First FLFB post of the new year goes to…Pepe Mujica, for a positively brilliant contribution to South American economic integration:
The president of Uruguay, José Mujica, has offered Bolivia and Paraguay the use of a harbor on the Uruguayan Atlantic coast.
The two countries in the South American interior are the only two without direct access to the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean. Thus, reduced trade opportunities are always given as reasons for the retarded development of both lands.
The container port in question would be built in the Uruguayan city of La Paloma, and be used by the governments of Bolivia and Paraguay. Mujica’s offer occurs under the auspices of the South American economic union, MERCOSUR.
In a radio address, the Uruguayan president said: “Integration means to build an infrastructure that integrates us, and to generously offer this region a harbor that, in the best case, could be property of their goverments.”
If Paraguay could ship its lumber, minerals, and soybeans via the Atlantic coast, and Bolivia too, then the region would be better developed as a whole, says Mujica. At the same time, jobs would be created in the logistics sector in Uruguay.
The Uruguayan ambassador to Bolivia, Carlos Flanagan, says that in Bolivia, they see much potential in the project. Bolivia is still in a stalemate with Chile, which in 1879 annexed Bolivian coastal territory in the “Saltpeter War”, the War of the Pacific. Since then, Bolivia has been asking for that 120-square-kilometre area back. Paraguay, meanwhile, ships goods via the Paraguay, Paraná and Río de la Plata rivers to the Atlantic.
To be honest, this deal would help Bolivia more than Paraguay, since the latter does have major river shipping routes to the Atlantic in place already. (Plus, having just had a sham election following a CIA-backed putsch against a popular leftist president, Paraguay is in favor with the imperialists. Guess who THEY are.)
Bolivia is still trying to get back what it lost in the War of the Pacific, and who knows how much longer they’ll have to wrangle with Chile before they get their old coastline back. Could be another century; could be never. Chile is still toying with Bolivia, and trying Evo’s patience. Not for nothing has resource-rich Bolivia been poor ever since! A port in Peru, as I’ve blogged earlier, is one solution to that dilemma, but one that’s dependent on the bilateral goodwill of the two neighboring lands, not to mention the political will of the Peruvian government. Evo and Ollanta are on excellent terms, but who knows what the next Peruvian government might be like? For all we know, they could land up with another Fujimori-style autocrat who unilaterally decides to cut off all trade.
Under the broader-based, more stable auspices of MERCOSUR, on the other hand, an Atlantic container port can assure that a steady flow of Bolivian trade goods reach not only North America, but Europe, too. That’s a lot of markets!
And Uruguay, a small country also heavily dependent on export income (and highly susceptible to fluctuations in the market because of that), can lift its own economy up a notch with such a port, as Pepe rightly observes. The logistical sector is a growth industry, and why should the gringos have all the jobs…and the money? Why should the people of Uruguay not also benefit?
Bet nobody ever thought that he could come up with something so downright shrewd, back when Pepe was arrested and imprisoned for being a Tupamaro!