Tuesday, May 23, 2006

La Posta del Chuy, Cerro Largo

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Posta del Chuy
In the middle of the XIX century the brand new Uruguayan state in an attempt to populate the lands near the border with Brazil, and not being able to finance the cost of road works, gives the concesion to privates of the building of a bridge over the creek "Chuy del Tacuarí", on the path that communicated the city of Melo with Rio Branco (in those years called “Villa Artigas”).

Those who wanted to cross that bridge, had to pay a toll.

Posta del ChuyThe building of the bridge and the nearby facilities, was leaded by the men that years later would rebuild the “Fortaleza de Santa Teresa” (Saint Teresa Fortress), the “Fortaleza del Cerro de Montevideo”(Cerro of Montevideo Fortress) and the “Fuerte de San Miguel” (Saint Michael Fort).

The bridge has loopholes in its sides, something essential given the dangers of those years and the proximity of the Brazilian border. The building's style was very common in the Basque Country. Also, next to it, there was constructed a hostal, a “Pulpería” (like a inn, but actually a bit more like a social center and a place to buy supplies) and a horse relay service.

Over the bridge, a heavy iron chain was always extended, and only was lowered after paying… and ancient version of our current “peajes” and their black and yellow barriers.

Posta del Chuy UruguayThe first owners (actually concessionaires), Spanish Basques, were known by the towering fees they collect, often over what said the law. As an example of it, it is said that the fee by law for a carriage was 4 cents and 1 cent for people, but they retrieve 5 cents… 4 for the carriage and 1 for the driver… as if the carriage could pass alone.

The facilities were usufructed till 1919, when the government decided to put an end to the concession, because in that moment all the roads in the country were free.

Later, and after some reparations to the stone structures, the Posta del Chuy became a museum and received the status of historical patrimony of the country.
There you can see replicas of advertisements and the routes covered by some coaches… journeys of about 20 days that nowadays are covered in 4 hours by car.

The place is well preserved and remains as a glimpse of what used to be life one hundred and half years ago over here.

Posta del chuy Uruguay

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Uruguay and Mercosur

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Mercosur logo
While in Washington DC, President Vazquez declared to a Uruguayan news reporter that Uruguay will change its member status in MERCOSUR, going from full member to just associate member like are today Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
In case you wonder what’s this MERCOSUR thing, to put it in one sentence is the South America’s European Union wannabe. In theory it’s an integration of South American countries initiative very much like it is the EU, at many levels, not only economical ones. In practice it’s just sad, seems to me like a means to Brazilian’s and Argentinean’s ends.

Ok, now you may wonder why? Why Uruguay wants to get out of this apparently noble thing? The answer is because as it is today it’s a joke, the existent asymmetries in the participating countries are just to damn big, and it seems we are just not mature (or wealthy) enough to act based on long term outcome.

For example, Brazil does whatever the blazes it wants. They are ok with the free trade of goods legislation of Mercosur when it’s about their goods entering other countries, but it’s not unusual for Uruguayan trucks loaded with rice to be blockaded when trying to enter Brazil by Brazilian farmers while Brazilian government sits still, or even worse applies taxes to imported good from other countries of Mercosur.

Another example, the Gualeguaychu’s bridge between Uruguay and Argentina has been blockaded for months by Argentinean demonstrators, while at the same time the Mercosur legislation is supposed to guarantee the free circulation of goods, and persons between member countries. In this light the blockade to Uruguay-Argentina’s bridge it’s just unconstitutional. What did Argentina’s government do about it?

Uruguay and Argentina are probably going through their worst diplomatic conflict since the creation of both countries. Uruguay has called for “the council of Mercosur” in order to find a solution, trying to activate mechanisms defined in Mercosur for this sort of situation. Argentina just did not answer the request.

Participating in Mercosur for Uruguay represents not being able to establish free trade treaties with other nations, like the United States or China. As the president put it Mercosur for Uruguay “is more of a problem than a solution”.

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