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Thumbs down to the Botnia pulp mill in Uruguay

September 1, 2007

The Finnish company Botnia is building a $1.2 billion pulp mill on the shores of the Uruguay River right across the Argentinean city of Gualeguaychú. The plant will be inaugurated in early September.

Certainly each country like Uruguay has the right to lure foreign investment and thereby boost economic growth and create more jobs. Moreover, if I were an Uruguayan, I’d be pretty pissed off at Argentina for meddling in the internal affairs of the country.

Considering that it’s a Finnish company that’s building the pulp mill assures that the technology used at the plant is the best that money can buy. I’d be truly worried if a Chilean, Brazilian or Argentinean forest company would be building the plant. It is a fact, however, that all pulp mills pollute. The Botnia plant near Fray Bentos in Uruguay is no exception.

The project is a good example of how not to handle public relations. The company cites “politics” as the main reason for the row. This is an insult to the Argentineans taking into account how hard they have had to fight to gain their inalienable right to free speech under previous military dictatorships.

Building the plant right across Gualeguaychú was another big mistake by Botnia. It shows a total lack of consideration brought on by a mix of ignorance of the region and hubris.

If we try to find culprits, certainly former Uruguayan President Jorge Batlle is one. He once stated off the record that all Argentineans are a bunch of crooks.

The solution? Botnia, Uruguay and Argentina must find an agreement. Just compensation will have to be given to the residents of Gualeguaychú and the province of Entre Ríos for losses that the pulp mill will cause to their economic livelihood.

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