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Institutional Deficit for Cross-Border Conflict Resolution: The Conflict over the Construction of a Pulp Mill near the Uruguay River

Luigi Alberto Di Martino


The construction of a pulp mill near the Uruguay River has been the origin of an ongoing international conflict between Argentina and Uruguay. Even if the pulp mill construction has its roots in a long term economic policy undertaken by the Uruguayan government since 1987, Argentines on the other side of the border reacted demanding the relocation of the project without taking into consideration any kind of compromise solution. After examining in detail the sequence of events that led to a conflict which is arguably out of proportion with its real causes, I turn to an analysis of the narratives and identity dynamics of its main actor, a local grass-root movement created in the Argentine city of Gualeguaychú. Then I analyze the interactions of this social movement with local, provincial and national governments in Argentina and Uruguay and the role of Mercosur. I conclude reassembling the mechanisms of contention into a more general account of the processes involved in the conflict. The process and its outcome shows the institutional weakness of Mercosur to deal with contention in its border regions. The article intends to be a modest contribution to a learning process that could help to build stronger institutions in order to avoid the recurrence of these outcomes, and to do so without neglecting the participation in decision making of civil society through its social movements.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229