuá mill. The combined projects passed the requirements of Uruguay, the World Bank and EU’s future more stringent rules and thus the Botnia SA mill was authorized in February, 2005. Again the Argentine government was informed and did not object.

Contrary to the case of the M’Bopicuá mill, the Botnia mill was built, starting in late 2005 and by mid-2007 was nearing completion. As is known, protests started at Gualeguaychú in the province of Entre Rios in Argentina, both from a self-appointed ”Asamblea Ciudadana Ambiental de Gualeguaychú” or ACAG and by the provincial governor, Mr. Jorge Busti, who at the same time promoted the establishment of pulp mills in his own province but protested against the establishment of similar projects in the neighboring country, a country in which bribes are not customary as in the case of Argentina and of Mr. Busti…

Sánchez and Moretti should perhaps inquire how ACAG’s members (often referred to as pseudo environmental ”piqueteros”) have not had any objections for decades at bathing among the dead fish in the Gualeguaychú River, that runs through the city of Gualeguaychú and empties its contaminated waters just adjacent to the private river beach where the owner also was one of the protesters against the new pulp mills on the other side of the Uruguay River. But Gualeguaychú did not have sewage collection systems until 2007, has no treatment of them and as far as I know the industrial park upstream the Gualeguaychú River with chemical industries still does not treat the discharged liquids adequately… But ACAG has no problems with this, either…

The most southerly of the three bridges over the lower Uruguay River has now been the subject of ACAG’s permanent blockade for 25 months. The next bridge, the one between Paysandú and Colón, has been blockaded from time to time but is open since an Argentine court decided it must remain open. The third bridge, the causeway over the Salto Grande hydroelectric power plant, has mostly been open to traffic since the local inhabitants in Concordia do not support ACAG’s actions.

In April or May 2006 Mr. and Mrs. Kirchner had a ceremony organized in Gualeguaychú with compulsory presence for most of Argentina’s provincial governors to announce the bridge blockade of ACAG becoming a national Argentine cause. The Kirchner governments have until now refused to end ACAG’s actions, despite the blockade being a breaching not only of international treaties including the Asunción treaty but also a breach against the Argentine constitution. Argentine federal judges have declared the blockades as unconstitutional, but the Kirchners still do not abide.

When the Botnia SA mill was nearing completion in mid-2007, elections were being planned in Argentina and it turned out that Mrs. Kirchner was being proposed as the next president. It appears as certain now that a silent agreement was made between the Kirchner government and the Vázquez government through their chiefs of staff which implied that the pulp mill issue was to be kept at a low level, that the Uruguayan government delayed the start of production at the Botnia mill and that the Kirchners would see to it that the bridge blockade was interrupted before Mrs. Kirchner was installed early in December, 2007. This silent agreement apparently was not part of the Spanish royal facilitation process.

But in November, 2007 the Ibero-American summit took place in Santiago de Chile and it became clear to Dr. Vázquez not only that the Kirchners would not do anything to the blockade nor allow any progress at all to take place in the royal facilitation process. Dr. Vázquez thus calls his environment minister in Montevideo from the summit after Mr. Kirchner refused even to meet with him within the facilitation process at the summit and the final environmental permit to start the mill, which already was signed, was announced. This is what the Argentine leftist populist media called Dr. Vázquez’ “precipitous actions” and now is used by Sánchez and Moretti (!).

This was not an example of ”precipitous action” but of extreme patience in awaiting some correspondence from the Kirchners but the only thing Dr. Vázquez had achieved was a delay of not weeks but months in starting the pulp mill. Now, some 13 ½ months later, the mill has passed one million tons produced, without any contamination being detected. The conflict goes on, as thought by many since the beginning, but evidently not by Sánchez and Moretti who are 100% partial to ACAG and Busti and the Kirchners, it has never been an environmental conflict.

It has proved impossible to discuss the matter within the regional “integration” organs. Within Mercosur the matter is vetoed by Brazil and Argentina – regional “integration” the South American way implies that consensus must reign about which issues may be touched upon at the multilateral organ meetings. The matter has been “vetoed” consistently by the presidents Lula da Silva and Kirchner.

Uruguay attempted to have the matter discussed at the recent Ibero-American summit in San Salvador in November, 2008. It turned out that it was not a matter the member states wanted to have an opinion about. It was easier to repeat the perennial attacks on the United Kingdom about the Falklands…

Returning to Mr. Chávez and Uruguay’s ”veto” of Dr. Kirchner as secretary general of UNASUR, Sánchez and Moretti say Mr. Chávez has not expressed any clear standpoint. I guess that is right, but as I have written above, Mr. Chávez has already chosen side by ”vetoing” Uruguay as a candidate country for the UN security council on behalf of Argentina.

The relations between Venezuela and Uruguay have had other problems in recent years, from Venezuelan ”promises” of refinery investments in Uruguay to the “Valija-gate” mess. When the suitcase with 800.000 USD Mr. Guido Antonini was bringing into Argentina on behalf of PdVSA and Mr. Uberti from Mr. Kirchner’s government for Mrs. Kirchner’s election campaign, the Kirchner government chief of staff within days accused Uruguay of being the true destination of the suitcase. So shameless was the Kirchner regime.

The Kirchners probably knew that Dr. Vázquez’ election campaign is said to have been paid by Mr. Chávez with PdVSA funds as well. And Mr. Antonini, one of the members of the ”Boliburguesía” or ”Bolivarian intermediaries” thriving on the Chávez’ regime’s shadier business deals in arms, oil, etc, had been a regular visitor to Montevideo on behalf of PdVSA, presumably earning big commissions on business deals connected to the Uruguayan state’s penchant from 2005 for buying all crude oil in Venezuela against shady deals involving Argentine businessmen in Uruguay and at least one of Dr. Vázquez’ own sons. The UMISSA prefabricated houses deal is being investigated by the justice in Uruguay for the roles of several persons including Mr. Antonini and his previous Venezuelan partner in strange money flows, his partner now being in jail in Miami for illegal Bolivarian secret services activities on US soil and against US citizens…

So, the answer, which Sánchez and Moretti should have found out, is that Mr. Chávez probably keeps as quiet as possible given the ramifications of the suitcase affaire in Uruguay, reaching right into Dr. Vázquez’ political funding and the chavista commissions said to reach into his own family.

Despite the delayed pulp mill start in Uruguay, Mrs. Kirchner in her installation speech in December, 2007, chose to attack Dr. Vázquez, present as her guest, when he was unable to respond.

My final comment: the title of Sánchez and Moretti’s paper seems to indicate that the paper would discuss how the regional countries had different national agendas, ending with a hint that Uruguay somehow ”dashed” Argentina’s UNASUR prospects. I think the paper does not deliver what the complicated title promises and the last part of the title I simply do not understand. I fail to understand how the matter if Mr. Kirchner was designated secretary general of UNASUR or not could have much to do with his country’s prospects within this organization. Multilateralism normally means that the participating countries agree on common standpoints or courses of action, not that one or two or three countries (e.g. through the all too common South American bilateralism tendencies) impose their national agendas on other countries, often the smaller countries in the region.

The titling is wrong in that nothing is found in the paper about the varying attitudes to the “regional” cooperation patterns or the content.

Maybe Sánchez and Moretti the next time should discuss how extreme nationalism in many Latin American countries not only lead to gross attacks on countries outside their perceived region such as the United States or the United Kingdom but as well result in meaningless conflicts between neighbors. I have checked the ten Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries of the twelve within UNASUR and my conclusion is that there is probably not a single of those countries that now could propose a candidate for the general secretariat post without there existing a risk for “veto” from one or several of the other countries…

In Sánchez and Moretti’s text there are a number of supposed alternative candidates as general secretary of UNASUR. The strange thing is that there have been repeated reports about one other name. Brazil would have been waiting for other candidates, such as Mr. Kirchner, to be vetoed, in order to propose its own candidate. That candidate has been named as Mr. Marco Aurélio Garcia, Mr. Lula da Silva’s close foreign policy advisor and thought to be the chief architect behind Brazil’s rapprochement to both Mr. Chávez and the Kirchners.

My conclusion has been: Mr. Garcia would run a major risk of being “vetoed” by Mr. Correa and could eventually be “vetoed” too by Mr. Morales, bishop Lugo – and by Dr. Vázquez for the Lula da Silva support of the Kirchner policies against Uruguay in the pulp mill conflict or the Mercosur squabbles or the attacks by the Argentine Mercosur secretary Eduardo Sigal on a number of his Uruguayan colleagues for not professing the same standpoints as Argentina… or…

Mr. Cederwall, of Swedish ancestry, spent his early years in Uruguay and elsewhere in Latin America, Before returning to Sweden for his university education and the commencement of his business career.