Tobin Hansen, Buenos Aires

December 12, 2006

Thousands of Argentines, from all parts of the country and citing environmental and labor reasons, marched on Buenos Aires´ Plaza de Mayo today to protest construction of the Orion Pulp Mill by Botnia, in Fray Bentos Uruguay. As drums and chants thundered off the high colonial walls lining the Avenida de Mayo, residents leaned on balcony rails above and applauded.

The march began several blocks southwest on the Avenida de Mayo at approximately twelve o´clock PM. The crowd included dancers and drummers and carried hundreds of banners which read, in Spanish, “No to the paper mills, yes to life”.

A large group of the protestors represented Gualeguaychú, a city on the Argentine side of the Uruguay river, directly downstream from the site of the proposed mill. Other groups represented the cities of Carrío and Macri. All expressed their strong desire to unify in their demands that the governments of Nestor Kirchner and Tabaré Vasquez bring to justice various industrial conglomerates responsible for environmental degredation. The pro-movement newsletter Prensa Obrera repeatedly referred to these conglomerates as “octopi”.

The march came one day after, according to Botnia´s webpage, a deal with two finance agencies guaranteed at least 170 million United States dollars to construct the new mill. The World Bank has stated that it believes the project will bring significant economic growth to Uruguay with little or no environmental impact.

The protestors indicated their belief that the project will bring not only environmental contamination but also the erosion of labor rights in Uruguay. Furthermore, protestors feared that the plant could fuel the flames of international conflict as byproducts of Uruguayan industry could pollute Argentine land and waters, directly across the river.

[Edited by Simon – Fixed title, formatting]

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