Hundreds of Argentines protest against Uruguay's decision to allow UPM to increase capacity of its Fray Bentos pulp mill

SANTIAGO, Chile , November 4, 2013 () – Hundreds of Argentines protested on Sunday (Nov. 3) by sea and land against Uruguay's decision to increase the output of a pulp mill located in the border between both countries.

Dozens of Gualeguaychú residents drove their cars along the bridge that connects Argentina to Uruguay's Fray Bentos city with "No pulp mill" signs.

Several ships sailed in the Uruguay river waving flags "Botnia (UPM) kills" and "Botnia pollutes".

The protest took place only days after Montevideo gave the green light to environmental controls proposed by Finnish UPM to increase its pulp mill plant output.

Argentina and Uruguay are involved in a bitter confrontation over the activities of UPM over the banks of the Uruguay river, which marks the border between both countries, as Buenos Aires claims the pulp mill pollutes the water.

The conflict erupted a decade ago after the Uruguayan government authorized the construction of the pulp mill, an action that sparked a legal and diplomatic brawl between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. It was settled in 2010 after The International Court of Justice ruled the pulp mill could operate, but forced countries to check pollution on the river.

However, the dispute was reignited in September after Uruguay's President José Mujica authorized UPM to increase its pulp output from 1Mt to 1.1Mt per annum. Argentina said the decision violated the court ruling, but Montevideo dismissed the allegations.

Last month, Argentina unveiled a report showing pollution in the Uruguay river and asked Montevideo to step back in its decision to increase output.

Gualeguaychú played a key role in the conflict as thousands of residents blocked many border crossing points with Uruguay from 2005 until 2010. Argentina is the fourth largest market for Uruguayan exports, with US$500mn in imports in 2012, while Uruguayan imports from its neighbor reached US$1.61bn last year. 

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